The Latest: Syrian insurgents assault government positions

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Source:   —  April 10, 2016, at 9:36 PM

m. Activists declare Syrian insurgents have launched an offensive against government forces N of the western city of Hama. The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, says opposition factions assaulted government positions in the Sahl al-Ghab plains, which lie E of the government'south Latakia province stronghold.

The Latest: Syrian insurgents assault government positions

The Latest on Syria'south complex civil war (all times local):

nine p. m.

Activists declare Syrian insurgents have launched an offensive against government forces N of the western city of Hama.

The Local Coordination Committees, an activist network, says opposition factions assaulted government positions in the Sahl al-Ghab plains, which lie E of the government'south Latakia province stronghold.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on activists interior the country, says hard-line Islamist groups are leading the offensive, alongside al-Qaida'south Syrian affiliate, known as the Nusra Front, and the jihadist grouping Jund al-Aqsa.

A Lebanese TV Sta near to the Syrian government, Al-Mayadeen, says government forces have repelled the assault. The Observatory says there are reports of several casualties as the fighting continues.

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eight:15 p. m.

A top adviser to Iran'south Supreme Boss says the removal of Syrian President Bashar Assad from power is a "red line" for Tehran.

State-run press TV on Sun quoted Ali Akbar Velayati as saying that "Iran believes that the government of Bashar al-Assad should stay in power until the finish of the presidency term."

Velayati, a senior foreign policy adviser to Supreme Boss Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stressed that only the Syrian people can determine the future of their country and their president.

Assad was re-elected in two thousand-fourteenth to another seven-year duration in elections held in territory controlled by his forces. The vote was widely condemned and boycotted by the opposition.

Iran has been a key ally of Assad'south government throughout the five-year Syrian conflict.

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8 p. m.

Russia'south Foreign Ministry says U. S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov have stressed the necessity for more cooperation between their two countries to strengthen the cease-fire in Syria.

The ministry statement said that during Sunday'south phone conversation, Lavrov and Kerry also discussed efforts to fight the Islamic State group, the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front and other terrorist organizations, agreeing to get extra measures to halt the flow of militants and weapons from abroad.

Lavrov'south office also said the two diplomats expressed support for the efforts of the U. N. messenger to Syria, Staffan de Mistura, to convene the following circular of talks in Geneva between the Syrian government and the opposition.

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7:30 p. m.

Activists declare airstrikes around the Syrian city of Raqqa, the de facto capital of the Islamic State group, have killed several civilians and militants.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the airstrikes on Sun killed three IS leaders and twenty-one other militants as well as eight civilians.

Raqqa Is Being Murdered Silently, a grouping of activists with contacts interior the city, says a prominent IS judge was among those killed.

It says Fawaz al-Hassan, also known as Abu Ali al-Shari, had been kicked out of IS over his extreme valid interpretations, but was later brought back into the fold to frighten potential defectors. It says twenty civilians were killed in the strikes.

Russia, Syria, and a U. S.-led international coalition have been bombing IS territory for months. It was unclear who was behind Sunday's strikes.

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4:15 p. m.

Syrian activists declare the Islamic State grouping has launched a major offensive along the Turkish border, seizing two villages close a border town captured by Western-backed rebels two days ago.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on activists interior the country, says IS militants seized Sheikh Reeh and al-Bal on Sunday.

The activist-run Azaz Media Center, based in a northern town of the same name, says the extremists exploded seven bombs around Marea and other villages and towns, calling it the fiercest IS offensive in a year.

The IS-linked Aamaq News Agency claims the capture of the two villages and says a suicide operation targeted rebel fighters in opposition-held Kafr Shousha.

The Western-backed Free Syrian Army captured the border town of al-Rai from IS on Friday.

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