Top News: Libya’s Rival Prime Minister Could Ban UN Envoy, Complicating Peace Talks

Libya’s rival government in Tripoli, led by Omar al-Hassi, may forbid UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon from entering territory it controls, a move that could make it harder to negotiate an end to the current political crisis.

Al-Hassi’s government said it could restrict Leon’s entry to Libya unless he recognizes the Supreme Court ruling that rendered the House of Representatives void, saying that his refusal to do disrespected Libyan law. Al-Hassi’s foreign minister accused the UN Security Council of double standards for labeling Ansar al-Sharia but not Khalifa Haftar as terrorists. 




Egypt minister warns of lethal force ahead of November 28 protests
Egypt’s interior minister has warned that his forces can use deadly force to counter any assault against public facilities in a message coming just ahead of a planned protest by Islamist group, the Salafi Front, on November 28. Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim made the remarks Tuesday. He said forces will use “all means,” including the use of firearms, in the face of “incitement … by terrorist factions.” The interior ministry announced on Monday the arrest of five members of the Salafi Front, on charges of inciting violence and plotting to organize protests. Meanwhile, Egypt’s centrist Strong Egypt party issued a statement confirming it will not participate in the demonstrations. The 6 April Youth Movement is also due to hold a press conference on Wednesday to explain the reasons behind its “final decision” for not taking part in the protests. Meanwhile, the Salafi Call, which has rejected the call to protest, issued instructions to stop all its conferences and religious lessons for fear of attacks. [AP, Egypt Independent, DNE, 11/25/2014]

Evacuation of North Sinai buffer zone complete
Egypt’s security forces have cleared 500 meters on the eastern border with the Palestinian Gaza Strip of houses, therefore concluding the first phase of a “buffer zone” it is creating in Sinai, the North Sinai governor said on Tuesday. Governor Abdel Fattah Harhour said that all 802 houses previously existing in the area have been demolished, including 122 that were already destroyed before the evacuation operation started. Brigadier General Mohamed Abdel Moneim, head of the North Sinai Governorate Office, said that so far more than EGP 100 million have been disbursed to compensate the families that have been displaced from their homes. [Ahram Online, DNE, Aswat Masriya, 11/25/2014]

Sisi approves amendment to aid deal between Egypt, US
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi approved a new amendment to an assistance deal between Egypt and the United States over providing support for Egyptian utilities, Presidential Spokesman Alaa Youssef said. The amendment of the deal, which was originally inked in 1997, is meant to add 2.893 million dollars to complete water and sewage services in a number of towns nationwide. In addition, Antiquities Minister Mamdouh al-Damati said the US Department of State has agreed to curb any bid to import smuggled Egyptian artifacts into the United States. Damati said his ministry is working on fine-tuning legal measures to sign a memorandum of understanding in that regard. [SIS, 11/25/2014]

Egypt’s secular opposition closes ‎in on Salafist Nour Party
Egypt’s secular political forces are doing their ‎best to eliminate a major rival from their way: the ‎ultraconservative Salafist Nour Party. Political analyst Osama ‎al-Ghazali Harb claims that ‎all secular political forces agree that the Nour Party is “a big threat to Egypt’s political ‎life, which should be based on the constitutional ‎principle of separating religion from politics.” Ahmed al-Zind, Judges Club chairman, has also publicly ‎called upon President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to ‎move against Islamist parties. Egypt’s private media has also done its best to ‎tarnish Nour’s image and accusing its leaders of ‎fomenting dissent and chaos. Tawfik Okasha, the owner of the private ‎television channel of Faraeen, accused Nour ‎of funding terrorist acts in Egypt. In response to the above campaign, Nour has ‎surprisingly opted to be on the defensive. [Ahram Online, 11/25/2014]

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Libya’s rival prime minister could ban UN envoy, complicating peace talks
Libya’s rival government in Tripoli, led by Omar al-Hassi, may forbid UN Special Representative Bernardino Leon from entering territory it controls, a move that could make it harder to negotiate an end to the current political crisis. Al-Hassi’s government said it could restrict Leon’s entry to Libya unless he recognizes the Supreme Court ruling that rendered the House of Representatives void, saying that his refusal to do disrespected Libyan law. Al-Hassi’s foreign minister accused the UN Security Council of double standards for labeling Ansar al-Sharia but not Khalifa Haftar as terrorists. [Reuters, 11/25/2014]

Second air strike hits airport in Tripoli
An air strike hit the last functioning commercial airport in the Libyan capital of Tripoli for a second consecutive day, halting flights. An armed group loyal to Libya’s internationally recognized government claimed responsibility. Khalifa Haftar, who heads Operation Dignity, has been using his warplanes to attack targets mainly in the eastern city of Benghazi and more recently in western Libya. His forces say their opponents have been using Tripoli’s Mitiga airport for military purposes. [Reuters, 11/25/2014]

House of Representatives reinstates Haftar into Libyan army
The House of Representatives reinstated General Khalifa Haftar, the head of Operation Dignity, and Brigadier Saqr Geroushi, air force commander, into the national armed forces as part of what one parliamentarian said is a wider move to reinstate officers into the Libyan army. The reinstatement removes questions of the authority under which Haftar operates going forward. It has been reported that, in response to the move, a Tripoli prosecutor has issued an arrest warrant for Haftar. [Libya Herald, 11/24/2014]

Malta pulls remaining diplomats from Libya
Malta decided to pull its two remaining diplomats from Tripoli and to close its embassy there. Last week, the foreign ministry had also asked its ambassador to Libya to come to Malta for political consultations, denying reports that it was shutting down its diplomatic presence in Libya. In a statement earlier this month, Maltese authorities emphasized that they had never, and will never, interfere in Libya’s internal affairs, but regretfully noted that its diplomatic mission was subjected to increasing political pressure in the exercise of their official duties. [Libya Business News, 11/24/2014]

Tunisia’s Essebsi wins first presidential round, heads for run-off
Nidaa Tounes party leader, Beji Caid Essebsi beat incumbent President Moncef Marzouki in the first round of landmark presidential elections, but the two men will have to meet again in a December run-off, early results showed on Tuesday. Essebsi got 39.46 percent in Sunday’s poll, short of the needed overall majority but ahead of Marzouki, who got 33.4 percent, according to initial figures released by the country’s electoral commission. [Reuters, 11/24/2014]

Tunisia’s electoral authority announces prospective election run-off dates
Following reports of a possible run-off between the top two candidates in Tunisia’s presidential elections, the Independent High Authority for the Election (ISIE) on Tuesday announced that the election would occur on either December 14, 21, or 28. ISIE official Nabil Baffoun told reporters that the official run-off date was contingent on the candidates’ acceptance of the first-round results. The official said that if candidates chose to oppose and appeal the results of Sunday’s poll, the run-off election would be postponed from December 14, and likely take place on December 28. [TAP, 11/24/2014]


Regime airstrikes on ISIS-held Raqqa kill twenty-three civilians
Syrian warplanes struck the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa early Tuesday killing at least twenty-three civilians. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that at least three children were killed while dozens of others were wounded by the strikes. The government has launched frequent air strikes against Raqqa and other Islamic State positions in northern and eastern Syria, but activists say most of the casualties have been civilians. [Naharnet, 11/25/2014]

US coalition conducts twenty-four airstrikes on ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria
The US Central Command on Tuesday announced that coalition forces had conducted at least twenty-four airstrikes on Islamic State positions inside Iraq and Syria since Friday. A statement released on Monday noted that coalition forces launched nine airstrikes near Raqqa with an additional fifteen targeting Islamic State positions in Mosul, Asad, Baghdad, Ramadi, Tal Afar and Hit. The strikes destroyed checkpoints, various Islamic State fighter units, struck numerous vehicles and destroyed several buildings. [Reuters, 11/25/2014]

ISIS netted up to $45m in ransom payments over the last year
ISIS has received between $35 million and $45 million in ransom payments in the past year, a UN expert monitoring sanctions against al-Qaeda said Monday. Yotsna Lalji told a meeting of the UN Security Council’s Counter-Terrorism Committee that an estimated $120 million in ransom was paid to terrorist groups between 2004 and 2012. [AP, 11/25/2014]

France, Syrian opposition pushes for safe zones inside Syria
French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius on Tuesday called for the establishment of safe zones inside Syria to shelter civilians from regime and Islamic State attacks. Fabius said French authorities were working alongside UN Special Envoy Staffan de Mistura who has proposed a temporary freeze in fighting in Aleppo to allow for aid deliveries and lay the groundwork for peace talks in the three-and-a-half-year conflict that has left 195,000 people dead. French support for the safe zone measure follows an announcement by Syria’s main opposition group, the National Coalition, which on Monday urged the UN special envoy to include refuge zones on the borders with Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey in his plans. [The Daily Star, 11/25/2014]

Spain smashes ring smuggling Syrians into Europe
Spanish police said Tuesday they have broken up a human trafficking ring that smuggled desperate families fleeing the conflict in Syria into Europe, charging up to $12,500 per person. Eighteen people were arrested in Madrid, including the suspected head of the ring, a Lebanese national. The ring, which targeted mostly middle class families, would usually take the Syrians to Asia and then a city in South America, most often in Brazil, before flying them to Madrid from where they travelled overland to France or Germany or another northern European country in a trip that could last weeks. The Syrians stayed in budget hotels in the center of Madrid, which left them off the hotel registry. [AFP, 11/25/2014]


Attacks in Ibb on security director, military convoy
Security sources reported Tuesday that gunmen seriously wounded the security director of al-Nadra district in Ibb province. The gunmen looted the convoy of director Mohammad Herash and allegedly chanted Houthi slogans. The source added that Herash is in stable condition, and that the attack was symptomatic of Ibb’s deteriorating security situation. Elsewhere in the province, one soldier was killed and three others wounded when a convoy came under attack between the towns of Sada and Damt. The unidentified gunmen attacked Abdulkarim al-Sayidi with machine guns on his way to a funeral, killing one of his guards and injuring al-Sayidi and two others. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/25/2014]

Army raid against al-Qaeda frees eight Yemeni hostages, one foreigner
Yemen’s army freed seven soldiers and a foreigner Tuesday in a raid backed by US forces on an al-Qaeda militant hideout near the al-Annad military air base in the country’s south, the Supreme Security Committee said. The committee did not disclose the nationality of the foreign hostage, but a Yemeni government source said he was a US military instructor based outside of Aden. The source said the rescue mission took place near the base, but there was no immediate confirmation of this from the security committee. The US embassy in Sana’a declined to comment on the report, while the committee said in a statement that one member of the Yemeni security forces was lightly wounded and seven militants were killed in the operation. [Washington Post, Reuters 11/25/2014]

Saudi Arabia arrests main suspects in Ashura shootings, suspects ISIS
Saudi Arabia has arrested the four main suspects in an attack on Shia Muslims this month and believes it was ordered by Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants from abroad, the state news agency cited an Interior Ministry security spokesman as saying on Monday. Seven members of the kingdom’s Shia minority were shot dead in the Eastern Province district of al-Ahsa on November 3 as they marked their holy day of Ashura. On Monday, an interior ministry spokesman said seventy-seven suspects had been arrested so far, and that they were believed to include the four main perpetrators. He said the leader of the al-Ahsa attack had received orders from abroad, and that “the target, as well as those to be targeted and the timing were all specified for him.” [Reuters, Al Arabiya 11/24/2014]

Source says GCC to launch joint military command at Doha summit
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) will launch a Joint Military Command during its annual meeting scheduled for December 9 in Doha, Qatar, according to an informed Gulf military source. Plans for establishing the unified military command were announced at last year’s GCC summit in Kuwait City. During that meeting, GCC leaders tasked the organization’s Joint Defense Council to build a unified defense system. An anonymous senior GCC military official said that the committees tasked with implementing the Kuwait summit resolution have finalized their work and the Joint Military Command is expected to be launched at next month’s GCC summit. He characterized military cooperation among member states as “good,” adding that there are no obstacles to the announcement of a joint military command. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/25/2014]


Morocco spends $8 billion dollars to face military and terrorism threats
According to a report from the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP) on the economic cost of violence to the world economy, Morocco’s violence-related costs constitute 4.6 percent of the country’s GDP, equivalent to $8.375 billion dollars. Morocco was ranked 81 out of 152 countries in terms of expenditure on violence. [Morocco World News 11/24/2014]

Free trade area to be launched in Egypt
Africa’s largest free trade area is set to be launched next month during a heads of states summit in Cairo. The tripartite free trade area would bring together the East African Community (EAC), the Common Market of East and Southern Africa (COMESA) and the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and aims to boost intra–regional trade, increase foreign investment and promote the development of cross-regional infrastructure. The free trade area also known as Grand Free Trade Area will have a combined population of 625 million people and gross domestic product of $1.2 trillion. [KBC, Bernama, 11/24/2014]

Libya and economy likely to top Sisi’s Europe visit
According to officials, the developments in Libya and Egyptian economic relations are likely to be at the top of the agenda of Sisi’s visit to Italy and France this week. The visit is Sisi’s first European trip and is expected to last a week. According to Egypt’s presidency fighting terrorism and finding a platform to align the efforts of the international community against it will top the agenda of the trip. [Ahram Online, 11/24/2014]

Yemen Gas Company to provide gas to local markets within twenty-four hours
The Yemen Gas Company said that it work to provide citizens of Sana’a, which has been undergoing a fuel crisis and price gouging, with gas in the next twenty-four hours. The capital has seen natural gas shortages over the past two weeks, with some providers raising their prices by as much as thirty percent. Director of Supply Management Mohammad Ahmed al-Qadimi said that the company had conducted maintenance on a refinery from November 16 to 24, and would be returning its supplies to full capacity after the temporary drop. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 11/25/2014]