Top News: Libyan Parliament Reappoints PM as Government Loses Grip on Ministries

Libya’s parliament reappointed Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni on Monday as the government lost control of ministries in the capital where armed groups have taken over and a separate parliament has claimed legitimacy. Parliamentary spokesman Faraj Hashem said 64 of the 106 representatives present had voted for Thinni and the house had instructed him “to form a crisis government within a period of time not exceeding two weeks.” US Secretary of State John Kerry called Thinni before his appointment to give his support, the Libyan government said in a statement. Both stressed the need for national dialogue and reconciliation, it added.



Egypt’s political figures reject Islamist politician’s reconciliation initiative
A wide range of Egyptian political figures and parties have denounced a former Islamist MP’s reconciliation attempt to make peace between the government and Muslim Brotherhood. In a press conference in his home town of Kom Ombo in the Aswan governorate on Sunday, Mohamed al-Omda, fresh out of a yearlong stint in jail on charges of instigating violence following Mohamed Morsi’s ouster, proposed a seven-part initiative that he said “would save the country.” At the heart of the initiative is treating President Abdel Fattah’s term as a transitional period to “reach to an understanding between the army and the Muslim Brotherhood.” Islamist figures including Yahia Hamed, a leading Brotherhood member and former investment minister, Hatem Azam, vice chairman of the moderate Islamist al-Wasat Party, and Kamal al-Helbawy, a former leading Brotherhood member and researcher on Islamist groups, rejected the initiative. Liberal groups were also mostly opposed to al-Omda’s initiative, including the Tamarod movement and the leftist Tagammu Party. [Ahram Online, 9/2/2014]

Egypt extends deadline for NGOs to register or face investigation
Egypt’s Ministry of Solidarity extended on Sunday a deadline for NGOs to register their existence with the ministry or else face legal investigation, a statement by the National Human Rights Council read. The extension moves the deadline forward another 45 days until November 10. The decision is the result of several requests by the National Council for Human Rights (NCHR), The General Union for Non-Governmental Organizations and other civil society institutions. An NCHR statement also called on President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi to pass a draft law, currently under review by the cabinet, which civil society organizations drafted along with the government to replace law 84. The temporary reprieve is of scant comfort to the threatened parties, who fear it merely delays the inevitable. The decision came as forty-five international and national human rights NGOs issued a joint statement Saturday refusing to register under the Mubarak-era law. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, DNE, 8/31/2014]

HRW witness on Raba’a al-Adaweya dispersal arrested
Alexandria security services arrested on Saturday former teaching assistant of Alexandria University’s Faculty of Sciences Mohamed Tarek. Tarek is a Muslim Brotherhood member and eyewitness who gave testimony to Human Rights Watch in its report on dispersal of Raba’a al-Adaweya sit-in. He is accused of running several Facebook pages that incite against police and military, and was reportedly among eight people arrested during a protest against police and military in Alexandria. He has also been accused of illegal public assembly, blocking traffic, and membership of the banned Muslim Brotherhood. Human Rights Watch (HRW) warned Egyptian police, “the further they go down the road of repression, the louder calls for accountability will grow,” after his arrest. [Egypt Independent, 9/2/2014]

Kerry reassures Egypt over Apache delivery
Secretary of State John Kerry told his Egyptian counterpart on Friday that the United States intends to make good on its promise to deliver ten Apache helicopters to help Cairo’s counterterrorism efforts. Kerry announced in June that he was “confident” Egypt would receive the helicopter gunships soon, and reiterated that in his phone call to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, a senior State Department official said. “Secretary Kerry informed Shoukry that the United States intends to move forward on deliveries of Apache helicopters to the Egyptian military, which we believe are a critical tool that will help the Egyptian government in its counterterrorism efforts,” the official said. In an effort to improve ties, Deputy Foreign Minister for African Affairs Hamdi Loza met Tuesday a United States’ congressional delegation, headed by House of Representatives member Chris Stewart, to discuss developments in bilateral relations between the two countries. The new United States ambassador to Cairo, Robert Stephen Beecroft, is expected to arrive in Egypt late September, succeeding Anne Patterson who left in August. [Ahram Online, AFP, DNE, Egypt Independent, 9/1/2014]


Libyan parliament reappoints PM as government loses grip on ministries
Libya’s parliament reappointed Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni on Monday as the government lost control of ministries in the capital where armed groups have taken over and a separate parliament has claimed legitimacy. Parliamentary spokesman Faraj Hashem said 64 of the 106 representatives present had voted for Thinni and the house had instructed him “to form a crisis government within a period of time not exceeding two weeks.” US Secretary of State John Kerry called Thinni before his appointment to give his support, the Libyan government said in a statement. Both stressed the need for national dialogue and reconciliation, it added. The government says most ministerial and public buildings are now under the control of armed factions. A statement published on Thinni’s website on August 31 said some public buildings have been “besieged and occupied” and staff prevented from entering their workplaces. [Reuters, Libya Herald, Libya Monitor, 9/1/2014]

US Embassy residential complex being “safeguarded” by Libya Dawn militia
Reports circulating on social media that showed a US embassy’s residential complex had been stormed, located about a kilometer away from the embassy. The complex had been taken over by Libya Dawn forces. A video surfaced on YouTube showing a crowd of Libyan men around a swimming pool in the compound. Several of them took turns diving from a second-story balcony into the pool. According to Libya Dawn forces, they have “secured” the compound and are safeguarding it from looting. The US State Department pulled its staff from Tripoli on July 26 as clashes in the city grew more intense. [Libya Herald, 9/1/2014]

Fighting in southeast Benghazi as Ansar renews Benina attacks
Massive missile attacks and explosions overnight in and around the Benghazi district of Buatni as Ansar Al-Sharia launched a fresh assault on Benina Airport. The head of Saiqa Special Forces Investigations Unit, Fadel Al-Hassi, told the Libya Herald that Ansar had ceased its offensive at around midday having begun at around midnight. He said Ansar had deployed a number of armoured cars in its attempts to take the airport but that finally Special Forces had been able to repulse the Islamists as far as Sidi Mansour. Benina Airport and a nearby Air Defence base are the last major positions held by Operation Dignity in Benghazi since its Special Forces partners were pushed from its headquarters in Buatni at the end of Ramadan. [Libya Herald, 9/1/2014]

Clashes between Islamists, rivals see thirty-one deaths
Fierce clashes in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi between Islamist militiamen and rival forces loyal to a renegade general have killed thirty-one fighters on both sides, a security official said Tuesday. The fighting erupted late on Monday, with forces and fighter jets belonging to Gen. Khalifa Haftar pounding positions of Islamist militias called The Benghazi Revolutionary Shura Council, said the official. The hours-long clashes concentrated around the city’s Benina airport and the militiamen responded with artillery. Haftar’s side lost twenty fighters while the militiamen had lost eleven, and thirty-six fighters in all were wounded, the official said. [AP, 9/2/2014]


Regime escalates attack on Jubar; Weekend fighting kills forty-two children
At least forty-two children were killed in government air strikes and shelling across Syria between Friday and Sunday. The deaths came in regime shelling and air strikes across the country, though most took place in the northern province of Aleppo and northwestern Idlib. Many of the deaths came in raids involving the use of explosive-packed barrel-bombs, a weapon that has been criticized by rights groups as indiscriminate. Additionally, thirty-one jihadists and eight civilians were killed in airstrikes on the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa on Sunday. In the capital Damascus, regime planes continued to pound the eastern rebel-held district of Jubar, where the government began a fierce offensive earlier this week to wrest back control. [AFP, 8/31/2014]

Record 4.1 million in Syria got food aid in August, UN says
A record 4.1 million people in Syria received food rations in August due to more convoys being able to cross front lines and borders from Turkey and Jordan, the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday. Over the last six weeks, WFP and partner agencies have crossed front lines to reach more than 580,000 people, over four times the 137,000 reached in the preceding six weeks, it said. The UN Security Council authorized the movement of UN aid through four border crossings in July. [Naharnet, Reuters, 9/2/14]

Pro-regime activist arrested after rare public dissent
Syrian authorities have arrested a pro-government activist who launched a social media campaign calling on officials to provide information about hundreds of missing soldiers, residents, and activists. The arrest has fueled an unusually bold push by some government supporters to hold officials accountable for the rising death toll among President Bashar al-Assad’s loyalists. Before his disappearance, activist and lawyer Mudar Hassan Khaddur represented a rare but growing voice of public dissent among Alawites, the sect to which Assad and many of his top military and security advisers belong. Khaddur’s detention has further outraged many in the community, which has typically been more reticent about public dissent even as the conflict has left few Alawite families untouched. [The Daily Star, 9/2/2014]

Fiji says Nusra Front want compensation, removal from terror list
Nusra Front fighters who seized dozens of Fijian soldiers serving as UN peacekeepers in the Golan Heights last week are demanding that their group be removed from a global terrorism list and that compensation be paid for members killed in fighting, the head of Fiji’s army said on Tuesday. Heavy fighting erupted on Monday between the Syrian army and Nusra rebels in the area of the Golan where the peacekeepers were captured. [Reuters, Naharnet, 9/2/2014]


IMF approves $217 million loan disbursement to Tunisia
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) said Friday it had completed a review of its loan program for Tunisia, clearing the way for disbursement of about $217.5 million. The latest disbursement brings the total funds released under the program to about $1.1 billion, the IMF said. The Fund agreed last year to support Tunisia with a two-year credit worth about $1.74 billion. In exchange, Tunisia agreed to follow certain economic policies, such as keeping its deficit under control and making the foreign exchange market more flexible. The IMF said Tunisia has complied with all the conditions of the program so far, including structural reforms, despite a difficult economic situation, with high unemployment and rising imbalances. [Reuters, 8/30/2014]

Power outage hits Tunisia cities
A major power outage hit the Tunisian capital, its suburbs, and other areas of the country on Sunday. The cities of Hammamet in northern Tunisia, Monastir in the east and Zarzis in the south were affected. Nejib Helal, Deputy Director General in the Tunisian Company for Electricity and Gas (STEG) says, “A breakdown in the electricity transmission network in the region of the Sahel” was the reason. The power outage lasted a few hours. STEG is operating on a heavy deficit and has warned of increased power cuts, while its employees are threatening to strike in mid-September in protest of a new renewable energies law. [AFP, TAP, 8/31/2014]

Tunisian deputy survives assassination attempt
A deputy in Tunisia’s transitional parliament survived an assassination attempt in the city of Kasserine, near the Algerian border, where security forces have been hunting Islamist militants for months. Mohamed Ali Nasri told reporters in hospital that about five gunmen attacked his house late on Monday. He threw himself from the roof and hid in a neighbor’s home, suffering a broken leg but no bullet wounds. [Reuters, Ahram, 9/2/2014]


President Hadi responds to Houthi demands; Twenty-one killed in clashes in Majzar
President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi announced on Tuesday that he will replace Yemen’s unity government and cut a controversial fuel price hike, two demands of Houthi rebels. Hadi will assign within a week a new prime minister to form a national unity government. A hike in oil prices implemented in July will also be reviewed downwards. At least twenty-one people were killed in weekend clashes between Houthi rebels and pro-government tribesmen in Majzar straddling Jawf and Marib. After three days of talks in late August between the Yemeni authorities, the rebels failed to reach a deal to end the political standoff. [Saba (Arabic), AFP, Al Arabiya, 9/2/2014]

Al-Qaeda kills three Yemen spies for allegedly aiding US drones
Al-Qaeda militants have executed three men they accuse of planting electronic chips in the network’s vehicles to help US drones target them. A security official said on Monday that residents of Hadramawt province found two bodies near Shibam, while a third body was found in neighboring Qoton. The security official did not specify if the three were soldiers or civilians, but residents said that troops came and took away the bodies from the two locations. [AFP, Reuters, 9/1/2014]

GCC assigns special envoy to Yemen
The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) assigned Dr. Saleh Bin Abdulaziz al-Qunaieer as special envoy to Yemen and representative of GCC Secretary General Abdulatif al-Zayani during the Gulf countries’ 132nd ministerial meeting in Jeddah on Saturday. Al-Qunaieer is tasked with supervising the implementation of the Gulf Initiative in Yemen. [Yemen Times, 9/2/2014]


Obama notifies Congress of ordering air strikes in Iraq’s Amerli
President Barack Obama formally notified the U.S. Congress on Monday that he had authorized air strikes and humanitarian airdrops over the weekend in the Iraqi Shi’ite town of Amerli where Islamic State militants had trapped the civilian population. Iraqi security forces backed by Shi’ite militias on Sunday broke the two-month siege of Amerli and entered the northern town after the U.S. military carried out air strikes on militant positions and delivered emergency supplies to residents there. Obama said in a letter to congressional leaders that he was notifying Congress of his decision under the long-standing War Powers Resolution, which gives presidents authorization for temporary military action. The operation was launched on Saturday. [Reuters, 9/1/2014]

Iraqi forces press advance as parliament stormed
Iraqi forces made more progress Tuesday in their fight against jihadists, but in Baghdad anger boiled over as hundreds stormed parliament over the fate of missing soldiers who surrendered in June. Demanding to know their fates, angry relatives stormed the parliament building in Baghdad, attacked MPs and began a sit-in in its main chamber, an official said. Anti-riot police were trying to force out the hundreds of protesters, who were also calling for some officers to be held accountable, said the official, who was present at parliament. Concern over those in jihadist hands has been fueled by reports of widespread atrocities, including accusations from Amnesty International of war crimes and ethnic cleansing. [Naharnet, 9/2/2014]

US urges Israel to reverse plan to seize West Bank land
The United States urged Israel on Monday to reverse its latest plan to seize Palestinian land in the Bethlehem area of the occupied West Bank. “This announcement, like every other settlement announcement Israel makes, planning step they approve, and construction tender they issue, is counterproductive to Israel’s stated goal of a negotiated two-state solution with the Palestinians,” a State Department official said. The plan, announced Sunday, foresees the expropriation of 988 acres (400 hectares) of Palestinian land by the Israel government. [AFP/Ahram Online, 9/1/2014]

Saudi Arabia arrests eighty-eight suspects in alleged al-Qaeda cell
Saudi Arabia says it has arrested 88 men who are suspected of being part of an al-Qaeda cell that was plotting attacks inside and outside of the kingdom. Interior Ministry spokesman Mansour al-Turki says some of the men had previously served prison sentences for similar offenses. The police say that three of the men are Yemeni nationals, one is still being identified, and the rest are Saudis. [AP/Ahram Online, 9/2/2014]