BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on the developments in the Syrian civil war (all times local):
8:35 p.m.The head of the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah says it is time for political leaders to accept the survival of Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government.
Hassan Nasrallah, addressing a rally on Sunday, advised the Lebanese government to normalize ties with its war-torn neighbor.
Lebanon’s political parties are split over whether to restore relations with the pariah Syrian leader. Hezbollah has invested heavily in Assad’s survival. More than a thousand of its fighters have died fighting alongside government forces in Syria. Syria occupied Lebanon from 1991-2005.
“The world today has taken for granted that the administration will stay on,” said Nasrallah on Syria.
U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said in July Washington was prepared to defer to Russia in Syria. Russia is a key backer of Assad’s government.
A Syrian rebel faction says it has killed 20 army soldiers in a tunnel blast as the battle for Damascus’s northeastern suburbs shows no signs of letting up.
Wael Olwan, spokesman for the Failaq al-Rahman faction, says the operation took place before dawn Sunday.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights monitoring group says 16 soldiers are reported missing because of the blast.
A Russian mediated cease-fire announced last month has failed to quell the fighting between the government and rebels on the northeastern edges of Damascus. The Failaq al-Rahman opposition faction says it is not party to the agreement, and the government says it is fighting terrorists.
The government has leaned on its air force and its ground-to-ground missile systems to push rebels out and away from the capital. Several neighborhoods and towns have been destroyed. The opposition does not have an air force.
Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu says the Syrian government has increased the size of the territory under its control by 2 1/2 times in just two months.
Shoigu made the comments in an interview with state-owned TV channel Rossiya 24 on Sunday in which he predicted the end of the fight with the Islamic State group.
Shoigu said the fall of the militant stronghold Deir el-Zour on the Euphrates “will say a lot, if not everything, about the end of the battle with” the Islamic State group.
Russia is a close ally of the Syrian government and has been providing air support for Syrian forces since 2015. Under pressure from Western-backed forces in Iraq and Syria, the Islamic State group has seen the territory it holds contract in recent months.