Top News: Air Strikes Kill 176 in Yemen, Highest Daily Toll Thus Far

Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and clashes killed at least 176 fighters and civilians in Yemen Monday, residents and media run by the Houthi movement said, the highest daily toll since the Arab air offensive began more than three months ago. On Monday, about sixty-three people were killed in airstrikes on Amran province in the north, among them thirty people at a market, and about twenty fighters and civilians were killed at a Houthi checkpoint outside the city. Warplanes killed about sixty people at a livestock market in al-Foyoush in the south and another thirty in a raid apparently targeting a Houthi checkpoint on the main road between Aden and Lahj. Tribal sources in Marib said about twenty Houthi fighters died in clashes with tribesmen. One Houthi official said Monday’s attacks had dealt a blow to peace efforts. [ReutersAl-Masdar (Arabic), 7/7/2015]



Prime Minister addresses North Sinai attacks and anti-terror bill
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab visited injured soldiers and civilians in North Sinai and local facilities Monday after the deadly July 1 attacks, along with the North Sinai governor and the Minister of Health. Mahlab underlined the important role played by Sinai residents in cooperation with the army and police forces to confront terrorism and defend the homeland. “Sinai locals are Egypt’s first line of defense; any soldier who serves in Sinai should feel he is serving his family,” Mahlab said during his visit to the soldiers. Meanwhile in an interview on satellite channel Sada El-Balad, Mahlab discussed the government-approved amendment to the anti-terrorism law, saying it does not jeopardize press freedoms. “The terrorism law has nothing to do at all with press freedom, it does not seek to scrutinize the media,” Mahlab said. “The exceptional circumstances Egypt is going through cannot withstand false information in a time when the state needs national unity.” [SIS , Cairo Post, Egypt Independent, 7/7/2015]

Egypt’s State Security Prosecution to probe top prosecutor’s assassination
Egypt’s General Prosecution on Monday referred the case of late Prosecutor General Hisham Barakat’s assassination to the country’s High State Security Prosecution to continue its investigation. In a statement issued by Assistant Prosecutor General Zakaria Osman on Monday, it was stated that the East Cairo Prosecution had completed an initial investigation into the car bomb attack that targeted Barakat’s motorcade a week ago in Cairo’s Heliopolis district, and led to his death. Assistant Prosecutor General Zakaria Abdel Aziz Othman issued the order to refer the case to the higher State Security Prosecutors, the prosecution’s statement said. Typically, State Security prosecutors look into cases that affect national security. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 7/7/2015]  

Court reveals details behind Morsi’s death sentence
The Cairo Criminal Court submitted the grounds on which former president Mohamed Morsi and five others were handed death sentences in the Wadi Natroun prison break trial. They were given the sentences on charges of participating in storming Egyptian prisons, attacking police facilities, and killing security personnel. The revealed details behind the verdict saw the court justifying the conviction of the 129 defendants in the case, in which they were accused of being responsible for breaking prisons and security facilities. The court said its judges were given proof that the planning for the crimes committed was on the instructions and support of foreign “terrorist organizations.” The court added, “Although the Brotherhood was an organized and fully established organization, at the time it didn’t have the gear to individually execute the crimes in light of the security grip on it which states positively that foreign entities participated in the plan to execute it.” [DNE, 7/7/2015]

Egypt signs energy import deals with Russia’s Rosneft
Egypt and Russia’s top oil producer Rosneft have signed two initial deals for the supply of petroleum products and liquefied natural gas to Cairo, the two sides said on Tuesday. The oil ministry said in a statement the deals include the supply of benzene and bitumen, as well as twenty-four LNG cargoes for state gas company EGAS over two years starting from the fourth quarter of 2015. The deals “will allow Rosneft to access the high growth potential Egyptian gas market and deepen broader cooperation between the two companies,” Rosneft said in a statement on its website. “In addition, the cooperation with EGAS will allow Rosneft to strengthen its position in the global LNG trading market.” Under the terms of the agreements, Rosneft also plans to supply Egypt with liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), a step Rosneft said it hoped would lead to more deals to supply LPG to North Africa. [Reuters, 7/7/2015]

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Car bombed in Libya’s Derna
A car exploded in Derna yesterday afternoon in what is seen as a revenge attack against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). A homemade explosive, thought to be a “gelatina” bomb, was placed under the vehicle in the town center’s Shara al-Maghar. The car belonged to a local supporter of ISIS who disappeared. There have been a number of similar attacks on vehicles and properties belonging to ISIS supporters since the group was forced out of the town last month. [Libya Herald, 7/7/2015]

Misrata airbase attacked, ISIS claims responsibility
A MiG jet fighter and three other aircraft were destroyed at Misrata airbase this morning in an attack claimed by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). In response, the Misrata forces carried out an airstrike on a site west of Sirte, at al-Dahair, where ISIS is believed to have a camp. “The attack occurred at dawn while people were at prayer,” a source close to Misrata Municipal Council said, adding that the attackers had not fired at the aircraft but left a bomb, probably containing C-4 plastic explosive, under one of the planes. The fire engulfed the other two and then spread to the MiG 25, the source explained. In its announcement claiming responsibility, ISIS showed pictures of two people it said broke into the airbase and blown up the planes which it claimed had been used to bomb Muslims in Sirte, Nufaliya, and Harawa. [Libya Herald, 7/7/2015]

Derna mujahedeen sentence ISIS members to death
A sharia court set up by the Shoura Council of Mujehideen in Derna (SCMD) has sentenced six members of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) to death for their alleged involvement in a number of killings and attacks in the town. The six (four Libyans and two foreigners) include Salem al-Saadi, Attia al-Debani, Ahmed Abu Sidra, Abdul Salam Shnaib, Jibril al-Sheikh, and Rafiq Badr. They were found guilty of the murder of two female members of the Harir al-Mansouri family, sisters Zakia and Naima, who were killed with other members of the family last April, as well as of the killing of Sheikh Faraj Al-Huti and a colleague, referred to simply as Sheikh Nasser. They were also found guilty of bombings, kidnappings and an attack on a shop. It is not known if the executions have already been carried out. [Libya Herald, 7/6/2015]

GNC announces plans to ‘restructure Libyan army’
A ceremony was held at the General National Council (GNC) building in Tripoli to announce plans to restructure the ‘Libyan army’ into eleven brigades. The head of the GNC, speaker Nuri Abu Sahmain, was described as the “supreme leader of the Libyan army” and led the event on July 6, according to the Tripoli Prime Minister’s website. Tripoli Defense Minister Khalifa al-Ghuwail said the reforms aimed to create a 5,000-strong army integrating former rebel forces. The announcement comes at a time when the UN has been pressing for both parliaments to sign a peace agreement. Last week, Abu Sahmain led a protest, which criticized the latest draft agreement and claimed the GNC team was being intimidated and pressured into signing a deal. [Libya Monitor, 7/7/2015]


Obama says Assad must go for war to end; US will increase support for Syrian opposition
President Barack Obama said Monday in a speech at the Pentagon that the only way to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and end Syria’s civil war is through “an inclusive political transition to a new government without Bashar al-Assad, a government that serves all Syrians,” and pledged to increase US support for the moderate Syrian opposition. He remarked that recent territorial losses by ISIS show that the armed group will be defeated, but added that the fight will be long.[Daily Star, Reuters, Al Jazeera, BBC, 7/7/2015]

Top US Envoy in Turkey after Syria intervention speculation
US Special Envoy for the Coalition Against ISIS Gen. John Allen is in Ankara to meet with Turkish officials after speculation that Turkey could launch a military intervention inside Syria. Accompanied by US Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Christine Wormuth and military officials, Gen. Allen is expected to meet with Turkish Undersecretary of the Foreign Ministry Feridun Sinirlioglu and military chiefs to discuss the fight against ISIS. [AFP, 7/7/2015]

Nusra Front attacks government-held neighborhood in northern Syria
Intense clashes broke out Tuesday in Aleppo after militants from the Nusra Front launched a suicide attack in the government-held Zahra neighborhood and captured several buildings. The blast killed twenty-five troops and pro-government gunmen. Nineteen militants have reportedly been killed since Monday night. Rebel sources said there was heavy bombardment of rebel-held portions of the neighborhood and that the Syrian army responded with heavy firepower including aerial bombardment in an attempt to stem the offensive. [AP, Reuters, 7/7/2015]

Syrian Kurds retake northern villages from ISIS
Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) fighters, aided by US-led coalition air strikes, recaptured more than ten villages seized by ISIS north of Raqqa city on Tuesday. Intensified US-led coalition air strikes and clashes on the ground have killed at least seventy-eight ISIS fighters since Sunday night. The strikes are some of the most sustained since they began in September, aimed at curbing ISIS’s ability to operate out of Raqqa and to prevent it from fighting back against Kurdish advances. ISIS is reportedly still in control of Ayn Issa as of Tuesday. Hundreds of members of Lebanon’s Kurdish community marched in Beirut Sunday in solidarity with their fellow nationals fighting in northern Syria and accused Turkey of supervising ISIS’s massacring of around 150 Kobani residents last week. [Reuters, AFP, 7/7/2015]

Iraqi forces plan offensive to retake Ramadi from ISIS
US and Iraqi officials said Monday that Iraqi security forces are preparing to mount a counteroffensive in the coming weeks to try to reclaim Ramadi from ISIS before the militants dig in further. President Obama said that the fall of Ramadi was a setback that “galvanized” the Iraqi government and accelerated the US effort that had been “moving too slowly” to better train and equip Iraqi forces, including Sunni fighters. [NYT, 7/6/2015]


Air strikes kill 176 in Yemen, highest daily toll thus far
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and clashes killed at least 176 fighters and civilians in Yemen Monday, residents and media run by the Houthi movement said, the highest daily toll since the Arab air offensive began more than three months ago. On Monday, about sixty-three people were killed in airstrikes on Amran province in the north, among them thirty people at a market, and about twenty fighters and civilians were killed at a Houthi checkpoint outside the city. Warplanes killed about sixty people at a livestock market in al-Foyoush in the south and another thirty in a raid apparently targeting a Houthi checkpoint on the main road between Aden and Lahj. Tribal sources in Marib said about twenty Houthi fighters died in clashes with tribesmen. One Houthi official said Monday’s attacks had dealt a blow to peace efforts. [Reuters, Al-Masdar (Arabic), 7/7/2015]

Documents reveal Iranian support for Houthis
A copy of a high-level classified document has revealed the extent of Tehran’s support for the Houthi movement. The document, marked “secret,” is a message from Mohammad Ali Shahidi, the head of the Iranian Martyrs Foundation, a charitable organization overseen by Iran’s Supreme Guide Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, addressed to the organization’s subsidiary, the Yemen Martyrs Foundation. The document is an apparent approval of a request by Iran’s elite Quds Force that the Iranian Martyrs Foundation increase its financial support for the Houthis to $3.7 million due to heavy losses sustained from the Saudi-led coalition air strikes. [Asharq al-Awsat, 7/6/2015]

Saudi Arabia makes arrests in Kuwait bombing plot
Saudi authorities have arrested three brothers linked to a suicide bombing by a Saudi man on a Shia Muslim mosque in Kuwait last month, Saudi state news agency SPA reported Tuesday. The ultra-radical Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) said it carried out the attack, which killed twenty-seven people and appeared aimed at stoking sectarian hatred in the energy-rich Gulf. The three Saudi brothers, who were not identified, were “parties to the crime of the sinful terrorist bombing that targeted the Imam al-Sadeq mosque in Kuwait,” SPA quoted a security spokesman for the Interior Ministry as saying. A fourth brother lives in Syria and is a member of ISIS, the security spokesman added. [Reuters, 7/6/2015]

Yemeni groups accuse Houthis of stealing aid
Yemeni aid workers and charitable organizations accused Houthi rebels of manipulating food and fuel deliveries, either selling it on the black market or delivering it to their allies and supporters. The Yemeni government-in-exile, speaking from the Saudi capital of Riyadh, demanded the equitable distribution of aid. It accused the Houthis of stealing the humanitarian assistance and preventing deliveries from reaching the port of Aden in the south where the rebels face heavy local resistance. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 7/7/2015]


Saudi Arabia to invest up to $10 billion in Russia
Saudi Arabia has signed a commitment to invest up to $10 billion in Russia, the Russian Direct Investment Fund (RDIF) said Monday. The majority of the $10 billion from Saudi Arabia’s sovereign-wealth fund will be spent on Russia’s agricultural projects, medicine, logistics, and the country’s retail and real estate sectors, RDIF chief Kirill Dmitriev said. He added that seven projects have received preliminary approval and he expects to close ten deals before the end of the year. The RDIF also said it signed an agreement with the Saudi Arabian General Investment Authority, under which the two sides will seek mutual investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia and other Middle East countries. [Wall Street Journal, Financial Times, 7/7/2015]

Egypt’s domestic debt surpasses two trillion pounds, foreign reserves rise
Egypt’s domestic debt reached 2.016 trillion pounds ($261 billion) in the third quarter of the current fiscal year, the central bank said on Monday, reflecting the government’s reliance on domestic borrowing to finance its deficit. “The government is highly dependent on local sources, mostly banks, in the form of treasury bills and bonds, to finance its deficit,” said Hany Farahat, senior economist at CI Capital. Total domestic borrowing is up 18 percent year-on-year. A statement by the central bank also said external debt dropped during the third quarter to $39.9 billion, down from $45.3 billion in the same period last year. On Tuesday, the central bank said Egypt’s foreign currency reserves rose to $20.08 billion at the end of June from $19.560 billion the previous month. [Reuters, 7/6/2015]

Iraq to tap retail investors in $5 billion domestic bond offer
Iraq’s government is planning a domestic issue of $5 billion worth of bonds starting in the fourth quarter of this year. The medium-term notes, with maturities of between twelve and eighteen months, will help to finance the budget deficit and will be open to local banks, other institutions, and retail investors. The bond issue will seek to tap into large sums of foreign currency that Iraqis have become used to hoarding in their homes through years of conflict and upheaval. The bonds will be denominated in US dollars and issued in stages, according to investor demand. In addition to the domestic bond issue, Iraq has said it plans to raise $5 billion with an international bond issue this year. [Reuters, 7/6/2015]

Turkish GDP growth seen at 2-2.5 percent in 2015, missing government target
The Turkish economy is expected to grow between 2 and 2.5 percent this year, falling far short of a government target of 4 percent after a June election failed to produce a single-party government, government officials said. The heightened political uncertainty, including the possibility Turkey will fail to form a coalition government and hold a snap election, is suppressing investment, economy officials said. The Eurozone crisis and violence in Syria and Iraq also hampers investment, the officials said. One senior official said that even if measures to boost investor confidence are taken, growth would only rise to 3 percent. [Reuters, 7/6/2015]