Syrian government troops are targeting media centers and news providers, Reporters Without Borders has warned after the killing of a citizen journalist and the destruction of premises belonging to two media centers within a week. There has been an increase in abductions of news providers by armed groups in and around the city of Aleppo since the start of November and at least five Syrian citizen journalists have been kidnapped in the past three weeks. On Tuesday, Mohamed Ahmed Taysir Bellou, the editor of the opposition al-Shahba TV and a reporter for Shahba Press Agency, was shot dead by a sniper while covering clashes between President Bashar al-Assad’s troops and rebels in Aleppo’s Lairmoon district. The army also bombarded the premises of the Aleppo News Network and the Aleppo Media Centre within the space of forty-eight hours. More than twenty Syrian news providers were being held hostage by armed groups, while a total of sixteen foreign journalists were detained, held hostage, or missing. [Al Jazeera, 11/20/2013]


Army Chief Sisi does not rule out presidential bid
Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, held open the possibility he might run for the presidency in an interview published on Thursday in a Kuwaiti newspaper. When asked directly at the beginning of the interview whether he would run for president, Sisi answered with a number of questions. “Would this be satisfying to the people? Would it satisfy some outside powers? Would this mean that I would work on Egypt’s problems? Anyone who realizes the extent of Egypt’s problems would turn away from the presidential race,” he said. [Egypt Independent, Ahram Gate (Arabic), Mada Masr, Reuters, 11/21/2013]

Egypt panels approves military trials for civilians, gives military eight-year veto over defense minister
Egypt’s fifty-member constitution committee has approved an article allowing civilians to be tried by military courts. At Wednesday’s session, thirty members voted in favor of the article, seven against, with two abstentions. The remaining eleven were absent. The assembly also has passed an article that grants the Supreme Council of Armed Forces (SCAF) the right to choose the country’s defense minister for the next eight years. The president will have the right to appoint the defense minister, but this will come into effect after two presidential terms have elapsed. The article grants the president the authority to remove the defense minister when he wishes though, as well as the right to appoint one with the permission of the SCAF. Ahmed Maher, leader of the April 6 Movement,  announced the rejection to any constitution that grants military trials for the civilians. Egypt’s new constitution will consist of 241 articles, including fifty-one articles in the section on basic principles, fifty-eight articles in the rights and freedoms section, and 123 articles in the governance system section, according to the official spokesman of the drafting committee. [Shorouk (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), Mada Masr, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, DNE, Egypt Independent, 11/21/2013]

Government financial bodies suffer EGP 10bn losses
Egyptian government financial bodies suffered losses of EGP 10 billion during the 2012-2013 fiscal year, according to the latest report issued by the Ministry of Finance.The financial bodies received around EGP 3.4 billion in term of financing from the government, however, their revenues registered EGP 108 billion, representing only 91 percent of the targeted figure.“These losses are mainly directed by the increased expenditure on wages and the increased prices of electricity and water,” said Soad Bakhaty, the head of the Central Budget Department for Economic Bodies. Increasing minimum wage, Bakhaty said, would not necessarily result in additional net losses, since a balance could be achieved using the surplus from the application of maximum wage law to compensate [DNE, 11/20/2013]

US Secretary of State says Brotherhood stole Egypt’s revolution
US Secretary of State John Kerry on Wednesday accused the Muslim Brotherhood of stealing Egypt’s revolution, in some of his toughest comments yet about the party that took power in the nation’s first democratic election. In a speech to a forum on enhancing links between private sector businesses and diplomatic security agencies, Kerry said “the best antidote to extremism is opportunity. Those kids in Tahrir Square, they were not motivated by any religion or ideology.” He added,  “They tweeted their ways and Facetimed their ways and talked to each other, and that’s what drove that revolution. And then it got stolen by the one single-most organized entity in the state, which was the Brotherhood.” Kerry’s statements are the fiercest against the Brotherhood since Egypt’s military deposed President Mohamed Morsi, who hailed from it, which was prompted by mass protests against his rule. [AFP, Aswat Masriya, 11/21/2013]


Libya MP says grenade in her bag was for self-defense
A Libyan MP, stopped by officials at Tripoli’s city hall Wednesday when her handbag set off a security alarm, said a hand grenade inside was for her own defense. Souad Soltan, a member of the General National Congress, had arrived at city hall for a meeting when she put her bag through the metal detector and set off the alarm, the city government said on its Facebook page. Once the grenade was removed, she was allowed to enter the building and attend the meeting. The city council said it had issued the statement to deny rumors that Soltan had been arrested. [AFP, 11/21/2013]

Police officer targeted, brother injured in latest Benghazi car blast
A Benghazi police officer was the target of an assassination attempt yesterday and his brother, who was driving, was seriously injured, when an explosive device planted in his vehicle was detonated. A spokesperson for the Benghazi Medical Centre, where the colonel’s brother is being treated, said that he was seriously injured in the blast. The device exploded when the vehicle was driven across a bridge near the Benghazi Medical Centre. [Libya Herald, 11/21/2013]

Friday protests moved and rebranded “a celebration” by Elbadri
The location of tomorrow’s planned protest against militia presence in Triploi has been changed to Abu Harida Square near al-Quds Mosque. The demonstration was previously planned to take place in Martyrs Square. Referring to this week’s withdrawal of Misratan and other armed brigades from the capital, the head of the Tripoli Local Council (TLC) Sadat Elbadri said that the protest will be “more like a celebration after achieving much more than expected”. [Libya Herald, 11/21/2013]


In Qatar desert, Syrian opposition mourns fallen commander
On a patch of Qatari desert far from Syria, dozens of senior Syrian opposition figures and sympathizers gathered to commemorate Abdelqader Saleh, the renowned Syrian rebel commander who died this week from wounds after an air strike in Aleppo. The unusual scene testified to how deeply one of the world’s richest nations has engaged with the cause of Syrians struggling to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad. Qatar has long armed and supplied Saleh’s Islamist al-Tawhid brigades, one of the largest rebel units operating in the sprawling northern city of Aleppo and the surrounding region. The presence of Ahmad Jarba, the Saudi-backed head of the coalition in exile, at the Qatar ceremony suggested a rapprochement between the two Gulf nations which have competed for influence over the Syrian opposition. [Reuters, 11/21/2013]

Islamists fighting for Aleppo base kill fifteen regime militia; Al-Qaeda faction calls for unity
Fighting for a key military base outside Syria’s main northern city of Aleppo killed at least fifteen pro-government militiamen on Thursday. The members of the National Defence Forces were killed in fighting against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), al-Nusra Front, and Islamist groups in the east of Aleppo province and near the hotly contested military outpost known as Base 80. In an audio message distributed widely on Thursday the spokesman for ISIS called for jihadist groups to join forces under its banner, saying that militant groups should close ranks against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. His remarks come weeks after Al-Qaeda chief Ayman al-Zawahiri ordered ISIS to shut down in Syria and instead anointed al-Nusra Front, another group affiliated with al-Qaeda, to carry the network’s banner in the Syrian conflict. [AFP, 11/21/2013]

British citizens said to be killed while fighting in Syria
As evidence mounts that dozens of Americans have traveled or sought to travel to Syria to join rebel forces, the British Foreign Office said on Thursday that it was investigating reports that several Britons had died there while fighting on the side of Islamic militants opposed to President Bashar al-Assad. The reports deepened concerns in the UK that Britons who have fought in Syria could return to their own country to radicalize other Muslims. British security officials have said 200 to 300 Britons are fighting with jihadist forces in Syria. [NYT, 11/21/2013]


Ennahda parliamentary group withdraws amendments to NCA internal rules
The parliamentary group led by the moderate Islamist Ennahda party decided to withdraw amendments to the internal rules of Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly, President of the bloc Sahbi Atig announced. The move seeks to “reach consensus and see to it that [the] national dialogue bear fruit,” he indicated. The amendments were rejected by opposition deputies and the Ettakatol party, whose members had suspended their activities within the Assembly. [TAP, 11/20/2013]

United States in talks with Tunisia on boosting security
The head of the US military’s Africa Command held talks with Tunisia’s interim Prime Minister Ali Larayedh on security cooperation, notably to stem arms trafficking, the government said Wednesday. The meeting with General David Rodriguez “was an opportunity to discuss the security issue, ways of cooperating and how the United States can support Tunisia, in terms of equipment and training,” Larayedh’s office said. The talks focused on “supporting efforts to combat trafficking, particularly of arms, and on ways of helping Tunisia to secure its borders.”  [AFP/Al Arabiya, 11/21/2013]

Slain politician Brahmi replaced in assembly
The position of slain National Constituent Assembly (NCA) member Mohamed Brahmi was filled yesterday by his newly-selected replacement, Fadhel Safraoui. The replacement comes almost four months after Brahmi’s assassination on July 25. Brahmi was head of the People’s Movement, a small party in the Popular Front coalition. Safraoui is also a member of the People’s Movement party. [Tunisia Live, 11/21/2013]

Ministers questioned on torture, maltreatment in prisons
Minister of Justice Nadhir Ben Ammou attributed alleged maltreatment in prisons to “crowdedness” in response to questions about torture at yesterday’s National Constituent Assembly hearing. The session was held to question both Ben Ammou and Minister of Human Rights and Transitional Justice Samir Dilou about torture cases. Ben Ammou stated that the country’s prison capacity is almost 18,000 prisoners, but the current numbers of prisoners is 25,000, including 13,000 pending trials. [Tunisia Live, 11/21/2013]


Yemen to finally ban child marriage?
The Human Rights Ministry of Yemen has confirmed that one of its officials has helped to prevent the wedding of a twelve-year-old girl in Taiz, which was due to take place earlier this month. There have been reports of similar interventions taking place in other parts of the country as well. The Human Rights Ministry, under Hooria Mashhour’s leadership, has put child marriage at the top of its agenda. This ministry has been responsible for putting pressure on other members of government to ensure that a minimum age of marriage draft bill is introduced at the next opportunity as part of the country’s National Dialogue. Fouad al-Ghaffari, from the Ministry, has indicated that this bill might be introduced by the minister of Legal Affairs in the very near future. It is hoped that this bill will have more success than previous iterations of it, as there has recently been increased international attention on child marriages in Yemen. [The Daily Beast, 11/20/2013]

Yemen arrests suspected female al-Qaeda militants in country’s south after military operation
Clashes between suspected al-Qaeda militants, including women, and Yemeni troops left one officer, three soldiers, and at least two militants dead in the country’s south, security officials said Wednesday. The raid ended with the arrest of a number of militants, including several women. The officials said a raid on two houses in the Hadramawt province sparked clashes that lasted for over an hour. The officials said several women and children and at least one male militant were arrested at the end of the raid, but did not give an exact number of those arrested. Officials said the women are believed to be Saudi nationals, who make up a large part of the militant group. It is not usual for female al-Qaeda fighters to operate in Yemen, although they may help the group in logistics. However, officials said some female al-Qaeda suspects escaped from Saudi Arabia to Yemen recently. It is not immediately clear if they were among those arrested Wednesday. [Washington Post, 11/20/2013]

HRW urges Yemen to strike down immunity law
In a statement released on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch (HRW), called upon representatives in Yemen’s National Dialogue to endorse a proposal to strike down the country’s immunity law. According to HRW, the law “violates Yemen’s international legal obligation to hold all of those responsible for serious human rights violations to account.” Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director at HRW, said, “National Dialogue Conference (NDC) representatives have a great opportunity to assure victims of past abuses that the government will have to provide an avenue for real justice.” The Transitional Justice Working Group put forth the proposal, and the larger NDC has been debating it since October. [HRW, 11/19/2013]

Houthi-Salafi cease-fire negotiations break down
Houthi gunmen renewed their shelling of Dammaj in Yemen’s northern Saada province on Tuesday, killing at least twenty local residents, local sources reported. The heavy shelling in the governorate, which included the use of tanks, resulted in the deaths of both Houthis and Salafis, as well as property damage. The sources said that this renewal of violence means the breakdown of all cease-fire negotiations between the two parties. [Asharq al-Awsat, 11/20/2013]


Trial of Moroccan who tore Algeria flag down adjourned
The trial of a Moroccan protester who broke into the compound of Algeria’s consulate in Casablanca and tore down the country’s flag during a diplomatic row was adjourned Thursday until November 28. The incident occurred on November 1 at a demonstration against comments by Algeria’s President Abdelaziz Bouteflika over the disputed Western Sahara, and a video of it was widely circulated on Moroccan websites. The trial was swiftly adjourned after defense lawyer Salaheddine Benabdellah asked for more time to prepare his case. [AFP, 11/21/2013]

Interior minister says Lebanon facing dangers in 2014
Lebanese Interior Minister Marwan Charbel warned on Wednesday that 2014 could bring more crises for the country, already reeling from the fallout of the war in neighboring Syria and its own turbulent internal politics. He listed the dangers as the start of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon in January 2014, the Lebanese presidential election in six months, forthcoming elections in Syria, the election of a mufti in Lebanon, and Lebanon’s own postponed parliamentary elections. Charbel said each was linked, one way or another, to the Syrian issue and the military and political developments there. He added that what was certain was that “whenever matters improved for the regime in Syria, matters become more complicated in Lebanon,” because “the influence of Syria…will increase.” [Asharq Al-Awsat, 11/21/2013]