Jordanian military warplanes struck a convoy of “camouflaged” vehicles as they were trying to enter Jordan from Syria, the army said in a statement Wednesday, in an unusual move at a time of tensions between the desert kingdom and Damascus. A Syrian military official said the vehicles did not belong to the Syrian army. Wednesday’s strike appeared to be the first time since the Syrian uprising began in March 2011 that Jordan has openly used military aircraft to hit vehicles along the border. The Damascus government has regularly accused Jordan of assisting rebels fighting its forces. Amman denies this, saying it has tightened control of the border and jailed dozens convicted of trying to cross the frontier illegally. [Daily StarNaharnet, 4/16/2014]



Egyptian court jails 119 Morsi supporters
An Egyptian court sentenced 119 supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood of former president Mohamed Morsi to three years each in prison on Wednesday in connection with protests last October against his overthrow, judicial sources said. More than fifty people were killed in the October 6 protests called by Morsi supporters, one of the bloodiest days since his overthrow by the military on July 3. Judge Hazem Hashad acquitted six people in the case. They faced charges including unlawful assembly and thuggery. [Reuters, 4/16/2014]

Bomb attack wounds three civilians in Giza; Two bombs defused in Imbaba
Three civilians were wounded in a bombing in Giza governorate late on Tuesday, the interior ministry and medical officials said. A hand grenade was placed under a private car in the busy Faysal Street in Giza, leaving two occupants and a passerby injured, the interior ministry said in a statement. The bombing was the second on Tuesday. Early in the morning, a first bomb ripped through a police post in the busy Galaa Square in Giza’s Dokki neighborhood. In Imbaba a police bomb squad defused two remote control bombs on Tuesday. Reports surfaced that early Wednesday morning authorities arrested a suspect connected to Tuesday’s bombing in Dokki and four other bombing. Three other suspects escaped and remain at large. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 4/15/2014]

Government to adopt new economic stimulus package
The interim government is currently preparing a new economic stimulus package that will focus on the industrial, housing and construction, communication and tourism sectors, “in order to restore economic activity and boost employment”, Minister of Finance Hany Kadry Dimian announced. Dimian made the announcement during a meeting between International Monetary Fund (IMF) managing director Christine Lagarde and the Egyptian delegation. The minister pointed out that the new package aims to revitalize and expand the activities of the private sector by removing the “bottlenecks” facing economic key sectors. He described the package as a “second phase” to the government stimulus plans, “as the first phase focused on governmental investments.” [DNE, 4/15/2014]

Arab League to monitor Egypt’s presidential elections
The Arab League signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Egypt Tuesday to monitor the presidential elections, due on May 26 and 27. The Arab League will send observers to monitor the elections in all voting stations, a statement by the league said. In related news, Secretary General of the Presidential Elections Committee (PEC) Counselor Abdel Aziz Salman said that they have received applications from twelve NGOs to monitor the elections. [SIS, KUNA, 4/16/2014]


Benghazi municipal elections candidate survives assassination attempt
One of the candidates standing in the forthcoming Benghazi elections survived an assassination attempt on Tuesday. The attempt occurred amidst twenty-four hours of violence in the city that left two dead and two injured. The two injured, one of whom is the municipal elections candidate, are reported to be in stable condition. One of the dead was a member of Ansar al-Sharia. [Libya Herald, 4/15/2014]

Oil starts to be loaded from Hariga
The first shipment of oil out of Marsa al-Hariga terminal at Torbruk is expected to be loaded today. The Arabian Gulf Oil Company confirmed a report from the National Oil Company that the Aegean Dignity, an oil tanker, was near the terminal on Tuesday and will be loaded with one million barrels of oil on Wednesday. Hariga is one of the two eastern oil terminals reopened under a deal struck just over a week ago between the government and Cyrenaica federalists. Last week the official Petroleum Facilities Guard said its forces were in control of the terminal. [Libya Herald, 4/15/2014]

US embassy employee escapes from kidnappers
A female Libyan employee at the US embassy in Tripoli was abducted on Monday night but escaped from her captors and found her way to a hospital on Tuesday. Reports circulating on social media networks suggest she had gunshot wounds to the leg. The motive behind the incident remains unclear. [Libya Herald, 4/15/2014]


Official confirms rebels received US-made missiles from Western source
Rebels fighting to topple President Bashar al-Assad for the first time received at least twenty US-made TOW anti-tank missiles from a “Western source,” a rebel official said Tuesday.
“Moderate, well-organized fighters from the Hazm movement have for the first time received more than twenty TOW anti-tank missiles from a Western source,” the source said without specifying who had supplied the rockets. The Hazm movement, part of the opposition Free Syrian Army, brings together mainly ex-army officers and soldiers who defected from the military to join the revolt. The rebel said that the weapons have been used in flashpoint areas of Idlib, Aleppo, and Latakia provinces in the north. Amateur video distributed by the opposition media showed rebels unpacking, loading, and firing several missiles, mostly at tanks, in the Syrian countryside. [AFP, 6/16/2014]

Army continues assault on Homs; Residents who surrendered now held indefinitely
Army troops backed by pro-regime militiamen entered rebel-held neighborhoods of Homs Tuesday after seizing the last village in the mountainous Qalamoun region on Lebanon’s border. Activists said Tuesday that approximately four-hundred men, including rebels and draft evaders from besieged areas of Homs, who recently surrendered to the authorities, fear they may be held indefinitely. Two weeks ago, another 300 men—mainly rebel fighters and draft evaders—also left the siege, including a civilian activist who identified himself as Omar. “There was a promise that the army defectors [rebel fighters] would be released if they handed in their weapons, and they did. There was talk that we draft evaders would be released, too, but till now, there is nothing.” [AFP, 4/16/2014]

Airstrikes kill four in rebel town as regime closes off Lebanese border region
Military airstrikes killed at least four people early Wednesday in a rebel-held town along the Lebanese border, as pro-government forces intensify their campaign against some of the last rebel strongholds on a valuable supply line. The shelling hit rebels on the edge of the town of Zabadani and wounded ten people. The town and nearby Madaya are on the Qalamoun frontier with Lebanon, areas that once served as opposition supply routes to nearby rural Damascus. Syrian forces, bolstered by Hezbollah, systematically took back most other rebel-held towns along the mountainous frontier in a campaign that began in November. On Wednesday, Syrian forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad took the town of Housh Arab after pro-Assad forces captured Arsal al-Ward on Tuesday. Rebels still hold the town of Talfita in Qalamoun, but it is now surrounded by Assad-held territory. [AP, 4/16/2014]


Members ‘freeze’ NCA participation over reduced sentences for former officials
A dozen members of the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) have reportedly suspended their participation in the body over reduced sentences given to former officials of the Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali government. The members feel the new sentences are too lenient. The members have stipulated that their return is contingent upon the adoption of draft law forty-four which would create special tribunals to try those accused of violence during the revolution. The law was introduced in August 2012 but was never voted on. [Tunisia Live, 4/15/2014]

Unemployed Tunisians risk their lives to build future in Europe
There is a steady stream of people leaving Tunisia, sailing in fishing vessels, trying to reach Europe. These migrants have concluded that it is better to pursue this risk than to waste away in an economy that seems hopeless for them. Unemployment is the main factor that pushes Tunisian high school graduates to seek employment in Europe, however, legal entry visas can be nearly impossible to obtain.  [Tunisia Live, 4/15/2014]

EU-Tunisia agreement on 2014-2017 action plan
The tenth European Union-Tunisia Association Council meeting was held on Monday in Luxembourg. It was marked by the political agreement on the overall text of the Action Plan 2014-2017. This Action Plan represents a unified framework for coordination and allows a progressive integration of the Tunisian economy into the European domestic market. It is designed to strengthen measures to support bilateral trade, improve the business environment, and increase Tunisian and international public and private investments to create jobs for youth. [All Africa, 4/15/2014]


Benomar meets with Saudi officials to talk about Yemen’s transition
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar released a press statement on Tuesday regarding his meetings in Saudi Arabia with the Crown Prince, the foreign minister, and the interior minister. His meetings focused on cooperation between the United States and GCC countries to support Yemen’s political process, specifically the implementation of the National Dialogue. Though the press statement was light on details, it is likely they focused on economic support with Saudi Arabia being the biggest overall donor, and just two weeks before the Friends of Yemen conference in London. There is also speculation that the Crown Prince has taken over the Yemen file on behalf of the government. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), Saba News; 4/16/2014]

Minister of Industry and Trade says half of public sector workers are “ghosts”
In an interview with the newspaper al-Hayat, Yemen’s Sa’ad Ad-deen bin Taleb talked through the economic and energy crises plaguing the country. He spoke at length about the government’s decision not to lift fuel subsidies as a result of the outcry from citizens and the burden it would impose on them. Bin Taleb called on donors to invest in alternative energy in order to ease this burden. He revealed that more than half the number of public sector workers are “illusory,” with salaries going to people who do not exist or who do not engage in their work. Bin Taleb was speaking specifically about the military and security forces but remarked, “There are other sectors that have this problem; we call them ghosts.” [Al-Masdar (Arabic), 4/15/2014]

Saudi Arabia stops 15,000 illegal immigrants from Yemen
A security official in Saudi Arabia reports that 15,000 Yemenis have been detained attempting to cross the border in just the past forty-five days. In the past thirty days, an army spokesman says, 250 weapons and hundreds of pounds of narcotics were confiscated on their way  into the kingdom. The nearly 932 mile-long border is frequently crossed by migrants seeking work in the kingdom, as well as militants and drug traffickers. The news comes as three Saudi border guards were killed by unidentified gunmen on Yemen’s side of the border over the past week. [The Daily Star, 4/16/2014]


Veteran Iraqi MP warns of post-election crisis
An independent running as part of the Sadrist movement says that following Iraq’s April 30 parliamentary elections, the next big showdown will be between the Sadrists and incumbent Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition. Current polls show Maliki’s party to be leading, but not enough to secure a majority, leaving political alliances to decide the formation of the government. He warned that Maliki’s currently personalized control over security forces could pave the way for renewed violence if Maliki resists a political process that leads to a transfer of power. [Asharq al-Awsat, 4/15/2014]

Civil servants strike in Beirut, protest for ‘full demands’
Civil servants rallied outside the education ministry headquarters in Beirut on Wednesday to pressure politicians to meet their demands as public offices and schools went on a nationwide strike a day after parliament failed to pass the wage hike draft law. Protesters urged once again lawmakers to stop stalling a 121 percent increase on their pay. Beirut’s protesters expressed their anger at the lawmakers, who decided Tuesday to form a new committee to study the proposal again over the next two weeks. Similar protests occurred elsewhere in Tripoli and Zahle. [The Daily Star, 4/16/2014]

Algerians head to the polls tomorrow as Bouteflika expected to win
President Abdelaziz Bouteflika urged Algerians to defy boycott calls and vote in Thursday’s election, as his rival Ali Benflis said an “army” of supporters would monitor the poll and warned against fraud. The ailing incumbent is widely expected to clinch a fourth term in office, but he faces the damaging possibility of low voter turnout, with opposition parties and a youth protest group urging Algerians to snub the poll. [Independent Online, 4/16/2014]