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The Latest: Syrian activists: Gas attack in Damascus suburb

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The Latest: Syrian activists: Gas attack in Damascus suburb

The Associated Press
Map Syria shows the latest areas of control by Pro-Assad, Kurdish, Islamic State and Free Syrian Army forces.; 2c x 2 1/4 inches; 96.3 mm x 57 mm;

The Latest on the developments in Syria and Turkey's offensive on the Syrian Kurdish enclave of Afrin (all times local):

1:45 p.m.

Syrian activists and rescue teams say the Syrian government has launched an attack with suspected poisonous gas that has affected nearly 20 civilians in a rebel-held suburb near the capital, Damascus.

The team of first responders known as While Helmets, or Syrian Civil Defense, says the attack hit a neighborhood in the Douma district early on Monday.

It says the rescuers evacuated more than 20 civilians, most of them women and children from the area, which they say was hit with suspected chlorine attack. The Ghouta Media Center, an activist-operated media, also claims the attack involved chlorine gas. Activists say a foul smell followed a series of bombings that hit the Douma neighborhood.

Such claims are not new but they are difficult to verify because of lack of chemical labs and independent testers. A U.N. inquiry panel had previously blamed the government for a number of chlorine and sarin attacks in Syria.

The Easter Ghouta suburb of Damascus has been under intensive attack, and the U.N. says government forces are holding 400,000 people under siege there.

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12:30 p.m.

Russia is accusing the United States of fomenting separatism in the Kurdish enclave in Syria that has come under attack by Turkey over the weekend.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Monday that the fact that the United States has been "discouraging the Kurds from dialogue" with the Syrian government and "fomenting separatist sentiment" among them shows "lack of understanding of the situation or a deliberate provocation."

Lavrov said Moscow views the Kurds as an important party of talks on the future of a post-war Syria and that their voice should be heard. He, however, called on all parties in the ongoing conflict to Syria's sovereignty and territorial integrity.

Turkey on Saturday launched an offensive aimed at ousting the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia from the enclave of Afrin, heightening tensions in the Syrian conflict and threatening to further strain ties between NATO allies Turkey and the U.S.

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10:30 a.m.

Syria's Kurdish militia says it has repelled Turkish troops and their allies from villages they seized during the Turkey-backed offensive against the enclave.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said on Monday that the U.S.-backed Kurdish militia has waged a ferocious counteroffensive, repelling Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters from two villages they briefly captured

The Observatory says Turkey-backed troops opened two new fronts on the third day of the offensive, attempting once again to enter Afrin in northwestern Syria.

The Kurdish militia, known as People's Defense Units or YPG, says it's clashing with the Turkish troops northwest of Afrin.

Turkey considers the YPG a terror organization because of its affiliation to its own Kurdish insurgency. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to expand the operation.

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