Top News: Turkish Jets Hit PKK Targets; Qatar Backs Turkey over Bombing Raids in Northern Iraq

Turkish warplanes hit Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel targets in the southeastern Turkish town of Daglica on Tuesday near the border with Iraq. The assault came after three Turkish soldiers were killed by PKK attacks in a neighboring province on Tuesday. Shortly after the air raids, another Turkish soldier was killed and one wounded when PKK militants attacked a guard post in Sirnak with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Arab League on Tuesday condemned Turkey’s air strikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq and called on Ankara to recognize Iraqi sovereignty. Later on Tuesday, Qatar broke ranks with the Arab League and gave Turkey its full support for the air strikes. Co-chair of Turkey’s main Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas will make an unscheduled trip to Brussels Wednesday, supposedly to meet with outlawed PKK representatives. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]



Egypt prepares to inaugurate expanded Suez Canal
To mark the inauguration of the $8.5 billion expansion of the Suez Canal, new passport stamps trumpeted “Egypt’s Gift to the World,” Cairo’s Tahrir Square has been decorated, nine swimmers from Egypt’s Paralympics team pulled a 5 kilometer flag along the waterway, and Thursday has been declared a national holiday. Cabinet spokesperson Hossam al-Qaweish said Tuesday that the decision to declare the day a national holiday was to allow governmental workers to celebrate and follow “the inauguration of this great achievement.” President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will inaugurate the New Suez Canal project, with delegations from over 121 countries scheduled to arrive in Cairo to participate in the inauguration ceremony, including over 800 diplomats and twenty-six heads of states. Minister of Defense Sedki Sobhi checked on Tuesday the final touches of security preparations to the inauguration of the New Suez Canal project. Minister of Interior Magdy Abdel Ghaffar also toured Tuesday the city of Ismailia, to check the security preparations ahead of the inauguration of the New Suez Canal project. Next Friday’s unified sermon in Egyptian mosques will carry the title “Suez Canal opening, a model of volition and hard work” in the context of Suez Canal celebrations. [WSJ, 8/5/2015]

Corruption case against Shoukry proceeds to State Commissioners Authority
A legal case that accuses Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry of misusing public funds is progressing through a legal process within the State Council. The case, prepared by lawyer Gamal Saleh, claims that Foreign Minister Shoukry has committed corruption in the establishment of a EGP 50 million fund for Egyptian ambassadors abroad. The money was ostensibly established to support ambassadors moving posts across the world. Saleh has called for Shoukry to be stripped of his diplomatic immunity and to be investigated before the Prosecutor General. On Monday, an administrative court passed the case to the State Commissioners Authority to give a legal assessment on whether to proceed with the case. [DNE, 8/4/2015]

State Council rejects amendment protecting lawyers from being arrested, detained in court
On Monday, the State Council rejected amendments requested by the Lawyers Syndicate regarding a law governing their practice, including a proposed article that prohibits the searching, arrest or detention of lawyers while in court. In its reasoning, as published in privately ownedal-Shorouk, the State Council stated that prohibiting the detention of lawyers for crimes committed in court is unconstitutional. The council explained that crimes committed in court, like contempt of the court or a disruption of the session, are excluded from any legal immunity that lawyers may have. The State Council also rejected an amendment stipulating that the completion of secondary school education is mandatory for acceptance into the Lawyers’ Syndicate. Another rejected amendment had proposed giving the syndicate the authority to issue permits for foreign lawyers working in Egypt and making permanent residency in Egypt a condition for practicing law in the country, which was deemed unconstitutional for violating the principle of equality between all citizens. [Mada Masr, 8/5/2015]

Rights organizations systematically demoralized, activist tells US delegation
A human rights advocate and a member of Egypt’s National Council of Human Rights has told a delegation from the US State Department headed by Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Tom Malinowski that human rights organizations have been subjected to “systematic demoralization” from pro-government media outlets. Nasser Amin, who heads the Arab Center for the Independence of the Judiciary and the Legal Profession, told the delegation on a visit to Cairo from August 1 to 3 that apart from media criticism, laws regulating the activities and registration of NGOs impose further restrictions on civil society organizations. He also noted how conditions within Egyptian prisons had largely deteriorated. [Egypt Independent, POMED, 8/4/2015]

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Qaddafi loyalists protest in eastern Libya
Supporters of Muammar Qaddafi staged a rare demonstration in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, but dispersed after opponents opened fire with guns and hurled rocks. No one was hurt among the dozens of protesters. Supporters of Qaddafi waved his pictures and demanded the release of his most prominent son Saif al-Islam, whom a Tripoli court sentenced to death in absentia last week for crimes during the uprising. The crowd chanted and waved green flags of the old regime and chanted, “Only God, Muammar, and Libya.” Residents said this was the first protest of Qaddafi loyalists in Libya’s second largest city since 2011. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

Libyan Public Prosecutor to investigate Saadi torture video
The Libyan Public Prosecutor’s Office announced that it has launched an investigation into the video that emerged on social networks showing prisoners at the al Hadba prison tortured by prison guards. The Public Prosecutor’s Office said that it is attempting to identify those on the video for further investigation. It said that the all the necessary legal steps will be taken against those found complicit. Meanwhile, lawyers for high profile Qaddafi regime detainees at Tripoli’s maximum-security Hadba prison are urging the international community to take action following the release of Saadi’s video and last week’s death sentences pronounced on nine detainees. [Libya Herald, 8/4/2015]

Italy takes active role in latest Libya reconciliation efforts
Italy’s Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni made a high-profile appearance in support of UN Envoy Bernardino Leon at peace talks in Algiers with leaders of the General National Congress (GNC) leadership of Tripoli. Gentiloni said in comments released by Italy’s foreign ministry that Italy is ready to support Libya “at every level … We are also prepared to use individual sanctions to isolate anyone seeking to sabotage this accord,” echoing similar warnings made by the EU and most recently by the United States. [Libya Herald, 8/4/2015]

Hundreds of migrants feared drowned off Libya today; 2,000 migrants dead at sea this year
Hundreds of migrants attempting a journey across the Mediterranean are feared to have drowned after their overcrowded fishing boat capsized off Libya today. One hundred survivors were rescued from the water as the search for others continues. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) said in a release on Tuesday that about 1,930 perished trying to reach Italy in unseaworthy boats mostly departing from Libya. IOM Chief William Lacy Swing called the deaths of migrants fleeing conflicts and other hardships “unacceptable.” [Daily Star, Al Arabiya/AP, Libya Herald, ANSAmed, 8/5/2015]


Turkey says extensive fight against ISIS to start soon
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told reporters Wednesday that Turkey will embark upon an “extensive” fight against Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) militants soon. He explained that Turkey and the United States have made great strides in discussing the technicalities of the use of Incirlik air base and that US aircraft have started to arrive. He also told reporters that once the “effective” fight begins, the ground will become safer for moderate opposition forces fighting ISIS. [AP, Reuters, BBC, 8/5/2015]

Clashes in Anbar kill at least seventeen government troops
Iraqi officials said Wednesday that ongoing clashes between government forces and ISIS in Iraq’s western Anbar province have left at least seventeen Iraqi government troops dead. The deadliest of Wednesday’s clashes took place east of the ISIS-held town of Ramadi, where six soldiers, four Sunni tribal fighters, and two policemen were killed and another nine troops were wounded. Five additional soldiers were killed and nine wounded when ISIS militants attacked troops in an area near Habbaniyah military base, where dozens of US military advisers are stationed. [AP, 8/5/2015]

Russia invites Syrian opposition group for talks
Syrian Foreign Minister Walid al-Moallem arrived in Tehran Tuesday for talks with Iranian and Russian officials on how to end the country’s civil war. Al-Moallem stated in the discussions that Syria supports any efforts to combat ISIS so long as they are coordinated with Damascus and that a lack of coordination with Damascus would amount to “a breach of Syrian sovereignty.” The Russian Foreign Ministry on Wednesday invited a delegation of the Syrian National Coalition (SNC) opposition group to Moscow next week for talks regarding an end to the conflict. SNC leader Badr Jamus told Russian news agencies that the coalition welcomes the invitation and will work out specifics shortly. The SNC has previously refused to visit Russia. [Reuters, 8/5/2015]

Turkish jets hit PKK targets; Qatar backs Turkey over bombing raids in northern Iraq
Turkish warplanes hit Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) rebel targets in the southeastern Turkish town of Daglica on Tuesday near the border with Iraq. The assault came after three Turkish soldiers were killed by PKK attacks in a neighboring province on Tuesday. Shortly after the air raids, another Turkish soldier was killed and one wounded when PKK militants attacked a guard post in Sirnak with a rocket-propelled grenade. The Arab League on Tuesday condemned Turkey’s air strikes on PKK positions in northern Iraq and called on Ankara to recognize Iraqi sovereignty. Later on Tuesday, Qatar broke ranks with the Arab League and gave Turkey its full support for the air strikes. Co-chair of Turkey’s main Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) Selahattin Demirtas will make an unscheduled trip to Brussels Wednesday, supposedly to meet with outlawed PKK representatives. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

5.6 million Iraqis at risk amid UN funding crisis
The United Nations said Tuesday that a funding crisis has led to the closure of a majority of health programs in Iraq. The World Health Organization (WHO) said the UN appeal for health services received only 8 percent of the $60.9 million in funding required, forcing more than 84 percent of health programs in Iraq including 184 front line health services to close. WHO’s representative in Iraq Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain stated on Tuesday, “Unless additional funding is received, millions more will be deprived of health services they urgently need.” [AP, 8/5/2015]


Anti-Houthi fighters gain more territory in southern Yemen
Fighters loyal to Yemen’s deposed president seized about ten southern villages from Houthi forces on Tuesday, pursuing their offensive a day after capturing the al-Anad air base. Clashes took place across the southern province of Lahj, most of which is now back in the hands of the Saudi-backed loyalist forces. Yemeni military sources said the United Arab Emirates had sent in dozens of tanks and heavy artillery to the fighters in recent days, though a spokesman for the Arab coalition denied media reports that it had sent ground troops. The UN Special Envoy to Yemen said in a statement on Egyptian television on Tuesday, “There must be a withdrawal, a ceasefire and an agreement on them both. The government (must) return gradually to perform its duties in infrastructure and services … it must return to Sana’a and to the big cities, that’s essential.” [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

Yemeni government routes all aid to Aden, causing fear among residents of Sana’a
Residents in the Yemeni capital Sana’a are stocking up on rare food and fuel supplies after the government-in-exile decided to divert aid ships from the Houthi rebel held north to loyalist areas farther south. Sources in Yemen’s government confirmed the move, though there has been no official announcement, and Yemen’s exiled information minister said on Tuesday that commercial flights would be diverted from the capital to the southern port of Aden. In the capital, inflation is rampant, with the black market price for twenty liters of petrol up to sixty dollars in recent days compared to an official price of fifteen dollars. [Reuters, 8/5/2015]

Doctors Without Borders warns that health system in Yemen is nearing collapse
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said Tuesday that health services in Yemen were “nearing collapse,” with pregnant women dying for lack of transport and hospitals under fire from snipers.Shortages of food, medicine and health workers are acute, said Thierry Goffeau, MSF’s coordinator in Yemen’s second city of Aden. Transport has been totally disrupted by the near-daily air raids, meaning that “women needing a Caesarian die because they cannot get to a hospital in time,” said Laurent Sury, MSF’s head of emergencies. Sury said 20,000 people had been treated for injuries—nearly half in the nine MSF health centers. He added that the charity’s emergency surgery hospital and trauma clinic in the port city of Aden alone “receive nearly 350 new patients per week.” [AFP, 8/4/2015]

Kuwait mosque bombing suspect admits to ISIS affiliation
Abdulrahman Sabah Saud, the main suspect in the June bombing of a Kuwaiti Shia mosque, confessed in court Tuesday to being in the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL). Saud told the first hearing of the trial that he joined ISIS just a day before the June 26 suicide bombing that killed twenty-six people and wounded hundreds. Although the public prosecution has not released the official charge sheets, a number of defendants are charged with being in a proscribed group and taking part in the bombing. Most are also accused of assisting those behind the attack. Among the men and women charged are seven Kuwaitis, five Saudis, three Pakistanis, thirteen stateless people known as Bidoons and another person at large whose identity is unknown. [AFP, 8/5/2015]


Yemen’s Houthi rebels face financial crisis
Blocked from selling Yemen’s oil, the Houthi-led government has slipped into a financial crisis after four months of conflict with a Saudi-led military coalition. A Houthi official said the country has not exported any oil since March due to damaged energy infrastructure and a blockade imposed by the Saudi coalition. Tax collection has also fallen dramatically. The lack of income has led to a significant budget shortfall. In March, the rebels sent delegations to Iran and Russia seeking fuel assistance and investment in energy projects. There have been no indications that any deals were reached. The central bank has been selling short-term debt to replace maturing debt and avoid a funding shortfall. Hasan al-Sa’adi, a Houthi political leader, said the central bank, finance ministry, and other government departments had saved money by stamping out corruption and adopting austerity measures. [WSJ, 8/4/2015]

New Libya oil chief considers resuming exports at eastern ports
The new head of the state oil company for eastern Libya is considering restarting exports from the region’s two largest ports and plans to boost crude output. “Among my priorities will be lifting force majeure at Es Sider and Ras Lanuf,” said Nagi al-Magrabi, chair of the National Oil Corporation (NOC) for the eastern region. The NOC will seek to increase crude output from fields in the eastern region, he added. Al-Magrabi said his appointment as chair of NOC for the eastern region would take effect later this week. [Bloomberg, Libya Monitor (subscription), 8/4/2015]

IMF says UAE savings from fuel price reform to increase in coming years
The government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) will save only a modest amount of money from reforms to its fuel price system in 2015, but the savings are likely to rise sharply in coming years, an International Monetary Fund (IMF) official said on Tuesday. Zeine Zeidane, adviser in the IMF’s Middle East and Central Asia Department, estimated the UAE’s reform would save it about $500 million by the end of this year, or a little over 0.1 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). But annual savings are expected to rise sharply over the medium term to around 0.6 percent of GDP, Zeidane said. He added that in addition to gasoline and diesel, there was huge potential for the UAE to save money by reducing natural gas subsidies and enacting spending cuts and taxation and structural reforms. [Reuters, 8/4/2015]

Egypt bank postpones issuance of international bonds
The National Bank of Egypt (NBE) has postponed issuing international bonds, which were to be issued at the end of July, according to an NBE source. The source said the postponement was due to current instability in the international stock markets. In August 2010, the NBE issued bonds valued at $600 million with interest rates of 5.25 percent. The source said the NBE aims to offer the new bonds at lower prices than the 2010 bonds. Last June, the NBE selected CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, HSBC, the National Bank of Abu Dhabi, and Standard Chartered to organize issuing the standard bonds. According to the source, the bank will repay on Wednesday the full $600 million in bonds from August 2010, and will withdraw these amounts from its external accounts. [DNE, 8/4/2015]