Europe

The Latest: Turkey troops, rebels battle Kurdish-led militia

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

3:45 p.m.

Syrian rebels backed by Turkish tanks are advancing under intense bombardment toward a major northern town held by Kurdish-led forces.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the fighting between the Turkey-backed fighters and the Kurdish-led Syria Democratic Forces was concentrated Saturday near the town of Tel Rifaat.

Ahmad Aaraj, member of the Syrian National Democratic Coalition, which is allied with the Kurds, said Turkish tanks crossed the border near the town of Marea and were heading toward Tel Rifaat.

The Observatory said 13 Turkey-backed rebels and three SDF fighters were killed.

The Turkish military intervened in the Syrian war in August under orders from Ankara to clear the border area of Islamic State group fighters and U.S.-backed Syrian Kurdish forces linked to Turkey's own outlawed Kurdish insurgency.

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1:15 p.m.

Russian President Vladimir Putin's spokesman says that demands for Syrian President Bashar Assad's departure are "thoughtless."

In remarks televised Saturday, Dmitry Peskov also said the entire territory of Syria should be "liberated" and the country's integrity should be fully preserved. Peskov's statement comes as the break in the fighting Russia has declared in the besieged city of Aleppo entered its third day.

The U.N. greeted the lull intended to allow the evacuation of wounded civilians and fighters from the rebel-held eastern neighborhoods of Aleppo shattered by airstrikes, but the rebels have rejected the offer to evacuate and no evacuations were seen along the corridors created by the Syrian government.

Russia launched an air campaign in support of Assad a year ago, helping his forces win some key ground.