BEIRUT (AP) -- The Latest on the Syria conflict (all times local):
The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross says the organization has been "flooded" with about 13,000 requests in the last six months from Syrians looking for missing family members.
Peter Maurer told a small group of journalists at U.N. headquarters in New York on Wednesday that before then the ICRC only had "requests in the hundreds."
He said the surge in requests is probably related to Syrians returning to places in the country where there is no active combat and worrying about family members.
Maurer said the ICRC has also been "slightly more pro-active" on the issue of missing Syrians.
He said the requests have come from all areas of Syria, neighboring countries and even globally.
As for successful reunifications, Maurer said "numbers are in the tens to fifties."
The U.N.'s deputy humanitarian chief says attacks on civilians in Syria and their homes, schools and health facilities "have reached some of the highest levels since the conflict began" seven years ago.
Ursula Mueller told the U.N. Security Council on Wednesday that the needs of people in Syria also "could not be higher," with 13.1 million people in need of aid, including some 5.6 million "in acute need."
She said the U.N. verified 72 attacks on health facilities in the first three months of 2018, compared to 112 attacks in 2017.
Mueller says access across conflict lines also "remains extremely constricted." She said over 160,000 people left the Damascus suburbs of eastern Ghouta between March 9 and April 15.
She says the situation in Idlib province "remains catastrophic, with almost 400,000 people displaced since mid-December, in addition to tens of thousands who were displaced from eastern Ghouta and eastern Qalamoun."
A Syrian filmmaker says Russian state media have used images from the set of his 2016 movie to claim that video footage from an April 7 suspected poison gas attack in Syria was staged.
Humam Husari describes it as a "desperate and cheap attempt by Russian TV to deny the obvious attack on Douma."
The April 22 reports by Russia's Rossiya-1 and Channel One try to back up the Russian and Syrian government narrative that there was no chemical weapons attack in Douma, and that videos purporting to show victims of the attack were faked.
Husari says that in one segment, the reports use behind the scenes images from the set of his short film called "Chemical," as it was being filmed in the eastern Ghouta region in 2016.
Husari told The Associated Press on Wednesday that his production, which is still a work in progress, is a fictional short drama based on the chemical weapons attack in Ghouta that took place in 2013.
The global chemical weapons watchdog says its team of inspectors has visited for the second time a Syrian town hit by an alleged chemical attack earlier this month and taken samples.
The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons said in a statement on Wednesday that samples taken by the team in the town of Douma, just east of Damascus, will be sent to OPCW designated laboratories for analysis.
The OPCW's fact-finding mission visited Douma for the first time over the weekend, two weeks after the April 7 attack. Their entry into the town was delayed by security fears.
More than 40 people were killed in the suspected chemical weapons attack in the town. The OPCW team is mandated to establish whether chemical weapons were used, but not to apportion blame.
U.N. humanitarian chief Mark Lowcock says he expects donors to pledge 4.4 billion dollars in humanitarian aid for Syria and neighbors sheltering its refugees for 2018.
Lowcock told reporters during an international donor conference in Brussels on Wednesday involving around 85 delegations that the figure was his "best guess" based on commitments made so far.
He said "we've made a good start," even though the pledges would fall well short of the estimated 7 billion dollars the U.N. is seeking.
Lowcock thanked the EU, Germany and Britain for making large offers.
Russian diplomats are planning to bring a group of Syrians to the international chemical weapons watchdog who the Russians claim were filmed in "staged videos" of an alleged chemical attack on the town of Douma earlier this month.
Russian Embassy spokesman Mikhail Sobolev said Wednesday that about 15 Syrians will attend a meeting at the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons on Thursday to brief member states.
The OPCW, which has sent a team of inspectors to Syria to investigate the alleged attack, had no immediate comment.
The event is part of an ongoing clash of narratives between the West and Syria and its key ally Russia about the April 7 attack.
Opposition activists and first responders in Douma say the attack was carried out by government forces and killed more than 40 people. The U.S., France and Britain also blamed the Syrian government, and launched punitive airstrikes a week after the attack.
Six days after the incident, Russia's Defense Ministry accused Britain of direct involvement in staging video images of alleged victims. Britain vehemently denied the Russian accusation.
The Russian military has indicated it will supply the Syrian government with a sophisticated air defense system, after condemning a missile attack launched by the U.S., Britain and France earlier this month.
Col. Gen. Sergei Rudskoi said in a statement Wednesday that Russia will supply Syria with "new missile defense systems soon." Rudskoi did not specify the type of weapons, but his remarks follow reports in the Russian media that Moscow is considering selling its S-300 surface-to-air missile systems to Syria.
Top Russian officials said earlier this month that Moscow may reconsider a pledge it gave a decade ago not to provide Syria with the S-300 system in light of the airstrikes on Syria earlier this month.
Russia is a key ally of Syrian President Bashar Assad.