The Latest: Envoy: UN agency explores de-mining in Palmyra

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The Associated Press

BEIRUT (AP) — The Latest on Syria’s civil war as another round of peace talks gets under way in Geneva (all times local):

5:45 p.m.

The United Nations envoy for Syria says a specialized U.N. agency is exploring ways to join Russia in de-mining operations in the historic city of Palmyra that government forces recently recovered from control of the radical Islamic State group.

A day after peace talk resumed in Geneva, Staffan de Mistura spoke to reporters about the U.N.-led efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to the war-torn country and ahead of the planned Friday arrival of a government delegation for the talks.

De Mistura said the international community wants to send “an important signal” about the restoration of Palymra, which government troops recaptured from IS last month.

He said de-mining agency UNMAS briefed a humanitarian aid task force linked to the talks on Thursday about how it could contribute to de-mining efforts in Palmyra.

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11:00 a.m.

A Turkish news agency says the U.S. led coalition has been targeting Islamic State militants in Syrian villages near the border with Turkey.

The private Dogan news agency says coalition jets on Thursday hit IS positions in the villages of Sawran, Souran, Hawar al-Nahr and Kafra.

The militant IS group and al-Qaida’s Syria branch known as Nusra Front are not part of a U.S.-Russia-brokered cease-fire in Syria.

The villages lie across the border from the Turkish town of Kilis, which has been the scene of near-daily rockets and shelling from IS-controlled territory in Syria. One person was killed and several people were wounded from such rocket fire on Wednesday.

Dogan says smoke is rising from the airstrikes and that sounds of explosion and gunfire can be heard from across the border.

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10:45 a.m.

Syrian activists and state media are reporting an exchange of shelling in the northern city of Aleppo on the second day of the new round of peace talks in Geneva.

The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights and Aleppo-based activist Bahaa al-Halaby say government warplanes, helicopter gunships and artillery have been bombarding rebel-held parts of the city on Thursday.

The pro-government Addounia TV says one person was killed and five were wounded by mortar rounds fired by insurgents into the predominantly Kurdish Sheikh Maqsoud district of the city.

Aleppo has seen sporadic clashes despite a U.S.-Russia-engineered that went into effect in late February.

Government forces and their allies have rebel-held parts of Aleppo almost surrounded from all sides, except for a corridor from the northwestern edge of the city.

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