Top News: ISIS Beheads Eight Rebels Who Surrendered Under False Amnesty Deal

ISIS group jihadists beheaded eight rebels who had surrendered in a town on the border with Iraq last week despite pledges of an amnesty, a monitor said Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the men were executed and their bodies hung on makeshift crucifixes in Albu Kamal in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. “The men surrendered in Albu Kamal because the Islamic State had offered amnesty to people who fought them if they turned themselves in.” The monitor said the men had belonged to a group that had fought against both the Syrian regime and ISIS. Meanwhile, in the city of Deir Ezzor, the provincial capital, ISIS jihadists decapitated another three men, also hanging their corpses from crosses.



Egyptian rights groups propose changes ahead of UNHRC review
A dozen local rights groups released a joint statement on Sunday with proposed recommendations for an upcoming review of Egypt’s human rights by the UN Human Rights Council in Switzerland. The ‎UNHRC review in ‎Geneva next week will be Egypt’s second in four years. The ‎first was made in February 2010. The undersigned include the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Arab Network for Human Rights Information, the Egyptian Centre for Economic and Social Rights, the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights, the Hisham Mubarak Law Centre, Egyptians Against Religious Discrimination, and Nazra for Feminist Studies, among others. Interim Justice Minister Ibrahim al-Heneidy headed on Sunday to Geneva to review Egypt’s report on human rights at the UN Security Council. Heneidy will respond to comments and questions expected to be raised by the member countries to Egypt. The Muslim Brotherhood and its political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) have also submitted a report to the UNHRC. [Ahram Online, 11/2/2014]

Prosecutor orders detention of thirty-five for Islamic State affiliations
Egypt’s prosecutor-general has ordered the detention of thirty-five suspects accused of joining terrorist organizations, pending fifteen days further investigation. The suspects were arrested in five different governorates on accusations of joining groups like the Islamic State in Syria and al-Sham (ISIS) and planning a series of terrorist attacks in the country. According to the prosecutor-general’s statement, a number of suspects have confessed to travelling as businessmen to Turkey, from where they then headed to Syria in order to join militant groups and receive militant training. The suspects also allegedly confessed that they returned to Egypt to await further instructions from ISIS in order to launch a series of attacks against the country’s army, police, judges, and state institutions. The suspected cells were reportedly recruiting Muslim Brotherhood members who believed in establishing an Islamic caliphate, the statement said. [Ahram Online, DNE, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, Egypt Independent, 11/3/2014]

Weekend attacks in Sinai leave nine injured
An explosion targeting an armored vehicle in near al-Arish in North Sinai resulted in the injury of seven armed forces personnel on Friday, following increased security measures in the volatile peninsula. The five soldiers and two officers injured in Friday’s attack were transferred to hospital for treatment, an armed forces statement said. Unidentified assailants also shot a civilian in the head in a village south of Rafah. An army lieutenant and a civilian were injured Saturday when a roadside bomb exploded in one of the army’s armored vehicles in Kharouba area along the Arish-Rafah international road, a security source in the army said. On Monday, a bomb remotely detonated while security forces were proceeding with the evacuation of houses at the borders with Gaza. The explosion left behind no injuries, but security forces raised the state of emergency. [AP, Ahram Online, DNE, 11/3/2014]

Egypt signs $350 million financing deal with Saudi Arabia
Egypt signed a $350 million financing agreement with Saudi Arabia on Saturday, November 1. The money is aimed at upgrading the country’s power grid and securing imports of petroleum products. Egypt is currently facing its worst energy crisis in decades. Two loan agreements signed on Saturday worth a total of about $100 million will be invested in two electricity stations that are expected to boost the capacity of the national grid. A further $250 million in assistance will come in the form of petroleum products. [Gulf News, 11/2/2014]


Libyan army prepares for offensive against Islamists in Benghazi, death toll rises
Libya’s army urged residents to evacuate a central district of Benghazi, according to a spokesman, as it prepares a military operation against Islamists. The army claims to have taken back several barracks it had lost to the Islamists in August, but fighting continues in other parts of the eastern city. As many as 230 people have died; medics say the death toll from the last two weeks of fighting is over 210, and the city’s main childbirth hospital has been evacuated. In the western part of the country, an Operation Dawn field commander reported eighteen Islamist fighters were killed when rival brigades launched an attack on the town of Kikla. Meanwhile former rebel leader and self-styled federalist Ibrahim Jadhran, who seized oil ports in a campaign for eastern autonomy, has turned down an offer to join Operation Dawn as it challenges the internationally recognized government. [Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription) 11/3/2014]

Special envoys to Libya agree on closer coordination in support of UN efforts
Special envoys for Libya from the African Union, the Arab League, the European Union, and eight governments issued a joint statement reiterating their full support for UN-led mediation. They also agreed to put in place “a mechanism” to ensure they coordinate their efforts. This was seen as a move to rein in Turkey, which broke with the others when it met with the rival Libyan government in Tripoli. Meanwhile, fifty-two leading Libyan academics, political figures, and activists called on boycotting members of the House of Representatives to join their colleagues in Tobruk and appoint a unity government to end the conflict. [Libya Herald, 11/1/2014]

Eastern airport reopens after brief closure
Labraq airport, the main gateway into Libya’s government-held east, has reopened after a twenty-four-hour closure, and flights are operating normally. Originally it had been reported that rocket fire had forced the brief shutdown, but officials now say in fact it had to do with immigration control. With the Benghazi airport closed since May, the continued closure of Labraq would mean that the east would have to rely solely on the Tobruk airport. Meanwhile, Tripoli’s Matiga airport, under control by an Islamist armed group, has refused entry to 600 Egyptians due to invalid visas. Egypt’s support for the Tobruk-based government apparently sparked the reaction. [Libya Herald, Reuters, 11/2/2014]

Dozens of Libyans in eastern town pledge allegiance to Islamic State
Dozens of residents of the eastern Libyan town of Derna have pledged allegiance to Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, leader of the Islamic State. Around fifty young people could be seen in a video posted on social media gathering to support al-Baghdadi, who calls himself “caliph.” A Derna resident confirmed the authenticity of the video. The town, a port halfway between Benghazi and the Egyptian border, has since 2011 turned into a gathering point for militant Islamists and al-Qaeda sympathizers. [Reuters, 11/1/2014]


Harakat Hazm forced from positions in Idlib by Nusra; setback for US strategy
The Obama administration’s Syria strategy suffered a major setback Sunday after Nusra Front fighters routed US-backed rebels from their main northern strongholds, capturing significant quantities of weaponry, triggering widespread defections, and ending hopes that Washington will readily find Syrian partners in its war against ISIS. Mainstream rebels, armed and trained by the United States, either surrendered or defected to the extremists as the Nusra Front, affiliated with al-Qaeda, swept through the towns and villages the moderates controlled in the northern province of Idlib, in what appeared to be a concerted push to vanquish the moderate Free Syrian Army, according to rebel commanders, activists, and analysts. Other moderate fighters were on the run, headed for the Turkish border as the extremists closed in, heralding a significant defeat for the rebel forces Washington had been counting on as a bulwark against ISIS. [Washington Post, 11/2/2014]

ISIS says seizes second gas field in a week
ISIS fighters in Syria said on Monday they had taken control of a gas field in the central province of Homs, the second gas field seized in a week after battles with government forces. The hardline Sunni Islamist group posted photos on social media showing the ISIS flag raised in the Jahar gas field as well as seized vehicles and weaponry. [Reuters, 11/3/2014]

Iraqi Kurds join fight against ISIS in Kobani
On Saturday night 150 Iraqi Kurdish fighters joined the fight against ISIS militants in Kobani, hoping their support for fellow Kurds backed by US-led air strikes will keep the ultra-hardline group from seizing the Syrian border town. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which monitors the civil war, said heavy clashes erupted in Kobani and that both sides had suffered casualties, while the US military launched more air raids on ISIS targets over the weekend. Idriss Nassan, deputy minister for foreign affairs in Kobani district, said Iraqi Kurds using long-range artillery had joined the battle and are making “a big difference.” [Reuters, 11/3/2014]

ISIS beheads eight rebels who surrendered under false amnesty deal
ISIS group jihadists beheaded eight rebels who had surrendered in a town on the border with Iraq last week despite pledges of an amnesty, a monitor said Monday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the men were executed and their bodies hung on makeshift crucifixes in Albu Kamal in the eastern province of Deir Ezzor. “The men surrendered in Albu Kamal because the Islamic State had offered amnesty to people who fought them if they turned themselves in.” The monitor said the men had belonged to a group that had fought against both the Syrian regime and ISIS. Meanwhile, in the city of Deir Ezzor, the provincial capital, ISIS jihadists decapitated another three men, also hanging their corpses from crosses. [AFP, 11/3/2014]


Presidential campaigning begins in Tunisia
Tunisian presidential campaigning opened Saturday with Nidaa Tounes leader Beji Caid Essebsi seen as a frontrunner in the election. The vote, to be held November 23, will feature twenty-seven candidates including incumbent interim president Marcef Marzouki, female magistrate Kalthoum Kannou, and former members of the Ben Ali regime. A second round of elections will take place in December if no candidate is able to win an absolute majority in November. Essebsi is the current favorite to win election to the presidency but it remains unclear who the Islamist Ennahda party, who has not put forth a candidate, will support. [AllAfrica, 11/1/2014]

Marzouki warns of old regime’s return as Tunisia’s presidential campaign begins
Tunisia’s interim-President Moncef Marzouki warned that a presidential election victory for Nidaa Tounes leader Beji Caid Essebsi could represent a return to the old regime. Both Marzouki and Essebsi held electoral conferences on Sunday. Marzouki warned that Tunisia could return to single party dominance under Nidaa Tounes, and admitted that he had made mistakes during his party’s participation in the ruling troika alongside Ennahda and Ettakatol. He called on the “democratic forces” to unite to build a new regime. It was noted that some Ennahda members attended Marzouki’s first electoral conference. [Ahram Online, 11/3/2014]

Prime ministry launches legal information portal
Tunisia’s government launched a national legal information portal on Friday, which will bring together the country’s legal texts and all circulars issued by the prime ministry since 1956. The portal aims at increasing ease of access to government documents for both lawyers, administrative bodies, and the public at large. It will allow for in-depth research on the country’s new constitution and legal codes and relevant provisions for implementation. [TAP, 11/1/2014]


Houthis attack Islah headquarters; twenty-three killed in al-Hudaydah clashes
Houthi forces attacked the headquarters of the Sunni Islamist Islah party in the city of Ibb Saturday, resulting in the deaths of at least three people. Houthi militants attacked the building with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades before raiding, looting it, and detonating a bomb inside. In neighboring al-Hudaydah province, at least twenty-three people were killed Saturday as Houthi forces fought with al-Qaeda in the town of Jabal Ras. A security source said that al-Qaeda militants attacked an administrative building and looted four police cars. The Houthis seized control of al-Hudaydah last month with almost no resistance from local security forces. [Reuters, 11/1/2014]

Liberal party leader gunned down in Sana’a
Mohammed Abdulmalik al-Mutawakil, secretary general of the Union of Popular Forces party that has close ties to the Houthis, was killed by unidentified gunmen in Sana’a on Sunday. Mutawakil was reportedly walking on the streets close to his home when gunmen on a motorcycle fatally shot him in the neck. It remains unclear why he was targeted. The attack came a day after Yemen’s main political factions signed an agreement to form of a new technocratic government to relieve tensions in the state. [Reuters, AFP, 11/2/2014]

Benomar warns of rising tensions as US asks for targeted UN sanctions
UN Envoy for Yemen Jamal Benomar warned that Yemen could fall prey to sectarian tensions if a new government is not set in place “within a few days.” Benomar told AFP, “Recent developments have brought on a new discourse that is xenophobic, sometimes sectarian, and this is a worrying trend,” adding that failure to implement the September 21 peace and partnership agreement “would mean an increase in sectarian tensions.” The only outcome of the agreement put in place has been the appointment of new Prime Minister Khalid Bahah, and the Houthis have still not vacated Sana’a. “If all parties, including Ansarullah [the Houthis], cooperate, implementation of the agreement will enable the state to regain its authority,” Benomar said. The envoy’s appeal for cooperation came after the US asked the UN Security Council to implement targeted sanctions against former President Ali Abdullah Saleh and two Houthi leaders on Friday. In its request to be discussed Tuesday, the US labeled him “one of the primary supporters of the Houthi rebellion,” and accused him of fomenting unrest for his own political gain. Saleh’s party, the General People’s Congress Party, has already promised sanctions will lead to political chaos. [Reuters, 11/2/2014]

Officers and soldiers of security forces join Khormaksar Square sit-ins
A number of officers and soldiers from southern security forces joined independence demonstrations and sit-ins in Aden’s Khormaksar Square on Monday. The members of the security forces are the latest in a series of government groups to join the demonstrations in recent days, following the participation of workers from the Federation of Trade Unions and the Civil Service Office last week. The security force members were allegedly from the Emergency Task Force and Rapid Intervention units. [Aden al-Ghad, 11/3/2014]


Iraqis prepare anti-ISIS offensive with US support
Iraqi security forces are planning a major offensive to break the hold of ISIS on the country’s north and west, backed by US-led air support and military advisers. The Iraqi government hopes to gain control over Mosul and population centers currently under ISIS control extending to the Syrian border by the end of 2015, according to American officials. The push, which is being planned with the help of American military advisers, will require the training of three Iraqi Army divisions amounting to nearly 20,000 troops. According to over a dozen US and Iraqi military officials, this new strategy will involve isolating and engaging ISIS fighters at individual strongholds with a view to cutting off supply lines and reinforcements. Recaptured cities would then be secured by police and national guard forces. [NYT, 11/2/2014]

ISIS kills 322 from one Iraqi tribe
ISIS attacks against the Albu Nimr tribe in Iraq’s Anbar province have continued, as the Iraqi ministry of human rights reported Sunday that fifty more bodies were found in a water well and the group seized sixty-five more hostages. ISIS has carried out a harsh campaign against the tribe in the past week, with mass executions last Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday for resistance to ISIS rule. The number of Albu Nimr tribesmen killed has been estimated at 322. The Iraqi government has struggled to win over the country’s tribal population, numbered between 30,000 and 40,000, to join in the fight against ISIS. [BBC, 11/2/2014]

Nusra Front offers to free Lebanese prisoners in exchange for its captured fighters
The Syrian Nusra Front has offered to release Lebanese prisoners in exchange for its own captured militants, according to SITE Intelligence Group. The group reported Sunday that Nusra presented a Qatari negotiator with three proposals for the release of the soldiers captured during fighting in the border town of Arsal. The group asked for the release of ten “brothers” held in Lebanon, or seven prisoners in Lebanon and thirty female prisoners held in Syria, or six prisoners and fifty female prisoners for each captive soldier. The group said it would hand over female prisoners in Qatar or Turkey and male prisoners in Arsal. The Nusra Front and ISIS captured around twenty Lebanese soldiers after pulling out from Arsal in August, with ISIS beheading two and Nusra shooting one. It is unclear exactly whose release the group is seeking and whether or not ISIS prisoners are involved in the proposal. [Reuters, 11/2/2014]

Bahraini activist freed from prison
A judicial source said that prominent Shia activist Nabeel Rajab would be released from prison pending a delayed trial. Rajab, who was detained for Twitter remarks insulting public institutions, has been barred from leaving the country before his new January 20 trial date. He was arrested October 1 for tweets charging that some Bahrainis fighting alongside Syrian jihadists were former security forces personnel who had developed Sunni extremist views during their service. [AFP, 11/2/2014]