Top News: Militants Overrun Benghazi Special Forces Base as Chaos Deepens

Militant fighters overran a Saiqa special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, after another day of intensive missile strikes by Ansar al-Sharia and its allies that killed at least thirty people.


Mahlab issues order to create committee for demarcation of new governorate borders
Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab issued on Tuesday three decisions aimed at supporting development in governorates, encouraging investments and advancing municipalities. Mahlab issued a decision to form a panel for the demarcation of new borders between governorates under the minister of local development. He also ordered the formation of a ministerial panel to settle investment disputes. The panel will be headed by the justice minister and will include the ministers of finance, industry and trade, local development and transitional justice. Finally, Mahlab ordered the reformation of the board of directors of the Industrial Development Authority. [SIS, EGYNews (Arabic), 7/30/3014]

Egypt revises Gaza truce plan; Kerry says negotiations should take place in Cairo
Egypt said it was revising its truce proposal to end the conflict in Gaza that Israel had originally accepted but Hamas rejected. The new offer is to be presented to a Palestinian delegation that arrived in Cairo on Tuesday. An Israeli official said Israel might send its own envoy to Cairo too. Speaking at a joint press conference with his Ukrainian counterpart in Washington DC, US Secretary of State John Kerry said that if negotiations were to take place between Israeli and Palestinian factions, they would take place in Cairo. He has continued to discuss the ceasefire initiative with Egypt, speaking to Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry by phone on Wednesday. [Reuters, 7/30/2014]

Three militants die in car bomb accident in Giza; Police foil second car bomb
A bomb-laden car exploded in Giza, killing three suspected militants, a security source told state news agency MENA. The source said the bomb probably detonated accidentally while the car was driving in the town of al-Saf in Giza. Investigations are ongoing to identify the bodies. Security forces found a second explosives-loaded car in Giza, just hours after the first explosion, and arrested one suspected militant. Initial investigations by Giza security revealed that the suspected militants were targeting electricity pylons in the area. [Ahram Online, AP, Reuters, EGYNews (Arabic), Shorouk (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), 7/30/2014]

International conference to support Egypt’s economy may be held in November
Egypt’s ministerial economic group will hold a meeting with Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Finance, Ibrahim al-Assaf, and Emirate’s Minister of State, Sultan al-Jaber, to discuss the timing of an international conference called upon by King Abdullah to support Egypt’s economy following President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s win. The session is part of the meetings held by the government to prepare for the conference expected in November. The government seeks to collect $72 billion from the conference, including investment projects of $62 billion and loans of $10 billion. [Al Mal, 7/26/2014]


Militants overrun Benghazi special forces base as chaos deepens
Militant fighters overran a Saiqa special forces base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, after another day of intensive missile strikes by Ansar al-Sharia and its allies that killed at least thirty people. It is a major blow to the power and position of the Saiqa special forces to be forced to abandon its headquarters. Ansar and its allies launched their offensive against the Saiqa base a week ago. Since then, fierce fighting between both sides, which has seen continued missile attacks by Ansar and its allies and air strikes by Operation Dignity planes, has inflicted massive damage in the district and surrounding areas. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 7/29/2014]

Assailants abduct, then free lawmaker
A Libyan security official says assailants abducted lawmaker and former prime minister Mustafa Abushagur from his home in Tripoli, but released him hours later. The parliament member returned home safely on Wednesday after being abducted the night before. It is unclear who was behind the abduction. This is the latest in a wave of kidnappings and assassinations that have been on the rise in Libya as it descends into chaos and deadly fighting among militias. Abushagur holds Libyan and American citizenship. He was the first prime minister to be elected after the 2011 overthrow of Muammar Qaddafi, but he failed to form a government and was subsequently ousted. [AP, 7/30/2014]

Tripoli “quiet” amid fears of fresh fighting ahead
Tripoli was like a ghost town for much of today. The relative calm was largely due to the ceasefire organized by Tripoli Municipal Council to enable firefighters to put out the massive blaze at the Airport Road fuel depot. However, hopes were dashed when clashes erupted on the road and another tank was hit. Chances of a more general lasting ceasefire appear increasingly slim. Residents of Tripoli and Benghazi have been taking advantage of Eid to leave Libya. Border control says that 8,000 Libyans left the country through the Ras Ajdir border crossing Monday. The government has effectively moved to Bayda, one of the safer places in the country. [Libya Herald, 7/29/2014]

As Libya deteriorates, Tunisia does not rule out closing border crossing
The Tunisian government will consider closing the Ras Ajdir border crossing with Libya, where a reported 6,000 Libyans are arriving every day, if the situation worsens in the violence-torn country. The number of Libyans attempting to reach Tunisia is growing daily. If the situation in Libya grows worse, the country’s embassy in Tripoli will be shut down and only the consular office at the Ras Jedir border post will remain open to help Tunisian citizens return, along with refugees from other countries. Approximately two million Libyans currently reside in Tunisia. [ANSAmed, 7/30/2014]


Bombs in Aleppo kill thirteen pro-Assad fighters
Opposition forces exploded bombs in tunnels under Aleppo late on Tuesday, killing at least thirteen fighters loyal to President Bashar al-Assad. The bombs, which appeared to have been carried out by Islamist brigades, were placed in two tunnels running under historic parts of the city close to an old police station. The attack comes as Aleppo’s rebels struggle to hold on as the regime and ISIS advance on the city. [Reuters, AFP, 7/30/2014]

Syria using barrel bombs in defiance of UN resolution
The Syrian government is still indiscriminately bombing civilians with explosives-filled barrels in defiance of a UN Security Council resolution, an international human rights group said Wednesday. Human Rights Watch’s statement came as the Security Council is expected to meet later in the day for a fifth round of reporting on the resolution. The New York-based group has documented over 650 strikes on rebel-held neighborhoods in the northern city of Aleppo since the resolution’s adoption. [Naharnet, 7/30/2014]

ISIS could soon reap $3 million per day selling oil
As ISIS steams further into Syria, analysts say a significant portion of its financial resources come from crude oil sold on the black market; accordingly, oil fields have become prime targets in the fight. Officials from the Iraqi oil industry say that ISIS reaps $1 million per day in Iraq in oil profits and that if the group seizes oil in the Syrian areas where it is advancing, the total would be $100 million per month for both Iraq and Syria combined. On Tuesday, Kurdish security forces in northern Iraq claim to have made major inroads into shutting down oil smuggling by militants from ISIS. [Syria Deeply, 7/28/2014]


Several foreign diplomatic delegations fleeing insecurity in Libya arrive in Ras Ajdir
On Tuesday, several diplomatic delegations crossed the border point of Ras Ajdir, in the southeast of Tunisia, fleeing Libya where the security situation has further deteriorated. Libyan families also continue to flock to the border crossing but at a less intense pace than on Monday. Several ambulances also crossed Ras Jedir. In a press conference yesterday, Minister of Foreign Affairs Monji Hamedi said that Tunisia could not allow the flow of Libyan refugees to continue indefinitely, due to the county’s perilous economic situation. [TAP, Mosaique FM, 7/30/2014]

Chief of staff of the army resigns
The ministry of defense confirmed today the resignation of General Mohamed Salah Hamedi, chief of staff of the army. This information comes only hours after the spokesman for the national defense ministry, Colonel Major Lamjed Hammami, denied Hamedi’s resignation. There has been no confirmation as to the reason for his resignation, but it is possible that he is resigning over failures with regard to counterterrorism. [Mosaique FM, TAP, 7/30/2014]

Tunisia troops wounded, terrorist arrested in Kasserine
Three members of Tunisia’s security forces were wounded Tuesday when militants near the border with Algeria shot the helicopter they were travelling in. The two soldiers and a national guardsman received treatment but their wounds were not serious. A security source said the three men were in a helicopter fired on by an armed group as they flew over Mount Samama, in Kasserine. The national army arrested a wanted terrorist during the control and oversight operation in Mount Samama. The terrorist described as “very dangerous,” was handed over to the security units for questioning. [AFP, TAP, 7/30/2014]


Yemen raises fuel prices as part of subsidies reform
Yemen raised fuel prices on Wednesday as the impoverished country tries to cut energy subsidies to ease the burden on its budget deficit, prompting protests in Sana’a. The government raised official prices of petrol to 200 Yemeni riyals per liter and diesel to 195 riyals. Pumps in Sanaa, which is suffering from a fuel supply crisis, sold a liter of petrol when they had it at an official subsidized price of 125 riyals ($0.58), below the roughly 300 riyals currently charged on the black market. The price of diesel, widely used for generating electricity, was 100 riyals per liter officially and 250 riyals on the black market. In a controversial move, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh posted a picture of himself holding a rifle just hours after the government lifted oil subsidies. [Reuters, Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/30/2014]

Senior Yemeni officer gunned down in Abyan
Militants believed to be affiliated with al-Qaeda gunned down a senior Yemeni army officer in Abyan on Tuesday by, locals said. Yemeni authorities have not commented on the incident. Abdullah al-Maaraji, the slain officer was the commander of the Yemeni army’s infantry brigade that fought against al-Qaeda in Lawdar in 2012. The battle brought Yemeni army control back to the district. [Yemen Post, 7/39/2014]

Woman killed in Sana’a by Yemeni soldiers
Eyewitnesses confirmed that a woman was killed on Wednesday by Yemeni soldiers in the streets of Sana’a, but could not identify the reasons behind the shooting. Official sources have not commented on the incident. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/30/2014]


US judge says cannot seize Kurdish crude for now
A US judge said she lacked jurisdiction over a tanker carrying $100 million in Iraqi Kurdish oil, due to the ship’s distance from the Texas shore and urged for the case to be settled in Iraq. Federal magistrate Nancy K. Johnson said that because the tanker was some sixty miles offshore, and outside territorial waters, an order she issued late on Monday to seize the cargo could not be enforced. [Reuters, 7/30/2014]

US approves more hellfire missiles for Iraq
The US government has approved plans to send an additional 5,000 Hellfire missiles to Iraq to help the Baghdad government defeat the threat posed by ISIS, the Pentagon said on Tuesday. The proposed sale is the largest yet of the lethal missiles, which the Iraqi military can fire from AC-208 Cessna Caravan planes and other aircraft. Washington in July alone has delivered 466 Hellfire missiles to Iraq, and has shipped 780 since January, Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters. [AFP, Wall Street Journal, 7/30/2014]

Hamas calls on Hezbollah to help fight Israel
Hamas has urged Hezbollah to join the fight against Israel after the conflict between the Islamic Resistance Movement and the Jewish state entered its third week. Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah vowed that his party would stand by the resistance in Gaza stating, “Hezbollah and the Lebanese resistance will stand by the Palestinian people’s uprising and resistance in our heart, willpower, hope and destiny.” [The Daily Star, 7/30/2014]