Ten soldiers were killed and dozens were wounded on Monday when Houthi rebels seized Amran’s city council building. The rebels also bombed the Islah party’s headquarters in Amran on Tuesday.


Sisi defends energy prices increase, asks Egyptians to ‘work with him’
In a nationally televised speech, Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi defended Monday his recent decisions to partially lift subsidies on fuel that caused a public outcry, calling them a necessary “bitter pill” to revive his nation’s ailing economy. In a half-hour long speech, Sisi went through figures for budget deficits and government debt to explain to the public the fuel price hikes. He defended the bold move, saying that other leaders have shied away from introducing such reforms in fear of public upheaval. He also warned world powers that Islamist militants are ravaging the Middle East and pose a threat to everyone’s security. He also said that the Sinai could turn into a base for “terrorism,” destabilizing Egypt and the region. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, AP, Aswat Masriya, 7/7/2014]

Egypt’s net foreign reserves down $600 million in June due to absence of Gulf aid
Egypt’s net international foreign reserves fell by $600 million, recording $16.678 billion at the end of June, down from $17.284 billion in May. Foreign reserves are now the lowest since July 2013. Financial analyst at EFG Hermes Mohamed Abu Basha commented that the decline came because no financial aid was pledged to Egypt in the last month, whether in the form of grants or deposits. [DNE, 7/7/2014]

ECESR report says 5,232 social, economic and labor protests in 2013
Egypt witnessed 5,232 socio-economic protests in 2013, 82 percent of which were held before the military ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi, according to a report prepared by the Egyptian Center for Economic and Social Rights (ECESR). The report, released Monday, suggests that the Muslim Brotherhood protests held since July against Morsi’s ouster could have contributed to the decline in social, economic and labor protests in the second half of the year. The ECESR said that social, economic and labor protests and the reasons behind them were not given due attention and that generalization was exercised in defining them. The organization added in its report that at most times, protesters were either described as belonging to a certain political faction, or the protests altogether were seen as a sign of the “failure” of the then ruling regime. [DNE, 7/7/2014]

EU ambassador describes subsidy cuts as ‘very important step’
James Moran, head of the European Union Delegation to Egypt, welcomed the recent decision taken by the Egyptian government to reduce subsidies on petroleum products, saying that “Egypt has begun its way towards the implementation of a plan for economic reform.” He described the decision to raise fuel prices as “a very important step and a rational and noble attempt” to restructure the Egyptian economy. Meanwhile, Egypt’s government received the backing of international credit rating agency Fitch Ratings on Tuesday in its recent price hike on state-subsidized fuels. Fitch Ratings announced that fuel price hikes are an important step toward reducing subsidies that contribute to Egypt’s substantial fiscal deficit. [DNE, 7/7/2014]


Tunisia to host regional security meeting regarding Libya
With the growing lawlessness in Libya impacting the security situation in neighboring countries, Tunisia announced it will host a meeting of foreign ministers from six relevant countries next week to discuss ways of helping Libya deal with the political turmoil. The new meeting, to take place in Hammamet, south of Tunis, on July 13 and 14, will gather diplomats from Egypt, Algeria, Sudan, Chad, and Niger, as well as representatives from the Arab League and the African Union. According to a statement, the leaders will exchange ideas on how to support Libya, including with launching a national dialogue and strengthening state institutions. [Naharnet/AFP, 7/7/2014]

Improved Libyan oil export prospects contribute to Brent oil’s fresh one-month low
Brent crude fell to a fresh one-month low beneath $110 a barrel on Tuesday, as prospects for a rise in Libyan oil exports improved and fears of supply disruption in Iraq eased. In Libya, where oil output is about one fourth of the pre-civil war rate of 1.4 million barrels per day, preparations are under way to reopen two major oil ports in the east that were shut by protests almost a year ago. In a note, however, BNP Paribas analysts expressed skepticism that Libya could sustain maximum throughput until the completion of maintenance on the pipelines from the oilfields to the ports. [Reuters, 7/8/2014]

Tripolitans urged to support security forces over registration plates
With the stated objective to reduce crime in Tripoli by 60 percent, the government has called on residents in the capital to cooperate with security forces in its campaign to clamp down on vehicles with tinted windows and no registration plates. A spokesman said that as many as twenty permanent checkpoints have been set up in Tripoli in an effort to seize unmarked cars, which, according to evidence, are involved in the most crimes. [Libya Herald, 7/7/2014]

Coordinated attacks on Derna’s business community
An explosion at a cigarette shop in Derna is the latest in a string of attacks against the town’s business community. The explosion destroyed the small shop and started a fire which damaged some adjoining businesses. Militant Islamists in Derna and Benghazi have frequently targeted cigarette shops. Yesterday, a car showroom was bombed. On Thursday, another shop in Derna’s Jebaila district was also subject to a bomb attack. The previous day local business leader Abdullah Mahmoud was kidnapped. [Libya Herald, 7/8/2014]


Bahra set to succeed Jarba as SNC president
Hadi al-Bahra, the opposition’s lead negotiator in the Geneva peace process, is set to become the new head of Syria’s opposition-in-exile group the National Coalition (SNC), political sources said Monday. The sources said that Bahra looked likely to succeed Ahmad Jarba during Tuesday’s vote, on the third and final day of meetings of the Coalition in Istanbul. Jarba, after serving the maximum of two six-month terms, is likely give way to a figure who is close to him, after the failure of attempts to arrive at a compromise candidate.[Daily Star, 7/8/2014]

One in four Syrian refugee households run solely by a woman
One in four Syrian refugee households in Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Egypt are now run solely by a woman, leaving mothers struggling to make ends meet and forcing children into work, a report by the United Nations released Tuesday says. Some 2.8 million people have fled Syria’s civil war, the vast majority women and children. Their displacement, without men who stayed behind, has forced a realignment of traditional gender roles, pushing women into the position of the key breadwinner in the family. [Daily Star, 7/8/2014]

US navy begins destroying chemical agents; regime claims opposition possesses sarin
A US naval crew has begun work to “neutralize” 600 tons of Syrian chemical weapons on a vessel in the Mediterranean, an unprecedented operation expected to take about two months. In a letter to the UN Security Council published Monday, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that two cylinders containing deadly sarin gas were reportedly seized by Syrian government troops in an area controlled by armed opposition groups. [AFP, 7/8/2014]

Hezbollah boosts numbers in Syria after Islamic State takeover
Alarmed at the sweeping advances in Iraq by Sunni militants, Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement dispatched reinforcements to areas in Syria it helped wrest away from rebels fighting the regime of president Bashar al-Assad. The build-up comes as Iraqi-Shia militiamen battling alongside Hezbollah and Assad regime troops are leaving the area, near Lebanon’s northeastern border, and returning to Iraq to fight an insurgency led by ISIS. The militants, who have served multiple tours in Syria, said the civil war there and Hezbollah’s involvement in it would be prolonged because of the ISIS offensive. “I’d be lying if I told you we wouldn’t be there for much longer,” said one Hezbollah fighter who lives in Beirut and who regularly goes to fight in Syria. “We will be there for years, and what happened in Iraq shows why we need to be there.” [The National, 7/6/2014]


Civil society organization launches national registration day initiative
I Watch has called Tunisian youths to register to vote on July 13. The insignificant numbers registered to vote mobilized civil society. I Watch, an organization that promotes transparency, decided to declare July 13 a national day of voter registration. The initiative aims to increase participation in the upcoming elections. The number of Tunisians enrolled to vote currently stands at approximately 90,000. [L’Economiste Maghrébin (French), 7/8/2014]

Human Rights Watch calls for amending draft counterterrorism law in Tunisia
Tunisian legislators should revise the draft counterterrorism law to make it fully consistent with international human rights standards on fair trial, privacy, and freedom of expression, Human Rights Watch said Monday. The draft improves on the 2003 law, used for years to quash dissent by curtailing free expression, association, and assembly, but retains some of the most troubling provisions of the 2003 law. It includes provisions that would open the way to prosecuting political dissent as terrorism, give judges overly broad powers, and curtail lawyers’ ability to provide an effective defense. In addition, the draft does not offer sufficient judicial oversight over police authority to interfere with privacy in counterterrorism operations. [HRW, 7/7/2014]

Ansar al-Sharia Tunisia branch allies with ISIS
Seifeddine Rais, spokesperson for banned Tunisian terrorist organization Ansar al-Sharia, on July 4 declared fealty to Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. Speaking at the Okba Ibn Nafaa mosque in Kairouan, Rais also called for followers to “liberate” jailed members of Ansar al-Sharia in Tunisia. [Magharebia, 7/7/2014]

Tax on marriage raises controversy in Tunisia
Tunisians have shown a wave of cynicism on Twitter over the government’s decision to impose taxes on marriage. Social media activists believe the decision will only increase the reluctance of young people to marry. The percentage of Tunisians unmarried, aged between 25 and 29 years, rose from 71 percent in 1994, to 81.1 percent at the end of last year. According to the new budget law, the new tax to be imposed is worth thirty Tunisian dinars ($17.71). The tax on marriage is among many other taxes aimed at reducing the budget deficit. [Ahram Online, 7/7/2014]


Houthi rebels kill ten and wound dozens in Amran
Ten soldiers were killed and dozens were wounded on Monday when Houthi rebels seized Amran’s city council building. The rebels also bombed the Islah party’s headquarters in Amran on Tuesday. Meanwhile, clashes broke out between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni army in Wirk. In a statement issued on Tuesday, United Nation’s envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar expressed his deep concern over the violence in Amran, calling for an immediate end to the violence. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/7/2014]

Yemeni interior ministry meets for mid-year assessment
The interior ministry held a meeting on Tuesday to evaluate the ministry’s performance, including its responsibilities towards immigration, reform, and civil defense. The interior ministry raised several recommendations to President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi that seek to enhance its performance. [Saba (Arabic), 7/8/2014]

Yemen and the Gulf Cooperation Council discuss Yemen’s transition process
Prime Minister Mohammed Salem Basindwa met with the the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) Mission Head Saad al-Arifi on Monday. They discussed possible areas of cooperation between Yemen and the GCC’s General Secretariat. They also discussed the current developments and existing challenges that face Yemen’s transition process. [Saba, 7/7/2014]


US diplomat expelled from Bahrain
A US diplomat has been ordered to leave Bahrain after meeting members of a leading Shia opposition group, say Bahrain officials. Tom Malinowski, US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, went to Bahrain on Sunday where he met with members of al-Wefaq. This meeting was considered as an interference in the countries internal affairs according to the foreign ministry of Bahrain. [BBC, Washington Post, 7/7/2014]

Iraq parliament to convene next week, as a suicide attack kills eight in Baghdad
A suicide bombing north of Baghdad killed eight people on Tuesday, police and a doctors said. The suicide bomber detonated an explosives-rigged vehicle at a police checkpoint south of Samarra, killing five people, among them three police, and wounding seven others. The recent attack comes as a senior general of Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s army was killed in battle on Monday, Maliki’s office said in a statement. On Monday, three mortar bombs landed inside Saudi Arabia close to its northern border with Iraq, where Islamist militants have captured terrirtory in a lightning advance, officials said. In other news, the Iraqi parliament decided to meet next Sunday instead of the previously announced date of August 12, due to growing criticism from constituents and international leaders. [Naharnet, 7/8/2014]

Kuwaiti opposition leader vows that protests to continue
Prominent Kuwaiti opposition leader Mussallam Al Barrak sent a bold message to the government hours after he was released from jail, saying protests will continue in in the country. During his speech at the night rally, Barrak repeated his criticism of the judiciary and warned them “not to challenge the Kuwaiti people.” After Barrak left the area, riot police fired stun grenades and tear gas to scatter the protesters who then responded with small firecrackers. No arrests or injuries were reported in the sixth straight night of violence. [Naharnet, 7/8/2014]