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Sayed Khodaberdi Sadat/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Despite claims by Doctors Without Borders that the U.S. bombing of a hospital in Afghanistan was a "war crime," a top legal expert ABC News spoke with said it is unlikely that international charges will be leveled in the incident, which left 22 dead.

However, there is the possibility that those involved in the bombing could be prosecuted by a U.S. military court.

Following the tragedy, officials with Doctors Without Borders, known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF, called the airstrike an "abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law," and suggested that a "war crime has been committed."

ABC News spoke to a number of leading war crimes experts, including the prosecutor of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and former DePaul University law professor M. Cherif Bassiouni, who explained that the motive behind the strike will matter a great deal.

"In order for something to be called a war crime it has to be done intentionally," Bassiouni said. But the concept of a war crime under the Geneva Conventions can also include gross misconduct or gross negligence.

According to the International Committee of the Red Cross’s summary of the Geneva Conventions, which are the treatises widely accepted as the standard for international law, the military's knowledge of the nature of the location is also vital to the war crime determination.

Senior U.S. military officials have told ABC that the military was deliberately targeting Taliban fighters in the airstrike, but have not said if they knew they were targeting a hospital.

"Except in cases of recklessness, targeting errors are not war crimes," the ICRC's summary of the Geneva Conventions states, adding that it is "crucial for all those launching attacks to take all feasible measures to minimize incidental civilian harm or mistakes, for instance by verifying targets, selecting tactics, timing and ammunition, and giving the civilian population an effective warning, although a violation of that obligation is not a war crime."

MSF officials say the military had to have known this was a hospital because it had repeatedly provided the U.S. military with the hospital's coordinates, including as recently as one week before the attack.

Hospitals in war zones -- like many other civilians institutions including churches, mosques and schools -- are protected under Article 4 of the Geneva Conventions. Yet if an institution like this is considered dual purpose, meaning it is also being used to harbor enemy forces, it loses that protection under international law.

Yet even if it were proven that the Kunduz hospital had lost that right of protection due to infiltration by the Taliban, the U.S. military personnel responsible for the attack would have to prove it was a military necessity to strike that hospital, Bassiouni said.

"You are looking at two things," Bassiouni said. "One is military necessity and the second is proportionality. Was that really militarily necessary? Were these people really posing the type of threat to the U.S. forces who were there in order to necessitate attacking a hospital, violating the principle of neutrality of the hospital, with the potential injuries that could come out to all of the civilians there?”

The other possibility is the military could argue it had no idea the hospital was there. But again, according to Bassiouni, this could fall into the category of gross negligence, which is also grounds for prosecution.

There are currently three investigations underway: an internal military investigation headed by U.S. Brig. Gen. Richard Kim, plus an investigation led by the Afghan government and an investigation by NATO, both of which the U.S. is participating in. MSF has called for a fourth, impartial investigation to be launched by the International Humanitarian Fact-Finding Commission, an international panel designed to help mediate between conflicting parties. According to this commission, the parties would have to consent to such an inquiry by this body.

Bassiouni told ABC that after all the investigations are finished there may be sufficient evidence to prosecute in an international criminal court, but it probably won’t happen.

That’s because if anyone is ultimately held responsible for this mistake, such as the U.S. special operators who were known to be operating in the area, Bassiouni said, that person or persons will be mostly likely be prosecuted only under the United States Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Bassiouni argues that the U.S. is unlikely to turn any of their service members over to an outside body for prosecution even after facing its own military legal system.

There is no precedent during the Afghan or Iraq wars of the U.S. turning any convicted war criminals to international bodies.

For instance, in the case of Army soldier Robert Bales, who was convicted of killing 16 Afghan civilians in 2012, he was sentenced to life in prison under the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the United States and was not sent to Afghanistan or any other international criminal court for further prosecution.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Digital Vision/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon will revise its struggling training program for moderate Syrian rebels, ending the training of large groups, a Defense Department official said.

The program has so far trained 125 rebels in two classes, producing unsatisfactory results when they returned to Syria to fight ISIS. There are 120 still being trained.

"We are not abandoning it; it still exists,” the official, who asked not to be named, told ABC News of the program. “We are going to redirect it out of existing authorities and funds."

The budgeted $500 million for the program remains, he added, but the focus of the training program will shift.

The official said that instead of training large groups of rebels, the focus will now be on training the leaders of rebel groups. The goal is that those leaders will become enablers of existing rebel groups.

Additionally, instead of vetting individuals, which has slowed down the planned training of 5,400 rebels, the process will be streamlined a year into the program to vet just the leaders of these groups, the official said.

Speaking Friday in London, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said the adjustments to the program were intended to improve it.

“We have been looking now for several weeks at ways to improve that program,” he said. “I wasn’t satisfied with the early efforts in that regard, so we are looking to achieve basically the same kind of strategic objective, which is the right one, which is to enable capable forces on the ground to retake territory from ISIL and retake territory from extremism.”

The Pentagon has sent several alternative approaches to President Obama, he said.

U.S. Central Command’s Gen. Lloyd Austin revealed how much the program had been struggling when he told Congress last month that at the time only “four or five” rebels from the first graduating class of 54 rebels were still fighting ISIS, though officials have more recently cited 80 or 90 rebel fighters, when factoring in the second class of 71 trainees and others who have since joined.

ABC News also learned that rebel groups will be provided with ammunition, though it does not appear that weapons are included.

"We are going to enable existing forces to fight ISIL doing essentially what they have been doing without our help, but by enabling them they will be able to do it further," the defense official said, using the government’s acronym for ISIS.

The training center will be established in Turkey.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock Editorial/Thinkstock(OSLO, Norway) — It wasn’t Pope Francis.

The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize is going to the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the Nobel Committee announced Friday.

The Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet, the Nobel Committee said, is responsible for building a pluralistic democracy and a peaceful political process in the wake of a revolution, pulling Tunisia back from the brink of civil war.

The 2015 Nobel Peace Prize announcement #NobelPrize http://t.co/Lx0bhQm7QH

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 9, 2015

Comprised of four key organizations — the Tunisian General Labour Union, the Tunisian Confederation of Industry, Trade and Handicrafts, the Tunisian Human Rights League, and the Tunisian Order of Lawyers — the Nobel committee said the award would go to the entire Quartet because they all represented key values in Tunisian society that served as a “great moral authority” for “peaceful democratic development.”

About the 2015 Nobel Peace Prize #NobelPrize http://t.co/D7Mf4i1E4V

— The Nobel Prize (@NobelPrize) October 9, 2015

Pope Francis had been on the list of favorites among those placing bets on who would win this year’s prize. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry were also considered contenders.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(JACKSONVILLE, Fla.) -- The captain of the El Faro, the cargo ship believed to have sunk during Hurricane Joaquin, was "calm" during the ship's final call to shore, the safety officer who received the call told the National Transportation Safety Board on Thursday.

During that call, El Faro's crew reported the ship had lost propulsion and was taking on water -- but indicated that conditions seemed manageable, according to the ship's owner, Tote Maritime.

On Wednesday -- more than 6 days after that call -- the Coast Guard called off the search for survivors, leaving crew members’ loved ones devastated.

“Any decision to suspend a search is painful,” Coast Guard Capt. Mark Fedor when the suspension was announced, noting that personnel had endured “horrific” conditions in search of the 33 souls lost at sea.

The NTSB is now focused on locating the voyage data recorder, or VDR, which officials say likely sank with the ship.

The Navy will launch a search for the wreckage within a few weeks, the NTSB said on Thursday.

The VDR, which includes audio from the 12 hours before the ship sank, will provide crucial data about the ship’s final hours.

The captain of the El Faro's sister ship, the El Yunque, said the two ships passed within visual distance of one another hours before the El Faro was caught in the storm, according to the NTSB. The two captains apparently discussed the weather.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- On Thursday, FBI Director James Comey told a congressional committe he is seeing more and more young people and young women in the U.S. who are being influenced by ISIS, because of the continued use of social media.

Comey was testifying along with Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson and National Counterterrorism Center Director Nicholas Rasmussen before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. 

“The challenge for us is there's no geographic center to it and in part because of the crowd sourced way that the message is going out and there are kids and adults who are seeking meaning in their life, troubled people all over the United States,” Comey said. “But it seems to be drifting younger with more girls and by girls I mean women under the age of 18 with whom this message on social media is resonating.”

Comey said the FBI is arresting people to stop people from travelling and potentially becoming more dangerous, as well as “to send a message.”

He said that “dozens” of people inside the United States have been influenced by ISIS or ISIS propaganda on social media to radicalize.

Sec. Johnson also reiterated his concerns that the global terrorist threat is more decentralized and harder to detect than it was before 9/11. He said he is concerned about people who “self-radicalize.”

“The new reality involves the potential for smaller-scale attacks by those who are either homegrown or home-based, not exported, and who are inspired by, not necessarily directed by, a terrorist organization,” said Johnson.  

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(TAKAB, Iran) -- At least four cruise missiles fired from Russian navy ships in the Caspian Sea towards Syria Wednesday crashed in northwestern parts of Iran according to U.S. officials.

Regional press reports in northwestern Iran referred to the crash of “unidentified flying objects.”

On Wednesday, Russia fired 26 cruise missiles at what it said were ISIS targets in Syria, assisting a ground offensive launched by the Syrian military in central western Syria.

U.S. officials said that it was unclear if the Russian missiles caused any damage or casualties as they crashed in Iranian territory.

A video released by the Russian Defense Ministry of the missile launches also included an animation detailing the trajectory the missiles took flying over northwestern Iran and northern Iraq en route to their targets in Syria.

Little noticed regional press reports on Wednesday mentioned an “unidentified flying object” that had crashed near the town of Takab close to the border with Iraq. A report in Oyan News cited the governor of Takab describing the crash of a “drone” near the village of Qiz Qapan in the early morning hours.

Images posted by Oyan News on Thursday in several structures in the village which matched initial descriptions provided by witnesses.

Wednesday’s launch marked the first use of Russian cruise missiles in combat.

A U.S. official told ABC News that their use in Syria was probably intended to demonstrate Russia’s military capabilities. The official noted that other weapons available to the Russian military already in Syria carried more firepower than that aboard the cruise missiles.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(JERUSALEM) -- A string of clashes between Palestinians and Israelis prompts Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to ban all members of parliament from visiting the Temple Mount and al Aqsa mosque.

The ban comes a day before Friday prayers at the mosque. According to The Guardian, Muslims hold a deep respect for the area because they believe the prophet Muhammad ascended into heaven at the site.

The prime minister held a press conference on Thursday to discuss the attacks saying the country was prepared to "act aggressively against the Islamic movement in Israel and other elements who are inciting."

"There is no magical solution," he said. "It might take time, but our actions will prevail."

Netanyahu also said more terror wasn't an answer to stop the clashes.

The first incident on Thursday happened with a Palestinian teen lashing out at an Israeli in Jerusalem and stabbing him in the neck. The victim was seriously wounded and the attacker was detained.

Another Palestinian was shot dead by security forces later in Tel Aviv when he wounded a female Israel Defense Forces soldier and another Israeli.

On Thursday, two Palestinians were killed and several injured because of clashes, according to Israeli police. Fifteen Israelis were also injured.

Since last week, seven Palestinians were shot dead in the attacks and more than 1,000 injured. Four Israelis have been killed in that time and more than a dozen were injured.

In the past few weeks, Israel has seen several similar attacks.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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ChinaFotoPress/Getty Images(BEIJING) -- If you think your commute is a headache, a recent traffic jam in Beijing might make you reconsider.

Thousands of cars were stuck for hours on the 50-lane-wide G4 Beijing-Hong Kong-Macau Expressway on Wednesday, according to Chinese newspaper The People's Daily.

A newly installed checkpoint forced traffic to merge down to 20 lanes, creating a bottleneck that backed up traffic for miles, the People's Daily reported.

A drone also caught stunning aerial footage of the massive gridlock.

Over 750 million people, or half of China's population, were estimated to be traveling this past week for National Day celebrations, Xinhua News Agency reported, citing data released by China's Transport Ministry.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Dursun Aydemir/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(BRUSSELS) -- Defense Secretary Ash Carter said Thursday that he expects that Russian forces in Syria “will begin to suffer casualties" in "coming days” as they participate in a ground offensive launched Wednesday by the Bashar al-Assad regime.

“Russia has chosen to double-down on their longstanding relationship with Assad, committing additional military hardware capabilities and personnel,” Carter told reporters Thursday in Brussels following a meeting of NATO defense ministers.

“This will have consequences for Russia itself,” Carter said. “And I also expect that in coming days, the Russians will begin to suffer casualties in Syria.”

Syria launched a ground offensive Wednesday against rebel positions around the Al-Ghab Valley near Hama in central-western Syria, U.S. officials said.

Russia has supported that offensive through airstrikes conducted by Russian aircraft and Wednesday's launch of 26 cruise missiles from Russian navy ships in the Caspian Sea, 900 miles away. At least four of those missiles did not make it to Syria but crashed in Iran as they flew through that country's airspace en route to Syria, U.S. officials said.

Russian troops near Hama also supported the ground offensive by using howitzer artillery and multiple rocket launch systems to fire at rebel fighters, U.S. officials told ABC News.

It marks the first time since Russian troops began arriving in early September that they have engaged in ground combat in Syria, though they are seen mainly as being in a supporting role to enable the Syrian ground offensive with their precise weaponry.

The U.S. estimates there are now at least 2,000 Russian military personnel at the airbase in Latakia, Syria, from which Russia has launched its air campaign.

“We've seen increasingly unprofessional behavior from Russian forces,” Carter said. “They violated Turkish airspace, which as all of us here made clear earlier this week, and strongly affirmed today here in Brussels, is NATO airspace. They've shot cruise missiles from a ship in the Caspian Sea without warning. They've come within just a few miles of one of our unmanned aerial vehicles. They have initiated a joint ground offensive with the Syrian regime, shattering the facade that they're there to fight ISIL.”

Carter reiterated that Russia has not been targeting ISIL -- also known as ISIS -- as it has claimed, and that the U.S. "will not agree to cooperate with Russia so long as they continue to pursue this misguided strategy.”

The United States’ approach in Syria will remain focused on the anti-ISIS air campaign over Syria, Carter said, supporting the moderate Syrian opposition and reaching a technical agreement “on professional safety procedures” for American and Russian pilots flying over Syria.

Carter said that Russia’s actions in Syria will not prove a distraction from Russian military aggression in eastern Ukraine and Crimea.

“If anything, they're a reminder of erratic and self-defeating behavior and the need for the NATO alliance and its other partners in Europe to stand strong and stand united and stand steady," Carter said.

“It remains our hope that Russia will see that tethering itself to a sinking ship is a losing strategy because Russia has the opportunity to change course and do the right thing,” he added. “I don't know if they will.”

The defense secretary described Russia’s growing isolation from the international community “is a phenomenon that I think Russia's going to have to reckon with," and he cautioned that Russia has developed a pattern of “saying one thing and doing another.”

“We have to watch behavior and not take at face value what Russia says because our experience here -- Ukraine and elsewhere -- is that sometimes, the deeds and the words don't match up,” Carter said.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI(NEW YORK) -- NASA's New Horizons space probe sent back stunning photos from the dwarf planet, revealing it has blue skies and water ice on its surface.

"Who would have expected a blue sky in the Kuiper Belt? It’s gorgeous," Alan Stern, New Horizons principal investigator, said in a statement.

The sky is painted blue when haze particles, which NASA said are likely gray or red, scatter blue light.

The second finding released on Thursday shows small regions of water ice on Pluto, although it wasn't initially obvious until scientists reviewed data from the Ralph spectral composition mapper on New Horizons.

"Large expanses of Pluto don’t show exposed water ice because it’s apparently masked by other, more volatile ices across most of the planet," Jason Cook, a science team member at the Southwest Research Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said in a statement. "Understanding why water appears exactly where it does, and not in other places, is a challenge that we are digging into."

The piano-sized probe is speeding through the Kuiper Belt, an area at the edge of earth's solar system. After the intensive data transmission process, NASA is considering another flyby of a Kuiper belt object known as 2014 MU69 that orbits nearly a billion miles beyond Pluto.

New Horizons loses about a few watts of power each year, according to NASA, but is estimated to have as much as 20 years left in its life expectancy. NASA said in its latest update the probe is 3.1 billion miles from earth and all systems continue to operate normally.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Mustafa Bag/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(KUNDUZ, Afghanistan) -- There are still 24 staffers from Doctors Without Borders missing after the airstrike that hit the charity's hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan.

At least 22 people died in the Saturday morning strike, including 12 staffers, the charity's international president said Wednesday.

The organization is known internationally as Medecins Sans Frontieres, or by the acronym MSF.

Guilhem Molinie, its representative for Afghanistan, said that of the 461 staffers who were in the hospital at the time of the strike, there are still 24 missing. Of the patients, there are still nine missing.

"Our largest loss of life has occurred at the hands of American forces," he said.

President Obama called MSF international president Dr. Joanne Liu Wednesday to apologize for the strike.

MSF has called for an independent investigation into the fatal air strike, saying an outside group must get involved, "given the inconsistencies in the U.S. and Afghan accounts of what happened," Liu said Tuesday.

Among the claims made since the strike was that U.S. or Afghan troops may have felt threatened by Taliban fighters who were shooting at them from around the hospital, though that has not yet been confirmed.

MSF General Director Christopher Stokes said that the charity's hospital was operating under the agreement of all parties involved in the conflict. He said that they had shared their GPS coordinates with military authorities and their staff and patients felt safe as a result.

ABC Breaking News | Latest News Videos

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(ROME) -- The most important Vatican gathering to update the Catholic church's stance on marriage, family and sex is happening -- except women don't get a say.

For the next two weeks, the Vatican family meeting will be looking at everything from divorce and contraception to the Catholic church's approach to LGBT followers. But among the almost 300 church members at the meeting, only 30 are women -- and they only get to listen, not vote.

When asked if he thought the total women's voices from this conference on family and sexuality skewed the issues, Cardinal Wilfrid Napier from South Africa said, "No, I don't think so. It's a bishop's synod, if it was a mother's union, I'd understand if people were excluded."

Catholic women's groups pushing for equality in their church say they're disappointed in Pope Francis. While he's made comments about the need to give women more important roles in the church, he has so far failed to deliver, they say.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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iStock/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Get ready for prime time sky gazing Thursday night when the annual Draconid meteor shower hits its peak.

The meteor shower occurs each year when Earth collides with debris from the comet 21P/Giacobini-Zinner.

The debris burns up in Earth's upper atmosphere, creating the streaks of light moving across the night sky. The annual spectacle gets its name from Draco because the meteors appear to streak out of the constellation.

This year's show isn't expected to include a barrage of meteors, however it should still make for spectacular viewing with a few meteors per hour streaking across the evening sky. The meteor shower is expected to be at its busiest around 1:40 a.m. ET Friday, according to National Geographic.

The best way to watch: Find a dark, clear sky. Bring a reclining chair or a blanket, sit back, relax and enjoy the show as meteors streak across the sky.

If you miss this one, there will be another chance later this month.

The Orionids meteor shower, which is known for having bright and quick meteors from the debris of Halley's comet, is expected to peak between Oct. 21 and 22.

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.


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Photo by Pool / Supreme Leadership Press Office/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images(TEHRAN, Iran) -- Iran's supreme leader said on Wednesday that further negotiation with the United States is "forbidden," accusing the American government of infiltrating Iran's borders.

"There is a reason we are against talks with US," Ayatollah Khamenei said on Twitter. "IRAN's negotiation with US means infiltration." Khamenei accused the U.S. of wanting to "pave the way for imposition."

There is a reason we are against talks with US; IRAN's negotiation with US means infiltration. They want to pave the way for imposition.

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) October 7, 2015

In #IranTalks they took any chance to infiltrate; Iranian side was vigilant, but they gained chances & acted against our national interests.

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) October 7, 2015

"In #IranTalks they took any chance to infiltrate," Khamenei continued. While the Iranian side was "vigilant" according to Khamenei, the U.S. "gained chances & acted against our national interests."

Further negotiation, the supreme leader explained, has many disadvantages and no advantages.

Negotiation with US is forbidden due to many disadvantages and no advantages it has.

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) October 7, 2015

He also included a nod to the U.S. airstrike that hit a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan last week. "They consider no value for human lives," Khamenei accused. "They attack a hospital, murder tens of patients and simply say 'sorry, it was a mistake!.'"

They consider no value for human lives; they attack a hospital, murder tens of patients and simply say ‘sorry, it was a mistake!’ #Kunduz

— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) October 7, 2015

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Ivan Cholakov/iStock/Thinkstock(DAMASCUS, Syria) -- In the wake of a U.S. airstrike that mistakenly hit a Doctors Without Borders clinic in Kunduz, Afghanistan, a New York-based advocacy agency says Russian air strikes have destroyed multiple medical facilities in Syria.

"Bashar al-Assad's forces have been relentlessly attacking Syria's health care system for the past four years," Widney Brown, director of programs for Physicians for Human rights said, "and the Russian government is now following in their footsteps." Calling the attacks "inexcusable," Brown Russian claims that the strikes were targeting ISIS militants. "Claiming that the fight is against terrorists does not give any government the right to tear up the laws of war, which specifically protect health workers and facilities."

Russia, Brown says, is damaging hospitals, depriving civilians of access to healthcare and putting both patients and medical staffers at risk.

PHR says that Russian strikes last week damaged a field hospital in Latamneh, injuring multiple medical staffers, partially destroyed an ambulance depot and emergency response center in Benin, and damaged a hospital in Latakia which was the only facility in the region with an obstetrics/gynecology unit.

On Wednesday, Russia's Defense Ministry released video of cruise missile launches from the Caspian Sea.

One U.S. official says that Russian artillery and rockets were fired at positions held by Syrian rebels, and not ISIS on Tuesday. The equipment was believed to be manned by Russian military personnel, as Syrians had not yet been trained.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter said Wednesday that Russia has continued to strike non-ISIS targets. "We believe this is a fundamental mistake," Carter said, "we have not agreed to cooperate with Russia so long as they continue to pursue a mistaken strategy and hit these targets."

Carter reiterated his regret over the U.S. strike in Kunduz, acknowledging a "full and transparent investigation" into the incident.

Carter also said that the U.S. remains and has "long been concerned by the Assad regime's use of violence against its own people." And Russia's enabling of that use of violence represents a part of the reason why Carter believes Russia is "making a mistake in their actions in Syria."

Copyright © 2015, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.





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