More than a quarter of a million people have been killed in Syria’s conflict since it began over four years ago, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Friday. SOHR relies on networks of sources on the ground in Syria and has documented the deaths of 250,124 people, including at least 74,426 civilians. The civilian toll includes 12,517 children and 8,062 women. It puts the toll for rebel fighters at 43,752, and the number of foreign militants killed at 37,010. At least 91,678 pro-government forces, among them 52,077 regime soldiers and other allied Syrian and non-Syrian fighters including 971 Hezbollah fighters have also been killed. SOHR also documented the deaths of 3,258 people who have no identification. Its toll does not include some 30,000 people missing in Syria, among them 20,000 held in Syrian jails. [AFP, 10/16/2015]

US ready to drop weapons to Syrian rebels
The US military is ready to increase its weapons supply to rebels fighting the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), a US official said, days after an initial air drop of ammunition. “There will be more deliveries but only if they can demonstrate that they have used it in an effective way against ISIL,” the official said. “As they demonstrate results, the packages will get heavier and US strikes will occur in places that are advantageous to their operations.” The official described the rebel-arming program as “performance-based…We’ve left the door open to more things to include some weaponry,” he added. “If they fail … if the things fall into the wrong hands, then those particular groups will be cut off.” US-led coalition forces on Sunday parachuted 50 tons of small-arms ammunition and rockets to rebels fighting ISIS. [AFP, 10/16/2015]

Russian warplanes accidentally bomb regime forces in Homs
Russian airstrikes north of Homs have mistakenly hit regime forces conducting a major offensive against rebels, according to activists. Ahmad al-Daik said the mistakenly bombed sites include the “Aatoun checkpoint, the Mulouk base, [and] the Military College in Al-Waer…” The media activist claimed that the strikes caused regime fatalities, but added that the precise figure remains unknown “as all of the areas are military [zones] under [regime] control.” Pro-rebel Al-Souria Net went into details on the purported Russian air strikes on Syrian regime positions, reporting that the bombing of the Mulouk checkpoint “caused the death of two colonels and six privates.” [NOW, The Syrian Observer, 10/16/2015]

Turkey shoots down drone at border with Syria
According to the Turkish military, Turkish jets shot down an unidentified drone that violated Turkey’s airspace at the border with Syria on Friday. The aircraft was shot down after it ignored three warnings for it to leave. It was not clear which country the drone belonged to. It crashed inside Turkey’s borders. Igor Konashenkov, spokesman for the Russian defense ministry, said that all Russian jets have safely returned to their base and all Russian drones “are functioning normally.” Since 2013, Turkey has shot down a Syrian military jet, a helicopter, and an unmanned surveillance drone that strayed into Turkish airspace. The incidents occurred after it changed its rules of engagement following the downing of a Turkish fighter jet by Syria. [AP, 10/16/2015]

EU tries for new Turkey strategy to stem refugee flow
European Union (EU) leaders met in Brussels Friday morning to agree to give “political support” for an action plan for Turkey to help it manage its refugee emergency, including easier access to EU visas and sped-up EU membership talks. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan derided Europe for not taking in more refugees, and accused the EU of being insincere about Turkey’s membership. The EU plan to give new aid and concessions to Turkey in exchange for stemming the unprecedented flow of people across borders could involve as much as 3 billion Euros in aid. Discussions in Ankara will continue in coming days. French President Francois Hollande said he “insisted that if there is a liberalization of visas with Turkey … it should be on extremely specific, controlled terms.” The plan would see Turkey improve its asylum and documentation procedures and beef up border security. [AP, 10/16/2015]