BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the fighting in Syria (all times local):
The European Union has extended sanctions against the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad by another year because it says that repression continues unabated.
The sanctions include travel bans and asset freezes against more than 200 people and 70 entities which are deemed involved in the violent repression of civilians. It also includes an oil embargo and certain export restrictions.
The EU had committed already in 2014 to extend sanctions unless the repression stops.
The U.N. refugee agency is reporting a “spike” in the number of Iraqis trying to flee into Syria to escape the Iraqi city of Mosul, which is controlled by the Islamic State group.
UNHCR spokeswoman Melissa Fleming said Friday, “Just picture this: we have refugees fleeing to Syria” — now in its sixth year of civil war.
The agency says that nearly 4,300 people arrived at al-Hol camp in Syria’s northeastern Hasakah governorate in May.
UNHCR on Thursday began airlifting tents, blankets, mattresses and other items to the Hasakah city of Qamishli in hopes of helping up to 50,000 people.
The Iraqi government in March announced a highly publicized plan to retake Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. But only a handful of nearby villages have been captured since then.
Russia’s Defense Ministry says Washington’s refusal to jointly fight al-Qaida’s branch in Syria has contributed to the escalation of fighting in the war-torn country.
The ministry proposed last week that Russia and the U.S.-led coalition launch joint action against the Nusra Front, but the U.S. military said its contacts with Russia are only to maintain airspace safety in the crowded skies over Syria.
Lt. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi of the Russian military’s General Staff said on Friday that the U.S. refusal to consider join action against the Nusra Front “leads to further escalation of the military conflict.”
He also said the U.S. has failed to encourage opposition groups eager to abide by a U.S.- and Russian-brokered cease-fire in Syria to leave the areas where the al-Qaida affiliate is present, saying their failure to do so is threatening the truce.
Syrian activists say the Islamic State group has seized at least six villages from Syrian rebels near the Turkish border.
The rapid advances bring the militants closer to the border town of Azaz, where rebels hold an enclave that is hosting tens of thousands of internally displaced civilians.
In recent months, Syrian rebel factions in Azaz, which lies north of the city of Aleppo, have separately come under fire from the IS extremist group, pro-government forces and the predominantly Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says Friday’s advance effectively cuts off a key supply route between Azaz and Marea, another opposition stronghold.
The IS group’s news agency also reported the advance.