Top News: Saudi Arabia Offers One Billion Dollars to Lebanese Army

Saudi Arabian King Abdullah granted one billion dollars to help the Lebanese army bolster its security force as they battle Islamic militants from the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra front and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), who have seized the border town of Arsal on the Syrian frontier.


Kerry says Egypt’s economic reform plans ‘succeeding
The United States appreciates Egyptian efforts to reform structural economic imbalances, US Secretary of State John Kerry said in recent talks with Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab during the latter’s visit to Washington, DC. During the meeting, Kerry praised the country’s progress saying, “The US administration values the successful steps taken by Egypt to reform structural imbalances in Egypt’s economy and proceed down the path to development in a practical and effective way,” adding that the United States was keen to see Egypt’s democratic experience succeed. United States Secretary of the Treasury Jack Lew also said that the United States supports economic reform programs in Egypt during his meeting with Mahlab on the sidelines of the US-Africa Summit in Washington. [DNE, 8/5/2014]

Egyptians press Gaza truce talks between Israel, Palestinians
Egyptian officials mediating talks for a durable truce in Gaza met an Israeli delegation during the night and were to relay their demands to Palestinian representatives, Palestinian sources said Wednesday. Palestinian officials in Cairo said they would respond to the Israeli terms through the Egyptian intelligence officials, although a senior Hamas official has already rejected an Israeli demand that Palestinian factions in Gaza disarm. Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry held talks with international Middle East peace envoy Tony Blair on Wednesday, and is scheduled to meet with UN Middle East peace process coordinator Robert Serry later in the day. The Israeli delegation has left for Israel but planned to return to Cairo later Wednesday, according to an Egyptian security official. [AFP, Reuters, Ahram Online, 8/5/2014]

Egyptian Front alliance launches coalition in preparation for parliamentary elections
In a meeting on Tuesday evening, several parties agreed to launch the Egyptian Front alliance in preparation for Egypt’s upcoming parliamentary elections. A member of Ahmed Shafiq’s Egyptian Patriotic Movement, Yasser Qora, said that the parties, which include the Modern Egypt Party, the Republican People’s Party, and My Homeland Egypt Party (headed by former Interior Minister Major-General Ahmed Gamal al-Din), agreed to work together to form a coalition during the meeting. Meanwhile, Nour Party spokesperson, Nader Bakkar, said that the collapse of Amr Moussa’s Alliance of the Egyptian Nation confirmed the Nour Party’s decision not to rush into any electoral alliances. Bakkar also criticized party alliances based on personal interests rather than the interests of Egypt. [Shorouk (Arabic), 8/6/2014]

Egypt changes food-oil import system, payments delayed
Egypt has shifted responsibility for its vegetable oil imports from the state-run General Authority for Supply Commodities (GASC) to another government entity, the Food Industries Holding Company (FIHC). The change is part of wider reforms being implemented to rein in billions of spending on food subsidies. FIHC supplies subsidized goods to stores that then sell them to the public. GASC will continue handling wheat import tenders. [Reuters, 8/6/2014]


GNC president and grand mufti claim new parliament is illegal
President of the former General National Congress (GNC) Nuri Abu Sahmain and Grand Mufti Sheikh Sadik al-Ghariani have said that the new House of Representatives is unconstitutional. Abu Sahmain maintains this stance because there was no formal Tripoli handover by the GNC to the new parliament. The grand mufti has called it a coup against democracy. With the legitimacy of the new House internationally and nationally accepted, however, the comments are not viewed as carrying much weight. In a statement, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya congratulated the House on its successful opening session Monday, saying it reflected the Libyan people’s “genuine desire” for democracy, but also urged the nation’s leaders to immediately address and work to resolve the current crisis. [Libya Herald, 8/5/2014]

More than 50,000 Egyptians fled Libya in past month
As foreigners continue to flee Libya, Egyptians have overwhelmed the country’s border crossings, with nearly 50,000 Egyptians having passed through the Salloum crossing on the Libyan-Egyptian border in the last month and thousands of others stranded at the Ras Jedir crossing on the Libyan-Tunisian border. There are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million Egyptians in Libya. A visit to Tunisia by Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry this week resulted in a decision to exempt Egyptians from having to pay border-crossing fees. Meanwhile, 75 percent of the 1,200 Chinese works in Libya have evacuated since mid-July, and many more Filipino workers are leaving the country, putting a strain on Libya’s health sector. As violence continues, eighteen Sudanese were killed when a stray rocket hit a residential area in Tripoli. [Libya Herald, 8/6/2014]

UN agency ‘deeply concerned’ about safety of refugees in embattled Libya
As the situation in Libya continues to deteriorate, the UN refugee agency has expressed deep concern for the safety of thousands of refugees and asylum-seekers who are currently stranded in areas heavily damaged by the continuous fighting. According to a spokesperson, in Tripoli alone more than 150 Eritrean, Somali, and other nationals have called the protection hotline seeking assistance. There are also many Syrians and Palestinians in Benghazi in need of help. Altogether, almost 37,000 people are registered with the refugee agency in the two major cities. Many see leaving Libya as their only option, but the spokesperson warned that smugglers thrive amid the growing lawlessness, and thousands of desperate people are taking the dangerous sea journey to Europe. [UN News Centre, 8/5/2014]


Air strikes east of Damascus kill sixty-four; rebel return fire kills sixteen
Air strikes by Syrian government forces in the eastern suburbs of the capital city killed at least sixty-four people over the weekend, a monitoring group said on Tuesday. Bombardments, gun battles, and executions regularly kill over 150 people a day in Syria, but the toll from the air strikes was especially high. Tuesday night at least sixteen people, including two children, were killed when rebels shelled numerous districts of the Syrian capital. [Reuters, 8/6/2014]

Truce collapses in Syrian-Lebanese border fight; KSA and France pledge support
Fighting erupted again Wednesday in Arsal, a Lebanese border town held by Islamic extremists from Syria after a negotiated truce collapsed overnight. Muslim clerics launched new efforts to broker another cease-fire in what has been the most serious spillover from Syria’s civil war. Lebanon’s former prime minister, meanwhile, announced that Saudi Arabia is granting $1 billion in aid to the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and France announced its intent to speed up the delivery of weapons. Analysts said the LAF and Hezbollah have a common enemy in the Arsal fight and cooperation remains strong despite different tactical approaches. [AP, 8/6/2014]

ISIS takes brutal revenge on tribal insurgents in Deir Ezzor
The Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS, or IS) responded Tuesday to recent attacks against its forces in Deir Ezzor province by displaying the heads of three tribesmen who took up arms against them. The three tribal fighters were from the village of al-Jurdi, where the grisly messages to the public were placed in a public square. ISIS militants and tribesmen clashed on the outskirts of the village after tribal fighters withdrew from al-Jurdi Monday and ISIS seized the village. [The Daily Star, 8/6/2014]


Registered voters reaches 5,015,788
The Independent Higher Authority for the Elections (ISIE) points out in a news release published Tuesday that after a last count carried out at the end of the last registration extension, July 29, the total number of registered voters reached 5,015,788. The electors’ lists will be available on paper as of August 6 in all delegations, municipalities, and ISIE regions to allow the general public to get acquainted with these lists and to file appeals. ISIE has already posted the voters lists on its official website. [TAP, 8/5/2014]

All Egyptians on Libyan-Tunisian border to return within forty-eight hours
All Egyptians fleeing Libya and stuck at the Tunisian border will return to Egypt within forty-eight hours, assured Egypt’s Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry at a press conference on Tuesday. Shoukry returned from Tunisia on Tuesday with dozens of the Egyptians who were stranded there. He added that in the coming two days the number of flights will be increased with efforts from both Libya and Tunisia. At least 2,000 Egyptians remain stranded. As well as additional flights, an Egyptian ship with a capacity for 300 passengers sailed on Tuesday to transfer nationals from Tunisia back to Egypt. [Al Ahram, 8/5/2014]

US allocates $9 million for Tunisia
US Secretary of State John Kerry announced at the US-Africa summit in Washington that the Obama Administration is committed to free and fair elections in Africa. The United States is committed to supporting Tunisia’s democratic process, and is providing more than $9 million in elections assistance for the 2014 elections. The pledge includes support for international and domestic observer missions, voter outreach and education programs, and the establishment of a new electoral commission to oversee presidential and parliamentary elections. [L’Economiste Magharébin, White House, 8/6/2014]


Who controls Hadhramawt?
First Military Region’s Commander Major General Abdul-Rahman al-Halili confirmed on Tuesday that Hadhramawt is under the state’s control. The Commander denied rumors that elements of al-Qaeda captured Wadi Hadramawt. Conversely, a military official, speaking on conditions of anonymity, reported that the governorate is under the total control of al-Qaeda. “Local authorities in Hadhramawt are non-existent and al-Qaeda is running it,” he said. He added that the Yemeni army had sent substantial reinforcements to the area in preparation for an attack on the group. [Asharq Al Awsat, Saba, 8/5/2014]

Al-Qaeda ambush kills five Yemeni soldiers
Five soldiers were killed in an ambush in Shabwah on Wednesday in the third attack of its kind this month. Security officials blamed the attack on al-Qaeda. The militants opened fire on an army vehicle, killing five soldiers and wounding another, and then escaped. [The Daily Star, 8/6/2014]

Three percent rise in donor pledges in Yemen
The Executive Bureau for Accelerating Absorption of Donors’ Pledges revealed in its latest report that donor pledges rose by three percent to reach $8.2 billion during September 2013 – May 2014. The report included a progress assessment addressing the allocation and implementation of the reform policies included in the Mutual Accountability Framework (MAF) between the Yemeni government and donors. It also included an overview of the progress in implementing projects financed by donors and reviewed the challenges identified by the bureau and its recommendations for the future. [Saba, 8/5/2014]

Saudi Border Guard stops smuggling attempt along the border with Yemen
The Saudi Border Guard stopped three smuggling attempts along the border with Yemen recently and confiscated more than 185 kilograms of Hashish. Major Hasan bin Badr al-Qusaibi, Jazan border guard’s spokesman, said that one smuggler was caught and is currently being interrogated by the authorities. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/6/2014]


Saudi Arabia offers one billion dollars to Lebanese army
Saudi Arabian King Abdullah granted one billion dollars to help the Lebanese army bolster its security force as they battle Islamic militants from the al-Qaeda affiliated Nusra front and the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS), who have seized the border town of Arsal on the Syrian frontier. The Lebanese army and Islamic militants clashed on Wednesday, which broke the ceasefire aimed at ending five days of fighting. Former Lebanese Prime Minister Saad al-Hariri, announced the Saudi aid after meeting King Abdullah in his summer residence in the Red Sea city of Jeddah late on Tuesday. [Reuters, 8/6/2014]

Kurdish forces launch an offensive against ISIS
Kurdish forces launched an assault targeting the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) fighters near the Kurdish regional capital of Arbil in northern Iraq on Wednesday. This assault comes as a change of tactics supported by the Iraqi central government to recapture the areas in which the militants secured on Sunday. The location of the clashes between the two puts the Islamic State fighters closer than they have ever been to the Kurdish semi-autonomous region. [Reuters, 8/6/2014]

Jordan push for UN action on Gaza
Jordan has presented a new resolution on the Gaza crisis to the UN Security Council, hoping for action on the measure in the coming days, its ambassador said Tuesday. The draft resolution backed by Arab countries calls for a lasting ceasefire between Hamas and Israel, as well as an international effort to rebuild Gaza. The fifteen member Council has adopted a statement calling for a ceasefire, but the Palestinians and Arab countries have said it falls short of a formal resolution from the top body. [AFP, 8/6/2014]

Hezbollah claims its fighters have not intervened in the Arsal clashes
Hezbollah denied on Tuesday that its fighters are involved in the ongoing battles between army troops and extremist militants in the eastern border town of Arsal. Hezbollah said in a statement “What is happening on ground, like dealing with the military situation, protecting citizens and confronting terrorist armed groups is exclusively the responsibility of the Lebanese army,” Sixteen soldiers have been killed and more than eighty-six wounded since the outbreak of the Arsal clashes. [Naharnet, 8/6/2014]