Top News: Explosion in Turkish-Syrian Border Town Kills Twenty-Eight

An explosion Monday in Turkey’s southeastern city of Suruc killed twenty-eight people and sent one hundred others to the hospital. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, but a Turkish official said there is evidence that the attack was a suicide bombing and was likely carried out by the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). separate explosion went off in the Syrian border town of Kobani on Monday, with conflicting reports of its cause. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said it was caused by a car bomb targeting a Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) checkpoint, while a YPG spokesman said it was the result of an operation to clear undetonated explosives left by ISIS. The Turkish army said its security forces detained nearly 500 people attempting to cross into Turkey from Syria on Saturday. [APAl Arabiya, 7/20/2015]



April 6, NASL condemn protester deaths on Eid al-Fitr
Opposition political factions strongly condemned the killing of seven civilians in protest clashes on Friday. While opposition movements say the deaths occurred in clashes with security forces, official statements state that protesters clashed with civilians before security forces intervened. The grassroots April 6 youth movement described the incidents that coincided with the first day of Eid al-Fitr as “Eid with the color of blood,” while the pro-Muslim Brotherhood National Alliance to Support Legitimacy held President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi responsible for the killings. April 6 claimed the security forces shot live ammo and birdshot at civilians while the Brotherhood asserted that “fair and prompt retribution” is awaiting the “families of the martyrs, detainees, and abductees.” The Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party also called for a million man march on Tuesday. [DNE, 7/20/2015]

Seven soldiers, fifty-nine militants killed in North Sinai
Egypt’s army said it had killed fifty-nine Islamist militants over the weekend as part of a continuing campaign in the Sinai Peninsula. The ground operations and airstrikes carried out in fourteen districts demolished two warehouses used to store explosive elements and led to the capture of four armed fighters, an army spokesperson said. Internet and phone services in Sinai were cut for seven hours, the outage coinciding with the security campaign, returning late Sunday, an official source said. Meanwhile, the Islamic State claimed its fighters attacked multiple checkpoints and military installations on Saturday in North Sinai. According to security sources, at least five soldiers were killed Saturday when several mortar rounds hit two checkpoints. By the end of the day, Military Spokesman Brigadier-General Mohamed Samir announced that the death toll among soldiers had risen to seven. In a statement late Saturday, Samir condemned “lies” used in favor of “terrorist organizations” staging attacks against police and army installations and personnel. Samir said on his official Facebook page that news reports detailing higher casualties within the army “promote false victories” and hide the militants’ losses. Samir also said Sunday that the military is in control of every inch of Sinai, in comments to state-owned media. [WSJ, Ahram Online, AP, 7/19/2015]

France delivers first batch of fighter jets to Egypt
Egypt on Monday took delivery of three Dassault Aviation-built Rafale fighter from France, the first of twenty-four warplanes sold in a 5.2 billion euro ($5.6 billion) deal earlier this year, AFP reported. Egyptian authorities took charge of the planes at an air base in southern France, and specially trained pilots will fly them to Cairo on Tuesday. Egyptian pilots were in France for two months to train on how to use the new jets, a military source said. [AFP, Aswat Masriya, 7/20/2015]

Four arrested taking selfies flashing Brotherhood gesture
Police at Cairo’s main train station arrested four young people for allegedly taking selfies while making a pro-Muslim Brotherhood gesture Sunday. The travelers, ranging between seventeen and nineteen, were posing for photos while flashing the Raba’a al-Adaweya sign, a four-finger gesture referring to the Muslim Brotherhood’s 2013 landmark sit-in calling for the reinstatement of former president Mohamed Morsi. Police searched the cellphones of the four youngsters and said they found photos deemed “insulting to the state and supportive of the Muslim Brotherhood.” They were referred to prosecution. [Egypt Independent, 7/20/2015]

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ISIS claims abduction of three Christians in Libya, including an Egyptian
Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) group affiliates in Libya have kidnapped three Christian men, including an Egyptian, they said in a brief statement circulating on social media Sunday. The statement featured copies of their passports, showing one man from Nigeria, another from Ghana, and the third an Egyptian man from Upper Egypt’s Sohag. The kidnapping took place on Saturday in Noufliya, an ISIS stronghold southeast of the city of Sirte, according to a resident who asked not to be named. Mohamed al-Hejazi, a military spokesman loyal to the internationally recognized government based in the east, also said that the abduction happened in the small town. Al-Azhar on Sunday condemned the kidnapping. [Ahram Online, Cairo Post, 7/19/2015]

Four Italians kidnapped in Libya
Four Italian citizens have been kidnapped in Libya, the Italian Foreign Ministry said on Monday. The four employees of construction company Bonatti were kidnapped near a compound owned by Italian oil and gas group Eni in the Mellita area, the ministry said in a statement. The kidnapping occurred Sunday evening and family members had been informed overnight, Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni said in Brussels, adding that intelligence agents were working to get more information on the circumstances of the kidnapping. [Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription), Al Arabiya, 7/20/2015]

Europe threatens sanctions on Libyans over peace impasse
The European Union is considering sanctions against Libya’s warring factions who fail to agree to a UN-sponsored peace deal after one group controlling the capital Tripoli refused to sign up this month. The European Union says a UN-backed deal is the only way to end the war between rival governments. EU diplomats did not spell out which group would be targeted, but they said plans to impose asset freezes and travel bans on individuals were in advanced stages. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini had raised the issue with EU Foreign Ministers and UN Special Envoy Bernardino Leon in Brussels. Spain’s Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Garcia-Margallo stated, “We can’t just sit here while tragedies are happening. If dialogue is not bringing progress, it seems to me to be logical to impose sanctions.” The European Union is particularly keen on seeing a national unity government set up so it can seek Libya’s formal approval for a naval mission to combat people smugglers operating off the Libyan coast. [Reuters, 7/20/2015]

Libyan planes sink ship, attack another near Benghazi
Libyan war planes sank one ship and attacked a second vessel on Sunday near the eastern city of Benghazi. Air Force Spokesman Nasser al-Hassi said on Monday, “The vessel was sunk because it had loaded fighters, weapons, and ammunition to support terrorism in the eastern region.” Mohamed al-Hejazi, a Spokesman for Khalifa Haftar, Top Army Commander of the internationally recognized government based in eastern Libya, said the strike had also targeted a second vessel, which had been carrying weapons in the same area. [Reuters, 7/20/2015]

Tunisian Prime Minister participating in EU Foreign Affairs Council meeting on terrorism
Prime Minister Habib Essid is participating in a European Union Foreign Affairs Council meeting in Brussels today. The meeting will address security and counterterrorism. The visit falls in line with consultations with the European Union, which were launched last week in Tunis during the visit of the European Union’s Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove. Essid will hold talks with the President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Federica Mogherini, and the EU’s Counterterrorism Coordinator Gilles de Kerchove. Additional meetings are also scheduled with foreign ministers of EU member states, Germany, France, and Britain. [All Africa/AFP, 7/19/2015]

Militants ambush Algerian army; Al-Qaeda claims responsibility
An Algerian police commander says Islamist militants ambushed an Algerian army convoy in a forest west of Algiers, killing eleven soldiers. The commander said the attack took place on Friday in Ain Defla province, southwest of the capital. Al-Qaeda’s North African branch on Saturday claimed responsibility for the attack saying it killed fourteen Algerian soldiers in what would be the deadliest attack on the army in over a year. [Al Arabiya, AP, 7/18/2015]


Kurds say ISIS used poison gas in northeast Syria
The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) militia and two UK-based monitoring groups said Saturday that ISIS used poison gas in attacks against Kurdish-controlled areas in Hasaka on June 28. The type of chemical used has not been definitively determined and none of the twelve YPG fighters exposed to the gas died because they were promptly brought to the hospital. The YPG also said its forces had captured industrial grade gas masks in the past month from ISIS fighters, “confirming that they are prepared and equipped for chemical warfare along this sector of the front.” Spokesman for the White House National Security Council Alistair Baskey said the White House is aware of the reports of chemical weapons use and will “continue to monitor these reports closely.” British Prime Minister David Cameron said in an interview broadcast Monday that he wants Britain to do more to help the United States destroy ISIS in Syria. [Reuters, 7/17/2015]

Syria’s army says battles rebels near president’s homeland, water returns to Aleppo
Syria’s army said Sunday that it launched a new offensive on insurgents in the coastal province of Latakia close to President Bashar al-Assad’s homeland. The army intensified aerial bombardment over the past forty-eight hours to cut rebel supply lines from the Turkish border to rebel-held villages. The army also said it had retaken five villages and hilltops from the insurgents. Syrian regime air raids on the rebel-held Eastern Ghouta area near Damascus killed twelve civilians on Saturday. A monitoring group reported Saturday that water and electricity have returned to large parts of the Syrian city of Aleppo following a three-week cut after rebels stopped water supplies in order to pressure the government. A Free Syrian Army commander was assassinated by an unknown gunman outside Aleppo late on Sunday after leaving a rebel coalition meeting. Syrian authorities released more than 200 prisoners, many of whom were detained under anti-terror laws, to mark the Eid al-Fitr holiday on Friday.
[Reuters, 7/19/2015]

ISIS claims suicide car bomb that kills more than 100 in Iraq
A suicide car bombing on Friday at a busy market in the eastern Iraqi town of Khan Bani Saad killed more than one hundred people. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, which was aimed at Shia “rejectionists” and was one of the deadliest attacks to occur in Iraq in the last decade. The blast hit the market as people were celebrating the end of Ramadan, leveling several buildings and prompting the Diyala provincial government to declare three days mourning and order all parks and entertainment places closed for the rest of the Eid al-Fitr holiday to prevent any further attacks. Reports on Monday say that authorities are restructuring the town’s police department in the wake of the attack, firing the police chief and three officers. Two other officers are under investigation. [Reuters, AP, 7/18/2015]

Syria regime, Kurds join to fight ISIS in Hasaka
Kurdish fighters and regime forces are currently cooperating in ongoing fighting against ISIS militants in Hasaka for the first time on Monday. The two forces are fighting in different parts of the northeastern city, where control is divided between the Kurds and the government. In recent days, the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) took territory south of the city from ISIS, effectively encircling them, and the government troops have advanced inside the city. A separate air strike on Syria’s Hasaka on Monday killed a senior Tunisian ISIS leader as well as five other ISIS foreign fighters. It is not clear whether the air strike was carried out by the Syrian army or by the US-led coalition. [AFP, 7/20/15]

ISIS banishes private internet access in Raqqa, US-led coalition showers leaflets over city
ISIS has reportedly banned private internet access in its de facto capital city of Raqqa in Syria, forcing residents and even its own fighters to use internet cafes where they can be monitored. The ban will affect activist groups who document ISIS abuses in city and potential defectors within the group. A monitoring group said ISIS is also “trying to cut communications between its non-Syrian fighters and their families for fear of them trying to return home.” The US-led coalition dropped leaflets over Raqqa on Sunday, promising, “Freedom will come” to the region. [AFP, 7/20/2015]


Anti-Houthi forces advance in Aden
Local fighters and army forces in Yemen wrested two military bases from Houthi forces on Saturday, residents and officials said, building on a week of gains against the country’s dominant faction. Saudi-backed Yemeni forces seized the Labuza army base in Lahj province north of Aden and the 117th armored division headquarters in eastern Shabwa province. Residents said sporadic clashes continued on Saturday inside Aden as local fighters aimed to root out remaining Houthis. On Monday, the fighters took control of Tawahi, the last district of central Aden still held by the Houthi militia and its allies, a spokesman for the fighters said. Clashes continued in and around Lahj, Abyan, Taiz, Marib, and al-Dhala. [Reuters, 7/20/2015]

Houthi shelling kills over ninety
A bombardment in Aden by the Houthi militia and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh killed forty-three people and injured 173 on Sunday, the health ministry of Yemen’s exiled government said two days after declaring the city had been liberated. The death toll from the Houthi rebel shelling rose on Monday to nearly 100, said Hassan Boucenine of the Geneva-based Medicins Sans Frontieres, describing it as “the worst day” for the city and its surroundings in over three months of fighting. The shelling also left about 200 people wounded, said Boucenine, who reported that 80 percent of the victims were civilians, including many pregnant women, elderly and children. Reports suggest that Sunday’s shelling in Dar Saad intended to both punish those resisting the Houthis and halt the advance of their opponents. [Reuters, TDS, 7/20/2015]

Saudi Arabia arrests 431 ISIS suspects
Saudi Arabia has arrested 431 people suspected of belonging to Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) cells and thwarted attacks on mosques, security forces, and a diplomatic mission, the Interior Ministry said Saturday. The ministry did not elaborate on when the men were detained, but previous announcements that scores of suspects had been arrested suggest it was over the course of months. Their alleged offenses cited by the ministry ranged from smuggling explosives, surveying potential attack sites, providing transport and material support to bombers, smuggling in explosives from abroad, and manufacturing suicide vests. [TDS, 7/20/2015]

Bahrain summons Iranian diplomat after comments made by Khameni
The official Bahrain News Agency says the Foreign Ministry summoned the Iranian Embassy’s acting Charge D’Affaires Mortadha Sanubari on Sunday evening to complain about what the country sees as a “flagrant and unacceptable interference” in its internal affairs. In a televised speech on Saturday, Khamenei said his country would continue to support its regional friends despite its recent nuclear deal with world powers, including “the oppressed Palestinian nation, Yemen, Syria, Iraq (and) Bahrain.” [AP, 7/20 /2015]


Egypt, Italy to sign MOUs on energy deals; Eni discovers gas reserves in Nile Delta
Egypt’s Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab will travel to Italy Wednesday for a three-day visit that will see him signing memorandum of understanding (MOUs) on prospective electricity, power and oil deals. Mahlab will meet with Italian President Sergio Mattarella, government officials and fifteen top businessmen in Italy, said Industry and International Trade Minister Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour in a statement reported by state news agency MENA Sunday. In addition to signing the MOUs, Mahlab is expected to start procedures between the Egyptian and Italian governments for building a new centre for furniture production in Damietta—a city on the Nile Delta known for furniture making. Meanwhile, Italy’s Eni has discovered gas reserves of up to 15 billion cubic meters in Egypt’s Nile Delta region, with production set to start in two months, the Egyptian oil ministry said on Monday. The discovery was made in Western Abu Madi, where Eni holds 75 percent of exploration rights through an Egyptian subsidiary. The oil ministry signed a $2 billion energy deal with Eni in June that for four years of exploration activities in the Sinai, Nile Delta, Suez and Port Said. [Ahram Online, SIS, 7/19/2015]

Saudi crude oil exports fall to lowest in five months in May
Saudi Arabia’s crude oil exports fell to their lowest in five months in May despite near record production. Saudi Arabia shipped 6.935 million barrels per day (bpd) on average in May, down from 7.737 million bpd in April and the lowest since December, official data showed on Sunday. As crude exports slide, Saudi Arabia is offering customers millions of barrels of diesel from new refineries as it supplies more refined oil products. This could potentially trigger a price war with Asian competitors as Saudi exports feed into a glut. Saudi Arabia’s massive refineries are now processing more of its crude at home. Domestic refineries processed 2.423 million bpd in May, up 9 percent from 2.224 million bpd a month earlier. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 7/20/2015]

Slowing economic growth weighs on Bahrain’s banking sector
A slowdown in economic growth due to lower oil prices will weigh on funding for Bahrain’s banking sector over the coming twelve to eighteen months. However, strong liquidity and capital buffers will continue to provide banks the financial flexibility to adapt to these conditions, rating agency Moody’s has said. Analysts at Moody’s expect slower economic growth of 2.7 percent in 2015, from 4.5 percent in 2014, as Bahrain as lowers oil prices and government spending. The rating agency recently changed its outlook on Bahrain’s banking system to negative from stable. Meanwhile, Bahrain’s inflation fell to 1.7 percent year on year in June. [Gulf News, 7/19/2015]

Former head of Libyan investment authority says funds should remain frozen
Abdul Magid Breish, former leader of Libya’s sovereign wealth fund, warned on Friday that conditions are not right to start unfreezing and managing $67 billion worth of assets. The fund is at the center of a bitter power struggle even as its staff is trying to trace those responsible for billions of dollars of missing money. Breish said any unfreezing of Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) assets could jeopardize the funds, as rival governments and factions on the ground scramble for cash. Breish said there is around $300 million in foreign bank accounts that the LIA can access. Another 10 billion Libyan dinars are on deposit with local banks. However, he insisted that it is impossible under current law for any government or institution to use that money. [Reuters, 7/17/2015]