Mar 22, 10:02 AM EDT

The Latest: Shelling on Syrian capital kills 6

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Indictment of Monzer al-Kassar
Latest Syria News
The Latest: Shelling on Syrian capital kills 6

Syrian rebels to leave key town in eastern Ghouta enclave

Israeli military confirms it hit Syrian nuclear site in 2007

UN rights chief: Syria siege involved 'war crimes'

AP Explains: What's next after Turkey seizes Syria's Afrin

BEIRUT (AP) -- The Latest on developments in Syria (all times local):

4 p.m.

Syrian state media says rebel shelling on Damascus has killed six people and wounded 13 others.

The SANA news agency says 16 shells struck the capital on Thursday.

Rebels are under intense pressure outside the capital, where government forces are advancing against them under the cover of unremitting airstrikes.

Rebels have lost hold of 80 percent of the eastern Ghouta suburbs since government forces launched their offensive more than one month ago. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an activist-run monitoring group, says more than 1,500 civilians have been killed by government fire.

More than 40 people were killed in Damascus on Tuesday, when rockets fired by rebels landed on a market.


3:40 p.m.

Turkey's prime minister says three Turkish soldiers were killed in an explosion in the northern Syrian town of Afrin during a mission to clear it of explosives believed to have been left behind by retreating Syrian Kurdish fighters.

Binali Yildirim said the soldiers died Thursday from a blast caused by an improvised explosive device. Three other soldiers were wounded, the military said.

Turkish forces and Turkey-backed Syrian opposition fighters captured Afrin on Sunday, eight weeks after they launched an operation to clear the town and surrounding country-side of Syrian Kurdish militia, which Turkey considers to be a security threat.

Thursday's deaths raise the number of Turkish troops killed in Afrin to 49. Turkey says some 270 Syrian opposition fighters have also died.


2:50 p.m.

The Syrian government says the planned evacuation from a besieged town in the suburbs of Damascus has started. The town of Harasta will under the deal be handed over to government forces.

More than 10 government buses drove into Harasta to transport the rebels and civilians out of the town on Thursday.

Syrian state media say the evacuation began with the departure of 238 people, including 36 gunmen and 202 civilians, but no buses were seen crossing out of the town, which is part of the embattled rebel enclave known as eastern Ghouta, on the edge of Damascus.


11:55 a.m.

Syrian rebels have released 13 of their prisoners to the government, ahead of a planned evacuation that will see a besieged town in the suburbs of Damascus handed over to government forces.

The men, who identified themselves to the media as soldiers and civilians attached to the Syrian army, who were captured by rebels in the fighting for Harasta, cried in relief. They thanked God, the Syrian army, and President Bashar Assad for their freedom.

Al-Manar TV, which belongs to the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, meanwhile said the government released five "terrorists" to rebels, in exchange. Hezbollah is a key ally of the Syrian government.

Some 7,500 rebels, their family members, and other civilians are expected to leave Harasta on Thursday, following years of siege against the town.


10:50 a.m.

The Russian military says more than 1,000 civilians have left the rebel-held eastern suburbs of the Syrian capital, Damascus, this morning.

Maj. Gen. Vladimir Zolotukhin told Russian news agencies in Syria that the civilians left through the Wafideen crossing on Thursday morning.

A spokesman for a rebel faction in the region, known as eastern Ghouta, said earlier that the rebels and their families were expected to leave a besieged town in an evacuation deal that will see the town handed over to the government following years of siege and bombardment.


10 a.m.

Syrian rebels and their families are expected to leave a besieged town in the eastern Ghouta suburbs of Damascus, in an evacuation deal that will see the town handed over to the government following years of bombardment.

Monther Fares, a spokesman for the rebel faction Ahrar al-Sham, says his group's fighters are preparing to leave. He says fighters are waiting for buses to arrive to take them and their families to other rebel-held areas in north Syria.

The government-controlled Military Media Center says 1,500 rebels and 6,000 civilians will leave Harasta on Thursday.

The deal is modeled after others that have had rebels surrender swaths of territory around the capital and other major cities to the government. The U.N. and human rights groups have condemned such arrangements as "forced displacement."

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