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The Latest: Syrian rebels surrender north of Homs

The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):

10 p.m.

Syrian state media say rebels have agreed to surrender an enclave near Syria’s third largest city to the government.

Al-Ikhbariya TV says rebels have agreed to allow government forces into the countryside north of Homs and re-establish state institutions. Rebels will have the option of pledging their allegiance to the government or relocating to rebel-held territory in northern Syria.

The station says the international highway running through the region will reopen in three days.

The agreement is the latest in a string of capitulations by rebels worn down after seven years of war. Earlier this year, the government took back control of suburbs around Damascus and two neighborhoods held by the Islamic State group inside the capital. Tens of thousands of people have departed to northern Syria instead of living again under President Bashar Assad’s rule.


7:45 p.m.

Pope Francis has prayed for peace in Syria and the entire world at a Catholic shrine on Rome’s rural outskirts.

Francis joined the faithful at the hilltop Divine Love Sanctuary’s chapel in reciting the rosary Tuesday to mark the start of May, a month the church dedicates to the Virgin Mary.

Before arriving, Francis tweeted that at the shrine, he and the other participants would pray “especially for peace in Syria and the entire world,” and he encouraged Catholics to do so during the entire month.

Francis has made repeated appeals for an end to Syria’s seven-year-old civil war.


6:45 p.m.

The United States says the days of the Islamic State group controlling territory in Syria “are coming to an end.”

The U.S. State Department says renewed operations against IS by American-backed Kurdish forces are intended to “liberate the final ISIS strongholds in Syria.”

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert says the U.S. will defend its partners if they’re attacked.

President Donald Trump has said he wants to pull out U.S. troops as soon as IS is defeated. But Nauert says the U.S. will “ensure that there is a strong and lasting footprint in Syria such that ISIS cannot return.”


6:15 p.m.

A senior Iranian official says the Islamic Republic will respond “at the appropriate time and place” to a purported Israeli missile strike that killed several Iranian military advisers in Syria.

Alaeddin Boroujerdi, the chairman of the Iranian parliament’s national security committee, addressed the attack at a press conference in the Syrian capital on Tuesday.

The Sunday night strike on a military position in Syria sent tensions soaring between Israel and Iran. Israel is believed to be behind several strikes on Iran-linked positions in Syria in the last year. Iran is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Boroujerdi met with Assad in Damascus on Monday, and hailed what he called “important victories” in their shared fight against terrorism.

On Monday, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said the time when Iran’s enemies can “hit and run” is over.


4:40 p.m.

Syrian state media and a war monitoring group say airstrikes in Islamic State-held territory in northeastern Syria have killed at least 23 people.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was not clear if U.S.-led coalition or Iraqi warplanes carried out the attack Tuesday in the Hassakeh province. The Observatory said those killed included 10 children, six women and seven elderly people.

The strikes took place in an area where U.S.-backed and Kurdish-led forces are fighting to drive IS from some of the last pockets of territory it controls.

The state-run Syrian News Agency said 25 civilians were killed in the airstrikes south of Shadadi, blaming the U.S-led coalition.


3:45 p.m.

U.S-backed Kurdish forces in Syria say they are resuming their campaign against Islamic State militants who still control areas near the border with Iraq.

Lelwa Abdullah, a spokeswoman for the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces in the eastern Deir el-Zour province, said Tuesday the final phase of the operation against IS in the area has begun. She said the SDF will “liberate those areas and secure the Syrian-Iraqi border and end the IS presence in eastern Syria once and for all.”

The SDF had redeployed hundreds of its forces to western Syria after Turkish troops attacked the Kurdish-held Afrin enclave earlier this year, effectively putting operations against IS on hold.

An array of Syrian and Iraqi forces has driven IS from nearly all the territory it once held in the two countries.


11 a.m.

Syrian state-run media say 42 people who were held for years by al-Qaida-linked insurgents in the country’s northwest have been released as part of a deal to hand over areas around Damascus back to the government.

Al-Ikhbariya TV broadcast images Tuesday of the released, including women and children, arriving by bus at a government-controlled checkpoint, kissing and hugging Syrian soldiers.

The 42 are the first batch of more than 80 who are to be released.

According to the deal, al-Qaida-linked fighters are to evacuate from a Palestinian refugee camp near Damascus while some 5,000 people in two northwestern villages besieged by insurgents will be allowed to move to government-held areas.

This is the latest in evacuation deals —which are effectively capitulation — amid intense military offensives.


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