Monday, 11th January 2016

EUROPEAN UNION – The European Union has no firm timeframe for lifting sanctions on Iran and the move could come soon, the bloc’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini said on Monday. (The Jerusalem Post)

SYRIA – Italy evacuated 15 Libyans Monday for medical treatment after they were wounded in last week’s truck bomb attack against a police-training center, the Italian government said. At dawn, Italy sent a C-130 transport plane to the port city of Misrata to take the wounded to a military hospital in Rome and subsequently perhaps in other Italian hospitals, the statement said. (The Daily Star)

TUNISIA – Tunisia’s moderate Islamist Ennahda became the biggest party in parliament on Monday after more lawmakers in President Beji Caid Essebsi’s party resigned over the role of his son, saying they feared a return of hereditary transfers of power. (The Daily Star)

TURKEY – Turkey plans to offer Syrian refugees work permits in order to ease the pressure on them to migrate, Volkan Bozkir, Turkey’s minister for European Affairs, said on Monday. (The Jerusalem Post)

Tuesday, 12th January 2016

ISRAEL – A senior Israeli official has voiced concern for Jordan’s future stability given encroaching Islamist-led insurgencies in the region, a departure from Israel’s customary reticence about its neighbor and security partner. Jordan, one of two Arab countries to have signed peace treaties with Israel, has largely weathered the upheaval in much of the Middle East over the past five years. It has low-key military backing from the United States and Israel. (Haaretz)

SYRIA – Syrian pro-government troops retook a front-line town in Latakia province from insurgents on Tuesday, a monitoring group and state media said, in a push by President Bashar al-Assad’s forces to recover lost territory in the west. (Haaretz)

TUNISIA – At least 10 senior leaders quit Tunisia’s ruling party Wednesday as a wave of resignations in a dispute over the role of the president’s son continued to sap the secular movement’s strength. Defections among lawmakers over the past week have cost Nidaa Tounes its parliamentary leadership, causing it to fall in number of deputies behind its rival Ennahda. (The Daily Star)

TURKEY – A suicide bomber believed to be linked to the Islamic State struck the historic heart of Istanbul on Tuesday, killing at least 10 people in what would be the group’s first major attack on Turkey’s vital tourism industry. The bombing, which injured 15 others, took place in the shadow of the city’s famous nine-domed Blue Mosque, which draws visitors from around the world. Most of the victims were German nationals, Turkish officials said. (The Washington Post)

Wednesday, 13th January 2016

SYRIA – The United Nations Special Envoy for Syria said after meeting representatives of United States, Russia and other major powers on Wednesday that Syria peace talks were still on track to start in Geneva on Jan. 25. Staffan de Mistura told reporters that some issues remained to be ironed out and later issued a statement saying that officials from the five permanent members of the U.N. Security Council had agreed to push for “sustained and unimpeded access to a number of besieged areas” in Syria’s civil war. (The Daily Star)

TURKEY – The suicide bomber who carried out an attack in Istanbul’s central tourist district had entered Turkey from Syria and was registered as a refugee, Turkish officials said Wednesday, adding to concerns over security at the country’s critical border. The bomber, who died in the attack on Tuesday, was identified as Nabil Fadil, a Syrian citizen and Islamic State operative who was born in Saudi Arabia in 1988. Mr. Fadil entered the country on Jan. 5 and was not on a government list of terrorism suspects, according to Turkish officials. (The New York Times)

Thursday, 14th January 2016

EGYPT – Egypt is introducing a series of new security measures at its holiday resorts, the tourism ministry said on Thursday, a week after suspected militants armed with knives wounded three European visitors to Hurghada. (The Jerusalem Post)

ISRAEL – Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu accused the European Union on Thursday of holding his country to a double standard, and reserved special criticism for Sweden, saying its call to investigate Israel was outrageous, immoral and stupid. “There is a natural tendency in the EU establishment to single out Israel and treat it in ways that other countries are not being dealt with, and especially other democracies,” he told a gathering of foreign journalists. (The Daily Star)

ITALY – Italy is blocking a European Union plan to provide Turkey with 3 billion euros in aid in exchange for a commitment to stem the flow of migrants into Europe, two European officials said Thursday. The move marks a further escalation in Italy’s combative position on EU issues. Prime Minister Matteo Renzi blasted German Chancellor Angela Merkel at an EU summit in December over EU policies on energy, banking and migration. (The Daily Star)

SYRIA – Ending the war in Syria is the best hope of reducing the heavy flow of asylum seekers into Europe, which continues despite the winter weather, the head of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) said Thursday. IOM Director General William Lacy Swing also said that the European Union was “perfectly capable” of managing the influx of asylum seekers if states had the political will, but that anti-migrant sentiment was on the rise. (The Daily Star)

A prominent Syrian opposition politician said Thursday he thought it unrealistic that peace talks will begin on Jan. 25 in Geneva as planned unless sieges are lifted and humanitarian aid for civilians allowed in. (The Daily Star)

TURKEY – Turkish tanks and artillery have bombarded Islamic State positions in Syria and Iraq over the past 48 hours, killing almost 200 of its fighters in retaliation for a suicide bombing in Istanbul, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said on Thursday. An Islamic State suicide bomber, who entered Turkey as a Syrian refugee, blew himself up among groups of tourists in the historic centre of Istanbul on Tuesday, killing 10 Germans and seriously wounding several other foreigners. (Reuters)

Kurdish militants have attacked a police station in southeast Turkey with a truck bomb, killing six people including a baby and two toddlers, in one of the biggest strikes since the conflict reignited in July, security officials said on Thursday. (Reuters)

Friday, 15th January 2016

EUROPEAN UNION – The European Union needs to reach swiftly a definitive deal on the financing of a three billion euro fund to help Turkey stem the flow of refugees into Europe, the head of euro zone finance ministers said on Friday. (Reuters)

SYRIA – Alarmed by starvation in the besieged Syrian town of Madaya, aid agencies sent a mobile medical clinic there on Friday and planned to increase medical support. The aid workers returned late Thursday from a second relief mission to the town this week, and were horrified after witnessing the death of a 16-year-old boy at a makeshift health clinic, presumably from hunger. “They were in the town for seven hours,” said Christophe Boulierac, a Geneva-based spokesman for the United Nations’ children’s agency, Unicef. “He died in front of them.” (The New York Times)