* The foreign ministers of Russia, Iran, and Syria convened in Moscow Thursday to begin what analysts expect will be an effort to map out plans for Geneva II and the period following it, reports the Turkish Hurriyet Daily News. The trilateral meeting comes six days before the Geneva II peace talks are slated to commence, amidst lingering uncertainty about whether Iran will participate in the conference.
* Fighting continued in the Outer Aleppo town of Jarablus between the Islamic State of Iraq and a-Sham (ISIS) and rebel factions fighting against it Wednesday, with the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reporting that ISIS launched a suicide car bombing that killed 26, including at least three civilians, with dozens more injured and the death toll expected to rise.
* The People’s Protection Units (YPG), a Kurdish militia based in northern Syria, released a statement Wednesday accusing the Syrian National Coalition of excluding Syria’s 10 percent Kurdish minority from the Geneva II peace talks, and of supporting ISIS in clashes against the YPG in Kurdish-controlled areas of northern Syria, reported the Syrian Observatory Wednesday. The Coalition, for its part, has accused the YPG of working with the regime and “betraying” the revolution.
* The Syrian Embassy in Amman issued a statement Wednesday attacking Jordanian Parliamentarian Abdullah Obeidat following his criticism of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad before the Jordanian parliament. “This creature unleashed his obscenity, stupidity, and vulgarity, directing a stream of insults at the Syrian people,” charges the statement. Jordanian Speaker of the House Atef Tarawneh responded Wednesday, calling the statement “outside the limits of tact,” Jordanian website Ammon News reported.
The Syrian Embassy in Amman released a statement Wednesday harshly criticizing Jordanian parliamentarian Abdullah Obeidat. Courtesy of http://www.ammonnews.net/
* A car bombing rocked the northeastern Lebanese town of Hermel around 9am Thursday morning, killing at least four and wounding 42 more, reported the Lebanon’s Daily Star. A security source told the Daily Star that the remains of a male corpse had been pulled from the car’s wreckage, suggesting the attack was likely a suicide operation. The bombing in Hermel, a town where Hezbollah enjoys strong support, is the second on Lebanese soil in January, following an attack early this month in a Hezbollah stronghold in south Beirut.
* The Violations Documentation Center (VDC) in Syria, a pro-opposition watchdog group, issued a press release Thursday claiming that chemical weapons had likely been used in the town of Daraya, 8 kilometers west of Damascus, on Monday, January 13th. The VDC quoted a media spokesman for the Daraya Local Council, who said: Syrian Army forces used poisonous gases at one of the clashes between their forces and the forces of the Free Syrian Army east of Daryya [sic] on 01/13/2014 between 10-11 pm. The shells–loaded with poisounous gas–were grenades.”
* A report released Tuesday by the international aid organization Oxfam calculated the extent to which donor countries were doing their fair share to fund relief efforts surrounding the Syrian civil war, reported the Jordan Times Wednesday. The report, which periodically calculates its fair-share analysis based on countries’ Gross National Incomes (GNI), “praised countries like Jordan and Lebanon for greatly exceeding their fair share of the financial burden, while criticizing other countries for failing to contribute in proportion to their GNIs; the United States, the single largest donor country, is contributing 88 percent of its fair share, while Russia is contributing only five percent.” The report was released the same day that the Second International Pledging Conference for Syria was held in Kuwait, at which donor states pledged $2.4 billion in humanitarian aid for Syrians.