Monday, 4th January 2016

SYRIA – Syrian insurgent group Jaish al-Islam on Monday welcomed Saudi Arabia’s rupture of ties with Iran, saying Tehran’s backing of Shiite militias was destabilizing the Middle East and stoking sectarian tensions in Syria. (The Daily Star)

A fact-finding mission of the global anti-chemical weapons watchdog has found indications that some people in Syria were exposed to deadly sarin gas, or a compound like it, according to a report the United Nations released on Monday. (The Jerusalem Post)

TURKEY – Turkey’s opposition nationalists agreed Monday to take part in a cross-party commission to forge a new constitution but said they remained opposed to a full-blown presidential system favored by President Tayyip Erdogan. (The Daily Star)

LEBANON – Hezbollah set off a bomb targeting Israeli forces at the Lebanese border on Monday in an apparent response to the killing in Syria last month of a prominent commander, triggering Israeli shelling of southern Lebanon. (The Jerusalem Post)

LIBYA – Islamic State militants attempted to capture an oil port along Libya’s coast early Monday, in fighting that left at least seven people dead and set fire to a storage tank of crude oil, according to witnesses. The militants began their assault on the Sidra oil port with suicide bomb attacks on a checkpoint, but by Monday afternoon, the offensive had been beaten back by guards. (The New York Times)

Tuesday, 5th January 2016

LIBYA – Islamic State militants attacked checkpoints near the Libyan oil port of Es Sider for a second day on Tuesday and an oil storage tank in the port was set on fire by a long-range rocket, a spokesman for the security guards said. (Reuters)

Wednesday, 6th January 2016

SYRIA – Saudi Arabia signaled on Tuesday that the breach in its relations with Iran would not affect talks on Syria, another round of which is scheduled in Geneva this month. Riyadh and Tehran, which support opposing sides in the Syrian civil war, have attended previous talks on the conflict but there is concern that the new rift between the archrivals could set back diplomatic efforts to bring peace to Syria. (The Daily Star)

LIBYA – The scope of Islamic State’s attacks on Libya’s eastern oil ports expanded on Wednesday, Libyan officials said, with at least five oil tanks set on fire amid fears the group could inflict long-term damage on the North African nation’s energy industry. (The Wall Street Journal)

FRANCE – One year on, an anxious, fragmented France is paying tribute to the victims of the killings at Charlie Hebdo magazine, with old divisions made worse by what President Francois Hollande has called “a terrible year”. (Reuters)

Thursday, 7th January 2016

LIBYA – Firefighters have extinguished two fires at oil storage tanks at Libya’s Ras Lanuf terminal, but blazes continue at five tanks in the nearby port of Es Sider after attacks this week by Islamic State militants, a Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) spokesman said on Thursday. (Reuters)

A truck bomb killed at least 50 people at a police academy in the western Libyan town of Zliten on Thursday, security and medical officials said, one of the highest death tolls from a bombing in the country since an Islamic State insurgency took root in early 2015. (The Wall Street Journal)

EUROPEAN UNION – The European Union is increasing pressure on Turkey to reduce the number of migrants crossing into Greece, as the Netherlands takes over the bloc’s rotating presidency. It is of “crucial importance” that the influx of migrants via Turkey slows, said Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte. (The Wall Street Journal)

TURKEY – Sitting in the bare office above his factory where thousands of baby rattles and plastic bottles are cranked out every hour, Saad Chouihna believes that if you can make it in Turkey, you can make it anywhere. “The Turkish market is the hardest,” said the 28-year-old Syrian from the city of Aleppo, bemoaning the tangled bureaucracy, cutthroat competition and a business culture that depends on long-term relationships. (The Daily Star)

Friday, 8th January 2016

TURKEY – Turkey’s parliament speaker said Friday he hoped all parties, including the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), would take part in a parliamentary commission charged with drafting a new constitution. (The Daily Star)

SYRIA – The European Union on Friday welcomed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s decision to allow humanitarian access to the town of Madaya, and called for a halt to all attacks on civilians in the conflict, ahead of peace talks later this month. (Reuters)

Syrian rebels said they were under international pressure to make concessions that would prolong the war, adding to their doubts about a U.N.-led drive for peace talks due to begin this month. Opposition leaders are voicing misgivings over the new effort endorsed by the Security Council, not least because it does not address President Bashar Assad’s future, a point of contention between states on either side of the war. (The Daily Star)

EGYPT – Egypt’s minister of religious endowments has warned against holding protests during the anniversary of the uprising that ended President Hosni Mubarak’s rule, the state news agency said, and suggested any unrest would violate Islamic law. (Al Arabiya)

LIBYA – Islamic State has claimed responsibility for the suicide bombing of a Libyan police training center on Thursday that killed at least 47 people in the worst militant attack since the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011. (The Guardian)