Top News: Airstrikes Kill At Least Eighty in Deadliest Bombings of Yemen War

Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least eighty people near Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia and in the capital Sana’a on Wednesday, residents said, the deadliest day of bombing in over two months of war in Yemen. Wednesday’s air raids on the Bakeel al-Meer area in Hajjah province across Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen killed mostly civilians, local inhabitants said. Tribesmen aligned with the Houthis have been fighting Saudi ground forces in the area and border clashes have escalated the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition. [Reuters, 5/27/2015]



Parliament before end of 2015, Sisi tells political party heads
After a three-hour meeting with the heads of the country’s mainstream political parties Wednesday, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi stressed that the long-delayed parliamentary elections will be held at the nearest possible time and that Egypt will have a new parliament before the end of 2015. Sisi will also meet with a number of chairpersons of political parties Tuesday to discuss the amendments made to the law regulating Egypt’s long-awaited parliamentary election. The meeting is the first since the cabinet approved the amendments in early May, but the second in 2015. The consolidated draft law was devised by thirty-seven parties and sent to the cabinet to review, according to Sayed Abdel Al, head of the Tagammu Party. [Cairo Post, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 5/28/2015]

Report: Officials using state coffers as ‘private piggy bank’
A group of army generals and senior government officials are using almost 7,000 unaudited accounts in the Central Bank of Egypt and the country’s state banks to stash at least $9.4 billion in state funds to spend at their personal discretion, according to an exposé published in Africa Confidential with US-based foundation Angaza File. These events took place one year before billions of dollars of Gulf aid poured into Egypt and one year after the military-backed uprising of June 30, 2013 led to the removal of ex-president Mohamed Morsi, according to the story. [Africa Confidential, Egypt Independent, 5/28/2015]

Members of NCHR call for three-year moratorium on executions
A longtime political activist and member of a semi-official rights body has backed calls to suspend death sentences in Egypt for three years as courts continue to hand down mass death sentences to Islamists accused of murder and terrorism. George Ishaq of the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) called on Tuesday for shelving the death penalty to help ease tensions in the country. His remarks came days after the NCHR’s Deputy Head Abdel-Ghaffar Shukr formulated a similar proposition, citing the same reasons. “We need more calm and stability, we need to stem violence and terrorism,” Ishaq, once a leading opposition figure under ousted president Mohamed Morsi, said in TV comments. In its annual report issued in April, the London-based Amnesty International said Egypt and Nigeria make up well over a third of the world’s total death sentences in 2014, with over 1,000 death sentences recorded in both states last year. [Ahram Online, 5/28/2015]

Health ministry reports 643 civilians and military killed and injured in North Sinai
Within the past year, 643 civilians and military have been killed and injured in North Sinai, according to the Ministry of Health. According to an official statement issued Wednesday by Tarek Khater, the undersecretary of the health ministry in North Sinai, the number of those shot and admitted to hospitals, civilians or security forces, in the governorate reached 466. The statement added that 177—civilians and security forces combined—were killed, according to hospital records. A security source told the state-owned MENA news agency that seventy police officers were killed and 107 others injured in North Sinai in the last six months alone. [Ahram Online, 5/27/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Libyan FM discusses support with Saudis, heads to Kuwait for OIC meeting
The Tobruk government’s Foreign Minister Mohamed al-Dairi is in Kuwait for the foreign ministers meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, where Libya will be one of the main topics. On his way, he stopped in Saudi Arabia and met with his Saudi counterpart, Adel bin Ahmed al-Jubeir, and with a number of other Saudi officials, including the Saudi ambassador to Libya. Dairi said that help from Gulf states had been discussed with Jubeir and that there would probably be another meeting of Gulf countries shortly to look at ways to extend help to Libya. [Libya Herald, 5/27/2015]

UNSMIL’s Leon says Libya could collapse in a few weeks without agreement
UN Special Representative to Libya Bernardino Leon said that Libyans must be aware of the fact that, if an agreement is not reached in a few weeks, the country will collapse. He added that the divisions between Libyans are growing day by day and the rising presence of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) is a real threat. Leon continued saying that nobody in Libya believes in a military solution for the country and the economic and humanitarian situations are very grave. European Union (EU) foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini stated that the EU is ready to help with humanitarian assistance, but only the Libyans can determine if there will be a transition. [ANSAmed, 5/28/2015]

North Korean couple taken by Libyan ISIS
A spokesman for Misrata’s city council said a North Korean couple has been abducted near an ISIS stronghold in Libya. The couple, both doctors, were traveling from the oasis of Zallah in central Libya, where they worked for a local hospital for many years and were seized Friday near the coastline city of Sirte, where ISIS has gained a foothold. [AP, 5/27/2015]

EU chief condemns al-Thinni assassination bid while HoR members have split reactions
The European Union’s foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini condemned yesterday’s assassination attempt in Tobruk against its Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni, calling it an outrageous assault to further destabilize Libya when it needs to unite. However, a small group of anti-Thinni members of the House of Representatives (House) used the occasion to attack the prime minister, claiming the incident had been set up to make him appear a victim and his opponents, criminals. Beyond this, various House members were confused about the events, some saying the protesters were armed and others claiming they were not. Meanwhile, the Deputy Minister of Water Resources in the Tripoli-based government Ahmed Ali Deeb was wounded in an assassination attempt when his car was attacked by an armed gang. [Libya Herald, 5/27/2015]

Tunisian commission begins hearings into ex-dictator’s rights abuses
Tunisian authorities have begun hearings on thousands of human rights abuse claims submitted to the country’s truth and dignity commission, the body set up to investigate alleged abuses under the regime of ex-dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali. So far, it has received around 12,700 complaints for rights abuses spanning from 1955 until 2013. Sihem Bensedrine the President of the commission said that the compilation of testimony would last two years and that each victim would be granted a hearing of up to two-and-a-half hours. The panel is made up of human rights activists, representatives of victims’ association, opposition figures from the Ben Ali era, and jurists. The commission aims to identify those responsible for abuses, make them accountable and to rehabilitate and compensate victims. [AP, AFP, 5/27/2015]


Leader of the Nusra Front says aim is to defeat the Syrian regime
The leader of the Nusra Front Abu Mohammed al-Golani said in an interview with al-Jazeera that his group’s main mission is to dislodge the regime of President Bashar al-Assad and that it has no agenda to target the West unless provoked. “Nusra Front does not have any plans or directives to target the West. We received clear orders [from Ayman al-Zawahiri] not to use Syria as a launching pad to attack the US or Europe in order to not sabotage the true mission against the regime. Maybe al-Qaeda does that but not here in Syria,” he said. But his statements did include a warning over attacks on the armed group. “Our options are open when it comes to targeting the Americans if they will continue their attacks against us in Syria. Everyone has the right to defend themselves.” Questioned whether the Nusra Front planned to establish an Islamic state in Syria, Golani said that after the war is over, all factions and groups in the country will be consulted before considering “establishing an Islamic state.” Golani also said that his group would not target the country’s Alawite minority despite their support for Bashar al-Assad’s government. [BBC, Al-Jazeera English, AFP, NY Times, Reuters, AP, The Guardian, 5/28/2015]

Syria says wants more Iraqi coordination in ISIS fight
Damascus wants more coordination with Baghdad to combat the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem said on Wednesday, days after the group seized al-Tanf border crossing, Palmyra in central Syria, and Ramadi in Iraq’s Anbar province. Though Damascus and Baghdad share a close relationship with Iran, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moualem’s comments indicated Damascus was not happy with the level of Iraqi cooperation in the fight against ISIS. Muallem also said that Iran and Russia would never give up their support for his regime in the face of a four-year-old armed revolt. “I assure you that the relationship between Syria, the Russian Federation, and the Islamic Republic of Iran is much deeper than some people think.” The three countries share “the same view” of Syria’s four-year conflict, he said.[Reuters, 5/27/2015]

Kurds oust ISIS from Syrian Christian villages
Kurdish forces have driven ISIS from fourteen Assyrian Christian villages that the jihadists had captured in Syria’s northeastern al-Hasakah province in February, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Osama Edward, head of the Assyrian Network for Human Rights, said that the Kurds’ recapture of the villages “was made possible by intense raids by the international coalition” led by the United States against ISIS. He said that photos “show a lot of destruction of houses and churches.” [The Daily Star, 5/28/2015]

ISIS shoots dead twenty in Palmyra amphitheater
ISIS militants shot dead around twenty men in an ancient amphitheater in the Syrian city of Palmyra on Wednesday, accusing them of being government supporters, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. ISIS took control of Palmyra from government forces last week and have killed at least 200 people and taken around 600 captive, according to the Observatory. ISIS’s takeover of Palmyra marked the first time the group had seized a Syrian city directly from government control. [Reuters, 5/27/2015]


Yemen faces catastrophe without vital supplies says the Red Cross
Yemen faces a humanitarian catastrophe unless the Saudi-led coalition allows it to import and distribute vital food, fuel and medicines, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Wednesday. Only 5-10 percent of usual imports has entered Yemen over the past two months of the conflict, which has killed more than 2,000 people, he said. Food prices have soared. “If there is no fuel there will be no water very soon, and if this is the case we have thousands of people, if not millions, at risk because there is no access to water,” said Cedric Schweizer, outgoing head of the ICRC’s delegation in Yemen. [Reuters, 5/27/2015]

Airstrikes kill at least eighty in deadliest bombings of Yemen war
Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least eighty people near Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia and in the capital Sana’a on Wednesday, residents said, the deadliest day of bombing in over two months of war in Yemen. Wednesday’s air raids on the Bakeel al-Meer area in Hajjah province across Saudi Arabia’s border with Yemen killed mostly civilians, local inhabitants said. Tribesmen aligned with the Houthis have been fighting Saudi ground forces in the area and border clashes have escalated the conflict between the Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition. [Reuters, 5/27/2015]

Iran Foreign Minister wants “all parties” in Yemen to work on resolving crisis
All political factions in Yemen need to be involved in any process aimed at ending the current crisis in the country, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javid Zarif said on Tuesday. In a reference to the Houthi movement, Zarif said all groups in Yemen “without exception” needed to “find new solutions to stop the fighting” in the country and speed up the delivery of humanitarian aid to its people. President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi appointed Maj. Gen. Abduh al-Huthaifi as the country’s new interior minister on Tuesday in place of Maj. Gen. Jalal al-Ruwaishan. Ruwaishan’s sacking and replacement come after he continued working in his post, allegedly coordinating with the Houthis after their takeover of Sana’a in September 2014. [Asharq al-Awsat, 5/27/2015]

Saudi Arabia sanctions two Hezbollah commanders, alleging terrorist activities
Saudi Arabia sanctioned two top Hezbollah commanders allegedly involved in regional terrorist operations, in a sign of the kingdom’s growing coordination with the US Treasury Department. Riyadh on Wednesday blacklisted Khalil Yusif Harb and Muhammad Qabalan for activities the Saudis alleged were designed to destabilize the kingdom’s close strategic allies in Yemen, Egypt and Lebanon. Iran and Hezbollah have both denied supporting the Houthis or any terrorist activities inside Egypt. [Wall Street Journal, 5/27/2015]


Even with billions in Gulf aid, Egypt may still turn to IMF
Egypt’s on-and-off talks with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) may be back on again, as investors say IMF loans offer a stronger platform for reviving the Egyptian economy than the Gulf money currently keeping it afloat. Even with signs of a recovery in tourism and investment, the gap between Egypt’s foreign currency receipts and needs may reach $15 billion a year by 2017. Support from Gulf countries helps to maintain Egypt’s balance of payments, but it is not a long term solution. While Egyptian authorities do not want to be tied to an IMF financing package and its pace of required reforms, an IMF program would go a long way towards attracting investors.[Bloomberg, 5/27/2015]

EU-Tunisia trade deal talks to begin in October
Tunisia intends to begin talks in October on a free trade deal with the European Union (EU), Tunisian Prime Minister Habib Essid said during a visit to Brussels at press conference with EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini. EU Trade Commissioner Cecilia Malmstroem welcomed Essid’s remarks, calling the announcement a “major step” towards integrating Tunisia into the EU internal market and making the country more attractive for investment. Malmstroem plans to travel to Tunisia to launch trade negotiations “on an ambitious partnership” in the fall. [AFP, 5/27/2015]

Saudi regulator gets tough ahead of market’s opening to foreign investors
As Saudi Arabia prepares to open the Middle East’s biggest economy to foreign investors in June, the market regulator is clamping down on potentially errant companies. The Capital Market Authority (CMA) has referred an investigation into alleged insider trading and market manipulation at Etihad Etisalat Co., better known as Mobily, to the public prosecutor. The move, which could lead to fines and criminal charges against individuals, is unusual in the kingdom, where local executives are rarely penalized. The regulator is pushing for stronger corporate governance and transparency at local companies. [Wall Street Journal, 5/27/2015]

ISIS captures one of Syrian regime’s last sources of income
The capture of two phosphate mines outside of Palmyra by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has dealt a major blow to the Syrian regime. Pro-ISIS Twitter accounts posted pictures from the Khunayfis mines, with some claiming the seizure of a new source of “millions of dollars” in revenue. While ISIS is unlikely to be able to make use of the raw phosphate in the mines, the victory has stripped the regime of one of its few remaining major sources of income. Syria has some of the largest phosphate reserves in the world. Before the conflict, they produced about $60 million in revenue a year. [The Telegraph, Business Insider, 5/27/2015]