Syrian Conflict: Shells kill 18 in government-held part of Aleppo

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the conflict in Syria and the provisional cease-fire proposed by the U.S. and Russia (all times local):

2:40 p.m.

Syria's state-run news agency SANA says 18 people have been killed in shelling by insurgents of government-held neighborhoods of Aleppo in the past 24 hours.

It says eight people died on Wednesday when shells fired by Saudi and Turkey-backed "terrorists" struck the Jamilieh district in Aleppo city. President Bashar Assad's government uses the term "terrorists" to refer to all rebels, militants and armed opposition against Damascus.

SANA says most of the casualties were pensioners as the shells slammed near the post building were they come to pick up their pension.

The agency also reported that on Tuesday night, 10 people were killed in shells that hit the Zahraa and Sheikh Maksoud residential areas of Aleppo.

The shelling comes days before a "temporary cessation of hostilities" engineered by the U.S. and Russia is set to take effect.


2:20 p.m.

The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin has had several telephone conversations with key players in the Syrian conflict to discuss the provisional cease-fire deal proposed by Russia and the United States.

The Kremlin said on Wednesday that after a morning call with Syrian President Bashar Assad, Putin had a chat with the leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia.

The statement says Putin and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani talked about the cease-fire in Syria and both "stressed the importance of a further cooperation between Russia and Iran on Syrian peace settlement, including a continuation of a resolute fight against the IS, Jabhat al-Nusra and other terrorist groups from the UN Security sanctions list."

In a terse statement on Putin's conversation with the king of Saudi Arabia, the Kremlin said King Salman "welcomed the agreement that was reached and expressed his willingness to work with Russia to implement them."

Saudi Arabia is a key backer of rebels against President Assad while Iran like Russia is supporting the Syrian government.


12:30 p.m.

A spokesman for a Saudi-backed alliance of Syrian opposition and rebel factions says the group has "major concerns" that Russia and the Syrian government will continue to strike at mainstream rebels under the pretext of hitting "terrorist groups" during the truce that is to go into effect later this week.

Salem Al Meslet says the alliance known as the High Negotiations Committee is holding open meetings in the Saudi capital of Riyadh and is seeking guarantees and clarifications from the United States about the mechanism for the implementation of the agreement.

He says however that the opposition wants to stop the bloodshed and would abide by the truce. Al Meslet spoke Wednesday in a phone interview with The Associated Press.

The agreement, engineered by the U.S. and Russia, is set to take effect at midnight Friday local time.


11:50 a.m.

Syria's state-run news agency says Syrian President Bashar Assad has received a phone call from Russian leader Vladimir Putin.

SANA says that during the call with Putin on Wednesday, the Syrian president confirmed Damascus' readiness to support the implementation of the agreement for a "cessation of hostilities" in Syria.

The agreement, engineered by the U.S. and Russia, is set to take effect at midnight Friday local time. It does not cover the Islamic State group, Syria's al-Qaida branch known as the Nusra Front, or any other militia designated as a terrorist group by the U.N. Security Council.

SANA says the two leaders stressed the importance of continuing to fight the Islamic State, the Nusra Front "and other terrorist organizations."