Top News: Seventy-Five Bodies Found In Benghazi

As a temporary ceasefire took hold in Tripoli to allow firefighters to control a huge blaze at a fuel depot, at least seventy-five bodies, mostly soldiers, were found in Benghazi after two days of fighting in which Islamist militias overran an army base.



Israeli negotiators land in Cairo for Gaza talks
An Israeli delegation arrived in Cairo on Wednesday to discuss with Egyptian officials a possible ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, airport officials said. Cairo, a key mediator in truce negotiations between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers, was also expected to host a Palestinian delegation later this week. Talks are expected to take place in Egypt on Thursday involving President Mahmoud Abbas at the head of a united Palestinian delegation. “A representative from Hamas is part of the official Palestinian delegation,” a Cairo-based diplomat said. Meanwhile, Egypt strongly condemned Israel’s “continued targeting of innocent Palestinian civilians in Gaza,” according to a statement by the foreign affairs ministry on Wednesday. The statement is the second in two days which states its rejection of Israel’s “excessive” use of “unjustified” violence against Palestinians. [AFP, 7/31/2014]

Egypt on mission to quench $21 billion energy thirst
Egypt’s power demand is expected to grow 6 percent per annum over the next seven years, but the country needs to invest heavily in the sector to meet rising demand. It will certainly be a tall order. The Energy Sector Management Assistance Program (ESMAP) estimates that the country needs $21 billion in power infrastructure investment over the next seven years to catch up with soaring domestic demand for power. [Zawya DJ, 7/31/2014]

Egypt arrests 290 nationals fleeing Libya unrest
Egyptian authorities arrested 290 nationals on Wednesday for trying to illegally return home from Libya, apparently fleeing mounting unrest in the capital Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi. The returnees, who crossed through Egypt’s western frontier with Libya into the border city of Salloum, did not possess the required documents or passports. They were also accused of being present in a military zone off-limits to civilians and were to be investigated by military prosecutors. Nearly 2,000 of the estimated 330,000 to 1.5 million Egyptians working in Libya returned home Wednesday through the Salloum border crossing. [Ahram Online, Shorouk (Arabic), 7/31/2014]

Political forces to complete negotiations on electoral alliances next week
Civil political forces announced that negotiations on electoral alliances are expected to be completed next week, as party leaders plan to hold a meeting next Tuesday. Parties attending the meeting include the Egyptian Social Democratic Party, the Wafd party, and Free Egyptians Party. The Free Egyptians Party has however expressed its intention not to run within an alliance. The party’s spokesman added that it had not received an invitation from Amr Moussa to attend a meeting of the Egyptian National Alliance next Tuesday. The Democratic Alliance said that it is still coordinating with parties and other alliances, saying negotiations have not yet concluded. [Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 7/31/2014]


Seventy-five bodies found in Benghazi
As a temporary ceasefire took hold in Tripoli to allow firefighters to control a huge blaze at a fuel depot, at least seventy-five bodies, mostly soldiers, were found in Benghazi after two days of fighting in which Islamist militias overran an army base. Other reports said the Libyan Red Crescent removed at least thirty-five bodies from the Saiqa headquarters. Renegade former general Khalifa Haftar appeared on the Al-Arabiya news channel to say that his forces, which have been battling Islamists since he launched his campaign in May, remained in control of Benghazi and that the withdrawal from the Saiqa base had been tactical. [Reuters, 7/31/2014]

Libyan government directing reconciliation efforts from Bayda
The Libyan government is carrying out its mediation efforts from the city of Bayda, where Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni is currently attempting to direct negotiations between the warring factions in Benghazi. Mustafa Abdul Jalil has been appointed to negotiate an end to the conflict in Tripoli. However, sources close to the government say that neither the Misratans nor the Zintanis accept Abdul Jalil as mediator and that his efforts have been largely unproductive. [Libya Herald, 7/30/2014]

Spain evacuates embassy staff from Libya
The Spanish government is temporarily evacuating its ambassador and most embassy staff from Libya because of the worsening security situation in Tripoli. According to a foreign ministry statement, one staff member would remain in charge of the embassy. France also temporarily closed its embassy in Libya and is pulling out its nationals, with diplomatic activities to continue from Paris. With the foreign diplomatic presence in Libya rapidly diminishing, of the country’s Western allies only the United Kingdom and Italy have functioning embassies. Meanwhile, China has evacuated hundreds of works from Libya to Malta and urged all its nationals to leave. [AP, 7/31/2014]

Eni profits fall short of expectations as Libya oil output slows
Italian oil and gas group Eni reported a 50.7 percent increase in second-quarter net profit, which came in below expectations as output was affected by escalating violence in Libya. Eni, the biggest foreign oil producer in Africa, has seen production in Libya undermined by growing disruptions in the country. The company said second-quarter production volumes were largely impacted by geopolitical issues there. [Reuters, 7/31/2014]


Syrian Kurds clash with ISIS jihadists
A fierce battle between Syrian Kurds and jihadists from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group has killed nearly fifty fighters from both sides. After the battle, Kurdish forces seized several ISIS positions on Thursday. The fighting took place in Ain al-Arab (Kobane in Kurdish) in which fourteen members of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and thirty-five jihadists were killed, The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. [AFP, 7/31/2014]

Syria army targets a rebel stronghold town near Damascus
Syrian army shelling on Douma, a rebel-held town near Damascus, killed twelve people, among them a child, monitoring group said on Wednesday. Douma is a rebel stronghold northeast of Damascus, which has been under suffocating army siege for more than a year. Syrian Observatory for Human Rights announced that, “At least twelve people were killed, among them a child and a woman… in fierce shelling by regime troops on several areas of Douma.” [AFP, 7/31/2013]

UN reconsiders aid deliveries to Syria from Iraq
The United Nations is pressing on with cross-border aid convoys to Syria from Turkey and Jordan but is reviewing plans to send relief from Iraq, the top UN aid official said Wednesday. UN humanitarian relief coordinator Valerie Amos told the UN Security Council, “Given the volatile situation near the Iraqi border, we will review when we can start using the al-Yarubiyah crossing point.” The border crossing is being reviewed due to fears that ISIS fighters have seized control of it. [AFP, 7/31/2014]

US suicide bomber in Syria came home before attack
The US suicide bomber who blew himself up at an army post in northwest Syria had spent several months back in the US after training as a militant. Moner Mohammad Abusalha returned back to the US possess a huge concern from Western powers, that Syria is becoming a training ground for citizens who could then return as battle-hardened veterans. Mr. Abusalha had returned to the United States for several months before leaving the country for the last time. [NY Times, AFP, 7/31/2014]


Voter registration further extended to August 26
Nabil Baffoun of the Independent High Authority for Elections (ISIE) announced yesterday a second voter registration period, from August 5 to August 26, 2014. Today, ISIE member Zargouni Lamia said that the number of new registrants has reached 762,000. The total number of registered voters is 5,200,000 people. Among governorates, Gafsa has the most registrants, while Zaghouan and Mehdia rank at the bottom. [Mosaique FM (French), L’Economiste Maghrébin (French), TAP, 7/31/2014]

Tunisia cannot cope with massive Libya refugee influx
Tunisia cannot cope with a massive influx of refugees who seek to enter the country from Libya and will close its border if necessary, the foreign minister said Wednesday. “Our country’s economic situation is precarious, and we cannot cope with hundreds of thousands of refugees,” Mongi Hamdi told a press conference. Scores of Libyans have been killed in recent days in fighting for control of the capital’s international airport, knocked out of commission by the violence, and in the restive eastern city of Benghazi. Hamdi also said Egyptian and Jordanian migrant workers fleeing Libya could only transit through Tunisia. Up to 6,000 people a day have fled Libya into neighboring Tunisia this week. [AFP, 7/30/2014]

Marzouki accepts resignation of General Hamdi
On Thursday, caretaker President Moncef Marzouki received General Mohamed Salah Hamdi and accepted his resignation from his position as chief of land staff. Marzouki asserted his determination to support the Tunisian army morally and materially. The President of the Republic affirmed his confidence in all the senior military officials in the face of great difficulties. The ministry said Wednesday that General Hamdi presented his letter of resignation on July 23, less than a week after fifteen soldiers were killed by militants along the Algerian border. [TAP, AP, 7/31/2014]


Armed men attack oil pipeline halting crude flows
Armed men blew up Yemen’s main oil export pipeline on Wednesday, halting crude flows and disrupting an important source of revenue for the state. The latest attack happened in Wady Obaida in Marib, halting crude oil flows to Ras Isa oil terminal on the Red Sea. The Marib pipeline carries around 70,000-110,000 barrels per day of light crude. It was last repaired on July 24 after unidentified tribesmen sabotaged it on July 12. [Reuters, Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/31/2014]

Yemen repatriates eight Saudi al-Qaeda suspects
Yemen repatriated eight Saudis wanted for suspected links to al-Qaeda on Thursday. This is the second handover of its kind since February, as part of a joint effort between Yemeni and Saudi security services. Two of the suspects had been jailed and later released from prison in Saudi Arabia. In February 2014, Yemeni authorities repatriated twenty-nine Saudis wanted for joining al-Qaeda. [The Daily Star, 7/31/2014]

Army breaks up protests as Yemen raises fuel prices
Fuel prices in Yemen nearly doubled on Wednesday as the government ended a fuel subsidy program costing $22 billion (around YER 5 trillion) over the last decade, according to a new ministry of finance study. The report estimates the state spent approximately $3 billion in 2014, which is 20 percent of the total state expenditure. Lifting fuel subsidies sparked scattered demonstrations that saw one person killed as authorities quickly dispersed protesters. [QNA, Saba, Finance Ministry, 7/31/2014]


Hezbollah commander killed in Iraq
A Hezbollah commander has died during a mission in Iraq, further proving that the Lebanese group, which is already fighting in Syria, may be involved in the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). Four sources in Lebanon named the Hezbollah commander as Ibrahim al-Haj, a technical specialist involved in training. [Reuters, 7/31/2014]

Shia militia displays fifteen executed Sunnis in northeast of Baghdad
Iraqi Shia militia forces executed fifteen Sunni Muslims on Wednesday and then hung them from electricity poles in a public square in the mixed town of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad.  A police officer from the area said he believed the gruesome display of the bodies was designed to warn Sunnis from supporting the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS). [Reuters, 7/31/2014]

Pillay slams Israeli ‘defiance’ of international law
UN Human Rights Chief Navi Pillay on Thursday slammed what she said was Israel’s “deliberate defiance” of international law during the Gaza conflict. Pillay lambasted the country’s attacks on homes, schools, hospitals and United Nations facilities which are sheltering 250,000 civilians in Gaza. “There appears to be deliberate defiance of obligations that international law imposes on Israel,” the South African told reporters. Pillay said that repeated calls to respect the laws of war had gone unheeded during the latest crisis and previous spikes in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. [AFP/The Daily Star, 7/31/2014]