UN inspectors said in a report Monday there is “clear and convincing evidence” that chemical weapons were used on a relatively large scale in an attack last month in Syria that killed hundreds of people. The findings represent the first official confirmation by scientific experts that chemical weapons were used in the Syrian conflict, but the first page of the report left the key question of who launched the attack unanswered. [APReuters, 9/16/2013] 


Opposition groups “stepping up crimes”
Killings, crimes, and other abuses by rebels, including foreign fighters invoking jihad, or holy war, have increased in northern Syria, UN human rights investigators said Monday. “Across northern Syria, there has been an upsurge in crimes and abuses committed by extremist anti-government armed groups along with an influx of rebel foreign fighters,” Paulo Pinheiro, head of the inquiry, told the UN Human Rights Council. [Gulf News, Reuters, 9/16/2013]

Lavrov: UN resolution threatening Syria may “wreck peace talks”
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Monday warned that talks by some western countries on a tough UN resolution on Syria could wreck peace efforts, but said he was “convinced” the United States would adhere to the framework it drew up with Russia. He spoke after Britain, France, and the United States at a meeting in Paris agreed on the need for a “strong and binding” UN resolution on the transfer of Syria’s chemical weapons to international control. The three powers also agreed to step up their backing for rebels fighting Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, with US Secretary of State John Kerry saying: “If Assad fails to comply with the framework we are all agreed that there will be consequences.” [NOW Syria, Naharnet, 9/16/2013]

Syrian opposition agrees to include more Kurds
Syria’s Kurds reached an agreement with the main opposition coalition to include more members from the minority in the body, the Kurdish National Council (KNC) and the opposition said Monday. The deal reached between the KNC and the opposition came after months of stalling, as the Syrian National Coalition’s general assembly meeting came to a close. “The National Coalition and the Kurdish National Council voted in an agreement on Sunday, that will bring in more Kurdish members,” Coalition spokesperson Louay Safi told AFP.  [AFP/NOW Syria, 9/16/2013]


Spokesman: “Army to continue operations till Sinai is terrorist-free”
Spokesman for the Egyptian Armed Forces, Ahmed Ali, says there will be more military operations against “terrorist” strongholds in Sinai, adding there is no timeframe for army action in the Peninsula. Ali, who pointed out that attacks by “terrorist groups” have escalated following the ousting of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, went on to add that operations will not cease until Sinai is completely free of “factions threatening national security.” [Ahram Online, DNE, SIS, Aswat Masriya, Amwal al-Ghad, 9/15/2013]

Security forces retake control of Islamist stronghold in Upper Egypt
Security forces backed by armored vehicles and helicopters on Monday stormed a town south of Cairo that had been held for over two months by militants loyal to the ousted Islamist president, swiftly taking control despite some resistance from gunmen. A temporary curfew was imposed on Monday morning in the town that has witnessed arson attacks on scores of churches, Christian-owned shops, homes, and monasteries, according to local activists. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, SIS, Mada Masr, Reuters, AP, Aswat Masriya, 9/16/2013]

Former Mounifiya governor arrested; Hegazy acquitted in one case
Security services arrested former Mounifiya governor Ahmed Shaarawy on Saturday. He was arrested on charges of inciting violence and killing demonstrators. Meanwhile, Islamist preacher and Muslim Brotherhood ally Safwat Hegazy has been acquitted for charges of ‘inciting violence’ at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters on June 30, which left eight dead. [Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Ahram Online, Amwal al-Ghad, 9/15/2013]

Egypt’s 2012/13 budget deficit reaches $35 billion: Initial figures
Egypt registered a state’s budget deficit of EGP 240 billion (about $34.8 billion) for the fiscal year 2012/13, representing 14 percent of GDP, initial figures released by the finance ministry on Friday show. Egyptian Finance Minister Ahmed Galal has stated that the government aims to diminish the deficit to 9 percent of GDP, and to push up the growth rate to 4 percent. Egypt’s growth rate is expected to reach an average of 2.3 percent for the fiscal year 2012/13, according to initial figures announced. [Ahram, 9/14/2013]


Oil protesters continue stoppages in Libya’s east
Oil protesters in the eastern part of Libya will continue to block the country’s largest oil terminals until all of their demands are met, the spokesman for the protesters said, denying reports that a deal with the government had been reached. The stoppages have cost the country billions of dollars in lost revenues and threaten the payment of public sector salaries. Meanwhile, Cyrenaica federalists have called for demonstrations to protest what they call the “rampant corruption in the body of the sagging state.” [Reuters, 9/16/13]

More car bombs in Benghazi, but no one hurt
There were two car bomb attempts in Benghazi on Monday morning, but there were no casualties. One of the targets was a lawyer and the other a Libyan army patrol vehicle. It is believed most of the car bomb attacks in the eastern city are the work of an individual skilled bomber. Public outrage over the violence is growing, as citizens fault the government for failing to protect the people. Another two people were killed over the weekend when clashes erupted in Sebha between two army battalions representing rival tribes. Forty-five inmates managed to escape a prison in Ajdabiya in another mass jailbreak. [Libya Herald, 9/16/13]

GNC sitting disrupted by protesters
Protesters from the Brigade of Liberation staged angry protests outside the General National Congress (GNC) on Sunday over wages, saying they have not been paid in eighteen months. A defense ministry spokesman said that the individuals need to officially join the brigade and complete applications so that the government knows exactly who the 7,000 members of the brigade are. Another protest outside the General Staff of the Armed Forces by several thuwar (revolutionaries) demanding medical treatment abroad ended peacefully on Friday after long discussions with the staff. [Libya Herald, 9/15/13]

Gang headquarters raided after attack on GNC member
Special forces security personnel raided the headquarters of a gang, made up of local, disaffected, and jobless youths, who had taken over a hotel next to al-Watania TV station claiming to have the task of providing security and protection to the media outlet. The arrangement, however, was being imposed by the station’s management. The raid was in response to an assault on a GNC member who was attacked on the premises, along with the TV station’s manager and several other employees. [Libya Herald, 9/14/13]


CIA warned Tunisia of threat to Brahmi, according to leaked document
On Saturday, Tunisian newspaper Al Maghrebpublished a memo dated July 15 from the ministry of the interior detailing a warning the foreign security administration received from the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) about a potential threat to opposition leader Mohamed Brahmi. The memo discusses the possible targeting of Brahmi by Salafists. The release of the document follows Minister of the Interior Lotfi Ben Jeddou’s Friday announcement that the ministry received information of a threat to Brahmi’s life from an “external” security source. [Tunisia Live, 9/16/2013]

Ministry of Justice: Controversial Tunisian prosecutor promoted
Tunisian Public Prosecutor Tarek Chkioua has been promoted to the country’s court of appeal, according to a justice ministry statement. Currently the prosecutor in the capital’s court of first instance, he will now take up the position as advocate general in the country’s highest judicial body. Chkioua has been fiercely criticized by rights groups for prosecuting cases that have resulted in journalists and a trade unionist being arrested. [Ahram Online, 9/16/2013]

Tunisian journalist detained for critical comment
A journalist has been detained in Tunisia for questioning the government’s case against a TV cameraman, a lawyer said Friday. Journalist Zied el-Heni was detained for allegedly defaming a civil servant by saying on the private Nessma TV channel that he has evidence that the case was fabricated against cameraman Mourad Meherzi, who was arrested for filming the egging of a minister. [AP, 9/16/2013]

Dissident deputies refuse to return to National Constituent Assembly
President Moncef Marzouki conferred on Friday with dissident delegates about their possible return to the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). Deputy Hichem Hosni reported after the meeting that President Marzouki had urged him and the other dissident deputies to return to the NCA to complete the remaining steps in the transition process given the deterioration of the economic and security situation in the country. According to a statement from the president’s office, Hosni and his colleagues declined the proposal due to a lack of trust among opposition parties and the ruling alliance. [Tunis Afrique Press, All Africa, 9/16/2013]


Yemen human rights minister stands up for children’s rights
As the controversy is growing around a young girl’s death following her alleged marriage to a forty-year old man, Yemen Human Rights Minister Hooria Mashour has promised she would sponsor a bill to introduce a legal minimum age on marriage. The minister wants to impose an age-ban on marriage at seventeen, thus criminalizing child marriage once and for all. [Yemen Post, Al Masdar (Arabic), Daily News Egypt, 9/15/2013]

Court convicts three al-Qaeda members for plotting to murder the president
The Sanaa court of first instance sentenced on Sunday three al-Qaeda members, who were convicted of plotting to assassinate the president, security officers, and diplomats, to between one and seven years in jail. [Saba News, Al Masdar (Arabic), Al Tagheer (Arabic), 9/15/2013]

New bombing targeting the oil pipeline in Marib and the government stands powerless to stop the sabotage
A local source said Sunday morning that tribal militants blew up another oil pipeline in Marib province, east of the Yemeni capital, making this the second attack in two days. He said the militants blew up the pipeline itself late Friday evening. Terrorists are sometimes encouraged to attack oil pipelines and power transmission lines because the government continues to cave into their demands. [Al Masdar (Arabic), Al Tagheer (Arabic), 9/15/2013]

GPC declares rejection of the dialogue extension
The General People’s Congress (GPC) party in Yemen, which is led by former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, announced that they categorically reject any extension of the transitional period, which expires in February 2014. This came in the wake of a proposal put forward by some of the parties to the National Dialogue Conference in Yemen to extend the current transitional phase for a new period ranging between four and five years. [Wefaq Press (Arabic), Al Tagheer (Arabic), 9/16/2013]


What reconciliation? Hamas, Fatah trade blows
Hamas has continued to accuse Fatah of inciting Egyptian military authorities against the Gaza-based group during Egypt’s recent change in leadership. A Hamas spokesperson in Gaza, Sami Abu Zuhri, recently told al Jazeera, “Fatah is colluding and conniving with the Sisiregime to spread chaos and insecurity in Gaza. They are trying to imitate the Tamarod group in Egypt.” Fatah, which is the largest faction of the Palestine Liberation Organisation, has vehemently denied the accusations, saying that Hamas was interfering in internal Egyptian affairs and “pushing the Egyptian government, people and media” to harbour hostile attitudes towards Palestinians. [Al-Jazeera, 9/16/2013]

Lebanon must abide by UN resolutions to ensure security: US envoy
Lebanon must fully implement UN resolutions and the Baabda Declaration in order to achieve security and stability, US Ambassador to Lebanon David Hale said following a meeting with Free Patriotic Movement leader and Member of Parliament Michel Aoun on Monday. Hale was referring to UN Security Council Resolution 1701, which stipulates the disarmament of all armed militias in Lebanon, and the Baabda Declaration, signed in 2012, to protect Lebanon from regional turmoil. [The Daily Star, 9/16/2013]

Human Rights Watch reports that security forces detain children
Bahrain’s human rights record has once again come into question on Sunday when Human Rights Watch reported that Bahrain security forces routinely detain children without cause and subject them to ill-treatment that may rise to the level of torture, based on reports from victims, family members, and legal rights activists. [HRW, 9/15/2013]