Top News: Houthis Announce Military, Governance Council

Houthi militants announced the formation of a military council to protect the “revolution,” or so-called Houthi revolution. Following a meeting called by leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the group announced the formation of the “Council of Elders of Yemen,” effectively setting up a parallel government structure in the event President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and new Prime Minister Khaled Bahah are unable to form a government within the next ten days. The Houthis say this council will work to keep the functions of state running should a new government not be formed.



Egypt has right to build Sinai buffer zone, says US government
Egypt has the right to use a buffer zone along its borders with Gaza to boost security, but should also be concerned about the impact on local communities, the United States said Thursday. “Certainly we believe that Egypt has the right to take steps to maintain their own security. And we understand the threat that they are facing from the Sinai,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said. “We also continue to encourage them to take into account those that would be internally displaced by this,” she added. [AFP, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic),10/30/2014]

Military court rulings against terrorists do not conflict with constitution, says PM
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab said the military court rulings against terrorists do not conflict with the Constitution. In statements to Al-Osboa news website Thursday, Mahlab added that Article 3 granted the government the right to resort to military courts, noting that there were several terror threats to the national security. He lashed out at the terrorist Muslim Brotherhood violence that takes place at universities, noting that legal measures would be taken against the perpetrators. [SIS, 10/31/2014]

Foreign ministry official meets foreign NGOs representatives
Foreign Ministry Director of NGOs Affairs Nermien Afifi met on Thursday with representatives of the foreign NGOs working in Egypt. The meeting focused on boosting bilateral cooperation, a statement by the ministry reads. The meeting also touched on the current challenges facing Egypt, especially terrorism and Egypt’s fight against it. Afifi urged the NGOs as well as foreign embassies to inform their countries the true situation in Egypt, affirming that the Egyptian government will continue to work with registered foreign NGOs to make progress in various fields. [SIS, Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 10/30/2014]

Egypt approves $300 million loan deal with the World Bank for SMEs
Egypt approved a $300 million loan agreement with the World Bank that will go for financing small and medium-sized enterprises and creating new job opportunities. The loan deal was signed in Washington in April of 2014. It will open doors for women, youth and marginalized groups to start and grow MSEs utilizing innovative financing tools to expand access to credit. [SIS, 10/31/2014]


Egypt stands ready to support Libya, says Sisi
Egypt stands with the Libyan people, declared Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in an interview with a Saudi daily. When asked about Egypt’s stance on the latest developments in the neighboring country, Sisi stressed that his nation supported the elected government and the national army and stood ready to assist Libya upon request. He did not explain what such a request might be or how exactly Egypt would provide support. However, he acknowledged that the situation in Libya could harm Egypt, and this was something Egypt had to prevent. [Libya Herald, 10/30/2014]

Libya second to last in World Bank business index
The latest edition of the ‘Doing Business’ rankings, produced annually by the World Bank, puts Libya in 188th place out of 189 countries. The 2015 Doing Business index, which measures economies around the world against various criteria, dropped Libya’s ranking by one position from the previous year. Libya is the world’s worst place to register property, resolve an insolvency, or obtain construction permits, according to the World Bank, and is only marginally better when judged on getting credit or enforcing contracts. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 10/31/2014]

Tuaregs announce support for parliament; Tebu threaten to fight Misratans over oilfields
Following a meeting between House of Representatives President Ageela Saleh and local Tuareg leaders, the latter have reportedly pledged their allegiance to the House as Libya’s legitimate parliament. The Tebus already support the House. Saleh had flown to the southwest region to try to mediate between local Tuareg and Tebu communities, which have been engaged in sporadic clashes in nearby Obari following the arrival of a Tuareg militia reportedly attempting to seize the local oilfields for Operation Libya Dawn. In response to a Misratan-led brigade’s message to clear the area, the Petroleum Facilities Guards, consisting mainly of Tebus, asserted that they would remain in charge of securing the oilfields. [Libya Herald, 10/30/2014]


UN envoy proposes Syria fighting freeze, warns of foreign jihadists
UN peace envoy Staffan de Mistura has presented an “action plan” for Syria, proposing to “freeze” fighting in local areas to allow for aid deliveries and to lay the groundwork for talks. De Mistura told reporters after meeting with the UN Security Council on Thursday that he did not have a peace plan but rather “an action plan” to ease suffering from the more than three-year war in Syria. The envoy said the divided city of Aleppo would be a “good candidate” to become a freeze zone. He did not describe in detail how it would work but said that agreement on a local level would be needed to suspend fighting. Kyung-wha Kang, UN assistant secretary-general and deputy emergency relief coordinator, said during the Security Council briefing that the humanitarian crisis in Syria is worsening as all parties to the war, including forces aligned with the government and Islamic State militants, show “callous disregard” for civilians. A new UN report also says foreign fighters have joined terror groups on an “unprecedented scale,” with about 15,000 in Syria and Iraq alone. [Al Jazeera, AFP, Reuters, AP, Naharnet, 10/31/2014]

Congress to revisit ISIS war debate after election; Hagel criticizes Syria strategy
Pentagon chief Chuck Hagel has castigated the US strategy in Syria in a memo to the White House, saying Washington must explain its intentions toward President Bashar al-Assad’s regime. The memo was sent last week to President Barack Obama’s national security adviser, Susan Rice, a defense official said Thursday, confirming a New York Times and CNN report. It warned President Obama’s Syria policy was in jeopardy due to its failure to clarify its intentions toward al-Assad. Asked about the memo, Hagel told a Pentagon news conference, “We owe the president and we owe the National Security Council our best thinking on this.” When lawmakers return to Washington after Tuesday’s congressional elections they will resume a debate they began with some reluctance last month on the US-led fight against Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq. Obama’s plan to arm and train moderate Syrian rebels expires on December 11. Other lawmakers are also pushing for Congress to consider a broader Authorization for the Use of Military Force. [AFP, Reuters, 10/31/2014]

FSA Says Has 400 Fighters in Kobani; Erdogan criticizes Kobani focus
The Free Syrian Army (FSA) already has 400 fighters in Kobane and more are on the way, the commander of a unit there said in a rare public appearance Thursday. Nizar al-Khatib, who said he was in charge of an FSA unit sent into Kobane, told reporters in Istanbul that a command post had been set up to coordinate activities between his forces and the Kurdish fighters also battling Islamic State (ISIS) jihadists for the town. The ten Peshmerga fighters from Iraq who entered Kobani on Thursday returned to Turkey to prepare for their forces’ full deployment, a Kurdish official in Kobani said. Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Friday that he believed that the coalition combatting ISIS militants was focusing too much on the Syrian town of Kobani near the Turkish border and should turn its attention to other areas. The US military continued to target Islamic State militants near the Syrian town of Kobani on Thursday and Friday, according to US Central Command. [Naharnet, Daily Star, AP, Reuters, 10/31/2014]

Syria slams Turkey for allowing rebels to cross into Kobani
Syrian President Bashar Assad’s political adviser accused Turkey on Thursday of committing “aggression” against the country by allowing rebels to cross into the Syrian Kurdish border town of Kobani to battle the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). In an interview in Damascus, Bouthaina Shaaban said the move was intended for Turkey to expand its influence in Syria by sending in anti-Assad fighters. “I see that Turkey is continuing in its role of aggression against Syria and its very dangerous role in the region,” Shaaban said. “It’s very dangerous role in the region is motivated by their Ottoman ambition. (It) does not really target saving the Kurds,” she added. [AP, 10/30/2014]


Tunisian national dialogue resumes looking at means for peaceful transition
The Tunisian national dialogue resumed at the headquarters of the Justice and Human Rights Ministry on Friday with the ultimate goal of helping the country peacefully through the election process. Tunisian General Labour Union (UGTT) Deputy Secretary-General Mouldi Jendoubi said that the national dialogue committee would meet with the heads of the winning parties from parliamentary elections to discuss a peaceful transition into governance. [TAP, 10/31/2014]

Arab Spring rapper says Tunisia is now worse off
Tunisian Arab Spring rapper Klay BBJ, who gained notoriety during his participation in Tunisia’s 2011 protests, has released a song criticizing the state of the country that is gaining popularity amongst the nation’s youth. In an interview, the rapper said that Tunisians replaced the old regime with “a more repressive one.” His work has tapped into ongoing frustration among some Tunisian youth over limited job prospects in the country, inequality, and the ability to affect true change. [BBC, 10/30/2014]

Security forces continue to pursue militants in Jendouba
Tunisian security forces continued to pursue militants who they exchanged gunfire with on Wednesday in the northwest city of Jendouba. The militants were believed to be seeking food in the city. Security officials denied reports that a civilian was wounded in the attack and that they had seized automatic weapons, saying only that they had seized only “cans of tomatoes and couscous.” [TAP, 10/30/2014]


Houthis announce military, governance council
Houthi militants announced the formation of a military council to protect the “revolution,” or so-called Houthi revolution. Following a meeting called by leader Abdulmalik al-Houthi, the group announced the formation of the “Council of Elders of Yemen,” effectively setting up a parallel government structure in the event President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi and new Prime Minister Khaled Bahah are unable to form a government within the next ten days. The Houthis say this council will work to keep the functions of state running should a new government not be formed. [Al Masdar, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 10/31/2014]

Yemen, UNDP sign $9.8 million project to eliminate ghost workers
Yemen and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) have signed a document called “Strengthening Civil Service and Human Resources Management Project (SHRM),” which aims to address the general structure of the public service in Yemen and solve problem areas like ghost workers and double dippers. The three-year project is estimated to cost roughly $9.8 million. The UNDP and Ministries of Planning, Water and Environment also signed a project document entitled “Yemen’s National Preparation for Post-2015 Climate Agreement,” which aims to identify Yemen’s contributions to the post-2015 global climate agreement known as ‘Intended Nationally Determined Contributions”. [SABA, 10/31/2014]

Al-Qaeda gunmen kill police officer and soldier in Lahj, Abyan attacks
Suspected al-Qaeda gunmen carried out two attacks in the country’s south on Friday, killing a police officer in Lahij province’s capital of Huta and a soldier in Mahfad in Abyan. Two gunmen on a motorcycle killed the police officer; the soldier was targeted while walking outside his barracks. The suspects were able to escape in both cases. [AFP, 10/31/2014]

Four al-Qaeda operatives rounded up in Sanaa by NSA
Yemen’s National Security Agency has captured four al-Qaeda operatives, including one involved in the slaughter of army soldiers and another responsible for a suicide bombing in Sana’a, the agency announced late Wednesday. The agency captured terrorist Abdullah Khaled Ali Saleh, Muslih Yaslim Muhammad al-Saiari, Salah Salim Awadh al-Saiari, and Adel Muhammad Ahmad Ali al-Raimi. Saleh, al-Saiari, and al-Saiari were involved in a deadly attack on soldiers in Hadramout, while al-Raimi was involved in an October 9 suicide bombing. [SABA, 10/31/2014]


Lebanese army continue manhunt for fleeing Islamist militants
The Lebanese army said Friday that it had arrested eight Lebanese and six Syrian citizens suspected of carrying out attacks against security forces in Tripoli. The army also seized rifles, machine guns, rockets, hand grenades, ammunition, explosives and military gear from a depot in the Abi Samra neighborhood of Tripoli. Lebanon deployed military units to the country’s south on Wednesday to pursue other fleeing militants. They also arrested around eighty suspected militants in the Beqaa Valley. [Naharnet, Asharq al-Awsat, 10/31/2014]

Iraqi military preparing to recapture strategic town: sources
Iraqi troops are preparing to retake the town of Amiriyah Fallujah in Anbar province from ISIS after claiming to have regained the initiative in the fight against the group. A statement issued by the Babil Operations Command reported, “army, ‘national mobilization’ forces and police forces have advanced into the Al-Oweisat region” that is six miles east of Amiriyah Fallujah. ISIS had reportedly fled to the town after Iraqi security forces began to consolidate their hold on the nearby town of Jurf al-Sakhar earlier this week. Meanwhile, security forces continued their push to retake the Beiji oil refinery, Iraq’s largest oil refining site. [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/30/2014]

ISIS executed 600 Iraqi prisoners, Human Rights Watch says
A report from the NGO Human Rights Watch said that ISIS militants systematically executed at least 600 Shia Iraqis captured from a Mosul prison in June. According to the report, released on Thursday and based on the testimony of survivors, ISIS militants seized Mosul’s prison and separated inmates by religious denomination. Sunnis and Christians were sent to another city before being eventually released, while a group of predominantly Shia men, as well as some Kurds and Yazidis, were taken to a site in the desert. The men were forced to kneel before a ravine and were systematically shot, though thirty to forty survivors were eventually able to escape. [CBS News, NYT, 10/31/2014]

Israel reopens al-Aqsa Mosque after rare daylong closure
Thousands of Palestinians gathered to pray at Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa Mosque Friday, one day after Israeli officials cut off access to the site. Worshippers were prevented from gathering in the mosque Thursday after police killed a Palestinian man suspected in an assassination attempt against a far-right rabbi, setting off clashes. Men under the age of fifty were still barred from entering on Friday, and local media sources reported an increased presence of nearly 3,000 Israeli police officers around the site. The closure was the first for decades and prompted a spokesman for Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas to condemn the move as an Israeli “declaration of war.” [NYT, Al Jazeera, 10/31/2014]