Rival militiamen battled each other for several hours with anti-aircraft guns and grenades throughout the capital on Thursday, following reports that the commander of the Misrata Nosoor Battalion, Nuri Friwan, had passed away from injuries from an earlier incident at a Tripoli checkpoint. Two people were killed and several others wounded in the worst violence Tripoli has seen in months. Clashes struck several buildings, including the Radisson hotel, forcing guests to relocate to the basement. As fighting spread, several residents took up arms in search of the attackers and some set up checkpoints to stop more militiamen from entering the city. Head of the Supreme Security Committee Hashim Bishr denied the spread of fighting, saying it was taking place only in the Shara al-Shatt area. The LANA news agency reports that Tripoli’s Joint Security Operations Room is demanding that members of the Nosoor Battalion involved in attacking and wounding checkpoint guards be arrested. [Libya HeraldReutersAP, 11/8/2013]


Egypt to hold parliamentary vote in February/March: Foreign minister
Egypt said on Friday it would hold parliamentary elections in February or March, with presidential polls in early summer, and that the political arm of ousted president Mohamed Morsi’s banned Muslim Brotherhood could participate. Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy’s comments provided the most specific timeline yet for the end of the interim army-backed government and a return to electoral politics in the Arab world’s most populous state, which since Morsi’s ouster in July has seen some of the worst violence in its modern history. Fahmy said that the implementation of the roadmap is being carried out according to the agreed upon timetable, noting that the public referendum on the constitution will be held as scheduled. [Reuters, SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), 11/8/2013]

Egypt parliament upper house eliminated in draft constitution
The Shura Council, Egypt’s parliamentary upper house, has been eliminated in the country’s draft constitution, which will establish a unicameral legislative system if passed via nationwide referendum. Egypt has used a bicameral system throughout most of its legislative history, and the decision to scrap the Shura Council came after much debate. The decision was passed with twenty-three votes in favor of eliminating the legislative body. Nineteen voted against the move, with one abstention and seven other committee members absent during voting. Among the more ardent supporters of keeping the Shura Council was Constituent Assembly Chairman Amr Moussa, reported the official website of Egypt’s state television. Lawyers’ Syndicate Head Sameh Ashour and Cairo University Chairman Gaber Nassar meanwhile lobbied for scrapping the council. [Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, 11/8/2013]

Egyptian minister of industry pushes to increase export subsidies
The Ministry of Industry and Foreign Trade intends to urge the Ministry of Finance to increase the budget allocated to Egyptian export subsidies, valued at 3.1 billion EGP (U.S. $450 million), Minister of Industry Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour announced on Thursday. The minister made those remarks while participating in a meeting organized by the Cairo-based German-Arab Chamber of Industry and Commerce (GACIC). “The system of subsidies needs restructuring, but priority is given to making sure those subsidies goes to who deserve them,” Fakhry added. [Youm7, 11/7/2013]

US congress delegation against cutting aid; Russia sending foreign, defense chiefs to Egypt
A US congressional delegation visiting Egypt stated that it was not in favor of Washington’s decision to suspend military aid to Egypt. During a meeting with constitutional committee head and former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, the delegation said that the relationship between the US and Egypt is built on mutual cooperation and that the group is pushing for a different strategy vis-à-vis Egypt. The delegation, led by Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chief Anne Marie Chotvacs, has been meeting with Egyptian officials since its arrival on Tuesday. Next week, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu will pay an official visit to Egypt, the Russian news agency RIA Novosti reported on Thursday. The visit comes amid reports of an arms deal between Egypt and Russia, the agency said. Shoygu will head a delegation that groups a number of Russian officials including the first deputy director of the Federal Service on Military-Technical Cooperation, Andrei Boitsov, and officials from state-arms exporter Rosoboronexport, RIA Novosti reported. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, AFP, AP, Aswat Masriya, SIS, 11/8/2013]


Misrata breaks with rogue militia after worst violence in Tripoli since revolution
Misrata city officials have distanced themselves from the Misrata forces in Tripoli that have brought the worst fighting to the capital since the revolution. The Misrata Military Council closed the checkpoint west of the city to prevent any other armed forces from trying to leave toward Tripoli, and the family of the head of the brigade commander Nuri Friwan, whose death sparked attacks by his supporters on local brigades, issued a statement disassociating itself from any retaliation and calling for an end to the fighting. The violence has prompted calls to remove all non-local forces from Tripoli and is expected to strengthen opposition in the legislature to the Libyan Revolutionaries Operations Room when it meets on Sunday. [Libya Herald, 11/8/2013]

The Army of Islamic State of Libya: Derna’s mystery militia
Twenty-eight year-old Yousef bin Tahir has attained celebrity status recently by announcing the establishment of the Army of the Islamic State of Libya in the town of Derna. The strength and ideology of the group is unclear. According to Tahir, the members have diverse backgrounds – businessmen, teachers, students, and more – and are all from Derna with the goal of restoring security to the city. Tahir insists the organization has no connection with the government and will not be integrated into any Libyan institutions or armed groups. [Libya Herald, 11/7/2013]


Heavy fighting near Aleppo; More than 160 killed Wednesday across Syria
Backed by tanks and artillery, Syrian regime troops have unleashed what residents in Aleppo called “the heaviest barrage in more than a year” on rebel-held areas around Aleppo’s international airport. Army forces concentrated their assault on the nearby rebel-held base in an attempt to retake it. A government victory there would mean cutting the rebel’s route between Aleppo city and the opposition-controlled town of al-Bab, about 30km from the Turkish border. “There is an insane campaign going on. The regime is employing a scorched earth policy.” In fighting across Syria on Wednesday at least 163 people were killed. [Al Jazeera, 11/8/2013]

Chemical inspectors reach penultimate site; Danes may transport weapons by sea
International chemical weapons inspectors reported further progress on Thursday in eliminating Syria’s stockpile, saying they had verified the destruction of twenty-two of the twenty-three sites that the Syrian government declared had been used for the production and mixing of the banned munitions. The inspectors, deployed in a joint operation by the United Nations and the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, said they had used special remote-controlled cameras to determine that the twenty-second site, in the northern Aleppo region, had been destroyed. Danish officials said Friday that Denmark is willing to help take chemical weapons out of Syria by sea, fulfilling an unofficial request by the United Nations. There are no plans to destroy the chemicals inside Denmark, rather Danish ships and personnel would be used in transporting the chemicals. [NYT, 11/8/2013]

Saudi Arabia preparing to spend millions to train new rebel force
Saudi Arabia is preparing to spend millions of dollars to arm and train thousands of Syrian fighters in a new national rebel force to help defeat Bashar al-Assad and act as a counterweight to increasingly powerful jihadi organisations. Syrian, Arab, and western sources say the intensifying Saudi effort is focused on Jaysh al-Islam (JAI), created in late September by a union of forty-three opposition groups. The force excludes al-Qaida affiliates such as the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham and Jabhat al-Nusra, but embraces more non-jihadi Islamist and Salafi units. According to one unconfirmed report the JAI will be trained with Pakistani help, and estimates of its likely strength range from 5,000 to more than 50,000. [Guardian, Foreign Policy, 11/7/2013]

Syrian Muslim Brotherhood promise new, inclusive political party
The Syrian Muslim Brotherhood has announced the conclusion of its political consultations over the formation of a new political party named the National Constitution and Freedom Party, to be known by its Arabic name, Waad (Promise). Former Syrian Muslim Brotherhood General Guide Ali Sadreddine Bayanouni announced from Turkey Wednesday that a third of the membership of the new party will be allocated to Muslim Brothers, a third to other Islamists, and the final third to liberal and nationalist figures. He added that the party would be a liberal, nationalist party, open to all sections of society, but based on Islamic principles. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/8/2013]

New polio vaccination drive aims to reach 20 million children
More than twenty million children are to be vaccinated in Syria and neighboring countries against polio to try to stop the spread of the crippling infectious disease following its re-emergence there after fourteen years, United Nations agencies said on Friday. The mass vaccination against polio, which can spread rapidly among children, is already under way in the Middle East a week after the region declared a polio emergency, the World Health Organization and UNICEF said. Aiming to repeatedly vaccinate about 20 million children in seven countries and territories, it will be the largest-ever consolidated immunization response in the Middle East. [Reuters, 11/8/2013]


Member of ruling coalition joins opposition in NCA walkout
Ettakatol, a member of the ruling Ennahda-led coalition, has joined with opposition members to suspend participation in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). Ettakol party leader and President of the NCA Mustapha Ben Jaafar will continue to perform his duties, but did sign the party’s statement denouncing amendments to the NCA internal rules that ‘”create a political balance within the [NCA] … which can only deepen the crisis,” and remove the opposition’s parliamentary tools. The boycotting politicians are still present and in closed door meetings, but refuse to vote or attend committee sessions. [Tunisia Live, Tunisia Daily (French) 11/7/2013]

Tunisian politicians form new cross-party block
Tunisian members of parliament on Friday announced the formation of a new cross-party block in an effort to break through the political deadlock that has been ongoing since July. The new thirty-five member force within the National Constituent Assembly is made up of representatives from Congress for the Republic (CPR), which belongs to the ruling coalition along with the moderate Islamist Ennahda party, the Wafa movement, the Current of Love and other independents. CPR Secretary-General Imed Daimi also commented on the current deadlock to elect a prime minister, saying on Thursday, “the timetable set for the various stages of the roadmap has not been respected. Therefore, it is no longer valid.” [ANSAMed, 11/8/2013]

Mediators, party leaders meet to discuss resumption of national dialogue
Ennahda party President Rached Ghannouchi met Thursday afternoon with President of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) Mustapha Ben Jaafar to discuss ways to resume political talks as soon as possible. Ghannouchi stressed that “debates would resume early next week… to reach consensus and resume the national dialogue.” The quartet of independent groups mediating Tunisia’s national dialogue held a meeting on Wednesday with leaders of Ennahda and the Popular Front to explore ways to resume the dialogue. [TAP, 11/8/2013]

Government accused of concealing evidence on Belaid murder
The Initiative Seeking the Truth about the Assassination (IRVA) made new accusations Thursday suggesting a government role in the murders of opposition politicians Chokri Belaid and Mohamed Brahmi. At a press conference, IRVA lawyer Mokhtar Trifi accused the ministry of interior of “concealing evidence,” and deliberately hiding the results of a ballistics test on the February 6 shooting of Belaid. IRVA also listed names of high security officials they say are “involved in hiding” the results of Belaid’s ballistics test. The ministry of interior released a statement denying IRVA’s accusations yesterday. [Tunisia Live, 11/8/2013]


Salafis respond to siege on Dammaj by establishing checkpoints
Local sources and witnesses said gunmen loyal to the Salafis have set up checkpoints on main roads leading to the province of Saada in northern Yemen to enclose areas controlled by the Houthi militants, apparently in response to a call from a Salafi sheikh to support the residents of Dammaj and help protect them from further violence. Witnesses say that gunmen loyal to the Salafis have cut off the road between the border town of Harad and the city of Saada starting Tuesday evening. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/7/2013]

Yemen facing an oil crisis
The Yemeni capital Sana’a and several other provinces are experiencing an extreme shortage of oil derivatives after several days of suspended service at many gas stations. Many gas and diesel stations have completely closed their doors to cars. An official at the Oil Ministry attributed the crisis to several factors, among them the frequent attacks on oil pipelines in Mareb and Shabwa which substantially hinder output, and resulting exports and revenues. The source added that another potential factor causing the crisis is the uneven distribution of oil derivatives among “certain stakeholders.” [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/7/2013]

NDC plenary session to resume on Saturday
The general secretariat of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) announced the resumption of the third plenary meeting on Saturday, and the working groups will complete their outstanding reports over the next few days. The deputy chief of the NDC, Yasser al-Ra’ini, told said that “the biggest point of contention at the conference is the Southern issue,” adding that “solutions were found for a number of issues which were discussed within the 8+8 subcommittee.” Ra’ini added that “despite the differences, we have not reached a dead end… at the conference, and all unresolved issues come from outside the conference.” [Asharq Al Awsat, NDC (Arabic), Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/7/2013]

Southern leader says Hirak delegation will return to NDC and 8+8 committee meetings
Badr Basalamah, a prominent southern leader participating in the 8+8 committee negotiations of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), confirmed the Hirak delegation’s decision to return to the work of the 8+8 subcommittee. This is based on reports of a conversation between UN envoy Jamal Benomar, southern leader Mohammed Ali Ahmed, and several other parties, in which the Hirak delegation reportedly agreed to work together with others in the NDC. Basalamah said that the delegation’s decision to return comes in the interest of preserving the gains that it has achieved thus far. [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 11/7/2013]


Arab Spring fallout fuels Mediterranean smuggling rise
The chaotic fallout of the “Arab Spring” is fueling a surge in the smuggling of drugs, weapons, and people across the Mediterranean, and cash-strapped regional powers are struggling to respond. More than 32,000 migrants from Africa and the Middle East have arrived in Italy and Malta so far this year, the United Nations says. More than 550 died in October alone, as autumn storms made a difficult crossing in small, poorly maintained boats even more dangerous. At the same time, Syria’s civil war and chaos in Libya are producing massive arms smuggling, while drug runners use similar routes to ship North African hashish and Latin American cocaine. [Reuters, 11/8/2013]

Moroccan King to visit US; Polisario hopes Kerry can bring W. Sahara ‘breakthrough’
King Mohammed VI of Morocco will visit the United States later this month, the White House said on Thursday. The talks on November 22 will highlight Washington’s support for Morocco’s “democratic and economic” reforms, a White House statement said. The pro-independence Polisario Front has expressed hopes that US Secretary of State John Kerry’s upcoming visit to Morocco will lead to progress in talks on the Western Sahara. [Al Arabiya, Ahram Online, 11/8/2013]

Rejected seat on UN panel is considered by Jordan
Jordan is considering seeking the nonpermanent United Nations Security Council seat that Saudi Arabia rejected last month in a pique of anger at the United States, diplomats said Thursday. The diplomats, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said Jordan’s United Nations ambassador, Prince Zeid al-Hussein, was en route to Amman on Thursday night to confer with the country’s top officials about possibly replacing Saudi Arabia on the fifteen-member Council, the most powerful and prestigious body in the United Nations. [NYT, 11/8/2013]