Top News: Libya’s Capital Goes On Strike Over Violence

The vast majority of Tripoli’s public and private sectors went on a general strike on Sunday to force the government to drive out the militias blamed for the weekend clashes that left forty-seven people dead in what has been the worst street fighting since the 2011 civil war. According to reports, Misratan militia units are expected to withdraw from Tripoli, after the Misratan military, council, and civil society leaders reached an agreement. Misratan members of Congress and any Misratan members of the government are also to leave the capital. The fatal clashes erupted following anti-militia demonstrations. The violence has been widely condemned and prompted Amazigh protesters blockading the Mellitah complex to suspend their actions over the weekend. [Al Jazeera, 11/17/2013]



Final draft of Egypt’s constitution ready on Tuesday
The final draft of the amended constitution will be finished on Tuesday, the fifty-member constituent assembly posted on its official Twitter page on Sunday. The assembly is expected to vote on the draft constitution within a week maximum before it presents it to interim President Adly Mansour. The draft constitution will then be displayed for public discussion then put on a referendum within fifteen days. Mohamed Salmawy, spokesman for the fifty-member committee tasked with writing the final draft of Egypt’s new constitution, announced on Monday that the committee has finished voting on articles related to judicial authority. The article addressing governorates in the constitution states they shall function away from centralization, yet left the mechanism of choosing governors up to the laws. [Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, DNE, 11/18/2013]

Egypt’s cabinet recognizes victims of Mohamed Mahmoud clashes; Pro-Morsi alliance protests
Egypt’s interim cabinet recognized Sunday those who died in the Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes with police in 2012 as “revolution martyrs,” along with journalists who died in action, to be granted all compensations and benefits that status confers. Egypt’s interior ministry said Sunday it has taken all necessary measures to secure Tuesday’s commemoration of the second anniversary of the 2011 deadly Mohamed Mahmoud Street clashes. The National Alliance to Support Legitimacy (NASL) called on its loyalists to avoid Mohamed Mahmoud Street or any venues of potential confrontation “to deny plotters the chance of stirring violence and holding the alliance responsible.” Although it did not specify where its followers should demonstrate instead, the alliance’s statement called on all Egyptians to partake in a nationwide protest. [Ahram Online, 11/18/2013]

Egypt jobless rate reaches 13.4 percent in Q3/2013
Egypt’s unemployment rate inched up 0.1 percent in the third quarter of 2013, amounting to 13.4 percent of the country’s total labor force, according to the state-run statistics body CAPMAS. CAPMAS’s quarterly report, released on Saturday, attributed the increase in unemployment to an overall slowdown in economic activities during the period between July and September. Egypt’s planning minister Ashraf al-Araby stated in September that he was not optimistic about growth prospects for the first quarter of the current 2013/14 fiscal year, which began in July. “It is normal to have slow growth in the first three months of every fiscal year,” al-Araby said. “But in this fiscal year we will see poorer growth due to a number of events that may have had negative impacts.” [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, 11/17/2013]

US defense secretary praises end of Egypt’s state of emergency, curfew
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel praised the end of Egypt’s state of emergency and curfew in a telephone call with Egyptian army chief Abdel Fatah al-Sisi on Saturday. “Secretary Hagel welcomed the end of the emergency law and curfew in Egypt and reiterated that the United States values the rights of all people to express their views peacefully,” read a Saturday statement by the US Department of Defense. The Pentagon press secretary said that the talks emphasized the importance of Egypt’s move towards comprehensive democracy. He stressed the importance of bilateral relations and commitment to joint security interests. [Ahram Online, SIS, 11/18/2013]


EU reduces staff presence as “precautionary measure”
In consultation with Brussels, the European Union border assistance mission has temporarily reduced its staff in Libya as “a precautionary measure” after the weekend violence in Tripoli. Although no EU staff had been targeted, sources say a decision was made to lower the European Union’s general profile. The intense street fighting halted other activities as well; the General National Congress’s (GNC) session was postponed amid fears of protesters storming the hall. Demonstrators had been demanding “punishment and justice” for those involved in the massacre, calling for the GNC to sack the current administration and appoint a crisis government. [Libya Herald, 11/18/2013]

US military working on plan to train thousands of Libyans
At a defense forum in California, Admiral William McRaven from the US military’s Special Operations Command said the United States is working on plans to train between 5,000 and 7,000 members of Libyan security forces and special operations forces who can carry out counter-terrorism missions. He declined to go into details but stressed there would be extensive vetting of Libyan personnel trained by the United States, acknowledging the limitations in a the post-conflict country where rival militiamen and former fighters, loyal to their commanders or tribes, are often employed by the government to protect ministries and offices. [Reuters, 11/18/2013]

Libya regional official escapes assassination
The military governor of Benghazi escaped an assassination attempt, which killed one member of his entourage and seriously wounded another. Explosives experts are currently investigating the neighborhood. This attempted targeted murder comes on the heels of the kidnapping of Libyan deputy spy chief Mustafa Nouh at Tripoli’s international airport. Security sources gave no details on the attackers or their motives, but Nouh was soon released, alleging that his kidnappers were from Zintan. [Al Jazeera, Libya Herald, 11/18/2013]


Fighting in Qalamoun triggers new exodus of refugees to Lebanon
A new regime offensive in the mountainous terrain bordering Lebanon has triggered a fresh exodus of thousands of Syrians into a country already burdened by the largest number of refugees in the region, UN officials said Sunday. A thousand families sought shelter between Friday and Sunday in the eastern Lebanese town of Arsal after government forces attacked their villages in Syria. The attack came as part of an escalating push by the Syrian government to cut rebel supply routes linking the suburbs of Damascus to Lebanon through the rugged Qalamoun mountains. The routes are one of the last lifelines between rebel positions in central Syria and the outside world after others through the city of Homs were shut down this summer. [Washington Post, 11/18/2013]

Bomb at base kills at least thirty-one Syrian troops
At least thirty-one Syrian troops, including four senior officers, were killed on Sunday in a bombing that collapsed a building on a government military base just north of Damascus, the Syrian capital. It was one of the deadliest attacks on government soldiers in recent months. The deaths came as a government offensive against rebels continued on three fronts: in the outskirts of Damascus, in the south; outside Aleppo, in the north; and in the Qalamoun mountain region bordering Lebanon, in western Syria. [NYT, 11/17/2013]

Aleppo rebel leader dies after government attack
A Syrian rebel leader who brought together one of the most effective and organized factions fighting President Bashar al-Assad has died of wounds suffered Thursday in a government attack on a meeting of rebel leaders outside Aleppo. His death was seen as a serious blow to the rebels amid a gathering government offensive. The leader, Abdulkader al-Saleh, who commanded the Tawhid Brigade was taken to Gaziantep over the Turkish border after he was wounded in the attack at the rebel-held infantry school on the outskirts of Aleppo. He had been seen as an exemplar of the kind of anti-government leadership emerging from Syria’s civil war and as one of the government’s most wanted men. [NYT, Reuters, Al Arabiya, 11/17/2013]

Syrian official says UBAF bank unlocking frozen funds for food
Syrian bank accounts frozen abroad are gradually being freed up for use to fund food purchases, the head of Syria’s General Foreign Trade Organisation (GFTO) said Sunday, with France being the most committed to releasing the money. The European Union, United States, and other Western countries have imposed sanctions on President Bashar al-Assad’s government over his crackdown on the revolt in his country, but these do not apply to food. Syria’s GFTO has been trying in vain for several months to buy sugar and rice in international tenders using funds frozen abroad. One of the reasons cited by traders was a failure to secure permission from governments to free the funds. [Reuters, 11/17/2013]


Talks continue as political parties weigh their options before Monday deadline
Political factions in Tunisia have continued to hold unofficial side meetings in preparation for the resumption of the political dialogue sessions between the government and opposition on Monday November 18. The quartet of organizations mediating Tunisia’s national dialogue has no information to confirm that the political parties reached an agreement on a future prime minister, Tunisian Human Rights League President Abdessatar Ben Moussa said, specifying that “so far, the quartet has received no official response to this issue.” The time granted to the political parties to decide on the issue will end and the quartet will meet Monday afternoon to review, the Tunisian General Labour Union has said. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/17/2013]

Marzouki remarks on new prime minister talks reported inaccurately
After a Turkish news agency reported that caretaker President Moncef Marzouki said “the next prime minister has already been agreed upon and his name will be announced at the start of next week,” the Office of the President issued a statement calling the reporting “inaccurate.” In the statement, Marzouki was quoted as saying “we are making some headway concerning the independent figure who shall be tasked with forming the next cabinet and, God willing, we will be settled by next week but for the time being I cannot reveal any names.” [TAP, 11/17/2013]

Judges protest in Kasbah square to claim independence of justice
On Saturday morning a group of Tunisian judges staged a protest march and observed a sit-in in downtown Tunis, chanting slogans promoting “the independence of justice, separation of the judiciary power from politics” and cautioning against the interference of the executive power in the interim authority of the judiciary. [TAP, 11/16/2013]

Deputy says amendments to 2014 budget may be introduced
Amendments may be introduced to some provisions of the Finance Act 2014, according to Moez Belhaj Rhouma, a representative of the finance, planning and development commission at the National Constituent Assembly. In a statement to TAP, he said the next commission meeting will focus on the introduction of amendments to provisions of the Finance Act 2014, particularly those that have drawn opposition from economic and social experts and components of civil society. [TAP/All Africa, 11/17/2013]


Federalism is best for Yemen, says Former South Yemen president
Ali Nasser Mohammed, president of South Yemen from 1980 to 1986, said in an interview with Ahram Online that “two-state federalism” is the best solution for the Southern Issue. The former president also discussed Hadi’s performance thus far as president of Yemen, saying that Hadi is working within the “political equation” devised by the General People’s Congress and the Joint Meeting Parties. Finally, Mohammed stressed that the international community must not “neglect Yemen” because Yemen needs the help of its neighbors. [Ahram Online, 11/16/2013]

Three killed in shelling in troubled north Yemen town, say Salafists  
Three people were killed on Sunday when Shia Houthi rebels shelled a school in a northern Yemeni town where sectarian fighting has killed more than one hundred people, a spokesman for a Salafi group said. Government-brokered ceasefires have failed to stop the fighting, which broke out last month when Shi’ite Houthis accused Salafist Sunnis of recruiting thousands of foreign fighters to prepare to attack them. The toll of more than one hundred dead does not include Houthis, who have not revealed their casualty figures. [Reuters, 11/17/2013]

Controversy in the NDC over immunity law
Debate on the law of immunity continues in the National Dialogue Conference (NDC) transitional justice working group. The working group continued voting on the decisions to be announced in its final report. Sources in the NDC report that the debate has centered around Article 108 on the abolition of the immunity law, for which three groups have proposed versions of the text. As of Sunday, 107 out of 159 articles in the Transitional Justice Working Group’s report had already been voted on. [Al Tagheer (Arabic), 11/18/2013]

8+8 subcommittee meets, GPC representatives still absent
The 8+8 subcommittee of the Southern Issue Working Group reconvened on Sunday after a two-week break, with all components present except representatives of the General People’s Congress (GPC) and those from Ansar Allah. During the meeting, Secretary General of the National Dialogue Conference (NDC), Ahmed Bin Mubarak, discussed with participants what has been achieved during the rounds of consultations that took place over the last few weeks. He also guaranteed that the NDC would come to a conclusion on the Southern Issue in the framework of a federal Southern state. The attendees decided to postpone the rest of the meeting to try to convince GPC and Ansar Allah delegates to return. [NDC (Arabic), 11/17/2013]


Israel calls for Palestinian concessions in peace talks
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu insisted Sunday that the peace process with the Palestinians was not “frozen,” but said he was waiting for Palestinian concessions to move the talks forward. “They’re not frozen. We’re talking,” the Israeli leader said on CNN‘s “State of the Union” program. “[But] it’s time to talk about Palestinian concessions, too. Like recognizing the Jewish state,” Netanyahu said. [AFP/Ahram Online, 11/17/2013]

Bouteflika to run for fourth term
Algeria’s ailing President Abdelaziz Bouteflika was officially nominated on Saturday as his party’s candidate for the president in the 2014 election, the ruling National Liberation Front (FLN) said. “The central committee has chosen the president of the party, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, to be the FLN candidate in the next presidential election,” said a party statement issued after a meeting in the capital. [Al Arabiya, 11/16/2013]

Kuwait gives five year sentence for tweet
A rights activist in Kuwait says a Twitter user has been sentenced to five years in prison after being convicted of insulting the Prophet Muhammad. The court decision Monday is the latest among Gulf Arab nations in a widening crackdown on political commentary and other forms of expressions on social media. Musaab Shamsah was arrested following a Twitter post he allegedly made in May that made references to the descendants of Islam’s prophet. Activist Nawaf al-Hendal says Shamsah plans to appeal. [Ahram Online, 11/18/13]

Jordan seeks candidacy on UN Security Council seat
Jordan’s foreign ministry says the kingdom has presented a request to the United Nations (UN) seeking candidacy for a Security Council seat that Saudi Arabia had turned down. According to the Jordanian ministry statement Monday, Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh telephoned UN Chief Ban Ki-Moon late Sunday after sending Jordan’s “official request” in writing.  [AP/Ahram Online, 11/18/13]

Image: Angry crowds attend funerals of Gharghour slaughter victims in Tripoli’s Martyrs Square (Photo: Aimen Eljali, Libya Herald)