– Russia sent missile systems to Syria, personnel force grows to 4,000 
– Pentagon welcomes advance by ISIS-fighting allies in Syria
– Rebels seize military base in western Hama
– Water crisis leaves Damascus residents thirsty
– Kurdish rebels end unilateral ceasefire declaration
– Turkey agrees access to Cyprus army zone graves in search for missing
– Former Iraqi Environment Minister jailed for corruption

Russia sent missile systems to Syria, personnel force grows to 4,000
Russia sent anti-aircraft missile systems to Syria to back up its air campaign, commander of the Air Force Viktor Bondarev said in an interview. “We sent not just fighter planes, strike aircraft, and helicopters but also anti-aircraft rocket systems,” Bondarev said. He added that Russia made the decision to bring missile systems to Syria because “we took into account every possible threat … There could be various force majeure situations. Let’s imagine a military plane is hijacked and taken to a neighboring country and air strikes are aimed at us. And we have to be ready for this.” This news comes as Moscow’s military force in Syria has grown to about 4,000 personnel. [AFP, Reuters, 11/5/2015]

Pentagon welcomes advance by ISIS-fighting allies in Syria
A coalition including Syrian Arab groups regained territory in northeastern Syria from Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants, a US military spokesman said, calling it an encouraging success. The fighters, who are from the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and its Syrian Arab Coalition subgroup, regained 87 square miles near the town of al-Hawl, US military spokesman Colonel Steve Warren said. The group “conducted an attack … driving ISIL back,” Warren said. “This is not a large tactical action … [but] we are encouraged by what we saw.” The spokesman said the operation had pitted more than a thousand friendly forces against several hundred enemies in the vicinity after heavy US air strikes had cleared the way. [AFP, 11/5/52015]

Rebels seize military base in western Hama
Armed opposition factions have overrun a military base in the western countryside of Hama province after heavy clashes with Syrian regime troops. Rebel fighters seized Tal Othman base and the nearby village of Janabra, activist Mustafa Abu Arab said. The strategic hill was the Assad regime’s first line of defense in securing loyalist villages in the Ghab Plain. The Syrian Observatory of Human Rights reported mid-morning Thursday that the Islamist Jund al-Aqsa group and other rebel factions had taken “full control of large parts of Morek,” a town seized by regime forces in October 2014 after eight months of heavy clashes. The monitoring group also reported the “death and injury of dozens of regime forces members” and said it had received “confirmed information of human losses in the ranks of Jund al-Aqsa.” [NOW, Syrian Observer, 11/5/2015]

Water crisis leaves Damascus residents thirsty
Areas of Damascus and its countryside are facing of a shortage of potable water after the city’s network was destroyed during fighting between regime forces and Syrian opposition factions as they battled for control of the Barada River. Different regions in Damascus are experiencing shortages of drinking water, except for al-Maliki and some pro-regime neighborhoods, such as Mezzeh 86, which relies on water from wells that are decades old. The western and eastern countryside of the capital has faced water shortages and pollution after an explosion rocked the Barada water network between the villages of Ayn al-Fijeh and Deir Qanoun. Activists reported that the water pollution has resulted in high rates of jaundice and cholera in the villages and cities of the western countryside. Doctors and field hospitals struggle to treat the ill due to shortages of vaccines and medication. [Syrian Observer, 11/5/2015]

Kurdish rebels end unilateral ceasefire declaration
Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebels fighting Turkey for autonomy ended a temporary unilateral ceasefire they had declared a month ago in their bid to reduce tensions ahead of Turkey’s November 1 election. A statement from a Kurdish umbrella organization said Thursday that the rebels had ended the ceasefire, citing the government’s “war policy” and “ongoing attacks.” Sixteen people were killed in clashes with the military in southeastern Turkey on Thursday, lifting this week’s death toll to almost forty in the mainly Kurdish area. One police officer was killed on Thursday during an operation against outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) militants in the Silvan district of southeastern Diyarbakır province, where a curfew had been declared. [AP, 11/5/2015]

Turkey agrees access to Cyprus army zone graves in search for missing
Turkey has agreed to allow access to graves in military zones in war-split Cyprus in a major breakthrough to a decades-old search for persons missing in past conflict, a team working under UN auspices said on Thursday. Turkey formally agreed to let exhumation teams inspect thirty known suspected burial sites in closed military areas in northern Cyprus, the Committee For Missing Persons (CMP) said in a statement released through the UN peacekeeping mission in Nicosia. Access would be given over a three-year period. More than 2,000 Greek and Turkish Cypriots disappeared in a 1974 war and intercommunal violence on the island over the decade prior to that. [AP, Reuters, 11/5/2015]

Former Iraqi Environment Minister jailed for corruption
Former Iraqi Environment Minister Sargon Lazar Slewa was sentenced to two years in prison for corruption and ordered to pay some $280,000 to the state, the judiciary said Thursday. Slewa, a Christian who served in former premier Nuri al-Maliki’s government, was tried on charges “related to corruption,” a judicial statement said. Widespread public anger over corruption and poor services led to weeks of protests earlier this year, pushing Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to announce a series of reforms aimed at streamlining the government and combating graft. While officials such as Slewa are periodically punished for graft, more powerful politicians who have allegedly engaged in far greater corruption remain at large. [AFP, 11/5/2015]