Top News: ISIS Storms Army Base in Raqqa

Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters stormed one of the government’s last military posts in the northern province of Raqqa in an overnight attack killing dozens of soldiers, activists said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the clashes continued into Thursday and that there were still government troops in the base.


Ministry of social solidarity says draft NGO law in line with new constitution
In a statement on Thursday, Egypt’s ministry of social solidarity said that it is committed to its recent NGO draft law and that the law is in line with Egypt’s 2014 constitution. A statement from Minister of Social Solidarity, Ghada Wali, to Egypt’s cabinet, sent in response to civil society organizations’ criticisms of the law, said that the law reflects the ministry’s commitment to achieving the aspirations of Egyptian civil society. According to the statement, the ministry will wait for the election of the upcoming parliament, in order for the elected officials to approve the law. Wali’s remarks come after several human rights organizations released a statement condemning the NGO draft law as a violation of Egypt’s constitution. [Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 8/7/2014]

Obama says Al Jazeera journalists should be released
US President Barack Obama on Wednesday urged the release of three Al Jazeera journalists sentenced to long prison terms in Egypt on charges of aiding the now-banned Muslim Brotherhood organization. Addressing a conference at the end of the US-Africa Leaders Summit, Obama emphasized the right of journalists to play a critical role in their societies. “We have been clear both publicly and privately, they should be released,” he said at the news conference. US State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki also said in a press briefing on Monday that Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the issue of “arbitrary arrests” in Egypt during a meeting with Egyptian Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab. [Ahram Online, DNE, AFP, 8/7/2014]

Court to rule on dissolution of Brotherhood party on August 9
The High Administrative Court announced that the verdict in the case regarding the dissolution of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) is to be issued on August 9. A number of lawyers had filed lawsuits demanding the party’s dissolution, claiming that the party was established illegally and that it has harmed national security and helped the Brotherhood in its alleged crimes. The FJP released a statement in anticipation of the verdict assuring that its members will continue their work. “[The party’s] men, women and youths revolting in the squares is proof that political work does not exist by the existence of headquarters and air conditioned halls, but through dedicated work, struggle and continuous efforts to serve the public,” the statement read. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 8/6/2014]

World Bank agrees to $500 million Egypt loan for home gas delivery
The World Bank has agreed to grant Egypt a $500 million loan to finance a mega-project delivering natural gas to homes across the country, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab announced Tuesday. Egypt will have a grace period of up to eight years on the loans, while payments on the loan will be made over a twenty-eight year period. [DNE, Al-Ahram (Arabic), 8/6/2014]


Libyan parliament calls for UN-backed ceasefire to end clashes
Libya’s House of Representatives voted on a resolution calling for an immediate ceasefire under United Nations supervision to end three weeks of clashes among rival armed factions that have killed more than 200 people. Details of the proposal were not immediately available, and it was unclear whether warring militias would accept the decision after some of their political allies had already dismissed the newly-elected body as unconstitutional. In an effort to consolidate their transition from the previous parliament, the lawmakers also voted to hand some executive powers temporarily to the House until a new presidential election. [Reuters, 8/6/2014]

Libya’s extremists tighten grip over Benghazi
An umbrella group for eastern Libya’s extremist militias announced that it had overrun three more army bases in Benghazi and seized large amounts of heavy weapons, including armored vehicles, tightening their grip on the city. The Benghazi revolutionary shura council, comprising extremist militias like Ansar al-Sharia, posted pictures of its leaders posing in front of tanks, multiple rocket launchers, and artillery they claimed to have seized from the overrun bases. The pictures could not be independently verified, but an official in the city confirmed the militias’ recent victories and said they were now shelling the army’s remaining strongholds on the outskirts of the city. Meanwhile, Operation Dignity, led by rogue general Khalifa Haftar who launched the armed campaign against Islamists in the east, affirmed its support for the House of Representatives and that its soldiers will protect it. [AP, 8/6/2014]

Ministry of electricity urges decreased energy consumption
As power cuts continue to plague the country, the ministry of electricity and renewable energy is urging Libyans to limit their use of electricity at home and at the office, asking them to turn off lights, fans, and air conditioners. The ministry has said that the power cuts, resulting from a shortage in fuel supply for power plants, are beyond its control. Damaged power lines in and around Tripoli, as well as the shutdown of maintenance projects at other stations, have exacerbated the problem. [Libya Herald, 8/6/2014]

Fuel tank fire under control, says National Oil Corporation
Libya’s National Oil Corporation (NOC) announced today that firefighters have been able to bring the fire under control in the four fuel tanks at the Brega fuel depot along Tripoli’s Airport Road. Authorities expect that the small fires at the other four tanks would be completely extinguished by the end of the day. The large fires have been raging since fuel tanks were struck by shelling during inter-militia clashes in the battle for the main airport. There will always be danger of a catastrophe if shells continue to fall in the vicinity, threatening to ignite the tanks, the NOC warned. [Libya Herald, 8/7/2014]


ISIS storms army base in Raqqa
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters stormed one of the government’s last military posts in the northern province of Raqqa in an overnight attack killing dozens of soldiers, activists said. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced the clashes continued into Thursday and that there were still government troops in the base. At least twenty-seven pro-government fighters were killed after three ISIS fighters blew themselves up in car bombs at the gates of the base. [Reuters, 8/7/2014]

US rules out working with the Assad regime
Two senior White House officials, Ben Rhodes and Jake Sullivan declared that the Obama administration has ruled out the possibility of working with the Assad regime in Syria to counter the threat posed by the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). The decision rebuffs any suggestions that the US might have to consider a counter-terrorism partnership with the regime. The two White House officials dismissed chances of such a partnership last week during a closed-door meeting at the White House with Syrian opposition leaders, according to meeting participants. [Wall Street Journal, 8/7/2014]

Refugee families in Lebanon transported back to Syria
Some 1,500 Syrian refugee families were transported back into Syria Thursday with the help of Syrian and Lebanese authorities. The families, who had taken refuge in the Lebanese border town of Arsal, returned to the Syrian town of Qara. The families had taken refuge in Arsal to escape fighting in Syria. Some of the families were transported to other towns including the Christian town of Maaloula and other neighboring villages. [The Daily Star, 8/7/2014]


President Marzouki, Vice President Joe Biden talk
Fostering bilateral relations binding Tunisia and the United States at all levels, especially as regards economy and security, was the focus of President Moncef Marzouki’s meeting on Tuesday with US Vice President Joe Biden. Biden asserted his country’s will to boost security and military cooperation between the two countries through consolidation of Tunisia’s military and security competences at the technical and logistic levels to counter terrorism. [TAP, 8/6/2014]

Tunisia’s inflation rate reaches 6 percent in July
The inflation rate increased in July 2014 to reach 6 percent, against 5.7 percent in June, hitting its highest rate this year. Inflation has been rising for the last four months, boosted by rising prices for food and clothing. The executive board of the Central Bank of Tunisia (BCT) decided Tuesday to leave unchanged the Central Bank key interest rate. In June, BCT raised its key interest rate to 4.75 percent from 4.5 percent to counter inflation, in its second rate hike in six months. [TAP, Reuters, 8/7/2014]

Egyptian aircraft land in Tunisia
Seven Egyptian aircraft landed Wednesday at the International Gabes-Matmata Airport to evacuate about 1,700 Egyptian nationals fleeing violence in Libya. More than 3,000 Egyptian nationals blocked at the Ras Ajdir border post must be repatriated to Cairo via Gabes-Matmata International airport on Thursday and Friday. [TAP, 8/7/2014]


Yemeni army kills suspected al-Qaeda militants in Hadramawt
Yemeni security forces killed seven suspected al-Qaeda militants on Thursday when they tried to attack an army facility in Hadramawt. A small number of militants also briefly took over several government buildings, including the police headquarters and an intelligence office, in the nearby town of al-Qoton on Thursday. On Wednesday, nine suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in Hadramawt when they tried to ambush troops heading to Yemen to bolster state authority there. Locals say the militants are seeking to impose a radical version of Islamic law in Hadramawt. [ReutersSaba, 8/7/2014]

Tribal militants attack oil pipeline in Marib, electricity generator on the verge of collapse
Tribal militants blew up an oil pipeline in Marib on Thursday. The country is undergoing huge losses as a result and security forces have not been able to capture the militants. In related news, expert electricians stated that Marib’s main electricity generator is on the verge of collapse after the government delayed its maintenance. Increased attacks on the power transmission lines have also contributed to its deteriorating state. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/7/2014]

Fishermen protest over fuel subsidy cuts in Hadramawt
Fishermen in Hadramawt announced they will continue their strike until Sunday in protest against the government’s decision to cut fuel subsidies in a strike that began last Monday. Fishermen need approximately 1,200 liters of either gas or diesel each week. They expressed their inability to afford the increased costs of fuel and gas, as fish prices in Yemen are set by the ministry of fisheries. Omar Qumbain, the head of the fisheries union in Hadramawt, said the union also plans to stage protests in front of government buildings in Hadramawt early next week. The fishermen strikes are concurrent with protests in other parts of Yemen that rejected the cut of fuel subsidies as instructed by the government on July 30. [Yemen Times, 8/7/2014]


ISIS extends gains in northern Iraq, as a car bomb targets Baghdad
Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) militants expanded their gains in northern Iraq on Thursday, seizing more towns and strengthening their foothold near the Kurdish region. The advance forced thousands of residents of Iraq’s largest Christian town to flee. In Baghdad, a car bomb targeted a Shia area of Baghdad killing fourteen people. [Reuters, 8/7/2014]

US treasury sanctions three Kuwait-based financiers
The United States Treasury Department sanctioned three Kuwait-based financiers on Wednesday for allegedly funding extremist groups in Syria and Iraq. The Treasury Department’s top counterterrorism official, David Cohen, called on Kuwait to do more to combat the financing of terrorism from inside its borders. The sanctions come after Kuwait’s Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Nayef al-Ajmi resigned in May following a public charge by Cohen that he was promoting the funding of extremist groups in Syria. [Wall Street Journal, 8/7/2014]

Lebanese army surround border town of Arsal
Lebanon’s army surrounded a border town occupied by jihadist fighters on Wednesday as mediators continued negotiations to end to the most serious spillover of Syria’s civil war yet on Lebanese soil. Soldiers arrested men and evacuated refugees from the hill town of Arsal on the border with Syria. Sunni Muslim clerics trying to mediate an end to the fighting said the ceasefire agreed to on Tuesday was extended for a second day. [Reuters, 8/7/2014]