The Latest: UN says Syria fighting destroys vaccines

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

7 p.m.

The U.N. children’s agency says fighting related to the Syrian government’s offensive on the Islamic State-controlled town of Mayadeen has destroyed at least 140,000 doses of vaccines.

The report, which UNICEF regional director Geert Cappelaere said Thursday the agency is working to verify, is “alarming” and is likely to hamper an ongoing vaccination drive in the area.

The agency says Mayadeen has been at the center of an outbreak of polio caused by vaccine shortages. Since March, 48 children have been paralyzed in the area, according to UNICEF.

UNICEF didn’t say what caused the destruction of the cold room where the vaccines were stored. A government offensive in the area has displaced most of the town’s population. The agency says the vaccines were to be used for an ongoing campaign in the surrounding Deir el-Zour province, where children have been “extremely vulnerable” to the spread of the illness.

UNICEF says this is the second outbreak of polio in Syria since the start of the civil war in 2011. National vaccination coverage has dropped from over 80 percent to just over 40 percent.

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4:10 p.m.

Egypt’s state media and a representative of a Syrian rebel group are saying that three Syrian opposition factions have reached a cease-fire deal for a southern part of Damascus that has been the scene of recent violence.

The state-run MENA news agency and Mohammed Alloush of the rebel group Jaysh al-Islam, or Army of Islam, said the deal was reached under Egyptian and Russian auspices.

MENA says the deal was signed at the intelligence’s headquarters in Cairo on Thursday and went into effect at noon.

Alloush told The Associated Press by telephone that the three parties to the deal are Army of Islam, Jaysh al-Ababil and Aknaf Beit al-Maqdis, which is linked to the Palestinian Hamas group.

The deal would also open humanitarian access and prevent displacing its residents inside Syria.

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3:50 p.m.

Syrian opposition activists say government troops are pushing deeper into an Islamic State stronghold in the country’s east, the town of Mayadeen.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says clashes with militants intensified in the morning hours on Thursday in the town, as government forces advanced into the western and northern neighborhoods of Mayadeen, which lies on the Euphrates River.

The Observatory says troops were able to cut off the road linking Mayadeen and the town of Boukamal on the border with Iraq.

Opposition activist Mozahem al-Salloum says the fighting is fierce and that it will likely take time to rid Mayadeen of the Islamic State group.

Syrian troops reached Mayadeen on Saturday, after pushing south along the eastern banks of the Euphrates.

Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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