Top News: Libya Near ‘Point of No Return,’ Says UN

Factional warfare in Libya is pushing the oil producing North African country “very close to the point of no return,” UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon said, as efforts to bring about a ceasefire and political dialogue have yielded no results. According to medical sources, the death toll from two weeks of street fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist armed has risen to over 170. UN efforts to negotiate a resolution have suffered from the absence of armed factions from Misrata and the rival city of Zintan.



North Sinai residents near Rafah border begin evacuation
North Sinai residents near the Rafah border crossing with the Gaza Strip are being evacuated, as Egypt’s army steps up its campaign in the area against militants, Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website reported on Tuesday. Residents within an area 300 meters west of the Rafah border were told to leave their houses within hours on Tuesday, as the deadline for evacuation ends on Wednesday. The evacuation zone will eventually be 500 meters from the eastern Rafah border and 13.8 km long to the south. The evacuation of residents at the borders with Israel in North Sinai is “final, not temporary,” said Governor Abdel Fattah Harhour. The evacuation will be followed by demolition of all housing facilities and the creation of a buffer zone that would “protect Egypt from terrorist dangers,” said the governor. [Ahram Online, AP, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 10/29/2014]

Egypt police arrests on Tuesday 34 students amid clashes, army storms campus
Police arrested thirty-four students amid protests and clashes on Tuesday at different universities across Egypt, with the army storming one campus, according to Al-Ahram’s Arabic news website. A security source said that “rioting tools” were confiscated and six homemade bombs were dismantled at Mansoura University in the Nile Delta. Another two sound bombs were found on the campus of Beni Suef University. Six students from the university have been expelled for involvement in protests and clashes that took place on Tuesday. In Cairo, eighty students from Al-Azhar University allegedly blocked a main road, chanted against the government, and shot off fireworks. Police dispersed the group and arrested fourteen Al-Azhar students. Police have stormed at least five universities and arrested more than 180 students since the start of the school year. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, EGYNews (Arabic), 10/29/2014]

Domestic debt recorded at EGP 1.8 trillion by June 2014, says Central Bank
Domestic debt reached EGP 1.8tn in June 2014, of which 84.7 percent was government debt and 3.2 percent was public economic authorities’ debt, a monthly Central bank of Egypt (CBE) report revealed. Egypt’s external debt increased by 4.8 percent to record 45.3 billion at the end of March 2014, compared to $43.2 billion at the end of June 2013. The report indicated the rise is attributed to the hike in “net disbursements of loans, facilities and deposits to $1.6 billion, and the increase of $516.8 million worth in external debt because of the rise in most currencies of borrowing versus the US dollar”. Discussing the balance of payments (BOP), the CBE report said Egypt recorded a $2.2 billion surplus during the first six month of fiscal year 2013/2014, compared to $2.1 billion during the same period last year. [DNE, 10/28/2014]

Morsi prison break trial postponed to November 30
The Cairo Criminal Court postponed on Wednesday the trial of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi and 130 others for escaping from the Wadi al-Natroun prison to November 30. The court postponed the trial to hear the prosecution’s testimony regarding the killing of protesters during the January 2011 uprising, a judicial source said. He added that the prosecution is also expected to provide a copy of a report from the Homeland Security (formerly known as State Security) on the killing of protesters. [Aswat Masriya, 10/29/2014]


Libya near ‘point of no return,’ says UN as fighting death toll rises
Factional warfare in Libya is pushing the oil producing North African country “very close to the point of no return,” UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon said, as efforts to bring about a ceasefire and political dialogue have yielded no results. According to medical sources, the death toll from two weeks of street fighting between pro-government forces and Islamist armed has risen to over 170. UN efforts to negotiate a resolution have suffered from the absence of armed factions from Misrata and the rival city of Zintan. [Reuters, 10/28/2014]

Bomb explodes inside Tobruk security perimeter
A car bomb exploded in Tobruk on Tuesday, marking the first attack inside the town where the internationally-recognized House of Representatives is currently based. The explosives were detonated near security headquarters. Reports indicate one person was injured, but authorities said no one was hurt. Meanwhile, pro-government forces called for the evacuation of residents from Benghazi’s Sabri district as fierce clashes continued. At least ten others were killed today when rockets struck Benghazi residential districts Islamists have vowed to repel advancing pro-government forces. [Libya Herald, 10/28/2014]

Human rights group calls for repeal of Political Isolation Law
The National Commission for Human Rights (NCHRL) has called on the House of Representatives to repeal the Political Isolation Law, which was overwhelmingly passed by the General National Congress (GNC) in May 2013. The law prevents any Libyan who held a leading position under the Qaddafi regime from being elected or holding a government post for ten years. In a statement the NCHRL criticized the law, calling it “selective and vengeful” and saying it placed Libya at a disadvantage in its quest to achieve political consensus. [Libya Herald, 10/28/2014]

Libya and Sudan agree closer military cooperation
Libya and Sudan have agreed to strengthen military collaboration, according to the Sudanese news agency SUNA. They have also reportedly agreed that Sudan will mediate between the country’s factions, following talks in Khartoum between Libyan Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni and Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir. This would be yet another in a series of mediation attempts to end the Libyan divide. Algeria is supposed to organize such a meeting, and the UN continues its efforts to negotiate a resolution. [Libya Herald, 10/28/2014]


Nusra Front seizes more territory in Idlib; Power shifting in northern Syria
Fighters from Nusra Front, a group with ties to al-Qaeda, have seized territory from a mainstream rebel group in a three-day campaign that has expanded their control into one of the few areas of northern Syria not held by hardline Islamists. Syrian opposition activists and a military commander said the Nusra Front had taken several villages in Idlib province from the Syria Revolutionaries’ Front (SRF) led by Jamal Maarouf, a prominent figure in the moderate opposition. “This has happened before and we came through it. But this time the mobilization is very large,” said an SRF military official. [Reuters, International Business Times, 10/29/2014]

ISIS attack on oil field near Palmyra kills thirty
ISIS militants have attacked an oil and gas field in Homs province, killing at least thirty pro-regime forces and security guards, a monitoring group said Wednesday. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said the attack was launched on Tuesday night and fighting continued through the night into Wednesday. The Syrian al-Watan daily, which is close to the government, acknowledged the ISIS advance, saying the group had taken control of “two wells and a hill” after fierce clashes. [AFP, 10/29/2014]

Iraqi Kurds en route to Kobani, bringing anti-tank weapons
Iraqi Peshmerga fighters arrived in southeastern Turkey on Wednesday en route for the Syrian town of Kobani to help fellow Kurds break an ISIS siege which has defied US-led air strikes. The Iraqi Kurdish fighters are expected to bring anti-tank and anti-armor weapons when they enter Kobani on Wednesday. Saleh Moslem, co-chair of the Syrian Kurdish Democratic Union Party (PYD), said the weapons should help the Syrian Kurdish fighters of the YPG armed group fend off ISIS fighters who have used armored vehicles and tanks in their assault on the town. Turkish officials said that 150 opposition fighters from the Free Syrian Army would also cross to join the battle. [Reuters, AFP, 10/29/2014]

Car bomb wounds thirty-seven in government-held area of Homs
A car bomb wounded thirty-seven people including a child, now in a critical condition, in a government-held area of the central city of Homs on Wednesday. State media reported that the attack in Zahra neighborhood caused major damage to nearby houses and shops. Following bomb attacks this year, some Syrians loyal to President Assad say they are starting to feel abandoned by the government for whom they have sacrificed much. [Reuters, 10/29/2014]


Essebsi speaks on Nidaa Tounes victory, future of government
Nidaa Tounes party leader Beji Caid Essebsi spoke about his party’s plans for establishing a government, saying, “we took the decision in advance that Nidaa Tounes would not govern alone, even if we won an absolute majority.” Essebsi added that “we will govern with those closest to us, with the democratic family, so to speak.” His remarks came as another official told Al Jazeera Tuesday “we are against exclusion, but the focus at the moment should be on coexistence and not coalition,” in reference to the formation of a coalition with the Ennahda party. Essebsi said prior to the election that his party would not immediately rule out a coalition with Ennahda. [Al Jazeera, 10/28/2014]

Terrorist cell dismantled in El Krib region
The Tunisian Interior Ministry said that a terrorist cell consisting of five members was dismantled in the al-Krib region in Siliana governorate on Tuesday. According to a police investigation, members of the cell were making homemade bombs with the goal of detonating them remotely using electronic equipment and photovoltaic plates for recharging mobile phones and laptops. These weapons were allegedly intended to be transported to terrorists in the mountains, along with electronic media for propaganda purposes. [TAP, 10/28/2014]

Foreign governments praise success of Tunisian elections
Foreign governments from the region and further abroad have hailed the success of Sunday’s elections and congratulated the Tunisian people for casting their votes and taking this historic step. British Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond said that “the Tunisian people took another important step towards determining their future,” and promised strong British cooperation in the future. Qatar’s foreign ministry praised “clear-sightedness of the political forces which, it said, thwarted the attempts to abort the peaceful transition,” while the Sudanese Foreign Ministry said “the large participation of people and the democratic spirit are the only way towards stability, peace and progress in Tunisia.” Egypt praised the “peaceful and democratic atmosphere” of the elections. [TAP, 10/28/2014]


Seventeen killed in fighting between Houthis and tribesmen in Ibb
At least seventeen people were killed in fighting between Houthi militants and tribesmen in the central Ibb province overnight Tuesday despite a ceasefire agreement, according to a security official. Fighting continued in the strategic Radma district, which the Houthis attempted to take Tuesday afternoon. The Houthis also occupied government buildings in Ibb. The security official said that ten tribesmen and seven Houthis were killed, and that the Houthis were receiving reinforcements early Wednesday in anticipation of a “major battle.” They also shelled the town of Qifah in Ibb, which borders the town of Rida in Bayda province. The Houthis have been fighting al-Qaeda and its tribal allies in Rida for nearly two weeks. [World Bulletin, 10/29/2014]

Egypt’s Sisi blames Yemen unrest on “mistakes,” Houthis
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in an interview that Yemen’s crisis could be blamed on a series of miscalculations on the seriousness of developments in the country and region. Sisi told a Saudi newspaper that he believed the Yemeni people would not bow to internal pressures or external intervention to “change their cultural identity.” Sisi said the Houthis are attempting to impose a reality on Yemenis that does not fit them, and that Egypt and Saudi Arabia would not tolerate any threats to the flow of trade through the Bab al-Mendab strait. He added that Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates would not allow Yemen to become a fertile ground for terrorism or civil war. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/29/2014]

Protests against Houthis at university; Houthis to be incorporated into Sana’a police
Students at Sana’a University protested the ongoing Houthi presence in the capital and at their university. Students demanded that the university’s president remove the Houthis within three days, or they would engage in open-ended sit-ins. The Houthis stormed the student union’s headquarters earlier this week to use as a barracks for their militias. Meanwhile, Sana’a’s security director said that Houthi militants would be incorporated into government police forces in the coming days. Colonel Abdulrazaq al-Moayyed said that the Houthis will be given training and uniforms before eventually being absorbed into the state security apparatus. The Houthis maintain checkpoints around Sana’a and have unchallenged control of several other cities. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 10/29/2014]

Independence protests in Aden, some violence between security forces, protesters
Several civil society groups, including the Federation of Trade Unions and the Civil Service Office, have joined protesters in Aden demonstrating for an independent south. The protests have taken place in Aden’s Khormakser Square, where protesters have been staging sit-ins. Five protesters were injured when security forces around the square reportedly opened fire Wednesday. Security forces claimed that protesters had been attempting to capture some officers and they responded with fire. [Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), 10/29/2014]


Iraqi forces advance toward Baiji in bid to retake refinery
Iraqi security forces said that they advanced within nearly a mile of the city of Baiji 130 miles north of Baghdad. Baiji is home to Iraq’s largest oil refinery and has been besieged by ISIS militants since June. Government troops were backed by helicopters and Shia tribal militias as they attempted to cut off ISIS supply lines and gain control of a road on the way to Mosul. A colonel speaking anonymously said that security forces had captured six villages and disarmed over 300 roadside bombs on their way to Baiji, and another colonel said government troops had also retaken parts of the Himreen Mountains overlooking ISIS supply lines north of Baghdad. These claims could not be independently verified. [Reuters, 10/29/2014]

ISIS execute forty-six tribesman in Iraq’s Anbar province
Local sources reported that ISIS militants executed forty-six members of the Albu Nimr tribe in Anbar province on Wednesday. Sources said that the tribesmen were overrun just north the town of Heet last week. Images said to show the aftermath of the public executions were circulated on Twitter, but their authenticity could not be independently confirmed and ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for the attack. [AFP, 10/29/2014]

Iraqi Kurdistan could raise oil production by eighty percent in coming months
The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Iraq will raise its oil production by up to eighty percent in the next to months, according to a senior Kurdish energy official. Dalshad Shaaban, vice-president of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in the Iraqi–Kurdish parliament, said KRG oil exports will be increased from 250,000 barrels per day [bpd] to 400,000 bpd or 450,000 bpd. The Iraqi government froze all public sector workers’ wages in Kurdistan in January after a dispute with the KRG over it’s efforts to export oil without Baghdad’s approval. [Asharq al-Awsat, 10/28/2014]

Saudi oil executive claims drop in oil prices is temporary
Mohammed al-Mady, chief executive of the Saudi state-controlled petrochemicals producer Sabic, said that he believed declining oil prices to be temporary as the finance ministers of the Gulf Cooperation Council states met in Kuwait over the weekend. This announcement came as Kuwaiti and Omani officials said that they were considering energy subsidy cuts in their own countries. Saudi Arabia has traditionally been a swing producer within both the GCC and OPEC, but earlier this month Saudi officials said they were comfortable with falling short-term prices and would not unilaterally cut their own oil production to slow the price decline. Saudi production rose in September despite a decline in the country’s oil exports from a month earlier. [Financial Times, 10/26/2014]

Oman considers cutting energy subsidies
Dropping oil prices have led officials in Oman to consider cuts to oil subsidies in order to balance its budget and maintain overall spending and non-oil development projects. Hamood al-Zadjali, Oman’s central bank governor, said Tuesday that “The government is considering [subsidy reform] now. I think if oil prices continue to slide it will become even more necessary.” Oman is a modest oil producer exporting fewer than one million barrels a day, and needs oil prices of more than $100 a barrel to balance its budget. The government had planned a budget deficit for 2014 on an assumed price of $85 a barrel. Brent crude was at $86 a barrel on Tuesday. [Financial Times, 10/28/2014]