The Latest: 11 UN council nations urge Idlib cease-fire

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the Syrian civil war (all times local):

9:45 p.m.

Eleven members of the U.N. Security Council are urging fighters in Syria’s last rebel-held stronghold in Idlib province to honor last September’s cease-fire arrangements.

A statement read Friday on behalf of Germany, Kuwait, Belgium, the United States, United Kingdom, Equatorial Guinea, Poland, Ivory Coast, Peru, Dominical Republic and France expressed “great concern” at the intensifying hostilities in northwestern Syria.

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It expressed deep concern “of a potential humanitarian catastrophe in the event of a full-scale military operation in Idlib zone.”

Four council members — Russia, China, South Africa and Indonesia — did not join in supporting the statement.

The 11 countries condemned the loss of innocent civilian lives and expressed alarm at the displacement of over 150,000 persons as well as the targeting of population centers and civilian infrastructure including hospitals and schools.

“We urge all parties to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilian,” their statement said.

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6:55 p.m.

Turkey’s Defense Minister Hulusi Akar is accusing the Syrian government of trying to expand its field of control in Idlib province in violation of a Russian-Turkish cease-fire brokered last September.

Akar called on Friday for the government attacks to be halted. He made the comments during a visit to Turkey’s border with Syria where he inspected troops, together with the country’s top military commanders.

Rebel groups are battling Syrian government forces to regain territory they lost in the northwest area of Idlib earlier this week.

The latest wave of fighting is the most serious challenge to the cease-fire.

Akar said, “the Syrian regime must end attacks south of Idlib and withdraw to the boundaries delineated under the Astana Process,” in reference to the Turkish-Russian cease-fire agreement

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12:50 p.m.

Syrian activists and state media say rebel groups are fighting back, trying to retake territory lost to government forces this week in their stronghold in the country’s northwest.

Syria state al-Ikhbariya TV says troops foiled insurgent attacks on Friday on Kfar Nabudah village, taken three days earlier as government forces pushed into the southern edge of the rebel enclave.

But the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the insurgents, led by al-Qaida-linked Hayat Tahrir al-Sham, advanced into the village, sparking intense clashes and a wave of government airstrikes.

The latest wave of fighting began on April 30. It’s the most serious challenge to a cease-fire brokered by Russia and Turkey last September and has set off a wave of displacement inside the rebel stronghold, home to 3 million people.

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