Top News: Germany Considers Sending up to 1,200 Troops on Syria Mission

The German government is planning to send up to 1,200 troops to help in the fight against ISIS. Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said Monday that the figure would be an “upper limit” for the number of troops needed to provide support for and operate reconnaissance aircraft, tanker planes, and a warship. The cabinet is due to agree on the mission’s mandate Tuesday and put it to parliament for approval. German troops will not actively engage in combat. Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said, “If the Syrian regime says it’s fighting terrorists on its own territory, then it should do so, please.” [AP, 11/30/2015]



Over 340 winning parliamentary candidates named; Expats start voting in run-offs
Just over 340 winners in Egypt’s parliamentary elections have been officially named as members of parliament. A total of 426 candidates are contesting another 213 individual seats, 239 of whom are independents with the remaining 187 party-affiliated. Egyptian expatriates cast their votes on Monday in the run-offs for these seats in the second phase of the parliamentary elections, with ambassadors noting low turnout in the morning. According to the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights (ECWR), nineteen women are participating in the runoffs; Ahram Online reports that dozens of prominent Mubarak-era figures also qualified. The Administrative Court rejected Saturday all 56 appeals contesting the first round results of the second phase of parliamentary elections in Cairo; the State Council also rejected 26 appeals contesting results in Kafr al-Sheikh. Results in one Daqahleya constituency were ruled invalid, with the Mansoura Administrative Court saying votes would be recast. The High Elections Committee (HEC) said the first round of the second phase saw a 29.83 percent turnout. South Sinai and Kafr al-Sheikh had the highest voting turnouts with 41.06 percent and 36.82 percent, respectively. Suez saw the lowest turnout with 18.1 percent; Cairo came second to last with 19.96 percent. Sameh Seif al-Yazal, Rapporteur for the For the Love of Egypt electoral list that secured all 120 party seats, said its members would not oppose the policies of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. He added, however, that they would oppose the government. It remains unclear how expat members of parliament will participate in parliamentary sessions. [DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, Reuters, 11/30/2015]

Justice Ministry announces creation of special courts for violence against women
Justice Minister Ahmed al-Zend announced on Sunday the creation of special courts for cases involving violence against women to ensure cases are processed quickly. Zend made the announcement during a conference organized by the Arab Women Foundation in collaboration with the Arab League, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), and UN Women, under the title “Arab Women in the Development Agenda 2015-2020.” Executive Director of the Blogging Center for Social Gender Studies Amal Fahmy believes the idea is good in principle, but that not enough information is available to judge how effective it will be in practice. [Mada Masr, AMAY, 11/29/2015]

ISIS claims responsibility for killing four Egyptian policemen in Giza
Sinai State, the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) affiliated militant group in Egypt, claimed responsibility for killing four policemen in Giza on Saturday. The Ministry of the Interior’s official spokesman released a statement about the attack, saying that masked assailants on a motorcycle opened fire on a police vehicle, killing two officers and two conscripts near the Aboul Nomros police station in the south of Cairo near the Giza pyramids. The incident occurred days after the Sinai State claimed another attack on an al-Arish hotel that killed seven people, including two judges, four policemen, and one civilian during Egypt’s second phase of parliamentary elections. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 11/28/2015]

Ismailia detainee dies in custody; Interior Ministry will not tolerate individual police violations
Two people died last weekend in police stations in Luxor and Ismailia, amid allegations of torture. In response to a backlash, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement Sunday saying said there is a no tolerance policy with regards to individual violations from policemen. Abu Bakr Abdel Karim, Deputy Minister for Public Relations and Media, also said the Ministry of Interior does not protect any policeman who mistreats a citizen or violates the law. He added that the cases, which he described as “individual acts,” were referred to the prosecution or to internal questioning for “administrative violations.” The Ministry of Interior suspended a police officer in Ismailia on Friday pending an investigation into the death of a man in his custody, said an anonymous prosecution source. The policeman is accused of torturing veterinarian Afifi Hosni to death in a police station on Thursday. The circumstances behind Hosni’s arrest are not clear. Meanwhile, media reports citing security sources suggest that a policeman accused of torturing Talaat Shabib to death in Luxor earlier this week was transferred from his post at the al-Awameya police station. On Friday, hundreds marched across Luxor to protest Shabib’s death, with demonstrators demanding the dismissal of the head of al-Awameya police station. The Luxor prosecution released Thursday 24 people arrested on charges of illegal assembly in front of the police station. Meanwhile, four police officers were reportedly questioned in relation to Shabib’s death. The Socialist Popular Alliance Party has called for the dismissal of the Interior Minister and announced its solidarity with the Luxor and Ismailia residents against the torture of detainees at police stations, while former vice president Mohamed ElBaradei condemned the latest reports of torture. [DNE, Ahram Online, 11/30/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Tunisia identifies bus attack suicide bomber as Tunisian national
Tunisian authorities have identified the suicide bomber from Tuesday’s bus attack that killed twelve presidential guards as Tunisian national Houssem Abdelli, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday. Interior Minister Najem Gharselli identified Abdelli as a street vendor who lived near Ettadhamen, one of the poorer neighborhoods of Tunis. Garselli gave no details of any ties Abdelli might have had to Islamist militant groups. Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) has claimed the bombing. On Friday, a security official said Abdelli had been arrested by police before on suspicion of jihadist ties but was released. “This terrorist was arrested by the police and then freed by the justice system for lack of evidence,” Interior Ministry Security Chief Rafik Chelli told local radio. Police had arrested him after finding jihadist literature in his possession, officials said. Neighbors said Abdelli was arrested in August. It was not clear whether Abdelli had left the country to fight overseas or train before he carried out his attack. [Reuters, Tunisia Live, AFP, AP, 11/26/2015]

Tunisia to close border with Libya
In response to the bus attack by a suicide bomber in Tunis, Tunisia will close its border with Libya for fifteen days, hire 6,000 more recruits for security forces, and take measures to protect itself against Tunisians returning from conflict zones like Syria, the President’s Office said on Wednesday. Since the closure, petrol prices have spiked, shops closed, and trucks that crossed the desert to Libya have vanished. [Reuters, AFP, Libya Herald, 11/25/2015]

Tunisia forces seize bomb cache, arrest militants
Tunisian security forces have arrested two Islamist militants accused of collaboration in last week’s bombing in Tunis and seized a cache of weapons and explosives the accused were planning to use for more attacks, the Interior Ministry said in a statement. In a raid in Medenine late Sunday, officials found Kalashnikov rifles, a suicide bomb belt, explosive materials for making car bombs, grenades, and detonators. A Tunisian security source said the two men arrested on Sunday night were brothers. Tunisian authorities have also arrested dozens in raids and put scores more under house arrest on suspicion that they are militants returning from Syria and Iraq. The ministry said 40 people were arrested in the raids, and another 92 placed under house arrest. [Reuters, AFP, 11/30/2015]

UN Libya Envoy Kobler to attend meeting of Libya’s neighbors on December 1
A meeting of Libya’s neighboring countries will be held in Algiers on December 1 in order to seek together a peaceful solution to the crisis in Libya. The conference, a continuation of the one held in N’Djamena last June, will include new UN Envoy to Libya Martin Kobler, Libyan Foreign Minister Mohamed Dairi, the African Union, the Arab League, and the European Union. This will be the first time the UN Libya Special Envoy has attended the meetings and Kobler’s decision to do so is seen as part of his bid to rally maximum international pressure on the Libyan parties to accept the Libya Dialogue deal and the proposed Government of National Accord. In the past week, Kobler has travelled to Italy, Qatar, the UAE, France, Tunisia, and Cairo for talks with their respective foreign ministers. He also met with UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond in Tunis on Friday. He is expected to continue his travels with a visit to Turkey this week. [ANSAmed, Libya Herald, 11/30/2015]

Libyan sources report ISIS advances east of Sirte to oil terminals
Libyan sources said that “Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) jihadists are advancing with heavy weapons and tanks east of Sirte, near the cities of Harawa, Nufaliya, and Bin Jawad.” According to the same sources, ISIS is approaching the area of oil terminals and heavily armed members of the terror group patrol the main streets, accompanied by ISIS police cars. Residents of the districts of Wefaq al-Gharbi and Ajdabiya in eastern Libya have said they are “ready for military action in cooperation with the Libyan army against the jihadists of ISIS.” A group calling itself “Al-Wefaq al-Gharbi Youth” said it had military weapons and munitions to fight terror organizations. Ajdabiya, located west of Benghazi, over the past few months has reported a spike in murders claimed by ISIS. [ANSAmed, 11/30/2015]

Former Algerian counterterrorism chief jailed for five years
An Algerian military court has sentenced the country’s former counterterrorism chief, who played a central role in the 1990s war against Islamist fighters, to five years in prison, said a judicial source. Abdelkader Ait-Ouarabi, better known as General Hassan, was tried behind closed doors in a military court in Oran in the country’s first ever prosecution of a high-ranking secret service officer. General Hassan, who retired in 2013, was sentenced on Thursday night on charges of destroying military documents and of supplying arms without prior approval from his superiors, the judicial source said. His lawyers have appealed against the military court decision. On Monday, the former head of Algeria’s presidential guard was also charged over a shooting at a presidential residence outside the capital in July. General Mejdoub Kehal, better known as Djamel, had already been dismissed from his post in August and last month he was prevented from boarding a flight to Paris. He was Chief of Security for President Abdelaziz Bouteflika from 2004 until the July shooting in the seaside resort of Zeralda, 30 km west of Algiers. Djamel was one of three senior army officers who were replaced in July. In September, the president also replaced General Mohamed Mediene—better known as General Toufik—after 25 years as the head of the powerful DRS intelligence agency. [Reuters, AP, AFP, 11/27/2015]


Negotiations seek Syria rebel exit from Homs city
Negotiations are underway between the Syrian regime and rebels for the evacuation of opposition forces from the last area they hold in Homs city, the provincial governor Talal Barazi said. He said a meeting was planned for Tuesday “with the goal of reaching a final resolution of the situation in Waer,” in the west of Homs city. Barazi said a deal would “mean the evacuation of the armed men and their weapons, as well as the return of state institutions to the district.” Some 75,000 people currently live in Waer. The Local Coordination Committees, a grassroots activist network, said the meeting on Tuesday was to be held under the auspices of the United Nations. [AFP, 11/30/2015]

Clashes erupt between Syria Islamists, Kurds
At least 23 fighters have been killed in clashes between Syrian Islamist forces and an alliance led by Kurdish forces, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) said on Monday. SOHR said 15 fighters from the al-Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front and allied groups had been killed Sunday in fighting that began last week in northern Aleppo province. The clashes also killed at least eight members of the Syrian Democratic Forces, which is dominated by the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG). The attack, near the border region of Azaz, prompted sporadic clashes that drew in the SDF and have also seen the Nusra Front and its allies fire rockets at a Kurdish district of Aleppo city. [AFP, 11/30/2015]

Assad says his enemies boosting support for terrorists
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad told a senior Iranian official on Sunday that his adversaries had increased weapon supplies and financial support to insurgents since the start of a major offensive aided by his allies to regain lost territory. The Syrian army said that Turkey had recently increased supplies of weapons, ammunition, and equipment to what it described as terrorists in Syria and accused it of firing shells at Syrian army positions. Assad was quoted by state media as telling Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran’s supreme leader, that the military support his country was getting from Iran and Russia had pushed unnamed enemy states to “further escalate and increase financing and equipping of terrorists.” French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius fueled rumors by telling France’s RTL radio that regime forces could potentially join the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). His comments made headlines, even after Fabius said he was merely referring to a post-Assad regime. [Reuters, AFP, 11/29/2015]

Germany considers sending up to 1,200 troops on Syria mission
The German government is planning to send up to 1,200 troops to help in the fight against ISIS. Defense Ministry spokesman Jens Flosdorff said Monday that the figure would be an “upper limit” for the number of troops needed to provide support for and operate reconnaissance aircraft, tanker planes, and a warship. The cabinet is due to agree on the mission’s mandate Tuesday and put it to parliament for approval. German troops will not actively engage in combat. Foreign Ministry spokesman Martin Schaefer said, “If the Syrian regime says it’s fighting terrorists on its own territory, then it should do so, please.” [AP, 11/30/2015]

Russia-Turkey relations under greater strain as sanctions against Turkey announced
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan has made no apology for the downing of the Russian jet along the Syrian-Turkish border, saying his nation had simply been defending its own security and the “rights of our brothers in Syria.” In retaliation, Russia will impose a package of new sanctions. The new measures against Turkey announced at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev also include a government veto on Turkish construction firms working in Russia and restrictions on road transport. On Monday, Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu reiterated his country would not apologize to Russia for shooting down the warplane and said he hoped that Russia would reconsider sanctions. Ahmet Davutoglu said the pilot’s body was brought to the border province of Hatay “through Turkey’s initiatives” early on Sunday and will be flown back to Russia. [AP, AP, Reuters, 11/30/15]

EU, Turkey seek better relations at emergency refugee summit
European Union leaders and the Turkish Prime Minister sealed a joint summit with a commitment to reenergize Turkey’s long-stalled membership talks and bolster their common resolve to deal with the Syrian refugee crisis. Both sides got concessions: The EU desperately needs Turkish help to contain the flow of migrants into the bloc and Turkey resuscitated hopes to join a bloc in which it would, by population, become one of the largest EU member states. EU Foreign Policy Chief Federica Mogherini said that there was enough to bind both sides together. “Turkey and Europe need each other. We are facing the same problems—from the war in Syria to terrorism to the stability or instability for the region. We can be partners. We have to put all the issues we have on the table.” [AP, 11/29/15]

Iraqi military tells civilians of ISIS-held city to leave
Iraq’s military command told civilians in ISIS-held Ramadi to leave the city, a sign that an operation may soon be underway to retake the provincial capital. Monday’s statement, broadcast on Iraqi state TV, says the Ramadi families are requested to leave the city from its southern Himaira area. No further instructions or details were given. It remains unclear if the long-awaited operation to recapture Ramadi is imminent. The US-led alliance carried out seven airstrikes near Ramadi on Saturday, targeting ISIS fighters, key positions, and weapons caches. [AP, 11/30/2015]

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


Hospitals shut in Taiz while fighting continues
Heavy fighting in the Yemeni city of Taiz has forced more than thirty hospitals and medical facilities to close. Doctors say they also face an acute shortage of supplies. Meanwhile, Yemeni security officials say overnight clashes last Wednesday between the Houthi rebels and pro-government militias in the outskirts of the city left forty-seven people dead. The rebels stormed the town of Dabab late Tuesday night. The town lies on a crucial supply route for pro-government forces in Taiz. Securing the city would allow pro-government forces to march north to the rebel-held capital, Sana’a. In order to prevent pro-government forces advancing on Taiz, the Houthis blew up several bridges connecting the city. [NYT, Al Jazeera, Middle East Eye, 11/30/2015]

Human rights group says Saudi Arabia failed to investigate air strikes on Yemen civilians
Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Saudi-led coalition of failing to investigate air strikes that has killed at least 309 civilians in Yemen. It also called on the United States to investigate Saudi violations of the international law, saying that Washington is complicit for selling the coalition weapons. HRW, in a report received on Friday, said it had interviewed victims, witnesses, and medical staff in the provinces of Ibb, Amran, Hajja, Hodaida, Taiz, and the capital, Sana’a, where air strikes had hit homes, markets, a factory, and a civilian prison. In all of these cases, HRW said the coalition found no evident military target or found that the attack failed to distinguish civilians from military objectives. The spokesman for the Gulf Arab coalition responded saying the organization’s (HRW) report lacked expertise. Meanwhile, the UK government has said that it will not launch a special probe into the use of its weapons in the Yemen war, despite reports from Amnesty International that a UK-made missile destroyed a civilian factory in September in violation of international law. [Reuters, HRW, 11/27/2015]

Saudi Arabia to execute more than 50 convicted of terrorism
Saudi Arabia plans to execute more than 50 people convicted of terrorism, two Saudi newspapers reported last week, in what appears to be a warning to would-be jihadists at a time of militant attacks on the kingdom. Fifty-five people were awaiting execution for “terrorist crimes” that killed more than 100 civilians and 71 security personnel without specifying when the executions would occur. Some of those facing execution were affiliated with al-Qaeda. Others are from Awamiya, a largely Shia town in the oil-producing Eastern Province where the government has suppressed demonstrations for equal rights. The alleged al-Qaeda militants stand accused of attempts to overthrow the government and carry out attacks using small weapons, explosives and surface-to-air missiles. One prisoner was accused of trying to buy nuclear material in Yemen worth $1.5 million for use inside Saudi Arabia. [Reuters, 11/26/2015]

Saudi Arabia imposes sanctions on at least twelve Hezbollah figures
Saudi Arabia imposed sanctions on at least 12 senior Hezbollah figures accused of carrying out operations for the group, which the Kingdom designated as a terrorist organization in March last year. Hezbollah has repeatedly criticized Saudi Arabia over both its military operations in Yemen and its support for rebels in Syria. The statement said the sanctions were based on a royal decree which targeted terrorists and those who helped them, and which included the freezing of assets of any of the designated names and banned Saudi citizens from carrying out any transactions with them. [Reuters, 11/26/2015]

Three Saudi border soldiers killed in attack from Yemen
Three Saudi border soldiers were killed after exchanging fire with “enemy elements” trying to cross the border from Yemen to attack two watch towers. The attack occurred on Sunday evening in the Harath district of Jizan. Several dozen soldiers from the kingdom have been killed in clashes along the country’s long, rugged border with Yemen. Meanwhile, ground fighting and airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition killed twelve rebels in Daleh province and four loyalists on Sunday. Daleh is one of five southern provinces which the coalition-backed loyalists retook from the rebels in a July offensive. However, the Houthi rebels and their allies managed to recapture the province’s second-largest city, Damt, earlier this month. [The Daily Star, Reuters, 11/30/2015]


OPEC ready to rumble over Saudi output
Pressure is building on Saudi Arabia to rein in its oil output after a year of pumping full tilt, setting up a contentious Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) meeting. OPEC has pursued a Saudi-led strategy of keeping output high to win market share and squeeze presumably weaker rivals out of the market, but with prices falling to new lows, some members including Iran have decided the effort was a failure. They are preparing to press Saudi Arabia directly to pull back on production at the group’s meeting on December 4. Discontent has built up inside Saudi Arabia over the strategy as well, but the kingdom will likely maintain its policy—in part because it is wary of rising Iranian output as sanctions are lifted. To compensate for lost oil revenue, Saudi Arabia is considering reducing subsidies on energy and water for wealthy citizens and impose value added tax (VAT) and other taxes on unhealthy goods like cigarettes and sugary drinks, Deputy Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman was quoted as saying on November 25. Oil prices rose Monday on expectations of continued declines in US production. [WSJ, GDN, Bloomberg, 11/30/2015]

Russia bans imports from Turkey, Egypt offers Russia replacement goods
Russia’s government announced sanctions against Turkey on Monday, banning imports of fruit and vegetables, but warned that the scale of restrictions may increase.  In the wake of the downing of a Russian jet that violated Turkish air space—Russia, one of Turkey’s largest markets for exports after Germany—has already halted most tourism to Turkey, which is already struggling with surging unemployment and decreased exports to the Middle East and China. Meanwhile, Egypt is seeking to supply Russian markets with goods previously supplied by Turkey. Minister of Industry and Foreign Trade Tarek Qabil said he was seeking a list of Turkish imports that Moscow had prohibited, with a view to arranging for their supply by Egyptian manufacturers. Qabil issued the statement after his return from the United Arab Emirates, saying he had discussed the issue with his Russian counterpart, Denis Manturov. [WSJ, NYT, DNE, AMAY, 11/30/2015]

Egypt’s subsidies in July, August nearly triple in year-on-year rise
Subsidies in July and August 2015 cost the Egyptian government EGP 15.8 billion, a whopping 300 percent increase from the EGP 5.3 billion in subsidies paid in the same months in 2014, the state’s statistics agency CAPMAS said on Saturday. CAPMAS said in a press release that the General Authority for Supply Commodities, which buys staples like wheat on behalf of the state, has dominated subsidy allowances, accounting for EGP 8.3 billion, double the spend of EGP 4.4 billion last year. A sum of EGP 6.7 billion in subsidies was reported under a category titled “other.” This is more than eight times the amount of EGP 0.8 reported in this section last year. Government financial institutions also took up EGP 0.8 billion, again eight times as much as they did in those two month last year. [Aswat Masriya, 11/28/2015]

Kuwait names Finance Minister Anas al-Saleh as new Oil Minister
Kuwait on Sunday replaced its oil minister just days before the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries is scheduled for a potentially contentious meeting over production. Kuwait appointed Anas al-Saleh as acting oil minister, replacing Ali al-Omair, who became minister of public affairs and retained his role as state minister for parliamentary affairs, according to an official decree. The royal decree, published by the state-controlled news agency, didn’t give a reason for the move. A person familiar with the matter said the decision came after Mr. Omair faced opposition following his attempts to introduce changes to the management structure of state oil companies. Eurasia Group’s Associate for the Middle East and North Africa, Coline Schep, said in a report that “lower tolerance for political infighting” is a positive indicator for Kuwait’s economic development. [WSJ, NYT, 11/29/2015]