The Latest: Russia says 3,000 Syrians back home in last week

Russian Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev speaks during meeting between Russia and Syria, in Moscow, Russia, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2018. The meeting discussed joint efforts with Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan to speed up the return of Syrian refugees to government-controlled areas in Syria. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko)

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria related developments (all times local):

8:35 p.m.

The Russian military says that over 3,000 Syrians have returned to their homes over the past week.

Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev said Thursday that 2,180 internally displaced people and 937 refugees have come home during the past week. Mizintsev spoke at an official meeting focusing on coordination of efforts to encourage the return of refugees.

The Russian general said a massive work is under way across Syria to repair vital infrastructure, including 126 schools, 92 hospitals and 105 electric power units.

Mizintsev said a United Nations convoy of 600 vehicles is expected to soon move into Syria from Jordan, carrying food and medicine.

At the same time, he accused unspecified foreign nations of trying to hamper the return of Syrians who fled to other countries by claiming that Syria remains unsafe.


6:05 p.m.

A top U.N. humanitarian aid official for Syria says he sees “great potential for a lot of fighting” in rebel-held Idlib province despite an accord between Russia and Turkey that has delayed a military offensive.

Jan Egeland says “it’s not over” and that air raids and ground offensives are likely to continue against U.N.-listed terror groups whose fighters live near civilians.

Egeland said some militants were prepared to fight to the end, and it was “totally legal and recommended to speak to armed men, even listed terrorist organizations, to end the conflict without bloodshed for civilians.”

He added: “No one’s asking for any impunity for terrorists here.”

Egeland also said the situation in southeastern Rukban, where some 50,000 civilians are in camps near the Jordanian border, has “rapidly deteriorated in recent days.”


3:20 p.m.

Israel’s air force chief is flying to Moscow to brief Russian President Vladimir Putin on the incident over Syria that led to the downing of a Russian reconnaissance plane.

Syrian missile forces on Monday mistook the Russian Il-20 for an Israeli aircraft, shooting it down and killing all 15 people aboard. Russia’s Defense Ministry initially blamed the plane’s loss on Israel, but Putin sought to defuse tensions, pointing at “a chain of tragic accidental circumstances.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has offered to share data with Russia on what was happening in the sky over Syria that day and dispatched the Israeli air force chief to Moscow. The official is due to arrive in Moscow on Thursday.

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