Top News: Turkey Summons Commanders to Discuss Syria Intervention

The Turkish army called a meeting of troop commanders stationed along its fortified border with Syria on Sunday to discuss a possible intervention. Over the past week, Turkey has bolstered troop numbers and stationed tanks and anti-aircraft missiles along its Syrian border, feeding speculation that the government is planning to intervene to push ISIS back from the border and halt the advance of Kurdish forces. The meetings in Ankara will discuss the potential deployment of over 400 armored vehicles and the role of the Turkish Air Force in supporting a potential operation.



Sisi to ratify Egypt’s new parliamentary election laws
After a long delay, Egypt’s cabinet has finally endorsed four laws necessary for holding the country’s long-awaited parliamentary elections. Minister of Parliamentary Elections and Transitional Justice Ibrahim al-Heneidy told parliamentary reporters that the laws are expected to be ratified by Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in the next few days, the last step before preparations can officially begin. Heneidy said the first three laws regulate the workings of the House of the Representatives, the exercise of political rights, and the division of electoral constituencies. Heneidy indicated that the fourth law is a legislative amendment of the law regulating the performance of the Supreme Constitutional Court (SCC). Heneidy said the cabinet’s approval of the electoral constituencies law (Law 202/2014) in particular finally opens the door for parliamentary elections to be held as early as September. [Ahram Online, 7/6/2015]

Court rejects dissolution of Nour Party over religious orientations
The Supreme Administrative Court on Sunday upheld an earlier verdict in which it turned down a petition demanding the dissolution of the Salafi-led Nour Party, citing its religious background that allegedly violates the political parties law. The Parties Court, which has recently been formed and forms part of the high administrative court, ruled the inadmissibility of the complaint. This was because the only person allowed by law to directly demand a party’s dissolution before the high court is the head of the state’s political parties commission. The court ordered the referral of the case to a lower degree administrative court, and a judicial source said that the court would similarly deem the case admissible. The plaintiff submitted the lawsuit demanding the dissolution of the Al-Nour Party amongst other Islamist parties, including the already dissolved Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), claiming the religious ideology of the parties violates constitution. [Egypt Independent, DNE, 7/5/2015]

Alleged official document stipulates terrorism terminologies for Egypt-based journalists
Journalistic freedom in Egypt is being called in to question after a proposed new anti-terrorism law includes an article that sets a minimum of two years imprisonment for publishing news or information on terrorist attacks that conflicts with official statements. Some Cairo-based foreign correspondents widely shared Sunday through their social media accounts an alleged official document that defines different terrorism-linked terminologies. This comes amid a growing crackdown on media through restrictive laws, the arrests of journalists and threatening messages to foreign media representatives and outlets. The “Journalists against Torture” movement registered in June thirty-nine cases of violations against journalists, which occurred while they were performing their duties, with ten cases in the first week, twelve in the second, eight in the third and nine in the fourth. In its report, the movement said the violations included cases of assault, arrest and confiscated equipment. The report said thirty of the cases were related to the Interior Ministry, six to other government agencies and officials and three to civilians. [Ahram Online, DNE , Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 7/6/2015]

In military uniform, Egypt’s Sisi cheers on troops in North Sinai following terror attack
For the first time in his presidency, Abdel Fattah al-Sisi dressed in full military uniform to visit the troops in North Sinai, in his capacity as head of the Armed Forces. In a televised speech on Saturday afternoon, the president said, “I wore my military uniform out of respect and appreciation for the efforts of the Armed Forces.” He added that Egypt had foiled an attempt by ISIS to seize territory and set up an extremist state with its recent assault on the military in the troubled northeastern part of the Sinai Peninsula. The Egyptian armed forces released late Thursday a video report with testimonies from injured soldiers and officers about Wednesday’s attacks. Detailed graphic representations were included in video clips showing the attack by the militant group on fifteen checkpoints. The ISIS-affiliated militant group, Sinai State, also released a statement about Wednesday’s attacks, saying it was part of an ongoing operation. The statement detailed twenty attacks, adding that they were “forced…to retreat to save Muslim lives,” due to the army’s use of F16s. The military death toll from the Wednesday attack has reached twenty-one, Health Minister Spokesperson Hossam Abdel-Ghaffar confirmed Saturday. The Armed Forces Spokesperson announced on Saturday that the Egyptian army’s offensive in North Sinai in the span of three days resulted in the death of 205 militants. Egyptian warplanes killed twenty-five Islamist militants in North Sinai on Saturday, security sources said, while another sixty-three Islamist militants were killed and three alleged suspects were arrested in on Sunday. Six civilians were also killed Saturday in two separate IED blasts and a rocket attack, among them a child. According to a recent report by the NGO the Regional Center for Strategic Studies (RCSS), four “terrorist organizations” executed nearly thirty-two attacks in Egypt over five days. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, AP, DNE, 7/6/2015]

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Egypt closes border crossing with Libya
The Egyptian authorities reportedly closed the Musaid-Salloum border crossing. According to Tobruk Municipal Council Spokesman Marwan Younis Bakr, the Egyptians closed it to Libyan travelers because of last week’s assassination of Egypt’s public prosecutor and the current military operations in Sinai where today sixty-three Islamists were reported killed. Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi expressed on several occasions concerns about militants in Libya. “The Egyptian side declared a state of emergency at the crossing and increased the number of military personnel there,” Bakr said citing an unnamed Egyptian military source and apologizing for the inconvenience to Libya travelers. [Libya Herald, 7/5/2015]

Ten civilians killed in car bombs in Libya
At least ten civilians were killed when three separate car bombs exploded simultaneously in the eastern coastal city of Derna. Derna Representative to the Internationally Recognized Government Hamid al-Bandag said the bombings set off clashes between militants belonging to the Islamic State’s (ISIS or ISIL) local affiliate and al-Qaeda-linked militias. These clashes continued until Saturday afternoon. The Libyan army surrounded the city from all directions for months and appears to be restraining from fighting the al-Qaeda-linked militias. [AP, 4/7/2015]

Tuaregs call for agreement on UN peace draft
The National Movement for the Tuaregs in the South called on all the parties in the UN-brokered Dialogue to agree to the latest UN draft peace plan as soon as possible to end the crisis in the country. In a statement, the Tuareg body said that dialogue and unity were the only way to resolve the country’s problems. The Tuareg statement stressed its full support to achieve a national consensus based on the latest draft submitted by the United Nations Mission in Libya and on the formation of the state institutions, justice, and equality. The independents and House of Representatives’ delegates at the Skhirat Dialogue meetings said they accept the latest amended draft. However, those from the General National Congress are still in Tripoli where there is powerful opposition to it. [Libya Herald, 7/5/2015]

Tunisia declares state of emergency

Tunisia’s President Beji Caid Essebsi declared a state of emergency on Saturday in response to the recent attack on Sousse, saying the country is “not safe” and risks collapse from further extremist attacks. With a nationwide televised address, Essebsi officially reintroduced urgent security measures for Tunisia that were lifted in March 2014. Essebsi said an “exceptional situation required exceptional measures” but pledged to respect freedom of expression. The state of emergency is expected to last for thirty days. Essebsi blamed the poor security in Libya for Tunisia’s problems and the lack of international resolve in targeting ISIS throughout the region. He said Tunisia specifically had been a target of the extremist groups because it had a functioning, secular democracy. The Sousse governor, security chiefs, and a top official in the gunman’s hometown were fired, according to the Office of the Prime Minister. [AP, Tunisia Live, 7/4/2015]


US drone strikes kill ISIS leader; ISIS continues to destroy artifacts
The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that a US-led coalition air strike in Shaddadi, Syria on June 16 killed senior Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) leader Tariq bin Tahar al-’Awni al-Harzi. The Tunisian militant had been responsible for moving fighters and weapons from Libya to Syria. The US-led coalition conducted air strikes against fourteen ISIS positions in Syria and nine in Iraq on Friday. The strikes in Syria hit targets near Hasaka, Aleppo, Kobani, and Tal Abyad, destroying fighting positions, vehicles, tactical units, and staging areas belonging to ISIS. The strikes in Iraq targeted militants and their holdings near Fallujah, Makhmur, Mosul, and Sinjar. ISIS continued its destruction of artifacts last week, sledgehammering at least six statues in the Syrian city of Palmyra and demolishing a 13th-century tomb near the Iraqi city of Kirkuk. [AP, BBC, 7/5/2015]

ISIS regains Ayn Issa, blows up truck near Hasaka; explosion kills twenty-five in Idlib
ISIS fighters seized the Syrian town of Ayn Issa back from Kurdish People’s Protection Unit (YPG) forces on Monday, regaining ground near the militant group’s self-proclaimed capital of Raqqa. ISIS suicide bombers on Sunday blew up an explosive-laden truck near Hasaka, causing material damage and an unknown number of casualties. Syrian state television said a second attack against a power plant in southern Hasaka was prevented. An explosion at a mosque in Syria’s Idlib province killed at least twenty-five members of the Nusra Front on Friday. No group claimed responsibility for the blast, but supporters of the Nusra Front blamed ISIS militants. [Reuters, AP, 7/6/2015]

Turkey summons commanders to discuss Syria intervention; deadly firefight erupts along border
The Turkish army called a meeting of troop commanders stationed along its fortified border with Syria on Sunday to discuss a possible intervention. Over the past week, Turkey has bolstered troop numbers and stationed tanks and anti-aircraft missiles along its Syrian border, feeding speculation that the government is planning to intervene to push ISIS back from the border and halt the advance of Kurdish forces. The meetings in Ankara will discuss the potential deployment of over 400 armored vehicles and the role of the Turkish Air Force in supporting a potential operation. A deadly firefight reportedly erupted Sunday night between Turkish army troops and Kurdish YPG fighters in Tal Abyad along the Turkish-Syrian border. Turkey on Friday reappointed former Defense Minister Vecdi Gonul, who previously held the post from 2002 to 2011, after his successor was elected as parliamentary speaker. [AFP, 7/5/2015]

Aleppo fighting flares as Syria insurgents attack
Syrian insurgents from two newly reorganized coalitions carried out an offensive on government-held areas in Aleppo on Friday, attacking simultaneously from several directions. Government forces hit back with shelling and air strikes, with civilians coming under fire from both sides. Activists say the Syrian rebels seized a research center, which government forces used as a military barracks, opening potential lines of attack against several other government-held neighborhoods. [NYT, AFP, Guardian, 7/4/2015]

Syrian regime forces enter rebel bastion Zabadani; Jordan foils terrorist attack
Hezbollah-backed Syrian government forces entered Zabadani Friday, the last rebel-held town in Syria’s Qalamoun region on the Lebanese border. Army helicopters reportedly dropped at least twelve barrel bombs on the town since Sunday morning and at least fourteen regime forces, Hezbollah fighters, and at least eleven rebel fighters have been killed in the fighting. Jordanian authorities said Monday morning that they foiled a “terrorist” attack and arrested an Iraqi man in possession of explosives supposedly from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. The suspect was arrested with forty-five kilograms of explosives in the northern Jordanian town of Jerash, and is due to appear before the state security court later today. [AFP, NYT, AP, 7/5/2015]

ISIS suicide bombers strike Baiji; bombs target Shia districts; accidental blast kills 9 civilians
ISIS suicide bombers and fighters attacked the center of Baiji Saturday night, forcing the Iraqi army and allied-Shia fighters to pull back after they said last week that were close to expelling all militants from the town. The militants attacked Saturday evening with two suicide car bombings and fierce clashes ensued. Iraqi authorities said Sunday that bomb attacks targeting Shia districts have killed fifteen people in and near Baghdad. At least nine civilians were killed Monday when a Russian-made fighter jet accidentally dropped a bomb over a Baghdad neighborhood. The jet was used by Iraqi forces to fight ISIS and was reportedly returning to its base when it malfunctioned. Iraqi jets dropped leaflets over Mosul Friday, telling residents that ISIS fighters would soon be driven from the northern city and that details of the operation would be broadcast on a new radio station. [The National, 7/5/2015]


Air strikes hit Saleh’s General People’s Congress Party headquarters
On Sunday, Saudi-led air strikes hit the headquarters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s General People’s Congress (GPC) Party in Sana’a. Assistant Secretary General for the GPC Faeqa al-Sayed confirmed that the Party’s headquarters had been destroyed. “This will not make us back down on our efforts …. to create the suitable environment to cooperate with the United Nations,” she said in a statement on the party’s website. The strikes late on Sunday also struck the home of former president Saleh’s nephew and several houses belonging to Houthi supporters in the south and west of the capital Sana’a. Elsewhere in Yemen, Saudi-led strikes killed upwards of thirty in the market town of al-Foyoush. [Al-Arabiya, 7/3/2015]

UN Special Envoy in Sana’a to negotiate ceasefire
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed arrived in Sana’a on Sunday to discuss a humanitarian pause with Houthi forces. Prior to his arrival to in Yemen, Ahmed was in Saudi Arabia holding discussions with the government-in-exile. This latest round of negotiations comes after the US Department of State and the European Union issued statements in support of a UN-brokered ceasefire for the now level-three emergency state. Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul Salem expressed the group’s willingness to negotiate, saying he had met with the Envoy. According to UN Spokesman Ahmad Fawzi, “The details are still unclear in terms of a starting date and duration of a humanitarian pause; however the special envoy believes that there is ground for optimism that the parties will agree in the coming days.” [Al-Arabiya, Reuters, 7/5/2015]

Houthi attacks target pro-Hadi forces in North and South Yemen
Yemen’s Houthi group and its military allies said on Saturday it had shelled various areas in Saudi Arabia’s Jizan and Najran, killing and wounding several soldiers. The Houthi-controlled SABA news agency said thirteen shells were launched on Friday, targeting several areas, including Jizan’s airport. The shelling also led to the destruction of military equipment, the agency said. In the port city of Aden, Houthi forces targeted the Popular Resistance, a group loyal to President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi. At least five were killed after Katyusha rockets were fired into a kindergarten in the Mansura district and an additional thirty were reported dead after attacks targeted a busy market. Yemen’s Foreign Minister Reyadh Yassin described the attacks in Aden as “a massacre of civilians,” and called on the United Nations to deliver aid and supplies to alleviate the humanitarian suffering of civilians caught up in the conflict. [Reuters, Asharq al-Awsat, 7/3/2015]

Gulf interior ministers seek peace between Sunni and Shia populations
Joint Sunni-Shia prayers were held in Kuwait City on Friday in a gesture of solidarity one week after an attack on a mosque left dozens killed and injured. Sunni and Shia Muslims also prayed together at a Shia mosque in Bahrain on Friday. “The joint prayer represents the unifying Islamic spirit of Bahrain,” Bahraini Minister of Justice and Islamic Affairs Sheikh Khalid Bin Ali Al Khalifa said, “Wherever they go in Bahrain, extremists will always find themselves in isolation,” he added. Also on Friday, Gulf Interior Ministers agreed to an emergency meeting in Kuwait to coordinate efforts to counter attacks on mosques in the region. The ministers expressed their countries’ solidarity against terrorism and the risks it poses to security and stability, calling for mores steps to confront “this serious epidemic.” In response to the mosque bombing that left dozens dead, Kuwait is considering charging more than forty people in connection with the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) coordinated attack. [Asharq al-Awsat, AFP, 7/5/2015]


Egypt’s Central Bank Governor says pound depreciation not worrying
Egyptian Central Bank Governor Hisham Ramez sought to calm local market nerves on Sunday following a surprise 2.5 percent weakening of the Egyptian pound against the US dollar. The central bank allowed the currency to depreciate by 20 piasters in its official foreign exchange auctions on Thursday and Sunday, driving it to its lowest level against the dollar since auctions began in 2012. However, in a television interview on Sunday, Ramez said the pound’s fall should not alarm anyone. The central bank set a cutoff rate of 7.73 Egyptian pounds per dollar in an auction that sold $39.6 million on Sunday, compared to a previous low of 7.63 on Thursday. Before that, the pound had held at 7.53 since February. [Reuters, 7/6/2015]

Egypt debt to foreign oil companies at $3.5 billion
Egypt’s debts to foreign oil companies stood at $3.5 billion dollars at the end of June, a 6.1 percent increase from March, an official at state-owned Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) said on Sunday. The country’s payments to oil and gas companies have been delayed by economic instability since 2011. Egypt’s oil ministry said in March that it aimed to repay fully its debts to energy companies by mid-2016, about a year later than previously indicated. [Reuters, 7/5/2015]

Iraq, Kurdistan oil deal close to collapse
An oil-sales deal between Iraq and the semiautonomous Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is close to collapse about six months after it was signed, as Iraq struggles to fight the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) and contain an escalating financial crisis. Months of acrimony between Baghdad and Erbil came to a head in June when the KRG reduced the amount of oil it sold through Iraq’s state-owned Oil Marketing Company (SOMO) and began ramping up its independent sales of oil through the Turkish port at Ceyhan. The situation underscores the uncertainty surrounding Iraq’s oil industry as it pumps record amounts of crude. With oil trading at prices 45 percent below last year’s highs, Iraq’s government coffers rely on its ability to fight for buyers in the export market with rivals like Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. [Wall Street Journal, 7/3/2015]

Saudi June non-oil business growth at record low
An indicator of growth in Saudi Arabia’s non-oil industries fell in June to the lowest level in six years as the biggest Arab economy loses momentum. The Emirates NBD Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) dropped to 56.1 from 57 in May, driven by a weak increase in new orders and slower output growth, the Dubai-based bank said in a report released Sunday. The index remained well above the 50-point mark that separates growth from contraction. The same measure for the United Arab Emirates (UAE) fell to 54.7 in June, the lowest in 22 months. Saudi Arabia’s PMI index has dropped in four of the first six months this year as the world’s biggest oil exporter grapples with the plunge in crude prices. [Reuters, Bloomberg, 7/5/2015]

Tunisia’s trade deficit drops 8.9 percent in first half of 2015
Tunisia’s trade deficit decreased 8.9 percent in the first half of 2015, about 596 million Tunisian dinars (MTD). The country’s deficit had increased 21.1 percent in the same period in 2014. Special Adviser to the Ministry of Trade Lotfi Khedhir told Tunis Afrique Presse that this decline in the deficit is the most significant since 1993. [TAP/All Africa, 7/5/2015]