BEIRUT — The Latest on the developments in Syria’s civil war (all times local):
Syria has pushed back against the U.N. saying the report accusing its air force of using sarin gas to attack civilians is politically motivated and baseless.
In a statement published Friday on its official news agency, the Syrian government says it possesses no chemical weapons and considers using them “a moral crime that can only be condemned.”
The U.N. Commission of Inquiry on Syria said it has “reasonable grounds” to believe the Syrian government is responsible for the April attack in the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun, which killed at least 83 civilians. The commission based its report on information collected from satellite images, video, photos, medical records, and over 300 interviews.
The government questioned the report’s findings, saying they are based on information from “terrorists or their agents in the region.” It said it rejects the commission’s report.
Physicians for Human Rights says only one health facility remains operational in the Islamic State-held part of Raqqa, serving thousands of civilians trapped in the Syrian city with virtually no emergency services or rescue personnel as the intense U.S.-backed campaign to liberate the city continues,
The New York-based group on Friday described as “nightmarish” conditions in the ever-shrinking area controlled by IS militants amid an incessant bombing campaign. The wounded civilians are left under the rubble because civilians fear being struck by further airstrikes. The lone operating hospital is using salt water to sanitize wounds and treatment of traumatic injuries is limited to stopping the bleeding, the group said based on interviews it carried out with survivors, physicians and aid workers from the city.
The U.S.-led campaign, which began in earnest in June, left only the national hospital functioning at reduced capacity, as others were either bombed or closed, the group said according to witnesses it interviewed.
Russia’s Ministry of Defense says it has killed four IS leaders, including one it described as the group’s war minister, in an airstrike outside the eastern Syria city of Deir el-Zour, south of Raqqa.
Russia has been providing air cover for Syrian President Bashar Assad’s offensive on IS since 2015.
The defense ministry said Friday its airstrike killed 40 militants, including four prominent warlords who gathered for a meeting of IS commanders in an underground bunker outside Deir el-Zour.
The Russian military named Abu Muhammad al-Shimali and Gulmurod Khalimov as two of the four IS leaders killed in the airstrike. The other two were not named in the statement.
Al-Shimali reportedly headed the movement of foreign fighters into Syria and processed the group’s new recruits.
Khalimov, a colonel who received U.S. training while heading the riot police force in his native Tajikistan, has often been described as the IS’s minister of war. The United States last year placed a $3 million bounty on his head.