Top News: Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham Kills 270 In Syrian Gas Field Takeover
ISIS fighters have killed 270 Syrian regime fighters, civilian security guards, and employees since seizing a gas field in Homs province, a monitoring group said Friday.


Gunmen kill twenty-two Egyptian military border guards near Libya
Gunmen armed with rocket-propelled grenades attacked a border guard post Saturday in Egypt’s western desert in an assault that killed twenty-one troops deployed in the province along the border with neighboring Libya. The death toll from the attack had risen to twenty-two troops, including three officers. Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi called it a “terrorist attack” on soldiers defending the country’s borders that will “not go unanswered.” Security officials said the assailants were smugglers, but an army spokesman said on his Facebook page that “terrorists”–the term authorities use to describe Islamist militants–were behind the attack. Sisi, along with top state officials including Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab and Defense Minister Sedky Sobhy, attended the military funeral for the border guards on Sunday and announced three days of national mourning for the killed troops. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, AP, Reuters, Mada Masr, Aswat Masriya, The Guardian, 7/20/2014]

Kerry travels to Cairo on Monday for Gaza talks
US Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to Cairo early Monday for crisis talks on Gaza, following President Barack Obama’s call for an “immediate ceasefire” between Israelis and Palestinians. While Egypt’s ceasefire proposal continues to be the basis of talks aiming to end the violence in Gaza, Egyptian officials were absent from high-level discussions on the issue held in Doha, Qatar on Sunday, said an anonymous foreign ministry source. Osama Hamdan, who is responsible for external affairs in Hamas, said in a statement on Saturday that the Egyptian initiative was not in the interest of the Palestinian people. Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry said that the Egyptian ceasefire initiative on Gaza is still the only initiative on the table, and that Egypt did not review any other ceasefire initiative–whether from Turkey or Qatar–and that Egypt has no plans to revise its ceasefire proposal. The foreign ministry condemned the escalation of Israeli military operations in Gaza and its attack on al-Shejaiya district, and the United Nations Human Rights Council said it would hold an emergency session on Israel’s offensive in Gaza on Wednesday at the request of Egypt, Pakistan, and the Palestinians. Meanwhile, Egypt opened the Rafah border crossing on Saturday to receive wounded Palestinians. [Ahram Online, AP, Reuters, Aswat Masriya, 7/21/2014]

Egyptian Gaza convoy returns to Cairo after officials block Sinai entry
An aid convoy headed from Egypt to Gaza was stopped at the Balouza security checkpoint in North Sinai and forced to turn back Saturday afternoon, several kilometres from the Rafah border crossing. The eleven-vehicle convoy was to deliver food and medicine to the besieged Palestinian city of Gaza. Journalist Tamer Abu Arab said that the convoy waited for two hours at the checkpoint before the organizers were asked to return to Cairo as the military would not be able to secure the convoy or supplies in the embattled Palestinian strip. “The organizers negotiated calmly and offered to sign official papers acknowledging responsibility for their personal safety, but the military officer said the convoy had ten minutes to leave or it would be forcibly dispersed,” Arab said. The aid convoy was organized by the Popular Committee to Support the Palestinians’ Uprising alongside other political movements including al-Dostour Party, Strong Egypt Party, and Popular Current. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, 7/19/2014]

Reforming Egypt’s black market – high hurdles, big rewards
The economist behind a plan to unlock at least $380 billion worth of assets from Egypt’s black market says President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi must first restore another asset that has depreciated over the years: the trust of a wary public. He has given Sisi a plan outlining specific changes to the bureaucracy and legal code needed to integrate an estimated 60 percent of the population into the system by registering and documenting ordinary Egyptians’ assets. [Reuters, 7/21/2014]


Clashes between rival militias in Libya kill forty-seven
Clashes between rival militias fighting for control of the international airport in Tripoli have killed forty-seven people over the past twenty-four hours, according to Libya’s health ministry late Sunday. Fighting between militias from Zintan and Misrata had resumed after a failed ceasefire effort. Television footage showed a mortar shell striking a Libyan Arab Airlines plane and a column of black smoke billowing from inside the airport, which has been closed since last Monday. As fighting continues, reports indicate that the airport at Zuwara is preparing to handle both domestic and international flights. [AP, 7/21/2014]

Italian oil company staff evacuated from Libya
Italian oil and gas giant Eni has evacuated fifteen members of its Tripoli office, moving them to the offshore Bouri oilfield and then on to Malta and Italy. Other oil companies, such as France’s Total, have also evacuated staff, by road to Tunisia, as have a number of embassies and international organizations. Meanwhile, production at the El Fil field in Murzuk basin, operated jointly by Eni and Libya’s National Oil Corporation, has reportedly been reduced due to the latest violence gripping Tripoli. The field resumed production in June after local members of the Petroleum Facilities Guard called off a strike. [Libya Herald, 7/20/2014]

Libya looks to International Criminal Court to prosecute militias
Libya is considering allowing the International Criminal Court (ICC) to prosecute those responsible for the recent violence in Tripoli and elsewhere, notably the attacks on Tripoli International Airport. Minister of Justice Salah Marghani discussed the idea with ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda at The Hague, according to the prime minister’s office. The ICC can only undertake prosecutions if they are referred by the UN Security Council or if the government of a country where the incidents took place makes the request. The decision appears to be directed at both Misratan and Zintani forces and their commanders. [Libya Herald, 7/19/2014]

Outgoing legislature weighs in on Tripoli’s crisis, rejects foreign intervention
As it prepares to hand power over to the new legislature, the outgoing General National Congress (GNC) weighed in on the current crisis gripping Libya, saying it rejects on principle the prospect of foreign intervention, something the government last week said it was considering requesting. In a statement the GNC stressed the critical importance of dialogue in resolving the situation, adding that safeguarding the revolution was the responsibility of what it referred to as “military and civil revolutionaries.” Officials have postponed the release of final results from the House of Representatives elections, which were expected on Sunday, until tomorrow. [Libya Herald, 7/20/2014]


Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham kills 270 in Syrian gas field takeover
ISIS fighters have killed 270 Syrian regime fighters, civilian security guards, and employees since seizing a gas field in Homs province, a monitoring group said Friday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights described Thursday’s takeover of the Shaar field as the biggest anti-regime operation by ISIS since it emerged in the Syrian conflict last year. The Syrian Observatory announced, “A large majority of the men killed were executed at gunpoint after being taken prisoner following the takeover of the camp.” [Reuters, 7/21/2014]

More Western fighters joining militants in Iraq and Syria
Thousands of foreign fighters have boosted the ranks of different militant groups in Syria and Iraq in recent months, according to US officials. The surge in foreign fighters is driving fresh concern about potential terrorist plots aimed at the United States or its allies. As many as 10,000 foreign fighters, 3000 of which hold western passports, have joined the militias seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and the ISIS fighters. [LA Times, 7/21/2014]

Syria thanks Russia for its victory
The Syrian Foreign Minister said in a letter to his Russian counterpart, that his regime believes its victory over the rebellion is assured, thanks to the support of Moscow and its other allies. In the letter the Prime Minister stated, “Syria’s unwavering confidence in its victory is thanks to its people’s resistance, and to the support of its friends, especially Russia.” This news comes as President Assad reappointed Najah al-Attar as his vice president but made no mention of his other deputy, the veteran diplomat Faruq al-Sharaa. [AFP, 7/21/2014]


Tunisia cracks down on radical mosques, media
Tunisian authorities say all mosques and media calling for jihad are to be immediately closed in a bid to end a radical movement they fear will derail the nation’s move to democracy. A statement early Sunday announced the closing of mosques operating outside control of the Religious Affairs Ministry. Sixteen have been arrested for celebrating the Chaambi attack. The government also announced the closing of unlicensed TV and radio stations that call for jihad; two radio stations are already closed. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI) denounced the decision to close some satellite channels and social networking pages as a violation of freedom of expression and opinion. President of the National Union of Tunisian journalists (SNJT) Néji Bghouri also said that the war against terrorism must not serve as a pretext to undermine freedom of expression and diversity of the media landscape. [AP, TAP, ANHRI, 7/20/2014]

ISIE reports 452,000 registered voters
The number of voters registered for the upcoming presidential and legislative elections stands at 452,000, fifty percent of which are young people, according to the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE). There will be no extension of the registration deadline, which is tomorrow, July 22 at midnight. [L’Economiste Maghrébin, 7/21/2014]

Thirty-four suspects in Chaambi terror attack arrested in Kasserine
Thirty four individuals suspected to have ties with the terrorist group that targeted the national army in Mount Chaambi were arrested Saturday in Kasserine during a police raid. Those arrested will be transferred to Tunis after local police questioning. Some of the suspects took part in celebrations of the terrorist attack of Chaambi or expressed their sympathy with the terrorists. Among the other sixty-three individuals arrested during a large security campaign led in Sidi Bouzid, Kasserine, and El Kef, is the terrorist Makram Mouelhi. [TAP, 7/19/2014]


Ceasefire agreement reached in Jawf
The committee tasked with ending the violence between Houthi rebels and the Yemeni army in Jawf reached a ceasefire agreement just days after Houthi rebels took over two military bases in the area. The army regained control over their territories following the ceasefire. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/21/2014]

Constitution drafting committee discusses legislative branch
In an initial drafting of the constitution on Sunday, the constitution drafting committee discussed the legislative branch of the federalist government. The draft articles addressed the responsibilities and structure of the legislative branch. President Abdrabo Mansour Hadi also appointed six members to the Supreme Judicial Council and five members to the Presidential Office High Authority for Tender Control (HATC). [Al Masdar (Arabic), Saba (Arabic), 7/21/2014]

Yemen struggles towards fuel price reform as finances crumble
A clampdown on state spending was an effort by Yemen’s government this month to win public support before its biggest economic reform in years: higher fuel prices. But an angry public may not be won over. In the long run, reducing the subsidies would be good news for the state budget; they cost about $3 billion last year, or a third of state revenue. Some of the money freed up by the reform could be used to increase fuel supplies, easing the shortages which anger the public. [Reuters, 7/21/2014]


ISIS claims responsibility for wave of Baghdad bombings
The Islamic State (ISIS) has claimed responsibility for a wave of car bombs that targeted mostly Shia areas of Baghdad which killed at least twenty-seven people on Saturday. The blasts were the deadliest in the Iraqi capital since the ISIS offensive. This comes as the United Nations accused ISIS fighters of executions, rape and forced recruitment of children during their campaign in taking over large swaths of Iraqi territory. [Reuters, BBC 7/21/2014]

Iraqi catholic leader says Islamic state worse than Genghis Khan
The head of Iraq’s largest church said on Sunday that Islamic State militants who drove Christians out of Mosul were worse than Mongol leader Genghis Khan, who ransacked medieval Baghdad. The jihadist fighters caught Christians in Mosul off guard, who initially left them in relative peace but later forced them to flee the city or face death. The new development illustrates that the Islamic State insurgents are now confident enough of its power on Iraq’s second city to impose their extremist rules. [Naharnet, Reuters, 7/21/2014]

Bahrain’s main Shia opposition bloc may face a three-month suspension
Bahrain has filed a lawsuit to suspend al-Wefaq’s activities for three months, accusing the largest Shia opposition group for violating the kingdom’s law on associations, the official BNA news agency reported Sunday. Political parties are banned in Bahrain, and al-Wefaq has the status of an association. [Naharnet, 7/21/2014]

Saudi Arabia investigates imams who did not condemn al-Qaeda attack
Saudi Arabia’s Islamic Affairs Ministry is investigating seventeen mosque imams in the capital Riyadh for not using their Friday sermons to denounce an al-Qaeda attack this month, the English daily Arab News reported on Saturday. The conservative Islamic kingdom has kept a close eye on mosque sermons for evidence of militancy since last decade, when al-Qaeda staged a series of attacks inside Saudi Arabia that killed hundreds. [Reuters, 7/21/2014]