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In our news wrap Monday, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is congratulating his forces for major gains in the country’s last rebel strongholds. The Russian-backed blitz has recaptured Aleppo and much of Idlib province -- and driven nearly 900,000 people to the Turkish border in freezing weather. Also, in Afghanistan, Taliban fighters kept up their attacks despite a pending peace deal with the U.S.
Some 340 Americans are back in the United States, after being held for nearly two weeks on a cruise ship in Japan; 14 tested positive for the coronavirus that first emerged in China. All now face two more weeks of quarantine at military bases in California and Texas.
But, in Geneva today, the World Health Organization again counseled calm.
The real issue here is whether we're seeing efficient community transmission outside of China. And at the present time, we're not observing that. The risk is very high in China. It is high regionally and it's high around the world. That is not the risk is high of a pandemic.
In all now, China has reported over 1,800 deaths from the virus and nearly 72,000 cases.
We will take a closer look after the news summary.
Syria's President Bashar al-Assad congratulated his military forces today for major gains in the last rebel-held strongholds. The government's Russian-backed blitz has recaptured all of the Aleppo region and much of Idlib province, and Assad vowed to achieve complete victory.
The heavy bombardment has driven nearly 900,000 people to the Turkish border, where they are struggling against freezing cold.
Hassan Hadaja (through translator):
There are 140 families here without shelter. Only a small percentage have shelter. There are no heaters. The conditions are difficult. The weather is harsh, especially at night. And in the past 10 days, the circumstances have been very tough, especially on the young children. They have become ill from the cold.
Turkey has warned the Syrian forces to halt the offensive, but Assad said it will continue, despite what he called empty noise from the Turks.
In Afghanistan, Taliban fighters kept up their attacks through the weekend, despite a pending peace deal with the U.S. Militant commanders said they will not stand down until they receive orders that a week-long reduction in violence has begun. A senior Taliban leader said the deal will not be signed until the end of the month.
Back in this country, swollen rivers are beginning to crest in Mississippi and Tennessee, after days of heavy rain. The Pearl River topped out today at nearly 37 feet in Jackson, in Central Mississippi. That was short of historic levels, but officials had to release water from dams, causing a deluge in communities downstream.
Governor Tate Reeves warned more is on the way.
Governor Tate Reeves, R-Miss.:
We do anticipate more heavy rainfall for this region. In fact, we could see as much as one to two inches of rainfall on Monday night, Tuesday, and into Tuesday evening. We could potentially see additional rainfall later in the week.
In Western Tennessee, a landslide in Hardin County caused two houses to topple off a bluff overlooking the Tennessee River. There were no reports of injuries.
And state senators in Virginia today rejected a ban on the sale of assault weapons. Democratic Governor Ralph Northam had pushed the plan, but four moderate Democrats joined Republicans to defeat it in committee. State lawmakers have advanced other bills, including universal background checks and limits on handgun purchases.
However, last month, thousands of gun rights advocates descended on Richmond, the capital, in protest.
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