Top News: Kurdish Forces Take Over Two Oilfields in North Iraq

Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of production facilities at two northern Iraqi oilfields on Friday, replacing Arab workers with Kurdish personnel. The national oil ministry in Baghdad condemned the takeover at the Kirkuk and Bai Hassan fields and called on the Kurds to withdraw immediately to avoid dire consequences.


Sisi regulates leadership of top security council
Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi issued a decree on Thursday regulating the leadership of the country’s top security council, said presidential spokesman Ehab Badawi said. Badawi said the law mandates forming an organizing committee for the National Security Council to plan meetings and provide the needed research and documents. The president appoints the head of the committee as well as the members, based on the head’s suggestion. The head of the committee also has ministerial powers as they relate to financial and managerial issues in the council. [Ahram Online, SIS, Ahram (Arabic), 7/10/2014]

Security forces prevent attempt to smuggle rockets through Rafah
Security forces in North Sinai prevented on Thursday an attempt to smuggle twenty Grad rockets from Gaza through tunnels in Rafah. Violent clashes broke out between security forces and Palestinian extremists as the latter attempted to smuggle the rockets and their bases, security sources told Aswat Masriya. The extremists aimed to use the rockets to target Israel or Egyptian forces in Sinai, the sources added. Meanwhile, Defense Minister Sedki Sobhi ordered the Egyptian military to send 500 tons of food and medical supplies to Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram (Arabic), 7/11/2014]

Leading Brotherhood figures referred on charges of financing ‘terrorist’ organization
A governmental committee tasked with appraising the monetary assets of the Muslim Brotherhood filed a legal suit to the general prosecutor on Thursday against 737 members of the Brotherhood on charges of financing a terrorist organisation. The head of the committee, Ezzat Khamis, told Reuters affiliated Aswat Masriya that he has provided the prosecutor with legal papers showing the involvement of leading members Khairat al-Shater, Mohamed al-Beltagy, Essam al-Erian and the Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie in funding the organization. Prosecutors will investigate the suit according to article 86 of the Egyptian penal code, which defines terrorism and the penalties for engaging in it, including the death penalty. [Ahram Online, 7/10/2014]

New development programs by EU to support Egypt’s economy
European Union (EU) Ambassador to Egypt James Moran announced Wednesday that new programs of cooperation with Cairo will start next month to support Egypt’s economy. The ambassador made the remarks during a joint press conference with Italian ambassador to Cairo Maurizio Massari. Moran stated that Egypt has chosen the right course of economic reform which will lead to creation of new jobs. [SIS, 7/11/2014]


Libya prepares to move parliament to Benghazi
Libyan authorities signaled on Thursday that, despite the deteriorating security in Benghazi, they would press ahead with plans to move the country’s newly-elected House of Representatives to that city. The move from Tripoli is part of efforts to rebuild state authority in the underdeveloped east. Some have questioned how the assembly plans to meet in a city where the weak government forces hold little sway. After holding talks with lawmakers and local security officials, Justice Minister Saleh Marghani said security forces would work out a plan to protect the assembly in Benghazi. [Reuters, 7/10/2014]

Government agrees to temporarily relocate foreign ministry
The government has decided to move the foreign ministry from its current headquarters in Tripoli because staff refuse to come in following threats from gunmen believed to be linked to militant revolutionaries. The ministry remains in disarray after a one-day takeover by armed men two weeks ago. The prime minister’s office has released a statement in which it authorized the relocation, saying that the current situation has marred Libya’s reputation abroad, which has been damaging both to the interests of the state as well as to the interests of Libyan citizens at home and abroad. [Libya Herald, 7/10/2014]

Second son of former revolutionary kidnapped
In what is thought to be a politically-motivated kidnapping, the son of Major General Suleiman Obeidi, one of the first senior officers to join the 2011 revolution, has been kidnapped. According to security personnel, Mahmoud Obeidi was abducted in Benghazi by four gunmen, and his vehicle was later found abandoned in a separate district of the city. Mahmoud’s brother, Haithem, a legal adviser at the ministry of defense, was kidnapped back in November. Both abductions are believed to be aimed at the father. Rumors are circulating that General Obeidi is a supporter of Operation Dignity and has been selected by Khalifa Haftar to take control of Dignity forces when they head to Derna. [Libya Herald, 7/10/2014]


ISIS intensifies offensive against Syrian Kurds
Islamic militants using weapons they recently seized in neighboring Iraq strengthened an offensive against Kurdish areas in northern Syria as they fight to expand the territory under their control, activists said Thursday. Members of the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) and Kurdish fighters have been fighting each other for a year, but the Kurds were usually the instigators until earlier this month when the balance of power appears to have tipped in favor of the Sunni extremists because of the large amounts of weapons they brought from Iraq into Syria. ISIS fighters captured several Kurdish villages and killed dozens of fighters in the area this week. [Daily Star, AP, 7/11/2014]

Government air raids kill twenty ISIS fighters in Raqqa
Twenty members of the Islamic State (IS) were killed in Syrian air force raids yesterday against the jihadists’ bastion in Raqqa, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. The report comes after Syrian rebels killed at least fourteen people, among them women, in the village of Khatab in the central province of Hama overnight, state media and the Observatory said. IS jihadists are firmly in control of Raqqa and have secured large swathes of territory in eastern Syria and in neighboring Iraq. Rebels have been fighting IS since January and President Bashar al-Assad’s regime has escalated its attacks against IS positions since the group launched an offensive in neighboring Iraq a month ago. [LA Times, 7/11/2014]

Rebels face challenges in policing areas they control
Not long after Syrian opposition fighters began seizing control of neighborhoods and towns, they established administrative councils and courts to impose a measure of order in lawless locales. Of late they have begun forming civilian police forces as the latest step in creating a civil society. The policing efforts face some of the same shortcomings that have beset the fragmented opposition’s attempts at self-government: lack of experience and funds, questions of legitimacy, and conflicts between competing rebel groups. But as one man involved in Aleppo’s law enforcement noted, “If we disappeared for ten days, Aleppo would become a jungle.” [LA Times, 7/11/2014]


Talk of extending voter registration in Tunisia
The Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (ISIE) is looking at the possibility of extending the voter registration deadline, ISIE President Chafik Sarsar said Thursday. There is debate over the legality of an extension, but Sarsar asserts that it would not be against the law. However, Sarsar acknowledges that extending the period for voter registration would be “very difficult to apply,” and would likely change the electoral calendar. [TAP, L’Economiste Maghrébin, 7/10/2014]

Members of banned Ansar al-Sharia group arrested
Eight members belonging to the banned Ansar al-Sharia group were arrested in Sidi Bouzid, the interior ministry said. On Thursday, police and national guard units arrested eight suspects and seized a large sum of money meant for funding the group, the same source specifies. These arrests are part of a large-scale police operation in Sidi Bouzid targeting “wanted takfirist members of Ansar al-Sharia.” [TAP, 7/10/2014] 

UGET hunger strike enters twenty-fifth day
Members of the Tunisian General Students’ Union (French: UGET) entered their twenty-fifth day of a hunger strike against what they say are discriminatory public sector hiring practices. The UGET alleges that those who were arrested under the Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali regime are consistently denied public sector job opportunities, despite Presidential Decree 1 of February 2011, which pardoned many of those imprisoned on politically motivated charges under the regime. Two UGET members have been on hunger strike since June 16. Four others joined them on July 4, according to a Facebook page dedicated to the strike. The UGET organized a demonstration, attended by more than 150 people, yesterday at the Place de la Kasbah in Tunis in support of the hunger strike. [Tunisia Live, 7/11/2014]


European Commission increases humanitarian aid to Yemen
The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection Department (ECHO) pledged to assist 70,000 malnourished children in Yemen in the upcoming year. The funds released today will support the training of health workers in Community Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM), as well as the restoration of water and sanitation facilities in 100 nutrition facilities in Hodeidah, Hajjah, Aden, Lahj, and Taiz. [Saba, 7/10/2014]

Yemen’s Central Bank reports decrease in foreign debt
Yemen’s Central Bank revealed a $38 million decrease in foreign debt in May 2014. The report showed that the country’s outstanding balance stood at approximately $7.3 billion. According to the report, local companies owed $3.6 billion in debt to the central bank of which $2 billion is owed to the International Development Association (IDA) and $832 million is owed to the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development. [Saba (Arabic), 7/10/2014]

Houthi rebels continue their advance towards Sana’a
On Thursday, Houthi rebels attacked a military outpost in al-Jawf. Several rebels were killed as the military shelled a house belonging to a rebel leader. In a press statement issued by the US State Department, the US government condemned the violence that occurred in Amran over the past week that has resulted in the loss of lives and called on Houthi rebels to immediately stop all armed activity and halt their advance towards Sana’a. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/10/2014]


Kurdish forces take over two oilfields in north Iraq
Kurdish Peshmerga forces took control of production facilities at two northern Iraqi oilfields on Friday, replacing Arab workers with Kurdish personnel. The national oil ministry in Baghdad condemned the takeover at the Kirkuk and Bai Hassan fields and called on the Kurds to withdraw immediately to avoid dire consequences. The news comes as Sunni militants seize several areas west of Ramadi after fighting with the army broke out on Thursday night, which has caused the death of eleven army soldiers. [Reuters, 7/11/2014]

Bahrain charges opposition leader who met with US diplomat
Bahrain’s government filed criminal charges against the country’s leading opposition leader for holding a meeting this week with a senior US diplomat. Sheik Ali Salman, head of Wefaq, is accused of violating a political associations law by meeting without government permission with Tom Malinowski, the US assistant secretary of State for democracy, human rights and labor. [LA Times, 7/11/2014]

Kurdish government calls on Maliki to quit
The Kurdish regional government responded Thursday to the harsh criticism from Iraq’s prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, by announcing that its ministers would boycott cabinet meetings, demanding an apology to the Iraqi people, and calling on Maliki to step down. Maliki, earlier in the week, accused the Kurdish government of turning their capital into an operations headquarters for the Islamic State (IS) as well as harboring members of the Baath party. [NY Times, 7/11/2014]

US sanctions companies for ties to Hezbollah
The US Treasury Department sanctioned a network of companies in Lebanon, the United Arab Emirates and China for allegedly securing sophisticated military equipment for the Lebanese militant group Hezbollah, including materials for aerial drones. US officials declared that the network operates out of Beirut, and it had successfully procured engines, communications electronics, and navigation equipment for Hezbollah from companies inside the US, Europe, Canada, and Asia which is in violation of American export laws. [Wall Street Journal, 7/11/2014]