Top News: ISIS Seizes More Territory in Syria

Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) insurgents have seized several towns and villages from rival groups in the Syrian province of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the new territory would open the way for ISIS to advance further westward.





US calls on Egypt to investigate Raba’a deaths in response to HRW report
The United States, on Tuesday, called on the Egyptian government to investigate the violence that left over 1,000 people dead, according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. Speaking in response to a question about the HRW report on the August 14 dispersal of the pro-Morsi Raba’a al-Adaweya protest, US State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said, “It’s troubling that one year later, no security forces have been held accountable in events that resulted in the deaths of approximately a thousand Egyptians.” Egypt’s State Information Service issued a second statement on the report on Wednesday, again accusing HRW of bias and preempting “the work of the national fact-finding commission.” [State Department, 8/13/2014]

Mubarak testifies in court, retrial verdict expected September 27
An Egyptian court resumed on Wednesday the retrial of former President Hosni Mubarak, his two sons, his interior minister and six of his aides on charges of killing protesters and exporting gas to Israel. Mubarak testified on his own behalf during his trial’s final hearing and denied charges that he ordered the killing of protesters who participated in the January 25, 2011 revolution. In his 30 minute speech, he went on to remind the court of his personal achievements as president and said that he will accept the court’s judgment. A Cairo criminal court will issue its verdict in the retrial of Hosni Mubarak on September 27. Egyptian politicians remain divided on Mubarak, with some supporting the trial and others defending the president. [AP, Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), Reuters, Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 8/13/2014]

More than 50 percent of Egyptian youth are poor, says CAPMAS
Around 27.8 percent of Egyptian youth are poor while 24.1 percent are near the poverty line, the latest report issued by the Central Agency of Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS) reveals. The 18 and 29 year-old age group, represents 23.7 percent (approximately 20 million) of the total population. The statistics agency added that unemployment rate among the youth is 29 percent. [DNE, 8/12/2014]

Egypt may ban Brotherhood supporters from joining army
In an announcement before the public prosecutor following the killing of twenty-one Egyptian border guards at Farafra, attorney at law Azeb Makhlouf said that Egypt may ban Muslim Brotherhood supporters from joining the army. The announcement, in which Makhlouf warned about the recruitment of young men affiliated with the outlawed group, aroused major controversy in judicial, political, and military circles. The announcement referenced the fact that one of those killed by the armed forces during the Farafra incident was said to be a Brotherhood supporter and was suspected of having helped facilitate the attack. In response to the possible pan, legal expert Mohammed Kbeish said, “Blocking a group from mandatory military service is not right according to the 2014 Egyptian Constitution of 2014. It stipulates that all citizens are equal in right, duty and freedom.” [Al Monitor, 8/12/2014]


Libyan parliament asks for UN help as militias clash
Libya’s recently elected parliament, the House of Representatives, is turning to the United Nations for “international intervention” as militia violence rages across the country. Lawmakers convened on Wednesday in the city of Tobruk, where they adopted a resolution asking the UN Security Council for help. It passed with 111 votes in favor from among 124 lawmakers present. The UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) issued a statement strongly condemning the warring sides for using force to resolve political differences and saying that it “deplores” the increasing civilian casualties. UNSMIL said it is working with international partners and maintaining contact with all parties to mediate a ceasefire and to seek a political resolution to the crisis. [AP, 8/13/2014]

First oil shipment leaves Ras Lanuf terminal since end of blockade
An oil tanker carrying 670,000 barrels of crude has left Libya’s Ras Lanuf oil terminal – the first shipment since the port was reopened following a year of blockades by armed protesters. The shipment was a positive development for Libya’s fragile central government, which is struggling to contain inter-militia fighting and has been strapped for cash as the blockades choked off its main source of revenue. Austrian energy group OMV, which said lower output in Libya hurt its profits in the second quarter, chartered the tanker. It is now producing only 12,000 barrels per day in the North African country, a little more than a third of the level before the 2011 revolution. [Reuters, 8/13/2014]

Reports of civilian casualties following heavy shelling in western Tripoli
At least five civilians were wounded with unconfirmed reports of a number of deaths last night following heavy shelling of several districts in western Tripoli. The worst of the shelling took place in Ghut Shaal, which largely supports the Zintanis in the current conflict. Most residents in the district fled their houses. Locals reported that the majority of the shells were fired from Misratan held positions. [Libya Herald, 8/13/2014]


ISIS seizes more territory in Syria
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) insurgents have seized several towns and villages from rival groups in the Syrian province of Aleppo. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the new territory would open the way for ISIS to advance further westward. The latest gains include the towns of Turkmen Bareh and Akhtarin, which is thirty miles northeast of Aleppo. [Reuters, 8/13/2014]

Syrian rebel fighters preparing for siege on Aleppo
Syrian government forces have nearly encircled Aleppo preparing to siege in order to gain control of the city from rebels. Rebel commanders in Aleppo say they are stockpiling goods as aid groups step up food deliveries seeking to prevent the same kind of mass starvation that forced them to surrender the much smaller city of Homs in May. At the same time, extremists with the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) are invading the city from the north, already uprooting the FSA from the countryside. [Wall Street Journal, 8/13/2014]

Syria says 1000 Iraqi families fled over border
Nearly 1000 Iraqi families fleeing advances by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) have taken refuge in the Syrian province of Hassakeh, the Syrian government said on Tuesday. Meanwhile, the UN agency for refugees, UNHCR, put the number of Iraqis who had fled to Syria at 10,000 to 15,000 people. The agency said it had provided aid to hundreds of families staying in three villages and a school as well as distributing tents and other relief materials. [AFP, 8/13/2014]


Nearly half of Tunisian women are victims of violence
The secretary of state for women and families, Neila Shaaban, said after the presentation of a draft law on the fight against violence against women in the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) that 47.6 percent of Tunisian women are victims of violence. Minister of Justice, Human Rights and Transitional Justice Hafedh Ben Salah noted that only 551 were convicted of violence against women between 2012 and 2013. The minister stressed the need to reform the criminal justice system to protect women from violence including by reversing two paragraphs of Article 227 that allow an abuser to escape conviction by marrying his victim if a minor. He also suggested harsher penalties for sexual harassment in the workplace. [Mosaique FM, 8/13/2014]

HAICA sanctions three TV channels
Tunisia’s Independent High Authority for Audiovisual Communication (HAICA) has sanctioned three Tunisian TV channels for broadcasting speeches “calling for violence.” HAICA sanctioned Nessma TV’s popular show “Ness Nessma News” by one-month suspension, on August 6, and Hannibal TV’s program “Yahdoth Fi Tunis” with a one-week suspension, on August 3, both sanctions starting from the issuing date. Almutawassit TV also received a warning from HAICA. Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa on Thursday said that measures taken were in the framework of administrative and legal arrangements. [Tunisia Live, Magharebia, 8/13/2014]

Some seven million tourists expected to Tunisia in 2014
Minister of Tourism Amel Karboul said Tuesday that he expects an estimated 7 million tourists to visit Tunisia in 2014, provided the security situation remains stable. She explained, during a meeting with the press, the new strategy of Tunisian tourism that made it possible to attract about two million tourists in July. [TAP, 8/13/2014]


Fighting kills at least fifteen in Jawf
Fighting between Houthi rebels and residents of Jawf loyal to the Islah party has killed at least fifteen people on Wednesday, effectively collapsing the ceasefire truce reached last week under the supervision of the presidential mediation commission. In an earlier effort on Sunday to reach another ceasefire agreement, Houthi rebels fired artillery shells on the presidential mediation commission, forcing it to leave the area. [Reuters, Al Masdar (Arabic), Yemen Post, 8/13/2014]

Yemeni peacekeeping task force protest at camp, force commander to step down
The Yemeni peacekeeping task force designated by the United Nations (UN) protested inside their camp on Tuesday and demanded the resignation of its brigade commander, General Mohamed al-Atmi. The soldiers prevented the commander from entering the camp and clarified that they were protesting against General al-Atmi because he sent 300 unarmed soldiers to face al-Qaeda in Hadramawt. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/12/2014]

Lifting oil subsidies not enough to address Yemen’s financial problems
Yemeni economists said the recently approved oil subsidy reform was not enough to address financial problems faced in Yemen mainly due to repeated attacks on crude pipelines, delayed donor aid, and absence of investors to develop the non-oil sector. [Yemen Post, 8/12/2014]

Russia to update Yemen’s weapons
Yemeni army chief, Major General Ahmad Ali al-Ashawal, met with the Russian senior expert in Yemen on Tuesday to discuss armament affairs and updating Yemen’s weapons and equipment. They also discussed improving mutual relations between the two armies, as well as the possibility of carrying out joint military training for both armies on Yemeni or Russian territories. The Russian expert also confirmed intentions of absorbing greater numbers of Yemeni students in Russian military academies. [Saba, 8/12/2014]


United States to send 130 advisers to aid Iraqis
The Pentagon has sent an additional 130 military advisers to northern Iraq to help plan the evacuation of thousands of displaced Yazidis trapped by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on Mount Sinjar. United States officials said they believed that small ground force would be necessary to secure the passage of the stranded members of the Yazidi group. Politically, Nouri al-Maliki said on Wednesday the appointment of Haider al-Abadi to replace him as Iraq’s Prime Minister violated the constitution and had no value. Abadi won immediate endorsements from the United States and Iran on Tuesday as he called on political leaders to end feuds that allowed ISIS to take over a third of the country. [NYT, 8/13/2014]

EU allows individual states to send military aid to Iraq
The European Union failed on Tuesday to agree on a joint position on supplying weapons to Iraqi Kurds battling Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants, but said individual members could send arms in coordination with Baghdad. The countries in favor of supplying weapons were France, Italy, and the Czech Republic, diplomats said. [Reuters, 8/13/2014]

Bahrain hands out life sentences to fourteen Shias
A Bahrain court sentenced fourteen Shias to life in prison Wednesday over the death of a policeman in an anti-regime protest, a judicial source said. The fourteen were found guilty of premeditated murder, possessing petrol bombs, and taking part in an unauthorized demonstration near the capital Manama. [AFP, 8/13/14]