Eight Killed, Fifteen Wounded in Clashes in Libya’s Benghazi

Eight people were killed and fifteen wounded when fighting broke out today between army units loyal to retired general Khalifa Haftar and Islamist militants in Benghazi. The Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacked a camp belonging to army special forces, residents there said, and Haftar’s forces later joined the battle using combat helicopters. Among the eight dead were at least five soldiers. There was panic in the southern and southwestern districts of the city, where citizens set up checkpoints to prevent rival forces from taking shelter inside their buildings while shops were closed. Gun battles began late Sunday when a warplane under Haftar’s command targeted an Islamist militia base but hit a university building instead. [ReutersAP, 6/2/2014]



Elections commission rejects Sabbahi’s appeal
Egypt’s Presidential Election Commission (PEC) rejected an appeal by the presidential campaign of candidate Hamdeen Sabahi, who suffered a crushing loss in the poll according to preliminary results of the vote, against violations claimed by it during the poll. Domestic elections watchdog Shayfeencom condemned on Saturday the vote-counting mechanism used during last week’s presidential elections, summing the violations it observed in a report.The elections committee’s statement did not give details on its ruling on the appeal. It said the official results will be announced on Tuesday night. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Mada Masr, Egypt Independent, 6/1/2014]

New draft House of Representatives Law reserves seats for some
The new draft House of Representatives Law will include seats for women, Copts, and expats and special needs representatives. Minister of Transitional Justice Amin Mahdy discussed with the legislation department in the State Council the draft law and the Political Rights Law on Saturday. A member of the legislative department said that the draft House of Representatives Law would include 450 individual seats and 150 party list seats. He said each list would include a quota for three women, three Christians, and two representatives from among workers and peasants. He also revealed that there would be seat per list for Egyptian expats and another for a special needs representative in the new House of Representatives. [Ahram Online, 6/1/2014]

Saudi and UAE ready $20 billion boost for Egypt’s Sisi
Saudi Arabia and the UAE are thought to be readying a financial aid package of $20 billion to boost Egypt’s economy and support the incoming government of Sisi. The oil-rich Middle East powerhouse Arab nations have already held preliminary talks with authorities in Cairo to discuss how the line of funding will be structured. [The Telegraph, Al-Monitor, 6/1/2014]

Qatar expresses support for Egyptian people; Russia, UAE and Palestine congratulate Egyptians on Sisi victory
Russian President Vladimir Putin congratulated Egypt’s president-elect, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Friday, on his “convincing” victory in this week’s presidential election. According to a statement published by the Russian presidency, the two state leaders “agreed to maintain active contacts and exchange visits at the top level.” UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed told reporters the UAE wanted international partners to join in their efforts to repair Egypt’s shattered economy, calling the election of former army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi as Egypt’s president represented “new hope” for the most populous Arab country. Qatari Foreign Minister Khalid bin Mohamed al-Attiyah said on Sunday that his country is still and will remain supporting the choices of the Egyptian people, without further clarification. The Palestinian cabinet also congratulated the Egyptian people on Sisi’s victory. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Egypt Independent, 6/2/2014]


Eight killed, fifteen wounded in clashes in Benghazi
Eight people were killed and fifteen wounded when fighting broke out today between army units loyal to retired general Khalifa Haftar and Islamist militants in Benghazi. The Ansar al-Sharia militant group attacked a camp belonging to army special forces, residents there said, and Haftar’s forces later joined the battle using combat helicopters. Among the eight dead were at least five soldiers. There was panic in the southern and southwestern districts of the city, where citizens set up checkpoints to prevent rival forces from taking shelter inside their buildings while shops were closed. Gun battles began late Sunday when a warplane under Haftar’s command targeted an Islamist militia base but hit a university building instead. [Reuters, AP, 6/2/2014]

Tunisia abruptly cancels meeting on Libya
Tunisia has abruptly canceled two days of international meetings regarding Libya, as authorities say the Libyan situation is too murky to make talks worthwhile. Saturday’s announcement came just ahead of the Sunday-Monday meetings that were supposed to bring together ministers from five North African countries, including Libya, followed by a meeting of special envoys to Libya from the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, France, and other nations. A Tunisian foreign ministry spokesperson said that there are no clear interlocutors in Libya, referring to the contested leadership of interim Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and recently-elected Prime Minister Ahmed Maiteg. Leaders within the General National Congress have been in a public war of words about whether al-Thinni should hand power over to Maiteg. [AP, 3/31/2014]

Protests in Tripoli in support of police and army
Hundreds of protesters recently demonstrated in Tripoli’s Martyr’s Square calling for the removal of armed brigades from the capital. Demonstrators in support of retired general Khalifa Haftar’s campaign to purge Libya of Islamists mixed easily with supporters of the police and military, but scuffles broke out when anti-Haftar protesters entered the square. They were later removed and continued to demonstrate in nearby Algeria Square. Friday demonstrations have grown across the country since the beginning of “Operation Dignity” in Benghazi two weeks ago. Haftar claimed after last week’s demonstrations that popular support had provided him a mandate to continue his campaign against militant Islamist groups. [Libya Herald, 3/31/2014]

Fresh communal clashes in Sebha
Two people died and more than six were injured in recent inter-communal violence between Tebus and members of the Awlad Suleiman in the southern town of Sebha. An Arab resident who asked not to be identified said that the killing was an act of revenge after two Tebus were found dead near Sebha’s court building. Earlier, Tebus and Awlad Suleiman members exchanged abductees in a bid to improve relations between them. The situation is now described as calm but tense. Since the 2011 revolution, the Arab Awlad Suleiman tribe and the ethnic minority Tebus in and around Sebha have been involved in clashes that have left hundreds dead and many more injured. [Libya Herald, 6/1/2014]


Campaigning concludes for presidential vote; Violence feared election day
Syria on Sunday wrapped up campaigning for the June 3 presidential election expected to grant Bashar al-Assad a third seven-year term, a vote the opposition brands a “parody of democracy.” With swathes of Syria out of government control, Tuesday’s vote will only take place in regime-held territory, far from where Assad’s forces are battling the rebels who seek to topple him. The fragmented opposition, and their Western and Arab allies, will be left to watch powerlessly as the ballot returns Assad to power while the army makes advances on the battlefield. Opposition sources said that both civilian opposition groups in Aleppo and rebel militias based there have issued warnings to people to stay home on June 3, when Assad faces a lightly regarded challenge by two political unknowns. [AFP, 6/2/2014]

ISIS kills 102-year-old Alawite man, entire family
The most radical jihadist group fighting in Syria killed a 102-year-old man on Sunday along with his whole family in the heart of the country, a monitoring group said. The 102-year-old was shot dead in his sleep, with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) also killing his son, his grandson, his great-granddaughter, and her mother, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. All the victims were Alawites, members of the same Shia offshoot as President Bashar al-Assad. [AFP, 6/2/2014]

Young Aleppo vendor becomes opposition icon
Pro-opposition social media and news outlets have been mourning the death of a well-known young boy from Aleppo, killed Friday in a barrel bomb strike, as the latest icon of the uprising against the Assad regime. Mustafa Arab was killed during his daily walk around the neighborhood, where he sold biscuits as an itinerant vendor to support his younger siblings as his family’s sole breadwinner. To highlight their anger, some anti-regime social media users posted photos of the dead boy next to those of officials from the opposition-in-exile National Coalition enjoying a water-pipe in a restaurant in the United States. Approximately 600 children in Aleppo have been killed this year by regime airstrikes; over the weekend rebel rocket fire on government-controlled areas killed fifty civilians. [Daily Star, 6/2/2014]

Police make two Syria-related arrests at Heathrow Airport
British police arrested two people at Heathrow airport on Saturday on suspicion of terrorism-related activities in Syria. A nineteen-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of “preparing for acts of terrorism” and a twenty-year-old man was held on suspicion of “sending property overseas for the purpose of assisting terrorism in Syria.” A police spokesman said the two arrests were not connected. [Reuters, 6/2/2014]


Attacks on media professionals threaten freedom of expression
The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) deplored Tunisian security forces’ attacks on a number of media professionals while they were covering a protest march in front of the Court of First Instance in Tunis. ANHRI urges Tunisian authorities to provide necessary protections for journalists and to investigate the aforementioned attacks outside the Court of First Instance in Kasserine. [All Africa, 6/1/2014]

National Dialogue decides in favor of splitting elections
The political parties participating in the National Dialogue conference agreed to separate the presidential and legislative elections. The participating parties are expected to meet again on Monday in order to decide whether presidential elections should precede legislative elections or vice versa. Twenty political parties are represented in the national dialogue cosponsored by the quartet, which is comprised of the Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT), the Tunisian Industry, Trade and Handicrafts Union (UTICA), the Tunisian Human Rights League (LTDH), and the National Bar Association. [All Africa, 5/30/2014]

Suspects involved in attack on Ben Jeddou’s home arrested
On Thursday, May 29, a large raid led by an anti-terrorist brigade, sent from Tunis in order to reinforce security units already in the area led to the arrest of three suspects.
The suspects are believed to have been involved in the attack on the home of Interior Minister Lotfi Ben Jeddou. Following the attack on Ben Jeddou’s home on May 27, where four policemen were killed, security forces have been searching the Kasserine region for suspects. [All Africa, 5/30/2014]


Parliament says Hadi must undertake cabinet reshuffle
Parliament agreed to send President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi a memorandum demanding that he make sweeping changes to the national unity government because of the apparent inability of the government to deal with the electricity crisis and lawlessness, among other things. Last week, more than 100 members of parliament signed a petition to withdraw confidence from the government, but not all blocs consented. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 6/1/2014]

Escalating Houthi violence in North
A day after President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi sent a committee to negotiate with the Houthis in northern Amran, reports of violent clashes near Amran’s main military base point to a steep escalation in violence. At a time when officials in Sana’a have urged Houthis to exercise restraint in Amran for the sake of Yemen’s transition and stability, the Shiite group appears determined to claim Amran its own. [Yemen Post, 6/2/2014]

UN envoy visits Sana’a ahead of report to Security Council
United Nations envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar arrived in Sana’a on Saturday to meet with President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and a number of political leaders. The visit will inform his upcoming report on Yemen’s progress to the United Nations Security Council in June. [Saba, 5/31/2014]

Yemeni intelligence officer shot dead by suspected al-Qaeda gunmen
Suspected al-Qaeda militants shot and killed a Yemeni intelligence officer on Saturday in the southern province of Lahej, in the latest of a series of attacks on military targets. So far, more than twenty-two other senior officers have died this year. [Reuters, 5/31/2014]


Bahrain opposition to boycott election unless political deal reached
Bahrain’s opposition parties will boycott parliamentary elections due to take place this year unless the government guarantees the vote will reflect the will of the people, a statement from the opposition said on Saturday. Talks between the government and opposition have failed to end the political standoff. Many Shi’ites complain of political and economic discrimination in the Sunni-ruled Gulf island state, a charge the authorities deny. [Reuters, 5/31/2014]

Nearly 800 killed in Iraq’s bloodiest month this year
Nearly 800 people were killed in violence across Iraq in May, the United Nations said on Sunday, making it the deadliest month so far this year. The real toll is in fact higher because the UN figures do not include casualties in the western province of Anbar, where the Iraqi army has been fighting tribal and insurgent groups since they overran two cities at the start of the year. [Asharq Al Awsat, 6/1/2014]

Aoun making presidential inroads in Lebanon
Free Patriotic Movement leader and prospective March 8 Alliance presidential candidate Michel Aoun will push ahead with his presidential bid. The March 8 Alliance’s presumptive presidential candidate had been seeking to secure the support of Future Movement leader Saad Hariri this week. Hariri, a major figure in the March 14 Alliance, has warned against the continuation of the presidential vacuum in Lebanon. There are no signs yet that Lebanese lawmakers will be able to secure a quorum for a vote to elect a new president at the next parliamentary session, scheduled for June 9. [Asharq Al Awsat, 5/31/2014]