– Syria rebels using caged captives as human shields
– EU gives 28 million euros to Syrian refugees in Jordan; US pledges $100 million to rebels
– ISIS overruns town in central Syria
– Syria Kurdish-Arab alliance launches first anti-ISIS attack
– Turkey returns to single-party rule in boost for Erdogan
– Turkish, US air strikes kill more than fifty ISIS militants in Syria

Syria rebels using caged captives as human shields

Jaysh al-Islam, a major Syrian rebel group, is reportedly using metal cages as human shields in the largest opposition stronghold on the outskirts of Damascus, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. Jaysh al-Islam, regarded as the most powerful rebel group near the capital, has put regime soldiers and Alawite civilians in metal cages, placing these cages in public squares in the Eastern Ghouta region in an attempt to “prevent regime bombardment,” SOHR said. A video published by opposition news outlet Shaam Network showed cages of men and women being transported on the backs of three trucks through the streets. Speaking on camera, both men and women asked government forces to stop shelling Eastern Ghouta. [AFP, 11/1/2015]

EU gives 28 million euros to Syrian refugees in Jordan; US pledges $100 million to rebels
The European Union on Sunday said it has allocated an extra 28 million euros to Jordan to help it meet the urgent needs of Syrian refugees as winter begins. The latest aid raises the overall EU humanitarian assistance to 198 million euros since Syria’s conflict broke out in 2011. The funds are expected to be used to provide the refugees with basic needs such as health care, clean water, shelter, rent, and education. Over the weekend, the United States announced it is providing nearly $100 million more in aid to the Syrian opposition for tasks like supporting local councils and civil society activists. This brings the amount the United States has pledged to the Syrian opposition to nearly $500 million. [AFP, 11/1/2015]

ISIS overruns town in central Syria
Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants took over a town in western Syria on Sunday, driving out Syrian government forces as ground fighting intensified over the weekend. ISIS began its assault Sunday on the town of Maheen, in southwest Homs province. From Maheen, the jihadists pushed northeast toward the village of Sadad and the nearby highway running south from Homs to the Syrian capital. As ISIS advances in western Syria, they are the target of a new ground offensive staged by US-backed rebels in the northeastern Hasaka province. Reports by SOHR show intense ground fighting between ISIS militants and fighters connected to the newly established US-backed rebel alliance, including militia members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Forces (YPG), in the al-Houl area near Syria’s border with Iraq. [Reuters, AFP, 11/2/2015]

Syria Kurdish-Arab alliance launches first anti-ISIS attack
A coalition of US-backed Kurdish militia and rebel groups has launched its first operation against territory controlled by ISIS in northeast Syria, a spokesman said Saturday. The Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) were formed in mid-October as an alliance between the YPG and other Syrian rebel groups. “This is the first step of the Syrian Democratic Forces,” said Sherfan Darwish, spokesman for the Burkan al-Furat Arab rebel group, which is part of the SDF. Speaking from Syria, Darwish said the SDF’s operation began on Friday night and would target ISIS-held areas in the northeast province of Hasaka, including the towns of Shadadi and al-Hol. Darwish said the operation would receive air support from the US-led coalition. In a video statement published online, the YPG confirmed the beginning of the operation “with all of the members of the SDF, and with support from and coordination with the international coalition, to liberate the southern parts of Hasaka province.” [AFP, 10/31/2015]

Turkey returns to single-party rule in boost for Erdogan
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) secured a stunning victory in Sunday’s snap parliamentary election to gain back a parliamentary majority just five months after losing it. Preliminary results show that the party won more than 49 percent of the votes. The AKP is projected to get 317 seats in the 550-member parliament, just thirteen short of the number President Recep Tayyip Erdogan would need for a national referendum on constitutional changes to forge a presidential system granting him full executive powers. President Erdogan hailed the results as a vote for stability and demanded the world respect the result. Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu described the outcome “as a victory for democracy.” PM Davutoglu echoed the call on Turkey’s political parties to come together and agree on a new constitution. Devlet Bahceli, the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), denied reports that he would resign after the poor election result. His party lost almost half of the seats it had won in an election in June. A senior official from Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said there was no likelihood of a coalition government after Sunday’s general election, with the AKP back to single-party rule. Pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) leader Figen Yuksekdag said the outcome of Turkey’s general election was the result of a deliberate policy of polarization by Erdogan, but the fact the party had crossed the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament was nonetheless a success. Turkish police fired tear gas against protesters in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir on Sunday. [AP, Al Jazeera, 11/2/2015]

Turkish, US air strikes kill more than fifty ISIS militants in Syria
Air strikes by Turkish and US aircraft in Syria on Saturday killed more than fifty ISIS militants and wounded around thirty, Turkish security sources reported on Sunday. Six Turkish F-16 jets which took off from the Incirlik base in southern Turkey and a drone belonging to the coalition were involved in the air strikes on Saturday morning. Reports say the operation destroyed eight ISIS targets around 5 km inside the Syrian border near the Turkish province of Kilis. The operation was backed up by Turkmen forces on the ground in Syria. [Reuters, 11/1/2015]

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