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October 20, 2015
The Syrian government's military offensive on the outskirts of the northern city of Aleppo has displaced thousands in recent days, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) says. A spokeswoman for UNOCHA said that the fighting had displaced 35,000 people from Hader and Zerbeh on the outskirts of the city in the past few days. The Aleppo offensive is targeting areas a few kilometers to the south of the city. The Syrian army, backed by Russian air strikes in the air and both Iranian and Hezbollah fighters on the ground, claimed they have captured several villages. Syrian state TV said the army had captured the town of al-Sabeqiya and that the rebels had suffered heavy casualties. One Aleppo-based rebel group, the Nour al Din al Zinki Brigades, said its military commander was among the dead. [AFP, Al Jazeera, 10/20/2015]

Saudi says Assad can stay only until transition council
Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir said on Monday President Bashar al-Assad can hold onto power in Syria only until a transitional council of opposition and government figures has been set up. "We have said that... after the formation of the governing council Bashar Assad will have to leave," Jubeir stated at a joint press conference. "After the formation of this governmental body, President Assad must step down. If it is a matter of months, two or three months or less, that is not important. But Assad has no future in Syria," Jubeir said. On Tuesday, the Turkish government announced that it is ready to accept a political transition in Syria in which President Bashar al-Assad remains in symbolic power only for six months before leaving office. [Reuters, AFP, 10/20/2015]

Hama gangs engaged in organ trade
Armed gangs and militiamen in Syria’s Hama have been selling organs harvested from captives, according to a purported intelligence document obtained by a pro-opposition outlet. Al-Souria Net on Tuesday published what it said was a General Intelligence Directorate fax leaked to the outlet from Syria’s Military Intelligence branch in Hama detailing the illicit business. The gangs are wanted by several regime security branches, but authorities remain hesitant to arrest the heavily armed groups, which have strong support from senior regime army officers. [NOW, Syrian Observer, 10/20/2015]

Warrant issued for prominent Turkish lawyer on ‘terrorist propaganda’ charges
Turkish news agencies report that a court issued an arrest warrant for a prominent lawyer in the Kurdish southeast on terrorist propaganda charges. Tahir Elci is the head of the bar association in Diyarbakir. He was criticized last week for saying on a news program on October 14 that the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, is not a terrorist organization, though Turkey and its Western allies including the United States consider it one. [AP, Al Jazeera, Anadolu Agency, 10/20/2015]

Turkish jets hit PKK targets in southeast
The Turkish General Staff announced on Tuesday that Turkish jets have destroyed a number of outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) targets in the southeastern province of Hakkari as a part of an air operation. “Shelters, caves, and weapon pits belonging to the separatist terrorist organization determined in the Daglica region of Hakkari were destroyed in an air operation,” the Turkish General Staff said through a statement on its website. The army also announced the detention of twenty-two collaborators for “forming an organization with felonious intent” and “smuggling arms and ammunition for terror purposes” in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa. [Hurriyet, 10/20/2015]

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