– Russian strikes in Syria kill more than 1,300 says SOHR
– UN votes to condemn Syria over rights violations
– Saudi Arabia to host Syrian opposition talks, says state media
– Turkey renews plans for Syria safe zone
– Turkey seizes 11 million pills of ‘Syria war drug’
– Bombings kill at least fifteen in Baghdad

Russian strikes in Syria kill more than 1,300 says SOHR

More than 1,300 people, around two-thirds of them combatants, have been killed in Russian air strikes in Syria since the aerial campaign began on September 30, Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said Friday. The figure supplied by SOHR is more than double the toll it gave in its last report on the Russian campaign three weeks ago. The monitoring group said it had documented 1,331 deaths in Russian air strikes, most of them of Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) jihadists or other fighters. It said 381 ISIS fighters had been killed, along with 547 militants from the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front and other rebel forces. The strikes also killed 403 civilians, including ninety-seven children, according to the monitor. SOHR’s last toll for the campaign, on October 29, put the number of killed at nearly 600. [AFP, 11/20/2015]

UN votes to condemn Syria over rights violations
A UN General Assembly committee strongly condemned human rights violations in Syria and said perpetrators of war crimes should face trial. A resolution presented by Saudi Arabia was adopted by a vote of 115 to 15, with 51 abstentions. China, Iran, and Russia were among the countries that voted against the measure that now goes to the full General Assembly. The resolution stressed the need for accountability and encouraged the UN Security Council to take action, noting that the International Criminal Court (ICC) could play a role. An attempt last year to refer Syria to the ICC for war crimes was blocked by Russia and China. [AFP, UN Press Release, 11/20/2015]

Saudi Arabia to host Syrian opposition talks, says state media
Saudi Arabia will host a conference in mid-December aimed at unifying the Syrian opposition, the state-owned Al Arabiya television station has announced. The conference comes after an international agreement to launch talks between Syria’s government and opposition by the first of January. Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the UN Abdallah al-Mouallimi said the conference would include “all shades of the opposition” including figures based inside Syria. US Secretary of State John Kerry said he expected a conference within two weeks or sooner to bring together the various factions of the Syrian opposition. “And at that point the United Nations is prepared to convene the parties in Geneva and begin the process of creating this transitional process for Syria itself,” he told reporters. [The Guardian, 11/19/2015]

Turkey renews plans for Syria safe zone
Turkey has renewed its plans to roll back ISIS from a stretch of territory along its border with Syria and create a safe zone, which reportedly calls for Ankara and Washington to back rebels with air strikes. Earlier in the week, Turkish Foreign Minister Feridun Sinirloglu and his US counterpart John Kerry both told the press that plans were in motion to tackle ISIS’s presence along the Turkish border, but neither elaborated on their dramatic statements. On Thursday, London-based Alaraby Aljadeed went into details on the anticipated military campaign, reporting that the “operation will begin very soon.” The source flatly ruled out the possibility of the country’s ground forces conducting any cross-border operations. Meanwhile, a source privy to decision making in the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) told Alaraby Aljadeed that Ankara was pressing to start the military operation “as soon as possible.” [NOW, 11/20/2015]

Turkey seizes 11 million pills of ‘Syria war drug’
The Turkish authorities have seized a record haul of almost 11 million pills of the synthetic stimulant drug Captagon, which is believed to play a crucial part in Syria’s civil war, reports said Friday. Anti-narcotics police confiscated over 10.9 million pills weighing almost two tons in two separate raids in the Hatay region on the border with Syria, the Interior Ministry said. Captagon is a hugely popular drug in the Middle East and produced in Syria. It has been repeatedly dubbed as the drug fueling Syria’s civil war since its production provides income for the warring factions and keeps fighters awake and energized over long periods. One Syrian citizen and two Turkish nationals have been detained on suspicion of trying to organize the smuggling, the reports said. [AFP, 11/20/2015]

Bombings kill at least fifteen in Baghdad
Bomb attacks on a Shia mosque and elsewhere in southern Baghdad killed at least fifteen people Friday as a top religious official urged unity among Iraqis in the fight against ISIS. The deadliest of the attacks targeted the mosque in the Iraqi capital’s Nahiyet al-Rasheed neighborhood just as worshippers were finishing Friday prayers. Ten people were killed and twenty-eight were wounded in that coordinated attack. Two separate roadside bombs exploded in commercial areas of southeast Baghdad, killing five additional people and wounding nine. [AP, 11/20/2015]