Top News: Death Toll in Regime Airstrikes on Raqqa Rises to Ninety-Five

The death toll from a series of Syrian government airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS) stronghold in northeastern Syria has risen to at least ninety-five, making it one of the deadliest attacks on the city of Raqqa in the past three years.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights raised its death toll Wednesday, noting that at least fifty-two civilians were killed and an additional 120 others wounded in the strikes. Raqqa was the first provincial capital in Syria to fall from regime control, and was later overrun by Islamic State militants that have since used it as the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate.




Raba’a leaders responsible for sit-in’s victims says fact-finding committee
A fact-finding committee formed to investigate events in Egypt since the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi announced on Wednesday that a total of 693 civilians and ten policemen died when security forces dispersed pro-Morsi sit-ins in greater Cairo on August 14, 2013. Dispersal of the sit-in at Raba’a al-Adaweya square in eastern Cairo left 607 civilians and eight policemen dead; the smaller protest at Nahda square in Giza saw the death of eighty-six civilians and two policemen, the committee said in a press conference on Wednesday. Committee head Fouad Abdel Moneim Riad said the first death was that of a policeman. The report also investigated other incidents, including the clashes at the Republican Guard in June 2013, the torching of churches, and assaults against Christians, university violence, assassination attempts, the situations in the Suez Canal and Sinai, and incidents of torture and terrorism. The committee recommended compensation for victims killed in clashes who were not found guilty of inciting violence and the amendment of the protest law. The full text of the report can be found here. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), 11/26/2014]

Cabinet approves ‘terrorist entities’ draft law
The cabinet approved on Wednesday a draft law detailing the offenses necessary for a group or organization to be labeled a “terrorist entity.” The draft law, which has now been handed to the presidency for consideration, would ensure that any group “practicing or intending to advocate by any means to disturb public order or endanger the safety of the community and its interests or risk its security or harm national unity,” according to Article 1 of the draft law. Article 2 of the law stipulates that the Prosecutor General has the power to create the list and “insert the entities provided for in Article 1” of the law and pass it to the Cairo Court of Appeals to consider the listing. The court would convene once a year to consider the cases. The full text of the draft law in Arabic can be found here. [DNE, EGYNews (Arabic), 11/26/2014]

Thirteen Egyptians charged with forming ‘terror cell’ linked to Islamic State
Egypt’s top prosecutor on Tuesday referred thirteen alleged militants to criminal court on charges of forming a “terrorist cell” targeting police and army forces, a statement from the prosecutor’s office said. The cell, allegedly based in the Nile Delta city of Tanta, is linked to the militant group of the Islamic State, which has claimed control over large swaths of Syria and Iraq. The defendants—six arrested and seven on the run—include teachers at Al-Azhar Islamic University, students, employees, and doctors. The group is also charged with incitement against the government, considering the president an infidel, and inciting attacks against security forces, Christians, and property. [Ahram Online, 11/25/2014]

UN adopts resolutions presented by Egypt
Egypt’s representative at the United Nations Amr Abu al-Atta presented two resolutions during the 60th plenary session of the United Nations, with both adopted by the General Assembly on Tuesday. The first resolution addressed the Palestine situation, highlighting recent issues in East Jerusalem, the second referred to the Syrian Golan Heights, according to UN documents of the resolutions. The World Food Programme (WFP) also pledged on Tuesday to expand an aid program in Egypt that helps poor families keep their children in school and out of the workforce. The program, aimed at combating child labor, currently assists more than 100,000 children and some 400,000 family members, but it remains unclear how many new participants will join them following the meeting between WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. [DNE, Reuters, 11/26/2014]

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United Nations concerned over escalation of violence in Libya
The UN Secretary General has expressed deep concern about the recent escalation of violence in Libya, including recent airstrikes on a military air base that until this week was Tripoli’s only functioning airport. In a statement Wednesday, Ban Ki-moon called on all sides to end the fighting. His envoy, Bernardino Leon, asked the head of the internationally-recognized government, Abdullah al-Thinni, to stop airstrikes on the Matiga air base, held by Islamist militias. Tripoli’s prime minister, Omar al-Hassi, threatened to retaliate after Matiga airstrikes, escalating the situation. Turkey on Wednesday condemned the Matiga air strikes, setting it at odds with the country’s internationally-recognized authorities. Turkey appointed a special representative who became the first envoy publicly to meet with the Tripoli government, fuelling suspicions of advancing a pro-Islamist regional agenda. Turkish officials say the move is part of efforts to promote UN-backed peace negotiations. [AP, UN News, Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/26/2014]

Clashes in Libya’s Zawia, Deputy HOR President’s home burned
Clashes erupted Wednesday night in Zawiya and a local militia leader arrested after he declared support for the House of Representatives (HoR). The incident began when members of 21 Company, part of the Abu Raawi Brigade, their loyalty to the HoR in Martyr’s Square. The leader of the company, Hassan Shalgum, who made the announcement, was later seized by members of the Farouk Unit, part of Libya Dawn, when he returned home. An angry then crowd headed to the Faruq Unit’s base, surrounding it and firing in the air. The clashes lasted several hours during which time the home of Imhemed Shoaib, the First Deputy President of the HoR, was also attacked by RPGs and burned. Zawiya’s main Islamist unit, the Abu Obeida Brigade, has claimed responsibility for the latter action. [Libya Herald, 11/26/2014]

Military ruling council contemplated in Libya; Chief of Staff asks for higher salaries
The state Libya News Agency (LNA) announced that a Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) could rule Libya but only in a situation of dire necessity, whereby neither the House of Representatives nor the government can carry out their duties. Chief of Staff Major General Abdul Razzak al-Nazhuri, has called for an increase in military salaries. He made his appeal in Tobruk Wednesday at the House of Representatives Defense Committee meeting where both proposals were discussed. [Libya Herald (subscription), 11/25/2014]

Nidaa Tounes party chief gains rival endorsements ahead of December run-off
Beji Caid Essebsi, the leader of Tunisia’s Nidaa Tounes party, picked up three endorsements from rival candidates after Tuesday’s announcement of a December run-off election. The three presidential candidates, Kamel Morjane, Larbi Nasra, and Mondher Znaidi, received 1.27 percent, 0.2 percent, and 0.74 percent of the votes in the first round of presidential elections and declared their support for Essebsi late Tuesday. Final results indicated that a six percent margin separated the top two candidates, Essebsi and interim-President Moncef Marzouki, who received 39.46 percent and 33.43 percent of the votes, respectively. [Tunisia Live, TAP, 11/26/2014]

Algerian president promises constitutional reforms
Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika affirmed earlier this week that his government was in serious consultation on revisions to the country’s constitution. The president stressed the importance of a consensus throughout Algerian society and indicated that all constitutional revisions would serve to preserve the stability of the country. The President’s proposed amendments were announced at a conference in Algiers focused on the evolution of constitutional law in Africa and delivered by a top advisor to the president. [Algeria Press Service, 11/24/2014]


Death toll in regime airstrikes on Raqqa rises to ninety-five
The death toll from a series of Syrian government airstrikes on the Islamic State in Iraq and al-sham (ISIS) stronghold in northeastern Syria has risen to at least ninety-five, making it one of the deadliest attacks on the city of Raqqa in the past three years. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights raised its death toll Wednesday, noting that at least fifty-two civilians were killed and an additional 120 others wounded in the strikes. Raqqa was the first provincial capital in Syria to fall from regime control, and was later overrun by Islamic State militants that have since used it as the capital of their self-proclaimed caliphate. [AP, The Daily Star, 11/26/2014]

ISIS beheads Ismaili for apostasy, stones to death two men for homosexuality
On Tuesday ISIS militants in Homs said they beheaded a member of the minority Ismaili community, an offshoot of Shia Islam, accusing him of “apostasy”. ISIS also distributed graphic photographs of the execution, including one showing the unnamed victim kneeling on the ground as a jihadist raises a sword above his head. Also on Tuesday, ISIS stoned two men to death after claiming they were gay, a monitor said, in the jihadist organization’s first executions for alleged homosexuality. The first victim, aged twenty, was killed in Mayadeen in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor, after ISIS claimed it found videos on his mobile phone showing him “practicing indecent acts with males”. Activists on social media said that the dead men were opponents of IS and that the group had used the allegation as a pretext to kill them. [AFP, 11/26/2014]

UN Security Council seeks new authorization for humanitarian assistance into Syria
The UN Security Council will move to allow cross-border deliveries of relief supplies to Syria for another year. The Council in July agreed in a resolution to allow convoys of much-needed aid to cross into rebel-held Syrian territory without the consent of the Damascus regime. The UN’s top humanitarian aid official Valerie Amos asked the council to renew authorization for the aid deliveries that are due to end in January. There are now 7.6 million people displaced inside Syria and 3.2 million others have fled the country, mostly to bordering nations. [Naharnet, 11/26/2014]

Kurdish officials advance plans to retake ISIS-held territory on Mt. Sinjar
A senior Kurdish official on Wednesday told reporters that Iraqi Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, backed by thousands of Yazidi volunteers, are preparing for a decisive assault to liberate Mount Sinjar from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Over the past few days Peshmerga forces have captured a strategic road near Sinjar used by the radical militant group as a key supply route from Syria. ISIS militants took control of the Sinjar area in early August after fierce battles with the Kurdish Peshmerga forces. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/26/2014]

Syria ‘no-fly zone’ not being considered: NATO general
A top NATO general on Wednesday announced that Turkish proposals for a no-fly zone over northern Syria were not under current consideration. General John Nicholson, the new head of NATO’s land command explained that installing an effective no-fly zone would require extensive resources and was therefore not possible under existing conditions. Although Turkey has made no formal request to NATO for help in establishing a no-fly zone, it has repeatedly said that willing nations should put one in place to create safe areas in Syria, allowing some of an estimated 1.6 million Syrian refugees to be repatriated. [Reuters, 11/26/2014]

Iraqi forces battle ISIS militants for control of Baiji
ISIS fighters battled Iraqi forces in the center of Beiji Tuesday, a week after the army broke their prolonged siege of the country’s largest oil refinery just outside the town. The renewed fighting in Baiji by the Islamist militants appeared aimed at reestablishing control around the sprawling oil facility north of city. ISIS militants seized Beiji and surrounded the refinery during a June offensive when it swept south from Mosul towards the capital in Baghdad. [The Daily Star, 11/26/2014]

France to Send six Fighter Jets to Jordan against IS
The French government said that six Mirage fighter jets would be deployed to Jordan on Thursday to assist in the fight against the Islamic State militant group. Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian told a weekly cabinet meeting that the deployment of the six fighters would strengthen France’s ability to conduct effective operations in the ongoing campaign against Islamic State militants in both Iraq and Syria. France already has nine fighter jets in the United Arab Emirates and has participated in US led air strikes in Iraq but the government in Paris has so far declined to join US-led airstrikes inside Syria [Naharnet, 11/26/2014]


Yemeni tribesmen attack Marib oil pipeline
Armed tribesmen blew up Yemen’s main oil pipeline on Wednesday, halting oil flow to the export terminal on the Red Sea coast, tribal sources and an industry official said. According to tribesmen, the latest attack hit a section of pipeline in the Sarwah district of Marib, and the oil industry source said it brought the flow of oil to a “complete halt.” A motive for the attack on the 270-mile pipeline, which links Marib’s Safir oil fields to the Ras Isa terminal near the port of al-Hudaydah, was not immediately clear. The attack came a day after Yemen’s Defense Minister Mahmud al-Subaihi met with military and tribal officials from the oil-rich province and urged military authorities to fulfill their national duty to protect vital state infrastructure. Subaihi also emphasized the need for the armed forces to repel sabotage operations on electricity grids and oil pipelines in Marib. [AFP, Reuters 11/26/2014]

Clashes between Houthis and tribesmen in Sana’a leave five dead
Five people were killed in clashes between Houthi fighters and tribal opponents in Sana’a early on Wednesday, medical sources said, in some of the worst violence in Yemen’s capital since it was seized by the Houthi movement in September. Residents in the al-Hasba area of the city said fighting broke out between the Houthis and members of the al-Ahmar clan after the tribesmen refused to stop at a Houthi checkpoint. The Ahmars provide the backbone of the Islamist Islah party, who have strongly opposed the Houthis and clashed violently with them in different areas of the country. In a statement on their website, Houthis said they were combing the Hasba area after the attack to pursue those who fled. [Reuters, 11/26/2014]

Yemen, World Bank discuss support for education sector
Yemen and the World Bank held talks in Sana’a on Tuesday to discuss possible ways to enhance the bilateral cooperation in the education sector. Education Minister Abdulatif Haider met with the head of the World Bank donors’ mission in Yemen, Edouard al-Dahdah, to review the major problems and challenges facing the education sector in Yemen and the necessary infrastructure, including school buildings and equipment. Haider stressed the importance of bank’s role in mobilizing support from donors to address the challenges in the education sector in the country. [SABA, 11/25/2014]

Bahrain jails twelve for carrying out jailbreak; bomb explosion injures two
A Bahraini court has sentenced twelve people to up to fifteen years in prison after they took part in a jailbreak earlier this year. Two inmates, Shia activists who were arrested for participating in Bahrain’s 2011 protests and escaped from Jau prison in April, were jailed for fifteen years along with four accomplices, Northern Governorate Attorney-General Hussain al-Bouali said. A bombing Tuesday injured two Bahraini policemen, authorities said, amid high tension after the opposition boycotted the country’s elections. The Interior Ministry said the explosion in the small village of Deraz, west of the capital Manama, was a “terror blast”, but provided no further details. [Gulf News, 11/26/2014]

Saudi Shura Council forms anti-racism committee
The Shura Council has established an anti-racism committee in response to reported inhumane treatment toward eight Shia in al-Ahsa, Saudi Arabia’s predominantly Shia eastern province. The matter was brought to the Council’s attention after the incident, although it is not clear whom the perpetrators were. A committee to combat racism, tribal apartheid, and sectarianism will be formed under the purview of the interior ministry with involvement from the justice ministry and the bureau of investigation and public prosecution. Two council members and a citizen have raised the possibility of an anti-discrimination committee in the past three years, but all were rejected by the council’s committee of Islamic affairs. [Al Arabiya, 11/26/2014]


Libya’s rival oil minister wants to attend OPEC meeting
Libya’s rival government wants to send its oil minister to the OPEC summit in Vienna and has announced that it will refuse to comply with any decisions if it is denied access to the summit. The decision on allowing the rival oil minister attendance to the OPEC summit is a difficult decision for the international community as it means choosing an official authority to deal with in Libya. [Reuters, 11/26/2014]

Morocco approves Islamic finance legislation
Morocco’s House of Representatives issued its approval for an Islamic finance law project. The project envisages the establishment of Islamic banks and would allow private companies to issue Islamic bonds. Since 2011, the government has been interested in developing Islamic finance in order to attract Gulf stakeholders and meet the needs of clientele looking for “halal” transactions. [Morocco World News, 11/25/2014]

IMF says Egypt’s economy is recovering
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that the Egyptian economy has begun recovering through the implementation of structural reforms. The IMF also urged the government to employ a more flexible exchange rate to boost investment. If the positive developments continue, Egypt’s economy is expected to grow by 3.8 percent in the new fiscal year. [Reuters, Ahram Online, 11/26/2014]