Top News: ISIS Expels 60,000 From Homes in Eastern Syria

The al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as simply IS) has expelled more than 30,000 people from their homes in the eastern Syrian town of Shiheil, a stronghold of its jihadist rival the Nusra Front. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights a further 30,000 residents have been forced from their homes in the towns of Khasham and Tabieh Jazeera, also in eastern Deir Ezzor province.


Egypt to raise petrol prices by 78 percent as government cuts subsidies
Egypt’s government raised the prices of fuel by up to 78 percent starting Saturday, following on a promise to cut subsidies that eat up nearly a quarter of the state budget. Egypt also slashed its natural gas subsidies to several industries increasing gas prices by 30-75 percent, as part of the broad cut back on subsidies. The price hikes for fuel, in effect as of Friday midnight, follow an increase in electricity prices that were put in effect at the start of July. Anger mounted as many citizens objected to the price increase and Cairo’s taxi and microbus drivers staged impromptu protests. Cairo Governor Mostafa Saeed said on Sunday that the fares of public buses will not increase due to the fuel subsidy cuts that went into effect midnight of Friday. Meanwhile, Egypt’s Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi ordered on Monday for buses owned by the army to be sent to the streets to combat high fares following the increase in fuel prices. Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab promised that the increase in fuel prices will not have any impact on prices of foodstuffs. [Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, SIS, Ahram Online, DNE, 7/4/2014]

Sisi issues series of decrees; Raises sales tax on cigarettes and alcohol
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a number of decrees over the past few days, beginning with a decision to cap maximum wages for state employees at EGP 42,000 per month, which is thirty-five times the minimum wage. Sisi also issued a decree regulating the issuance of IDs for military and police personnel and the manufacturing of their uniforms. The decree introduced amendments to the penal code aimed at toughening penalties against forgeries. He also issued new amendments to the Traffic Law, ensuring harsher punishments. The changes also allow the prime minister to regulate or ban certain types of vehicles from driving in certain places and at certain times. Among other decisions, he amended the real estate law, extended terms in office for tourist chamber boards, appointed Hossam Abdel Rahim the head of the Court of Cassation. Local and imported cigarettes and alcohol will cost more as of Monday, after Sisi decided to raise sales taxes on both. The sales tax will increase by up to 120 percent on cigarettes and will double on alcohol. [SIS, Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, 7/7/2014]

Sisi says independence for Iraq’s Kurds would be ‘catastrophic’
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday that a referendum on the independence of Iraq’s Kurdish region, which the president of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish north, Massoud Barzani, asked the region’s parliament on Thursday to prepare, would lead to a “catastrophic” breakup of the country, which is facing an onslaught by Sunni Islamist militants. The comments from Sisi indicate a growing fear in the region that the division of Iraq could further empower the insurgents who have declared a “caliphate” on land seized in Iraq and neighbouring Syria. [Reuters, 7/7/2014]

Egypt’s prosecutor-general orders investigation into police rape claim
The prosecutor-general Hisham Barakat ordered on Thursday an investigation into allegations that a police officer raped an Azhar university student at an Islamist protest last year. According to news reports, the student will give her statement to the prosecution on Saturday morning. The alleged victim accused a police officer of raping her in a police vehicle during her detention following the dispersal of a student protest at Al-Azhar University in Cairo in December last year. He had also ordered “unannounced inspections on prisons all over Egypt” in order to “safeguard the legal and constitutional rights of all citizens,” according to a Thursday statement from the prosecution. Major General Abu Bakr Abdel Kareem, deputy interior minister for human rights, meanwhile said on Sunday that there are no human rights violations in Egypt’s prisons, and that there are no political prisons in the country’s jails. He also denied reports of torture and rape in the prisons. [Ahram Online, DNE, 7/7/2014]


2014 budget commits government to subsidy reform by January 2015
For the first time, Libya’s national budget commits the government to reforming its subsidy system. In article 24, the 2014 budget commits the government to substitute the current “goods and fuel subsidies into cash subsidies,” setting January 1, 2015 as the deadline for implementation. The budget says that this reform should be within “clear aims that provide social and economic stability” and national security. The budget also freezes wage increases. [Libya Herald (subscription required), 7/6/2014]

Full provisional results for House of Representative elections announced
The High National Elections Commission (HNEC) revealed the full provisional results of the elections for the House for Representatives elections and said that final results, following appeals and other procedures by interested parties, will be announced on July 20. Among the more significant changes since the interim results disclosed a week ago is that several candidates, who earlier appeared to be in the lead, have actually lost to their opponents. According to HNEC, twelve seats in the new parliament have not been filled. Also, forty-one candidates have been rejected by the commission implementing the Political Isolation Law. It is unclear how this will affect the outcome. [Libya Herald, 7/6/2014]

Two of three European kidnapped engineers freed
Three Europeans working for an Italian construction company were abducted in western Libya on Saturday, according to officials, and on Monday, the Italian foreign ministry said that two of them, from Bosnia and Macedonia, have been freed. Efforts continue to secure the release of the Italian national, fifty-three-year-old construction drilling specialist Marco Vallisa. The three men were abducted by unknown culprits in the western town of Zuwara, near the Tunisian border. Authorities have arrested a Libyan man suspected of involvement in the kidnappings, a Libyan official said without elaborating. [ANSAmed, 7/6/2014]

Gunmen storm Libyan culture minister’s home
As security continues to deteriorate in Libya, in another high-profile targeting of a politician, a group of unidentified gunmen broke into the Tripoli home of Libyan culture minister Al-Habib al-Amin, who was out with his family. The gunmen stole documents and vandalized the property, leaving a death threat letter. Meanwhile, according to Saiqa special forces figures, fifty-six kidnapped individuals, including military personnel, members of the security forces, and civilians, remain captured in Benghazi. [ANSAmed, 7/4/2014]


ISIS expels 60,000 from homes in eastern Syria
The al-Qaeda splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, also known as simply IS) has expelled more than 30,000 people from their homes in the eastern Syrian town of Shiheil, a stronghold of its jihadist rival the Nusra Front. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights a further 30,000 residents have been forced from their homes in the towns of Khasham and Tabieh Jazeera, also in eastern Deir Ezzor province. In the eastern areas ISIS has also launched a policy to “gain popularity” by setting strict controls on the price of black-market fuel. [Daily Star, 7/6/2014]

Syrian National Coalition meeting to elect new president
The opposition-in-exile umbrella group the National Coalition (SNC) began a three-day summit in Istanbul Sunday to elect a new president. Along with the vote for president—expected Tuesday—the Coalition will elect three vice presidents, a secretary general, and a political committee. The top two candidates to replace current president Ahmad Jarba—who has reached the two-term limit for the office—are senior coalition members Hadi Bahra and Muwaffaq Nairabiyeh, who belong to Jarba’s Democratic bloc. While political jockeying continued in Istanbul, the SNC also announced an impending regime assault on Aleppo. [AP, Daily Star, 7/7/2014]

Syrian warplanes strike inside Lebanese border
Syrian warplanes bombed gunmen inside Lebanese territory on Sunday, Lebanon’s official National News Agency reported. There were no immediate reports of casualties. The Lebanese town of Arsal and the area around it are predominantly Sunni, and residents largely sympathize with the Sunni-led uprising against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. [AFP, 7/6/2014]


Tens of thousands register to vote; no extension of registration deadline
Some 70,000 Tunisians have registered to vote as of July 4, said President of the Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (ISIE) Chafik Sarsar. Sarsar ruled out the possibility of an extension of the voter registration deadline of July 22. Experts say the failure of the public awareness campaign for voter registration is the primary reason for low registration numbers, although frustration with politics and political parties, the overlap with Ramadan, the limited hours of registration centers, and technical difficulties with registration technology have also played a role. [TAP, Tunisia Live, 7/6/2014]

Inflation rate up by 5.7 percent in June 2014
The inflation rate rose by 5.7 percent in June 2014, against 5.4 percent in May and 5.2 percent in April, according to the National Institute of Statistics (INS). [TAP, 7/7/2014]

Supplementary finance bill to reduce budget deficit
The supplementary finance law has provided for a reduction in the state budget 2014 from 28,125 billion dinars ($17.58 billion) to 27,775 billion dinars ($17.26 billion) and a decrease in the budget deficit to 5.8 percent. Minister of Economy and Finance Hakim Ben Hammouda has assured that “measures to streamline subsidies contained in the supplementary finance bill 2014 will not involve basic consumer products.” The objective of the draft law is to remedy to the deficiencies in the 2014 budget by ensuring a minimum level of financial balances, achieving tax justice, fighting against smuggling, and controlling government spending. [TAP, Asharq Al-Awsat, 7/4/2014]

Legislative election period begins
On July 6, the legislative election period opened. The stages of the electoral period include pre-campaign (July 6-October 3), campaign (October 4-24), electoral silence (October 25), and polling day (October 26). During pre-campaigning, the media must guarantee equal access to all the parties and all political personalities. The candidacies for the legislative elections will be open August 22-29. The period of electoral silence (October 25-26) will be marked by a ban on any political advertisement or electoral campaigning. [TAP, Mosaique FM (French), 7/6/2014]


Clashes between Houthi rebels and Yemeni army continue
On Monday, Yemeni warplanes conducted two airstrikes targeting Houthi rebels in Jawf. This happened after at least fifteen soldiers and twenty rebels were killed as a result of fighting that began on Friday in Amran. Houthi rebel attacks on residential neighborhoods has led many Yemenis to flee their homes and move to safer areas. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/7/2014, Associated Press 7/6/2014]

Al-Qaeda militants kill six soldiers in Abyan province
On Sunday, suspected al-Qaeda gunmen ambushed an army vehicle on a main road outside Mahfad, killing six soldiers in Abyan. [Al Arabiya, 7/6/2014]

Six people killed during attacks on Yemeni-Saudi border post
Two suspected al-Qaeda militants blew themselves up on Saturday after being trapped inside a government building in southern Saudi Arabia. The two were part of a group of six al-Qaeda militants who attacked the Wadia border post between Yemen and Saudi Arabia on Friday. The attacks highlighted the threat posed by militants to the security of both nations. [Reuters, 7/5/2014].

DNO resumes work in Yemen
On Monday, the Norwegian energy company DNO International said in a statement that it had resumed oil production from Yemen, ending a two-week interruption in its operations. DNO suspended operations in Yemen on June 24 after local labor unions took unilateral action to stop work at Block 32 and Block 43 located in Howarim. [DNO, 7/7/2014]


Rare appearance for militant leader
The leader of the Islamic State (IS) made his first public appearance at a well-known mosque in the Iraqi city of Mosul, according to a video released on Saturday. He asserted his position as caliph, or spiritual leader, calling himself Caliph Abraham, a reference to the prophet Abraham, who appears in the Quran. The militant group posted online pictures showing demolished ancient shrines and mosques in and around the historic northern Iraqi city. At least four shrines belong to Sunni Arab or Sufi figures have been demolished, while six Shia mosques have also been destroyed. Separately, a suicide bomber detonated explosives inside a cafe in a predominantly-Shia neighborhood in west Baghdad on Sunday evening, killing at least four people, security and medical officials said. [AFP, NY Times, 7/7/2014]

Saudi Arabia jails human rights activist for fifteen years
A Saudi court sentenced prominent Saudi rights lawyer Walid Abu al-Khair to fifteen years in prison on Sunday on charges that include seeking to undermine the state and insulting the judiciary, the state news agency reported. The rights activist was also fined $53,300, banned from travelling outside the kingdom for another fifteen years, and had all his websites closed down, the SPA said. [AFP, Reuters, 7/7/2014]

Lebanon charges twenty-eight with belonging to ISIS
Government Commissioner to the Military Court charged on Monday twenty-eight people with belonging to the Islamic State of Iraq and Sham (ISIS), the state-run National News Agency (NNA) reported. The NNA said that seven suspects are already in custody, detained in security raids on hotels. The twenty-eight felons are charged with membership in ISIS, planning to carry out suicide bombings using explosive belts, and preparing explosive-rigged vehicles. [Naharent, 7/7/2014]

Kuwaiti court releases opposition leader
A Kuwaiti court on Monday allowed Musallam Al Barrak, a prominent opposition figure to go home on bail. The public prosecutor previously had ordered Barrak be detained for ten days on Wednesday on charges of insulting the supreme judicial council and slandering its chairman Faisal al-Marshed in a speech he delivered at a public rally last month. The court’s decision comes after five nights of clashes between opposition activists who have been demanding his release and riot police who have fired tear gas and stun grenades and arrested more than fifty people. [Naharnet, Gulf News, 7/7/2014]