In this photo released by the Syrian official news agency SANA, journalists gather next of blood inside the main judicial building which attacked by a suicide bomber, in Damascus, Syria, Wednesday, March 15, 2017. (SANA via AP)

The Latest: UN envoy says Syria attacks aim to spoil talks

March 15, 2017 - 7:56 pm

BEIRUT (AP) — The latest on the developments in Syria and peace talks that have been extended in Kazakhstan (all times local):

1:55 a.m.

The U.N. special envoy for Syria is condemning the latest "terrorist attacks" in Damascus on the sixth anniversary of the Syrian conflict, saying they are "plainly designed to spoil attempts to sustain political talks."

Staffan de Mistura says the attacks claimed the lives of innocent civilians and is again urging respect for the cease-fire in Syria, which he says "is being challenged by violations on the ground." He also is calling for an end to all attacks on civilians.

Suicide bombers struck the main judicial building and a restaurant in the Syrian capital on Wednesday, killing at least 30 people.

De Mistura announced a week ago that he intends to bring the government and opposition back to Geneva for a fifth round of U.N.-led talks on March 23 to pursue an agreement on a transition to end the six-year war.

He says that following the latest talks on the cease-fire in Kazakhstan that the opposition boycotted and ahead of Geneva "actions by spoilers to undermine the political track must not be allowed to succeed."


9:15 p.m.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres says peace in Syria is "a moral and political imperative" that "cannot wait" as the country's civil war starts its seventh year.

In a statement on the war's anniversary Wednesday, Guterres called for the parties to "make the most of" a cease-fire that began Dec. 30 and to ensure humanitarian aid can reach needy Syrians. The U.N. has expressed concern about cease-fire violations and criticized the blocking of humanitarian aid to hundreds of thousands in need.

Guterres also urged those with influence over the government and opposition groups to work together to end the conflict.

Russia, Turkey and Iran are guarantors of the cease-fire and have sponsored peace talks in the Kazakh capital of Astana. Meanwhile, the Syrian government and opposition are set to meet later this month in a new round of U.N.-led peace talks in Geneva.


7:30 p.m.

Residents of Syria's largest city Aleppo say water has returned to pipes for the first time in two months.

The activist-run Zahra Neighborhood News Network Facebook page reported water pressure in the Hamdaniyeh, Manyan, and Salaheddine neighborhoods.

Imad al-Khal, 64, told The Associated Press on Wednesday it was the first time he'd received municipal water in 67 days.

"People were using well water and getting sick," said the Aziziyeh neighborhood resident.

Islamic State group militants shut off the city's main water station on the Euphrates River in January. Government forces recovered the station in Khafseh last week and immediately began working on repairs.

Aleppo was once Syria's industrial capital, before rebels seized the eastern half of the city in 2012. Government forces regained control of the city in December last year following a punishing military campaign that laid much of the eastern part of the city to waste. The U.N. condemned the government's indiscriminate campaign as a war crime.


6:30 p.m.

Syrian first responders say they have tallied 22 civilian fatalities from a presumed Russian or Syrian government airstrike on the rebel-held city of Idlib.

The Civil Defense search-and-rescue group, also known as the White Helmets, said 15 children have been reported killed by the pre-dawn airstrike Wednesday in northwest Syria. It said its rescuers had been working all day to reach victims in the rubble.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group reported 21 civilians killed. It said the aircraft behind the attack were believed to be Russian. Syrian government aircraft are also known to fly raids over Idlib. The attack occurred in the city's Qasour neighborhood.


3:20 p.m.

Syrian state media are reporting a second bomb blast in Damascus, after an earlier suicide attack killed at least 30 people in the capital's main judicial building.

The SANA news agency says a second suicide bomber blew himself up in a restaurant in the city's Rabweh district, killing several people.

The Ikhbariyeh TV channel said the attacker was being chased by security agents when he dove into a restaurant and detonated his explosives vest.

There was no immediate claim to either attack.


2:25 p.m.

The U.N. health agency says over half of all hospitals and public health centers in Syria have closed or are partially functioning after six years of war, and nearly two-thirds of health-care workers have fled.

The head of the World Health Organization's emergencies program, Peter Salama, says resources to help the health care system are "stretched to the limit," citing security threats to health care workers and a lack of access to medicines and medical equipment.

Syrians on Wednesday marked the sixth anniversary of Syria's civil war that has left hundreds of thousands dead.

Salama called for "systematic and unhindered access" for life-saving materials like vaccines and medical supplies "on this sad anniversary of the start of war in Syria and before more lives are lost."


2:05 p.m.

Syrian state-owned television says at least 25 people have been killed after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives' vest inside the main judicial building in the capital Damascus.

The TV says many other people were wounded in Wednesday's attack, the latest in a spate of bombings and suicide attacks targeting government-controlled areas of Syria.

The bombing took place inside the Justice Palace, located near the famous and crowded Hamidiyeh market in Damascus.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility.


1:40 p.m.

Syrian TV says that a suicide bomber has detonated his explosives' vest inside the main judicial building in the capital of Damascus, causing an unspecified number of casualties.

The report says the bombing took place inside the Justice Palace on Wednesday afternoon, and that the explosion killed and wounding people who were at the scene. The Judicial Palace is near the famous and crowded Hamidiyeh market in Damascus.

The blast follows twin attacks on Saturday that killed at least 40 people in Damascus. That attack was claimed by the Syria's al-Qaida branch, formerly known as the Nusra Front.

There was no immediate claim for Wednesday's bombing.


1:30 p.m.

Syria's U.N. ambassador says he is concluding his participation in the latest round of talks with Russia and Iran in the Kazakh capital of Astana after two days of meetings without rebels.

Bashar Jaafari says discussions were "constructive" but only one official paper was produced, about demining Palmyra, the historic Syrian town that pro-government forces recaptured from the Islamic State group two weeks ago.

Syrian rebels did not send any delegates to this third round of talks, accusing the government and Russia — one of Damascus' main backers — of breaking cease-fire pledges and obligations to distribute humanitarian aid.

The Astana talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, are centered on reaching a cease-fire in Syria and getting humanitarian relief to millions of suffering civilians. They run parallel to the U.N.-mediated political talks in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war.


11:20 a.m.

An official from one of Syria's rebel factions has denied reports that rebels will send representatives to the present round of talks with the Syrian government underway in Astana, Kazakhstan.

Mamoun Haj Mousa, from the Suqour al-Sham Brigade, says there are no plans for factions to attend the talks — contrary to reports by the Kazakhstan Foreign Ministry.

Another opposition official, Yahya al-Aridi, said of the Kazakh Foreign Ministry announcement: "Let them say what they wish."

The Astana talks, brokered by Russia and Turkey, are centered on reaching a cease-fire in Syria and getting humanitarian relief to millions of suffering civilians. They run parallel to the U.N.-mediated political talks in Geneva aimed at ending Syria's civil war.

Rebels announced earlier this week they would not attend Astana because of repeated cease-fire violations by the government.


9:10 a.m.

Kazakhstan says peace talks in the capital, Astana, over ending the fighting in Syria have been extended and will be attended by representatives of Syrian rebel forces.

"We expect the arrival of representatives from the Northern and Southern fronts of the armed Syrian opposition," Foreign Ministry spokesman Onuar Zhainakov said Wednesday, according to Russia's Interfax news agency.

Syrian rebels had previously boycotted this third summit in Astana, citing the government's continued bombardment of opposition-held areas in Homs and Damascus.

A government delegation led by Syria's U.N. ambassador, Bashar al-Jaafari, began meetings Tuesday with Russian officials in Astana.

Talks in Astana are running parallel to political talks in Geneva between the government and the opposition. The Astana talks are centered on cease-fire and humanitarian efforts, but have brought few results.

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