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October 19, 2015
Air strikes targeting a motorcade belonging to the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) killed at least forty jihadists in central Syria over the weekend. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said unidentified warplanes hit the sixteen-vehicle convoy Saturday night, traveling from the jihadist group’s self-declared capital of Raqqa in northern Syria into the countryside of Hama province. Syrian government warplanes have bombarded areas near ISIS positions in eastern Hama province on an almost daily basis. It is unclear whether Russians, Syrians, or the US-led coalition hit the motorcade. [AFP, 10/18/2015]

Aid deliveries begin in Syrian towns under truce 
Trucks carrying food and aid deliveries entered four Syrian towns on Sunday, nearly a month after a ceasefire agreement was reached between warring parties. The Red Cross and the Syrian Arab Red Crescent helped to organize the convoys that took food and medical aid to Fuaa and Kafraya in northwestern Idlib province and to Zabadani and Madaya in the Damascus countryside. Representative for the International Committee of the Red Cross Pawel Krysiek said twenty-one trucks entered Madaya while two others entered adjacent Zabadani, which is near the border with Lebanon. He said the food deliveries were made with support from the United Nations, which had brokered a six-month ceasefire to halt months of fighting in the towns between regime forces and rebels groups. [AFP, 10/18/2015]

US military says ammo went to Syrian Arabs, not Kurds
The US military on Friday denied claims that Syrian Kurdish forces had taken ammunition from a massive airdrop that was intended for Syrian Arabs fighting ISIS. The issue is sensitive for the Pentagon, which fears ruining relations with Turkey. US-led coalition forces on Sunday parachuted fifty tons of small-arms ammunition and rockets to rebels fighting ISIS as part of a new program to work with and equip vetted rebel leaders. "We are very confident that the materiel that we air dropped was received by Syrian Arab Coalition forces," Colonel Pat Ryder, the spokesman for the US military's Central Command, told reporters. Turkey this week summoned US and Russian envoys to warn against supplying arms and support for Syrian Kurdish forces fighting ISIS in Syria. [AFP, 10/17/2015]

Al-Qaeda cell leader killed in air strike in Syria
An air strike in northwest Syria over the weekend killed a top al-Qaeda commander and two other fighters. The leader, Saudi citizen Sanafi al-Nasr, was the highest-ranking member in a network of about two dozen veteran al-Qaeda operatives called the Khorasan Group, and the fifth senior member of the group to be killed in the past four months. His death was announced in a Pentagon statement describing Thursday’s operation, which US officials said was a drone strike. The Pentagon said al-Nasr had organized routes for new recruits to travel from Pakistan to Syria through Turkey and played a significant role in the group's finances. [NYT, Reuters, 10/18/2015]

Six soldiers, twenty-eight Kurdish militants killed in Turkish southeast
The Turkish military announced on Saturday that three soldiers and twenty-eight Kurdish militants were killed in air strikes and clashes over a two-day period in Turkey's predominantly Kurdish southeast. The soldiers were killed in clashes with Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militants in Daglica, in the province of Hakkari, where six others were wounded. A fourth soldier died of his wounds in the hospital. The military said it killed seventeen PKK members in a ground operation. On Sunday, security sources said two Turkish soldiers were killed when a roadside bomb hit their vehicle in the province of Tunceli. Clashes between the PKK and the state persist despite a PKK call a week ago ordering its forces to halt all actions in Turkey unless attacked. The government had dismissed the move as an election gambit to bolster the pro-Kurdish opposition ahead of November 1 parliamentary polls and said military operations will continue until PKK fighters disarm and leave Turkey. [Reuters, 10/17/2015]

Germany’s Merkel and Turkish PM Davutoglu discuss refugee crisis
Following a meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Sunday, Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said that Turkey and the European Union (EU) made progress on a plan that aims to stem the mass movement of migrants across Europe's borders, but several issues remain under discussion. Merkel arrived in Istanbul on Sunday to discuss an EU plan on the migrant crisis. Under the plan, European countries would offer aid and concessions to Turkey in exchange for measures to halt the flow of irregular migration. The incentives would involve an aid package of at least 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) to help Turkey host the more than 2 million refugees who are currently in the country, as well as easier access to EU visas for Turkish citizens and reenergized EU membership talks, officials said. Turkey would improve its asylum and documentation procedures and beef up border and coast guard numbers. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said after meeting Merkel later on Sunday that he had asked for her and the leaders of France, Britain, and Spain to speed up Turkey's EU membership bid. In an interview on Monday, Davutoglu said that Turkey was not a “concentration camp” and would not host migrants permanently to appease the EU. [AP, Al Jazeera, 10/18/2015]

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