Amid demonstrations against the death of a twenty-three year old protester in police custody, a bomb was remotely detonated as police attempted to disperse the crowd. Three members of the security forces have been killed, including one UAE police officer stationed in Bahrain as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s joint security initiative. Bahrain’s opposition groups condemned the bombing affirming their “rejection of any practice that targets lives and property” while continuing to “call on the people of Bahrain, demanding their just rights, to abide by peaceful means and to condemn these criminal acts.” [Al-Jazeera, 3/4/2014]


Sisi gives clearest sign he will run for president
Egyptian armed forces chief Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has sent the clearest signal yet that he will run for president, saying he cannot ignore the demands of the “majority,” the state news agency MENA reported on Tuesday. Sisi, widely expected to win the presidency of the Arab world’s most populous country, was speaking at a graduation ceremony at the Cairo war college. In his speech, Sisi said Egypt was witnessing difficult times that required the unity of the people, army and police. [Reuters, AP, Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 3/4/2014]

Cairo court imposes temporary ban on Hamas activities in Egypt
The Cairo Court for Urgent Matters has banned all activities in Egypt by Hamas pending a court verdict in an espionage case involving ousted president Mohamed Morsi and members of the Islamist Palestinian group. The court also banned all “organizations or groups branching from, financed or supported by Hamas,” a judicial source told Ahram Online. Hamas was prompt to criticize the ruling, saying that it “strongly condemned” what it described as an “unjustifiable” and “highly political” decision that was based on “fabrications and false news.” [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Reuters, Mada Masr, DNE, 3/4/2014]

US rights activist alleges Egypt police abuse
Medea Benjamin, cofounder of protest organization Code Pink, on Tuesday accused Egyptian police of breaking her arm after they detained her in Cairo airport while she was on her way to a humanitarian visit to neighboring Gaza. “Help. They broke my arm. Egypt police,” she tweeted. She said she was now in Turkey after being held in a poor conditions in a cell at Cairo airport. An Egyptian airport official denied any abuse and said she had been deported after twenty hours. The official told Reuters that Benjamin was on a watch list for “involvement in acts harmful to Egyptian national security.” [Reuters/Aswat Masriya, 3/4/2014]

Egypt renews efforts to attract foreign tourists to its shores
Egypt’s tourism minister has opened the door for security delegations from other countries to assess the safety of touristic areas across the country, part of a continued effort to convince the international community that Egypt is safe for visitors. The announcement from tourism minister Hisham Zaazou on Sunday at ITB Berlin, the world’s largest annual trade fair, comes in the wake of a recent bombing of a tourist bus in the South Sinai resort town of Taba that killed three South Korean tourists and their Egyptian bus driver. Germany, Netherlands, Italy, France, and Switzerland all issued warnings against travel to Egypt’s Sinai, and hotel occupancy rates in Egypt’s Red Sea resort of Sharm El-Sheikh have slid to 48 percent. [Ahram Online, 3/3/2014]


Congress responds to attack by looking to sack Zidan
Members of the General National Congress (GNC) say they are planning to sack Prime Minister Ali Zidan at Tuesday’s session and pick an existing government minister as caretaker premier pending agreement on a new appointment. The move is in response to Sunday’s assault on the GNC in which three members were wounded and others beaten. Legislators blamed the government for what happened, saying it had failed to ensure adequate security. Not all GNC members support Zidan’s removal, a move that is widely seen as an attempt to divert pressure on the GNC to dissolve itself and agree to fresh elections for a successor body. [Libya Herald, 3/4/2014]

Tebu protest in Tripoli against discrimination
Thirty Tebu, including members of the National Tebu Assembly (NTA), staged a demonstration against discrimination outside the offices of the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Tebu activist Hassan al-Tubawey cited a growing sense of resentment felt by the ethnic minority group and urged UNSMIL to launch investigations into human rights violations against the Tebu community, saying that those involved in the deaths of Tebu needed to face justice. UNSMIL staff later met with the protesters. Last week, delegates from the NTA met with UNSMIL representatives to discuss the Tebu boycott of elections to the Constitutional Committee. [Libya Herald, 3/3/2014]

Ghat security officials force local council to close
Officials in charge of security at the Ghat Local Council have forced it to close, claiming it lacked integrity and transparency, according to council leader Abdel Gader Makhi, who added that security officials threatened council members. The security guards had also complained in particular about a number of their members not being selected for training courses in Tripoli and elsewhere, claiming places had been distributed unfairly, Makhi said. Senior security guard Mohammed Abdel Gader denied taking such action, saying that the council was already closed but that nonetheless the group was demanding order and accountability. [Libya Herald, 3/4/2014]

Pupils in Sirte to wear the hijab under Awqaf ruling
Female pupils in Sirte are to wear mandatory hijabs under an order issued by the town’s ministry of endowment and Islamic affairs office. Primary and secondary school students are obliged, under the new ruling, to wear the Islamic jalabiya and a scarf covering their hair. Al-Wasat reported that the decision was made under pressure from Ansar al-Sharia which, it claimed, had influence within Sirte’s education authority. The ruling has provoked mixed reactions on social media networks. [Libya Herald, 3/3/2014]


Barrel bomb assault continues near rebel bastion of Yabrud
Government helicopters dropped explosives-packed barrels near rebel-held Yabrud on Tuesday nearly three weeks into a major offensive targeting the strategic town and nearby al-Sahl near the Lebanese border. The strikes come a day after at least fifteen rebels were killed fighting in the Yabrud area, north of Damascus. The mixed Muslim and Christian town of Yabrud lies on the strategic highway linking Damascus to Homs, Syria’s third city, and is close to the Lebanese border and crucial rebel supply lines. Hezbollah, which is fighting alongside Syrian troops in the area, accuses rebels of using Yabrud as a gateway to send car bombs to target its strongholds in eastern Lebanon and southern Beirut. [Naharnet, 3/04/2014]

Syria has relinquished about a third of its chemical weapons
Syria has shipped out about a third of its chemical weapons stockpile, including mustard gas, for destruction abroad, the global chemical arms watchdog said on Tuesday. The Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in The Hague said Damascus had now handed over six consignments of the toxic agents and the OPCW confirmed two more shipments are headed for the northern port of Latakia. Syria has submitted a revised plan to remove all chemicals from its territory by the end of April 2014. [Reuters, 3/04/2014]

Famed Syrian filmmaker detained at border
Syria’s best-known filmmaker was taken in for questioning by intelligence forces at the border as he made his way to a Geneva film festival Tuesday. Mohammad Malas was travelling to Beirut to take a flight to Geneva, where his latest film “Ladder to Damascus” is set to feature in the Swiss city’s upcoming film festival. Last year Malas’s 1990 film “The Night” was named as one of the 10 best Arab films in a review by the Guardian newspaper. The film was banned for four years in Syria. At the start of Syria’s revolt against President Bashar al-Assad in 2011, Malas sympathized with the peaceful uprising. The filmmaker, who still lives in Syria, made a documentary titled “Everything is Fine” which dealt with the issue of political prisoners in the country. For decades, Syria’s regime has systematically stifled expression, including the arts, frequently imprisoning intellectuals, journalists, artists, and peaceful dissidents. [AFP, 3/04/2014]

Joining Syria fight ‘in vogue’ for young Brits; L.A. gang members release Syria video
Travelling to Syria to fight for al-Qaeda is “in vogue” among young British Muslims, the director of the European Union’s crime intelligence agency said. Rob Wainwright, who heads Europol, warned that “multiple thousands” of young Muslim men may have travelled to Syria to fight for al-Qaeda-linked groups. He said many were using the internet to research their visits to the war zone and then to boast about their exploits. Coming from the other side of the Atlantic, two Los Angeles gang members appear to have joined the flow of foreigners flocking to fight in Syria–in this instance, on the side of President Bashar al-Assad. In a video posted online, the two men boast that they are on the front lines and fire their guns in the direction of what they call “the enemigos.” One of the men identifies himself as Creeper from the Sur-13 or Surenos, a loose affiliation of southern California gangs linked to the Mexican mafia. The other says he is called Wino, and belongs to a gang called Westside Armenian Power. Members of the Armenian Christian minority in Syria are known to be staunch supporters of Assad. [Telegraph, 3/03/2014]


Journalists protest targeting of journalists by police officers
A number of journalists protested in front of the ministry of interior on Monday to denounce the use of violence against journalists. On Friday, February 28, security forces violently broke-up a protest against the arrest of Imed Dghij, a leader of controversial group, on Friday, with journalists covering the protest also targeted. In addition, on Monday, a delegation of the Tunisian Association of Young Journalists and journalists from different media outlets met with security officials at the interior ministry. They demanded that measures be taken to stop police misconduct and improve the relationship between the police and media. [Tunisia Live, All Africa, 3/3/2014]

Prime minister replaces eighteen governors
On Friday, Interim Prime Minister Jomaa replaced eighteen of twenty-four governors. The changes affected the most important provinces, including Tunis, Sfax, Monastir, Sousse, and Gafsa in the south, which has witnessed significant social unrest for years. The opposition accused the previous appointees of being close to Ennahda, the Islamist party that stepped down from power in January. One element of the Tunisian roadmap to democracy is the review of partisan appointments in the government in order to ensure the neutrality of the government during the next elections. In this vein, Jomaa also dismissed seventeen cabinet advisors appointed by his predecessor Ali Larayedh. However, the opposition is demanding the removal of all those appointed by Larayedh and Hamadi Jebali from office. [All Africa, 3/3/2014]

Russia’s foreign minister visits Tunisia
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is in Tunis on Tuesday for a visit to boost commercial ties between Russia and Tunisia. Lavrov arrived late Monday and met Prime Minister Jomaa. He is also due to meet his counterpart, Mongi Hamdi, during the visit. Their discussions are expected to be focused on expanding economic and trade ties. Tunisia’s tourism sector, which is vital to its economy, will also be on the agenda. Nearly 300,000 Russian tourists visited Tunisia in 2013, up 20 percent from 2012, according to the Russian foreign ministry. In addition, parties agreed to intensify cooperation in the fight against terrorism and extremism. [Ahram Online, Voice of Russia, 3/4/2014]

UN willing to assist Tunisia in upcoming elections
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated on Monday that the United Nations is willing to extend technical and logistical assistance to Tunisia for the holding of transparent, free and credible elections. This announcement came after a meeting between Secretary-General Ban Ki Moon and Caretaker President Moncef Marzouki on the sidelines of Tunisia’s participation in the 25th session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland. [All Africa, 3/3/2014]


Text of the al-Jawf peace initiative surfaces
A peace initiative has been proposed by the presidential delegation dispatched by President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi to Sa’ada to resolve the long-running conflict between the Houthis and tribes affiliated with the Islah party. The text of the document recounts the many grievances held between the two parties, from sectarian incitement to the lack of development projects in Houthi areas that “spread poverty, ignorance, and unemployment.” The initiative also recommends eleven points for all parties, including the central and local governments to enact to resolve the conflict in Sa’ada. [Khabara Agency (Arabic), 3/4/2014]

New energy development projects planned, says deputy minister
The deputy oil and minerals minister said this week that Yemen has plans to develop its energy sector, expecting these plans will be brought into effect this year. The deputy minister named specifically oil and gas exploration and production activities. The state-owned Safer company has drilled one well in Jawf and the tests showed the well produces 6 million cubic feet of gas a day, he said. The deputy minister also said there is a need to increase Yemen’s crude output which is still low due to many problems including security challenges. [Saba, 3/4/2014]

US drone strike in Shabwa
Following a strike Monday morning in Marib Province, another strike in Shabwa that evening killed two militants in a car seen fleeing an attack on a security post earlier in the day. The vehicle was allegedly seen hurling a bomb at a security post killing six and wounding three others. [Al-Masdar (Arabic), Reuters; 3/4/2014]


Three policemen killed in bombing at Bahrain protest
Amid demonstrations against the death of a twenty-three year old protester in police custody, a bomb was remotely detonated as police attempted to disperse the crowd. Three members of the security forces have been killed, including one UAE police officer stationed in Bahrain as part of the Gulf Cooperation Council’s joint security initiative. Bahrain’s opposition groups condemned the bombing affirming their “rejection of any practice that targets lives and property” while continuing to “call on the people of Bahrain, demanding their just rights, to abide by peaceful means and to condemn these criminal acts.” [Al-Jazeera, 3/4/2014]

Gunmen storm government complex in Samarra
Gunmen in military uniform broke into the city council and court house in Samarra in northern Iraq on Tuesday, holding the facility for four hours until government forces stormed the compound, officials said. Four policemen were killed in the fighting, along with three visiting civilians who were shot when Iraqi security forces opened fire to retake the site. Three fighters, who had holed up in the city council building, detonated their suicide vests rather than surrender, Samarra’s mayor said. Many in Iraq’s once-dominant Sunni Muslim minority feel they have been sidelined in the Shia-led political order that took shape after the US-led invasion in 2003. In recent years Sunni militants attacked many government compounds, including assaults on the Iraqi central bank and Abu Ghraib prison. [Reuters, 3/4/2014]

“Governability bill” approved by Knesset’s Constitution Committee
The Constitution Committee of Israel’s Knesset has approved a bill that may seriously affect the Arab representation in the country’s top legislative body. Called the “governability bill,” one provision would raise the required threshold for entering the Knesset from 2 to 3.25 percent of votes cast. This change will keep parties with fewer than four seats out of the Knesset. The three Arab parties, each of which has three or four seats, would have to merge to ensure that they get in. One parliamentarian called the bill an embarrassment, though proponents say that the bill will improve efficiency and governance. The bill is to be packaged with other measures in the hopes that its passage will be ensured. [Haaretz, 3/4/2014]