Top News: ISIS Claims Deadly Twin Beirut Explosions

At least thirty-seven people were killed and more than 181 wounded on Thursday after two suicide bomb blasts, claimed by ISIS, hit a crowded district in Beirut’s southern suburbs. The blasts occurred almost simultaneously and struck a Shia community center and a nearby bakery in the commercial and residential area of Borj al Barajneh, security sources said. The attackers were identified as Syrian Khaled al-Khaled and Palestinians Hamed al-Balegh and Ammar Salem al-Rayyes. “What happened here is a crime … this battle against terrorists will continue and it is a long war between us,” Hussein Khalil, an assistant to Hezbollah’s leader, said from the site of the explosions. [Al-ArabiyaNaharnet, 11/13/2015]



Russian Aviation Authority bans EgyptAir flights to Russia; plane data to be analyzed abroad
Russian aviation agency Rosaviatsia has banned flights by EgyptAir, Egypt’s state-owned flag carrier, to Russia, effective November 14, an official of the Moscow Domodedovo airport reportedly said on Friday. Rosaviatsia declined to comment when contacted by Reuters. Meanwhile, Egypt will send a copy of the sound recording from the Russian Airbus A321 black box abroad for analysis, Egypt’s Civil Aviation Minister Hossam Kamal also announced on Friday. He did not specify which country would receive the black box recording. On Thursday, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry denied earlier reports that Cairo had green lighted the FBI to join the international investigations. Officials at the US National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) and the FBI said on Thursday that neither of the agencies were invited to join the Egyptian-led investigation into the crash. Representatives for the FBI said that the bureau had offered both Egyptian and Russian crash investigators forensic assistance and other investigative help, but as of Thursday its offers had not been accepted. Meanwhile, Britain’s swift suspension of flights after the crash has revived old grievances in Egypt, with newspaper columns, television broadcasts, street conversations, and government websites repeating a daily chorus of accusations that Britain preempted the investigation when it said the plane was likely to have been brought down by a bomb. Kazakhstan is the latest to join the list of countries suspending tourist flights into Sharm al-Sheikh in the wake of the crash. Sharm al-Sheikh International Airport Director Abdel Wahab Ali, however, said the airport expected fifty scheduled international and domestic flights on Thursday carrying tourist groups from different countries. Nineteen Russian and nine British flights were scheduled to arrive without passengers to pick up Russian and British tourists. According to an unnamed airport official, around 2,227 tourists arrived in Sharm al-Sheikh on Friday. [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, AP, 11/13/2015]

Sisi meets with CEO of defense contractor Lockheed Martin
Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi met the CEO of US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Marillyn Hewson in Cairo on Thursday. Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said in a statement that Sisi had praised the current cooperation with the company, which has provided Egypt with a number of F-16 fighter jets. As the world’s largest defense contractor, Lockheed Martin manufactures F-16, F-22 and F-35 fighter jets, warships, and other multibillion-dollar arms systems sold worldwide. “Sisi is hoping for a continued cooperation in the framework of Egypt’s keenness on reinforcing its security and stability, especially in the light of current regional challenges,” the presidential statement read. Hewson asserted the importance of Egypt’s role in supporting stability and security in the Middle East, especially given its notable role in the international alliance against terrorism, according to the statement. She said that her corporation is dedicated to cooperation with Egypt in all fields. [Ahram Online, SIS, AMAY, 11/12/2015]

Twelve NGOs dissolved over suspected Brotherhood ties
Egypt’s Social Solidarity Ministry dissolved Thursday twelve nongovernmental organizations, claiming they have ties with the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood. Social Solidarity Minister Ghada Wali said the assets and funds of those organizations will be redirected to the ministry’s NGO assistance fund. She said the measure comes in line with a court verdict that requires activities and assets held by Brotherhood-affiliated NGOs to be banned and frozen. The statement from the minister added that this decision brings the total number of organizations dissolved to 545. [AMAY, Cairo Post, Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 11/12/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Kerry discusses loan guarantee, security, democracy with Tunisia
US Secretary of State John Kerry said the United State and Tunisia would soon begin negotiations on a $500 million loan guarantee after discussing expanded military cooperation, including intelligence sharing and the possible use of drones for intelligence gathering. A US military team will travel to Tunisia in two weeks to begin those talks, Kerry said. On Thursday, Tunisian Interior Minister Najem Gharsalli and US Assistant Secretary of State William Brownfield announced the official launch of a four-year project to construct the largest police academy in Tunisia, as part of partnership with the United States. [Reuters, US Department of State, AP, AFP, Tunisia Live, 11/13/2015]

Three arrested following raids on 140 homes in Tunisia
The Tunisian Interior Ministry has confirmed via its Facebook page that security forces carried out raids on 140 homes November 10-11. All were suspected of housing individuals involved in terrorist acts. Three people were arrested after consulting with prosecutors, and the arrested individuals are being held in custody. Following two terrorist attacks at Bardo and Sousse this year, similar raids have been carried out throughout Tunisia, targeting individuals suspected of terrorist ties. Under Tunisia’s Terrorism Law, suspects can be held for up to fifteen days without the right to consult a lawyer. [Tunisia Live, 11/12/2015]

UN Envoy wants clarification of report UAE broke Libya arms embargo
Outgoing United Nations Special Envoy to Libya Bernardino Leon said on Thursday that he would seek “full clarification” on a report by The New York Times that the United Arab Emirates was shipping arms to Libyan factions in violation of a UN arms embargo. One email quoted by The New York Times appears to be from a senior UAE diplomat, who admitted his own country “violated the UN Security Council Resolution on Libya and continues to do so.” Leon made clear that he was not confirming alleged UAE violations of the arms embargo. He added, “I consider nothing more important than full compliance with United Nations resolutions.” [Reuters, NYT, 11/13/2015]

Europe worries Malta giving Libyans backdoor to EU
European lawmakers have expressed concern about a widening scandal in which hundreds of Libyans allegedly received Maltese residency permits in a corruption scheme, giving them free access to any EU country. A Maltese accountant is on trial for alleged fraud and falsification of documents suspected of allowing Libyan clients to obtain residency permits. Prosecutors alleged the defendant, who denies wrongdoing, created hundreds of fictitious companies to make it appear the Libyans had businesses in Malta. Malta and Libya have decades-old business ties. In a separate development, Malta’s conservative opposition party complained that some 7,000 Algerians were granted Schengen visas, which allow holders to travel freely through Europe’s border-free zone, by the Maltese consulate in Algiers over the past eighteen months. [AP, 11/12/2015]

Tripoli teachers strike over unpaid salaries
Most schools in Tripoli are closed due to a strike by teachers, many of whom have not been paid for at least two months. The strike started three days ago and has spread rapidly. The Tripoli teachers claim that they have been singled out, pointing to teachers in Misrata and Zawiya who have received their salaries. A prominent Tripoli official, however, insisted the problem was bureaucracy, not the lack of cash, corruption, or political targeting. With the new national ID system, salary disbursement is slower, he said, but not just for teachers. However, a teacher at a public school in Benghazi said that her salary had been paid regularly every month despite public schools being closed for well over a year. Only private schools are open in Benghazi. [Libya Herald, 11/12/2015]


Assad wins strategic victories ahead of Vienna talks
Syrian state television broadcast the capture of a strategic town on Thursday near the Damascus–Aleppo highway, marking President Bashar al-Assad’s second key victory in less than two days. Government troops are now in “full control” of al-Hader, a town just 15 miles from Aleppo and a former stronghold for opposition forces. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) confirmed the government’s takeover of al-Hader, which had previously been controlled by the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra Front and other allied Islamist factions. “The town is the biggest headquarters for rebel forces in southern Aleppo, and capturing it would bring the army closer to the key Aleppo–Damascus highway,” SOHR said. “Today’s advance is the most important strategic advance for Syrian regime forces since the Russians began their air strikes.” [AFP, Reuters, 11/13/2015]

United States to cripple ISIS-controlled oil fields in Syria
US officials said this week that Washington and its allies have increased air strikes targeting Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL)-controlled oil fields across eastern Syria. Despite the coalition’s periodic strikes on ISIS oil refineries in Syria over the past year, the jihadist group’s engineers have apparently been able to repair any damage quickly, allowing one of the group’s main sources of revenue to continue unabated. US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter has called ISIS’s oil exports “a critical pillar of the financial infrastructure” of the group, generating nearly $40 million a month according to estimates by the US Treasury Department. The goal of the operation is to destroy eight major oil fields – about two-thirds of the refineries controlled by ISIS. [NYT, 11/12/2015]

US air strike targets ‘Jihadi John’ in Syria
US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Friday US officials were still assessing the strike that targeted ISIS militant “Jihadi John,” whose real name is Mohammed Emwazi. “We are still assessing the results of this strike but the terrorists associated with Daesh [ISIS] need to know this: Your days are numbered and you will [be] defeated,” said Kerry. The United States carried out an air strike in Raqqa, Syria targeting Emwazi who participated in gruesome videos showing the killings of American and British hostages. [AFP, Al Arabiya, 11/13/2015]

Two soldiers killed in PKK mine attack in Turkey’s southeast
Two soldiers were killed on Friday in an outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) mine attack in the southeastern province of Diyarbakır. PKK militants detonated a mine placed on a road in the Lice district as a military convoy was passing. Two soldiers were killed in the attack, according to initial reports. A wide-scale operation has been launched to apprehend the militants responsible for the attack. [Hurriyet, 11/13/2015]

Kurdish forces seize Iraq’s Sinjar town from ISIS
Kurdish Peshmerga forces backed by US air strikes seized the Iraqi town of Sinjar from ISIS on Friday in one of the most significant counter-attacks since the militants swept through the north last year. The Kurdish regional security council said in a tweet that ISIS was “defeated and on the run,” as the Peshmerga secured Sinjar’s wheat silo, cement factory, hospital, and several other public buildings. Iraqi Kurdish regional President Massoud Barzani also publicly declared victory in the offensive, which could provide critical momentum in efforts to capture the western provincial capital Ramadi and Mosul in the north. The operation severed vital supply routes, including highway 47, used by ISIS to move fighters, weapons, oil, and other illicit commodities that provide funding for its self-proclaimed caliphate. Civilians appeared to have fled the town before the operation began. It is still not clear if most ISIS militants had carried out a tactical withdrawal. [Reuters, 11/13/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Fourteen killed in Yemen mosque bombing
A bomb exploded on Friday during midday prayers at a mosque attended by Houthi supporters in Yemen’s northwestern Mahwit region, killing several worshippers and wounding others. The blast took place in Shibam, a city about 40 km outside the capital Sana’a that has been an area of relative calm in the conflict-stricken country. No group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack. Previous attacks on mosques in central Yemen were claimed by ISIS. [Reuters, 11/13/2015]

Houthi political party, Ansarullah, says Hadi’s presidency is over
The political representation for the Houthi rebels, Ansar Allah, said on Thursday that Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi’s presidency is over. In an interview with Sada al-Massirah, Ansar Allah Spokesman, Mohammad Abdussalam, said that the UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed was late in responding to the movement’s letter in which Ansar Allah claimed it urged an agenda for the talks. Abdussalam added that the Yemeni army, as well as the popular committees loyal to the Houthi rebels, are untouchable because they are defending the country against the threat of the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and al-Qaeda. He said that the Houthis were also defending the country against foreign invasion. Abdussalam also accused President Hadi of evading peace talks saying he wants to stay in power, without any legal cover. [Al Masdar, 11/13/2015]

Popular resistance fight Houthis in Shawba province and Taiz
Local witnesses said that the Houthi rebels and popular resistance fighters clashed in Shabwa province on Thursday. Most of the popular resistance fighters are Yemeni tribal leaders trying to prevent the Houthi rebels from expanding further south. On Wednesday evening, the Saudi-led coalition also launched airstrikes on the rebels to help push them back. Meanwhile in Taiz, four Houthi rebels were killed in clashes with popular resistance fighters. The popular resistance has played an integral part to helping recapture cities from the Houthis, such as Aden. The Yemeni government has recently announced that it has begun integrating popular resistance fighters into the national army by opening up army training camps for fighters. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/13/2015]


EU to pay $3 billion for Turkey’s help in stemming migrant crisis
European Union (EU) leaders agreed in principle Thursday to pay EUR 3 billion ($3.23 billion) to Turkey over the next two years in return for additional support in stemming migration flows into Europe. The European Commission proposed a plan to give direct grants to Turkey for receiving and hosting refugees. The EU would contribute EUR 500 million to the grant program. The rest of the EUR 3 billion would be paid by EU member states according to size of economy, with Germany, the United Kingdom, and France as the largest donors. Alternatively, that amount could be contributed through unspent EU money, which normally is returned to EU member states and currently stands at EUR 2.3 billion for 2015. “The commission can put forward EUR 500 million, now it’s a question of how to find the rest. But in principle nobody contested this sum,” said German Chancellor Angela Merkel. EU leaders also agreed to host a special summit with Turkey to speed up talks on visa-free travel for Turkish citizens by March 2016 and open negotiations by the end of the year over Turkey’s EU membership bid. In return, Turkey will boost its border patrols in the Aegean Sea and on the land borders with Greece and Bulgaria. [WSJ, 11/12/2015]

US fund aims to increase investment in Egypt to $1 billion over three years
The Egyptian-American Enterprise Fund aims to increase its investments in the Egyptian market to $1 billion, according to the fund’s board member Hani Sarie-Eldin. The fund recently acquired a 20 percent stake of Fawry for e-payments through a deal worth $20 million. Sarie-Eldin said another deal worth $65 million was recently signed, however he refused to provide additional details. Sarie-Eldin said the fund has a capital of $300 million. The fund aims to support financial inclusion and increase foreign and local investment in Egypt.[DNE, 11/12/2015]

Saudi Arabia looks to reform energy subsidy program
Saudi Arabia is studying a program of sensitive energy subsidy reforms to reduce pressure on its economy. One senior official said the government plans to outline how it will gradually lift energy subsidies in January during the public launch of a new national agenda that includes economic, financial, and social reform measures. The government will also start to privatize state companies as it seeks to raise revenues, stem the draining of public money, and boost private sector activity. The official said the kingdom plans to extend existing welfare payments, such as unemployment benefits, to lessen the impact of subsidy cuts on the country’s poor and middle classes. He also said that businesses affected by more expensive electricity, for example, would get cheap loans to lessen the subsidy shock. [FT, 11/12/2015]

Kuwait to boost capital spending in 2016
Kuwait is planning to increase spending on infrastructure in 2016 as it seeks to offset the impact of lower oil prices on economic growth, Finance Minister and Deputy Premier Anas al-Saleh said. The government will reduce current spending (which typically includes subsidies and wages) to shore up public finances, with total expenditure likely be flat compared with 2015, he said. “We are an economy that depends on government expenditure, so if you stop that you go into stagnation,” al-Saleh said. “We have not yet, and we are are not planning, to cancel any of our projects or developments as we believe they are the best way to enhance our infrastructure and avoid any economic stagnation.” [Bloomberg, 11/12/2015]