Top News: After Paris Attacks, French Jets Pound ISIS

French fighter jets struck areas controlled by ISIS in Syria on Sunday as European police widened investigations into a series of coordinated attacks in Paris. President Bashar al-Assad said in response to the Paris attacks, “We said, don’t take what is happening in Syria lightly. Unfortunately, European officials did not listen.” Although France has been bombing ISIS positions in Syria and Iraq as part of the US-led coalition, Paris has sworn to destroy the group following Friday’s bloodshed. French warplanes Sunday launched their largest series of raids to date, mainly targeting the group’s de facto capital of Raqqa. “The raid … including ten fighter jets, was launched simultaneously from the United Arab Emirates and Jordan. Twenty bombs were dropped,” the French Defense Ministry said in a statement. [Reuters, 11/16/2015]



US military aid for Egypt seen continuing despite rights concerns
The US Congress looks set to approve another $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt, despite concerns expressed by some lawmakers over its crackdown on dissent while fighting militants. Republicans and Democrats have grown increasingly uncomfortable over President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s government and its exploitation of security concerns to crack down on dissenters and journalists. Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee Senator John McCain said, “I worry when they arrest people for no good reason, when they have 40,000 or so people in prison and there’s clearly been an abridgement of various freedoms, such as the press and others.” However, McCain, like other influential government officials, views Egypt’s military as a reliable partner in a chaotic region. “Their military is good, a lot of it has to do with our support,” he said. Congressional aides said that Egypt’s 2016 package will likely remain at about the same level as last year’s, with $1.3 billion in military aid and $150 million in economic assistance. Israel has also backed the US assistance package. [Reuters, 11/16/2015]

Egyptian injured in Paris attacks mistakenly labeled a suspect
Egypt’s Ambassador to France Ihab Badawi said that an Egyptian passport recovered following the Paris attacks belongs to Egyptian national Waleed Abdel-Razzak. Abdel-Razzak reportedly sustained severe injuries in the bombing. Badawi also said that the media incorrectly portrayed Abdel-Razzak as a suspect in the bombings that struck Paris. “No charges have been directed at Abdel-Razzak at all,” he said. He also said that no reports of Egyptian attackers. Friday saw the killing of at least 129 people, 352 injured, and eighty in critical condition, as attackers shot at people at restaurants and bars, detonated bombs near France’s Stadium, and killed attendees of a packed concert hall.Two Egyptians, Salah Emad al-Gebali and Lamia Mondegeur, were among those killed in the attacks. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and al-Azhar’s Grand Imam Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb condemned the attack, while the Egyptian cabinet said the terrorist threat against France is similar to that Egypt is facing. President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told French President Francois Hollande that the attacks will not dissuade nations from combating terrorism and extremism. The Giza pyramids were illuminated on Sunday night with the colors of the French, Russian, and Lebanese, in solidarity with the victims of the Friday Paris attacks, with the victims of the Thursday Beirut attacks, and with those who lost their lives in the crash of a Russian passenger airliner over Sinai two weeks ago. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, 11/16/2015]

Russia says EgyptAir ban repercussion of air crash, Egypt surprised by decision
Russian Transport Minister Maxim Sokolov said on Saturday that Russia’s decision to ban incoming flights by EgyptAir, confirmed by Egypt’s Minister of Civil Aviation, was a direct repercussion of the Russian airliner crash in Egypt. Sokolov’s comments were the first official link between the EgyptAir flight ban and the MetroJet 9268 crash that killed 224 people. In response to the decision, EgyptAir CEO Sherif Fathy criticized the Russian aviation agency for banning flights over security concerns, calling the decision “surprising.” The ban has canceled numerous flights, including tri-weekly flights between Cairo and Moscow. Egypt’s Tourism Minister Hisham Zaazou said on Friday that Egypt and Russia are actively communicating in an attempt to solve the “crisis” stemming from the indefinite flight ban. British Airlines will end their efforts to repatriate tourists from Sharm el-Sheikh on Tuesday, with a statement from the government saying that any who remain in the city after that date will have to fly back “at their own risk.” Russian President Vladimir Putin announced during the G20 summit in Turkey that Russia was in the final stages of studying the crash debris. [Reuters, 11/14/2015]

Five Egyptians drown in Mediterranean Sea, three missing
Five Egyptian migrants drowned on Saturday and three others went missing after their boat capsized off of Edko in the Beheira governorate. The boat carried thirteen Egyptians, attempting to immigrate illegally to Italy. Border guards rescued five people, recovered the bodies of the five people who perished, and continue to look for the three remaining missing migrants. Eleven people implicated in the sinking of the boat were reportedly arrested. [AMAY, 11/15/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


ISIS leader in Libya likely killed in US air strike
A US F-15 fighter jet air strike has targeted and likely killed a top Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) leader in Libya, the Pentagon said Saturday. Pentagon Press Secretary Peter Cook said the US strike targeted Abu Nabil, also known as Wissam Najm Abd Zayd al Zubaydi, an Iraqi national who was a longtime al-Qaeda operative and the ISIS leader in Libya. This was the first airstrike against an ISIS leader in Libya. A senior US official said that the latest airstrike in Libya struck a command and control center near the eastern port city of Derna and likely killed Nabil and others with him. Officials are still assessing the results of the strike, but called Nabil’s death strongly probable. The official says the strike took place shortly after the Paris terrorist attacks began, but had been planned for some time. [AP, AFP, Reuters, Libya Herald, 11/16/2015]

Libya groups clash with ISIS in eastern city
Gunmen battled extremists from the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) on Sunday south of Libya’s eastern coastal city of Derna, local media said. According to media reports on Sunday, the Mujahedeen Council of Derna launched a new campaign to drive ISIS out of the region. It said the latest clashes took place in al-Fatayeh, twenty kilometers south of Derna. Reports of the clashes come a day after the Pentagon announced the killing of a senior ISIS leader in Libya in an air strike. Libyan authorities have not commented on the US announcement. One of Derna’s leading mujahedeen commanders, Colonel Mohamed Bughafir, reportedly was killed in the fighting. ISIS fighters launched a surprise attack on a Petroleum Facilities Guard at Brega early Monday morning, supposedly in revenge for losses in Derna. [AFP, Libya Herald, 11/16/2015]

UN says all sides in Libya may be committing war crimes
All sides in Libya’s conflict are committing breaches of international law that may amount to war crimes, including abductions, torture, and the killing of civilians, said a joint report by the UN Human Rights Office and UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Thousands of people are being held in government detention centers and facilities run by armed groups amid “frequent reports of torture or other ill-treatment,” the report said. The warring factions used imprecise weaponry in densely populated residential areas in what amounted to indiscriminate attacks, causing civilian deaths and damage to infrastructure. “UNSMIL has also received reports that air strikes by Operation Dignity, Libya Dawn, and in one instance the Egyptian air-force led to civilian casualties and/or damage to civilian infrastructure,” the report said. [Reuters, 11/16/2015]

Three militants, one soldier killed in Tunisia clashes
At least three Islamist militants and a Tunisian soldier were killed on Sunday in clashes at Mguila Mountain in the central Kasserine province near the Algerian border, a security source said. Sunday’s clashes came two days after Islamist militants beheaded a Tunisian teenager in Sidi Bouzid and sent his head to his family after accusing him of spying for the military. Security sources said militants killed the sixteen year-old as he was herding sheep in a rural area. [Reuters, 11/15/2015]

Tunisia sacks state TV chief after grisly broadcast
The Tunisian government said Sunday it had removed the head of state television after the channel broadcast a picture of the severed head of a teenager beheaded by militants. A statement said that Prime Minister Habib Essid appointed Rached Younes as caretaker head of the Tunisian Television Corporation, replacing sacked Mustapha Ben Letaief. The government gave no reason for the decision, but it comes a day after the Tunisian journalists’ association slammed El Wataniya 1 for including a picture of the teenager’s severed head in a news bulletin. [AFP, 11/15/2015]


Two US states shun Syria refugees in wake of Paris attacks
US states Alabama and Michigan say they will block or suspend a program to resettle Syrian refugees within their borders, citing security concerns after Friday’s wave of deadly assaults in Paris. “After full consideration of this weekend’s attacks of terror on innocent citizens in Paris, I will oppose any attempt to relocate Syrian refugees to Alabama,” said Governor of Alabama Robert Bentley. “As your governor, I will not stand complicit to a policy that places the citizens of Alabama in harm’s way,” Bentley said in a statement on Sunday.” The governor of Michigan said on Sunday that he had decided to suspend arrivals of Syrian refugees under a program announced by President Barack Obama. [AFP, 11/16/2015]

US warplanes strike ISIS oil trucks; US delivers ammunition to Syrians fighting ISIS
Intensifying pressure on the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), for the first time US warplanes have attacked hundreds of trucks on Monday that the group uses to smuggle crude oil it, officials said. According to an initial assessment, 116 trucks were destroyed in the attack in Deir Ezzor.In related news, the United States has carried out another delivery of ammunition to fighters from the Syrian Arab Coalition battling ISIS. The latest US resupply operation was completed by delivering the weaponry by land. [Reuters, NYT, 11/16/2015]

Nusra Front kills leader of ISIS affiliate
The al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front killed the leader of a rival militant Syrian faction that had pledged allegiance to ISIS on Sunday in a suicide attack, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said. “Abu Ali al-Baridi, head of al-Yarmuk Martyrs Brigade and nicknamed ‘The Uncle,’ was killed in a suicide attack by al-Nusra Front,” SOHR said. Baridi and two of his group’s top leaders were killed in the town of Jamlah in the southern Syrian province of Deraa bordering Jordan. The Nusra Front’s official Twitter account confirmed it had attacked Baridi, calling it a “heroic infiltration operation.” The two jihadist factions had been clashing in Deraa for quite some time. [AFP, 11/15/2015]

World powers push timetable for Syria solution
The United States, Russia, and other world powers have set a target date of January 1, 2016, for formal negotiations to start between the Assad regime and the opposition in the latest effort to try to craft a political solution to the Syrian conflict. US Secretary of State John Kerry warned that differences remain among world powers over the future of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The group nonetheless set a six-month period for Syria to form an interim unity government and said they wanted to see free and fair elections in Syria within the next eighteen months. US President Barack Obama and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Sunday on the need for UN-sponsored peace talks and ceasefire in Syria and G20 leaders promised to tighten border controls, step up intelligence-sharing, and crack down on terrorist financing during the summit in Turkey on Monday. [WSJ, 11/14/2015]

Iraq warned of attacks before Paris assault
Senior Iraqi intelligence officials warned members of the US-led coalition fighting ISIS of imminent assaults by the militant organization just one day before last week’s deadly attacks in Paris. Iraqi intelligence sent a dispatch saying the group’s leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi had ordered an attack on Iran, Russia, and coalition countries fighting against them in Iraq and Syria through bombings or other attacks in the days ahead. The dispatch said the Iraqis had no specific details on when or where the attack would take place and a senior French security official said that French intelligence gets this kind of communication regularly. Without commenting specifically on the Iraqi warning, a senior US intelligence official said he was not aware of any threat information sent to Western governments that was specific enough to have thwarted the Paris attacks. [NYT, 11/16/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Saudi-led forces advance towards Yemen’s besieged Taiz
Saudi-led coalition forces advanced on Monday towards Taiz after sending major reinforcements in a bid to break a months-long siege by Houthi rebels. The move comes ahead of an expected offensive to retake the city, seen as a gateway to Sana’a. Armored demining vehicles and other reinforcements arrived in the Shuraija region, between the loyalist-controlled Lahej province and Taiz in the southwest. Sudanese forces were also deployed to take part in the offensive on the city. Military officials said major coalition reinforcements of troops and equipment has arrived in Taiz from Yemen’s port city, Aden. Meanwhile, three pro-government fighters and two rebels were killed in clashes on the border between Taiz and Lahj. Yemeni army Brigadier General Samir al-Haj said that the pro-government forces, backed by the Arab coalition, are hoping to break the siege, but are still unsure of how long it will take to liberate the city. Unconfirmed reports indicate that Houthi rebels have asked for fighting to stop in Taiz so that they can withdraw unilaterally. [Al Arabiya, Al Masdar (Arabic), Sahafa (Arabic), 11/16/2015]

Refugees flee Yemen for Horn of Africa
In a reversal of a multi-year boat exodus that has seen hundreds of thousands of Somalis risk death at sea to flee their strife-riven land to seek refuge in Yemen, thousands of Yemenis are now fleeing from their own country to Djibouti, Somalia’s neighbour, across the Gulf of Aden. As fighting intensifies in Yemen, over 120,000 refugees and migrants have fled since April, with more than 15,000 seeking safety in Djibouti. Since the end of September, more than 2,000 Yemenis have fled to Djibouti, bringing the number in Markazi camp to around 2,800. As violence at home rages on, seeking safety on the western shores of the Gulf of Aden is increasingly becoming the only resort for thousands of Yemenis. However, violence in Yemen has not stopped Somalis from still seeing it as a refuge from their own violence-torn country. UNHCR reported last month that 70,000 refugees, asylum-seekers and migrants crossed over to Yemen. [UN News Centre, 11/13/2015]

President Hadi returns to Aden amid security fears
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi returned to Aden on Sunday to meet with various southern tribal leaders and members of the popular resistance to discuss the concerning security situation in port city. The president will appoint prominent leaders of the Southern resistance movement into the executive branch of the local governorate, in an attempt to restore some political stability to the city. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah first visited the island of Socotra on Sunday after it was hit by a cyclone last week, killing thirteen Yemenis. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 11/16/2015]

Five Yemeni Guantanamo inmates sent to the UAE
The Department of Defense announced on Sunday that it had transferred five lower-level Yemeni detainees from Guantánamo Bay in Cuba to the United Arab Emirates (UAE). The United States had held them for nearly fourteen years as wartime prisoners and none had been charged with a crime. The transfers reduced the detainee population at the prison to 107. Seventeen other proposed transfers of lower-level detainees are in the bureaucratic process. The Yemeni detainees’ resettlement was the first of its kind to the UAE, which had previously taken in just one former Guantánamo detainee in 2008. For years, the Obama and Bush administrations hoped that the political and security climate of Yemen would stabilize enough for lower-level Yemeni detainees to be repatriated. In light of the conflict between the Houthi rebels and pro-government forces, however, the United States has been persuading other countries to host small batches of that group instead. [NYT, 11/16/2015]


Turkey’s Erdogan says interest rates too high to encourage investment
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan renewed his call for lower interest rates on Sunday, saying they were too high to encourage investment and entrepreneurship. While Erdogan has repeatedly called for lower rates to spur growth, economists say Turkey’s Central Bank needs to hike rates to rein in inflation. The bank’s refusal to do so has sparked worries about political interference in monetary policy and led to record falls in the lira this year. “As long as the cost of money is on the rise, you can neither find young businessmen nor young businesswomen,” Erdogan said. [Reuters, 11/15/2015]

Saudi to start privatizing airports next year as budget squeezed
Saudi Arabia will begin privatizing its airports and related services in the first quarter of 2016, Chairman of the General Authority for Civil Aviation Sulaiman al-Hamdan said Sunday, as the kingdom seeks ways to support state finances due to lower oil prices. The announcement signals Saudi Arabia’s desire to manage the impact of lower oil prices on its budget. “The privatization program comes in line with the kingdom’s plan to improve the productive efficiency of airport systems and ease the financial burden on [the] state budget,” al-Hamdan said. King Khaled International Airport will be the first asset to be privatized in the first quarter next year. Air traffic control and information technology units will follow in the second and third quarters of 2016. Other units at the country’s international airports and local and regional airports will also be privatized, according to a schedule that runs until 2020. [Reuters, Gulf News, 11/15/2015]

UAE to reconsider investments as growth projected at 3 percent
The United Arab Emirates’ (UAE) economy is expected to grow 3 percent in 2015, Central Bank Governor Mubarak Rashid al-Mansouri said on Monday. He also said on the sidelines of a banking conference in Dubai that the country plans to reconsider any unnecessary investments. Mansouri also said there will be an “appropriate adjustment” in UAE interest rates following any hike in US rates. The UAE is closely monitoring the banking sector to ensure that risks such as lower oil prices and customer deposits do not escalate into a crisis. [Reuters, 11/16/2015]

S&P revises Egypt’s outlook, suggests Gulf support could falter
Standard and Poor’s (S&P) on Friday revised its outlook on Egypt from positive to stable and affirmed its ‘B-/B’ long and short-term foreign and local currency sovereign credit ratings. The ratings agency said its decision was based on the expectation that Egypt’s economic recovery will remain gradual amid persistent external imbalances and reduced financial support from the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries. “The stable outlook reflects our expectation that Egypt will largely remain politically stable, its economy will continue to progressively grow in the face of important macroeconomic headwinds, and that fiscal deficits will improve but remain at high levels,” S&P analysts said. “The economic recovery is supported by improved political conditions, a recovery in construction, manufacturing, services, and tourism.” However, S&P said that fiscal pressure on Gulf countries could affect support for Egypt, particularly in terms of grants. S&P said Egypt’s economic recovery would depend primarily on maintaining security and sociopolitical stability and addressing structural shortcomings in the energy and foreign exchange markets. [CPI Financial, Bloomberg, Aswat Masriya, 11/15/2015]

Egypt turns to Iraq to ease energy needs
Egypt signed a memorandum of understanding on Sunday to receive crude oil and natural gas from Iraq, said Egypt’s Minister of Petroleum Tarek al-Molla. A statement from the ministry said the agreement is part of a deal in which Iraq will supply Egypt and with surpluses of crude oil and natural gas. The agreement will also study how best to export Iraqi crude oil to Egypt and Jordan through a pipeline connecting the Iraqi city of Haditha to the Jordanian port of Aqaba. Molla added that increased domestic energy production in coming years could allow Egypt to re-export Iraqi oil as part of a larger plan to become an energy export hub. “We’re hoping that [from] 2020 to 2022 we will be able to become self-sufficient and decrease importing so that Egypt becomes a regional energy hub,” he said. [Reuters, Shafaq News, 11/15/2015]