Top News: Houthis Claim to Have Seized Weapons Meant for Pro-Hadi Forces

Weapons dropped from the air by the Saudi-led coalition for popular committees fighting the Houthis in Aden have fallen into Houthi hands, according to the Houthis. The weapons were provided to the committees to help them drive the military-backed Houthis out of Aden. Salah al-Ezzi, head of the media department for the Houthis, said that the Saleh-allied Houthis seized a large number of arms intended for the popular committees. Majed al-Shuiabi, a journalist and member of the Southern Movement, denied claims that any of the arms intended for the popular committee made their way to the Houthis. The weapons, he said, reached the Fourth Military Command’s headquarters and were distributed on Friday evening after they were counted. [Yemen Times, 4/6/2015]



Egypt’s Mahlab says elections to be held before Ramadan
Party leaders and public figures attended the second round of the national dialogue with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab on Tuesday. The Popular Alliance, Dostor, Nour, Popular Current, and Adl parties participated, with the Karama party boycotting the dialogue. Mahlab stressed that the government is keen on holding transparent elections as a last phase of the roadmap. In a televised interview, Mahlab said that the elections would take place before Ramadan beginning in June. In a statement to parliamentary reporters on Monday, Minister of Parliamentary Affairs and Transitional Justice ‎Ibrahim al-Heneidy also said that the Prime Minister and political ‎representatives will meet Tuesday in a second round of the dialogue to review proposed amendments to election laws and build consensus. He also said that the meetings would ‎continue beyond April. Free Egyptians Party spokesperson Shehab Wagih warned in a press conference on Monday that expanding the amendments of the election laws could lead to further postponement of the elections. [Ahram Online, DNE, Shorouk (Arabic), 4/7/2015]

On-arrival visas to be scrapped within 6-8 months says Egypt’s tourism minister
Egypt will no longer allow tourists from certain countries to obtain a visa on arrival at the airport “within six to eight months” said the country’s tourism ministry on Tuesday. The change in policy, first announced to go into force in May, was postponed amid widespread criticism from tourism operators. A foreign ministry statement said that the new policy would be implemented when a new e-visa system was in place. Egypt’s Tourism Minister Khaled Ramy said that the new e-visa system would work on drawing tourists to the country while protecting Egypt’s internal security. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 4/6/2015]

Egypt prepares for third phase of Gaza buffer zone
Security services have nearly completed the second stage of the buffer zone between Egypt and Gaza, which aims to tighten security and help eliminate the numerous cross-border smuggling tunnels. The second stage of the buffer zone, created to protect Egypt from militant encroachment, has involved the destruction of more than 1,150 out of 1,220 houses near the border with Gaza. The third phase, of which residents in the area were informed late March, will further expand the buffer zone, forcing even more people to lose their homes. “The government will definitely expand the area of the buffer zone to start the third phase, which includes an additional 1,000 meters, in order to guarantee the destruction of the border tunnels and prevent armed groups from using them for attacks against police and military,” a security source said Monday. [Egypt Independent, 4/6/2015]

Houthi leader says Sisi’s call for dialogue is a positive step
Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, president of Yemen’s Revolutionary Council, said that remarks by President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, after his meeting with the Supreme Council of Armed Forces on Saturday, were positive, appreciating Sisi’s call for political dialogue in Yemen. Regarding Egyptians based in Yemen, he said, “They are our brothers and they have their rights. We would not remain silent if we knew any of them are hurt or if we received information about ill-treatment by citizens.” However, he added, “The Egyptian authorities should send a plane to transfer whoever wants to return to Egypt and we will secure their exit.” So far, 785 Egyptians have returned from Yemen, the Egyptian Foreign Ministry announced on Tuesday. [Egypt Independent, Al Masdar (Arabic), 4/7/2015]

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Libyan lawyers organization sees contradictions in country’s draft constitution
Lawyers for Justice in Libya (LFJL), a network of Libyan lawyers in the diaspora, has conducted a full review of the Constitutional Drafting Assembly’s draft recommendations posted in December 2014 and found contradictory provisions, sometimes within the same chapter. Chief among these was a contradiction concerning gender equality. Another concern pointed out by LFJL was the drafting style in which provisions are primarily suggestions rather than an enforceable law. LFJL was also critical of the relationship between religion and state because there were no safeguards for religious minorities nor provisions ensuring noninterference in state affairs by religious bodies. [Libya Herald, 4/6/2015]

Tobruk accuses Tripoli of blocking salaries
The Tobruk government has accused the Tripoli authorities of blocking public salaries for the past three months. It released a statement accusing the head of the Tripoli Audit Bureau of being behind the decision in an attempt to humiliate the Libyan people. It is difficult to assess whether this claim is true, but the Tripoli authorities have recently stressed the importance of using the National ID system to pay salaries, warning it would otherwise block payments. The Central Bank of Libya provides the funds for government spending and has continued to provide Tripoli with money to pay public wages in recent months. [Libya Monitor (subscription), 4/7/2015]

Competing claims of ‘liberation’ leave status of battlefield south of Tripoli in flux
Conflicting claims by both the pro-Tobruk forces and pro-Tripoli and Operation Libya Dawn forces surrounding the battlefront in the extended Aziziya-Kasarat south of Tripoli, has left observers unsure of who retains control of the area. Both sides have produced maps showing their versions of the battle lines. Meanwhile, the Tripoli government’s defense ministry announced the launch of the final decisive battle in response to the Tobruk forces’ non-compliance with the ceasefire resolutions issued by the United Nations. So far, neither side has been able to overwhelm its opponent and break the stalemate. [Libya Herald, 4/6/2015]

Ghanaian captive from Libya attack released
A hostage from Ghana was released last month after militants attacked an oilfield in Libya and took foreigners prisoners, but six staff are still unaccounted for. This follows reports on March 25 that two Bangladeshi citizens among the group had been released after more than two weeks in captivity. All three are in good health and have reported that they were treated well during their captivity. They were separated from the other six colleagues on the second day of their captivity and could not provide any further information as to the whereabouts of their colleagues. Foreigners have increasingly become targets in Libya’s turmoil. [Reuters, 4/6/2015]

Tunisia trial of deadly ambush suspects adjourned
The trial of seventy-seven people in Tunisia charged with involvement in a jihadist attack that killed eight soldiers was adjourned Monday after the defense asked for more time to prepare. Only six of those charged are in custody and around fifty are Algerians being tried in absentia. They stand accused of their alleged role in an ambush on July 29, 2013 in which eight soldiers were killed at Mount Chaambi near the border with Algeria. [AFP, 4/6/2015]

Ceremony marks fifteenth anniversary of Habib Bourguiba’s death
A ceremony was held Monday at the mausoleum of former President Habib Bourguiba in his hometown of Monastir to mark the fifteenth anniversary of his death. President Beji Caid Essebsi presided over the ceremony, where he placed a wreath at Bourguiba’s tomb and recited Qur’anic verse. Bourguiba is seen as the founder of the modern Tunisian republic. He led the country’s pursuit of independence from France, which succeeded in 1956, and subsequently served as the new republic’s president for thirty years. [Tunisia Live, 4/6/2015]


UN demands access to Yarmouk refugee camp in Damascus
The UN Security Council has demanded humanitarian access to the Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus. One UN official described the situation for the 18,000 refugees there as “beyond inhumane.” The situation has deteriorated since April 1, when Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) fighters and local Nusra Front units launched an offensive. Palestinian militiamen and some Free Syrian Army fighters are leading the fight against ISIS. The chair of the fifteen-member Security Council, Jordan’s ambassador Dina Kawar, called for the “protection of civilians… humanitarian access… and life-saving assistance.” Delivering a report to the council, Pierre Krahenbuhl of the Palestinian UNRWA relief agency said the situation was “more desperate than ever.” Palestinian UN Ambassador Riyad Mansour, said that saving the refugees was his government’s main priority. He appealed to member nations to relocate the refugees elsewhere in Syria or abroad. [BBC, AFP, AP, 4/7/2015]

Iraqi teams exhume mass graves of soldiers in Tikrit
Iraqi forensic teams in the newly recaptured city of Tikrit have started exhuming bodies from mass graves believed to contain some of the hundreds of soldiers killed by ISIS last year. ISIS terrorists captured up to 1,700 Shia soldiers as they were trying to flee Camp Speicher, a former US Army base. Work has started on eight locations inside Tikrit’s complex of presidential palaces, where the killings are thought to have taken place. The presidential compound of the former Iraqi president Saddam Hussein became the ISIS headquarters after they took the city. “The work is continuing and we expect to discover more mass graves in different areas,” Kamil Amin from Iraq’s Human Rights Ministry said. “We expect a huge number of bodies to be unearthed.” DNA testing will be used to identify the bodies once they have been exhumed, as many families have never had confirmation of the death of their relatives.[BBC, AP, Reuters, 4/7/2015]

Iraq Prime Minister says 152 homes, shops burned in Tikrit
Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Monday that “only” 152 homes and shops were burned in Tikrit, where pro-government forces have been accused of carrying out abuses after retaking the city. Abadi did not specify who burned the structures or when the fires took place, but pro-government militiamen have admitted to torching houses in other recaptured areas and allegedly did so in Tikrit as well. “Only 67 houses and… around 85 stores were burned, and it is a very small number for a city with a population of 100,000 people,” Abadi said. He said top officials, including the governor and police chief of Salahuddin province, confirmed those figures. [AFP, 4/7/2015]

Kidnapped Kurds freed by Islamist rebels
Islamist fighters on Monday kidnapped some 300 Kurdish civilians at a checkpoint in northwestern Syria, holding them several hours before setting them free. Newaf Khalil, a spokesman for the Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said the group had been detained by Jaysh al-Islam. Adding that the Kurds were released in exchange for three Islamist fighters who had been detained in Afrin by Kurdish forces. He gave no other details.[BBC, AFP, Reuters, 4/6/2015]


Warplanes hit Houthi base in central Yemen, students reported killed
Military sources said five bombs were dropped on the Republican Guard base near the city of Ibb apparently targeting air defense units and soldiers’ quarters. They said the commander of the base was wounded and Houthi-run media, Al-Masirah, reported three student deaths. Overnight air raids also hit Houthi-held weapons stores near Sana’a and further north in Sanhan, birthplace of the former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has allied himself and his army loyalists with the Houthi fighters. [Reuters, 4/7/2015]

Houthis claim to have seized weapons meant for pro-Hadi forces
Weapons dropped from the air by the Saudi-led coalition for popular committees fighting the Houthis in Aden have fallen into Houthi hands, according to the Houthis. The weapons were provided to the committees to help them drive the military-backed Houthis out of Aden. Salah al-Ezzi, head of the media department for the Houthis, said that the Saleh-allied Houthis seized a large number of arms intended for the popular committees. Majed al-Shuiabi, a journalist and member of the Southern Movement, denied claims that any of the arms intended for the popular committee made their way to the Houthis. The weapons, he said, reached the Fourth Military Command’s headquarters and were distributed on Friday evening after they were counted. [Yemen Times, 4/6/2015]

Acute fuel and food shortages in Yemen
The fighting in Yemen threatens to cause widespread hunger and thirst and displace huge numbers of people, according to analysts and experts. According to the United Nations and humanitarian aid agencies, major urban centres, including the southern city of Aden, which has a population of about 1 million, may run out of drinking water. The United Nations estimates that more than 500 people have been killed, including at least seventy-four children, and 100,000 displaced in the fighting in the past two weeks. Meanwhile, supplies of food, fuel and water are dwindling, and government services such as health care are deteriorating rapidly. Residents say that huge lines have formed at gas stations and that hospitals are overflowing with the wounded since the Saudi-led campaign imposed a sea and air blockade on the country. [AP, Washington Post, Yemen Post, 4/7/2015]

Obama says Gulf states’ internal threat is ‘bigger than Iran’
The biggest threats to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states do not come from Iran, but from internal issues, President Barack Obama said. He stressed that the United States would work with the GCC to counter external threats, but that they had to work on addressing “internal threats.” These included “populations that, in some cases, are alienated, youth that are underemployed, an ideology that is destructive and nihilistic, and in some cases, just a belief that there are no legitimate political outlets for grievances,” he said. His comments come after a framework deal was reached with Iran over their nuclear capabilities. [Gulf News, 4/6/2015]


Kuwait fund to lend Egypt $1.5 billion over the next five years
The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development plans to lend Egypt $1.5 billion over the next five years, extending $300 million each year, the fund’s Director-General has said. He did not provide details of the loans. The fund is the Kuwaiti government’s agency for aiding developing countries in areas including agriculture, transport, and energy. Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates have provided billions of dollars of aid to Egypt in the past two years. [Reuters, 4/7/2015]

Tunisia to sell stake in state banks, expects $1 billion in World Bank, IMF loans
Tunisia plans to sell a 10 to 15 percent stake in several state-run banks to raise more capital, the country’s Finance Minister said on Tuesday. The country also expects to receive $1 billion in loans from the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund this year, the minister said at a finance conference in Kuwait. [Reuters, 4/7/2015]

IMF endorses Islamic finance, warns it must be implemented better
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has endorsed the principles of Islamic finance, saying it could prove safer than conventional finance. However, it also warned Islamic bankers that they must tighten rules and follow them more consistently. A report released by the IMF this week showed growing interest in Islamic banking. Last October, the IMF launched discussions with an external advisory group of Islamic finance experts and industry bodies. [Reuters, 4/7/2015]

Saudi regulators tighten their grip ahead of opening to foreign investment
Saudi regulators are signaling that they want companies to tighten governance and strengthen internal controls as the $500 billion Saudi stock market prepares to open to foreign direct investment in the next few months. The process has become more urgent since an accounting scandal at the telecoms company Mobily in February. [Reuters, 4/6/2015]