Top News: UN Security Council Authorizes Cross-Border Aid Access in Syria

Despite strong objections by the Syrian government, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to authorize cross-border convoys of emergency aid for millions of deprived Syrian civilians in rebel-held areas. The aid will be delivered through different routes coming from Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq, without the prior approval of the Syrian government.


Israel-Palestine ceasefire collapses as Hamas rejects Egypt truce
Israel launched fresh aerial attacks on Gaza today after a short-lived pause during which Hamas fired dozens of rockets at Israel. Israel had initially accepted an initiative proposed by the Egyptian government for a ceasefire, but Hamas had rejected it. The proposed truce was rejected by the armed wing of the Palestinian militant group Hamas on Tuesday. The Qassam Brigades said it had not officially received the text of the agreement but said excerpts published in the media showed it was “an initiative of kneeling and submission.” Following the ceasefire, Cairo was to host high-level delegations from both Israeli and Palestinian factions to discuss trust-building measures required for confirming the implementation of the deal. The proposal was welcomed by US President Barack Obama, Secretary of State John Kerry, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netenyahu, and the Arab League. US Secretary of State John Kerry has decided not to make an immediate trip to the Middle East to push diplomatic efforts toward a ceasefire. [Aswat Masriya, SIS, The Guardian, 7/15/2017]

Civil society draft law would ‘throttle’ NGOs
A new civil society draft law will “throttle” Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) and “rob them of their independence,” said Human Rights Watch. In a statement on Monday, the international watchdog condemned the draft law and called for it to be discarded and replaced. Joe Stork, deputy Middle East and North Africa director at Human Rights Watch, warned that the draft law would “extinguish a crucial element of democracy in Egypt.” The Ministry of Social Solidarity presented the draft legislation to Egyptian groups on June 26. It has garnered criticism since then for restricting the activities of the already struggling civil society organizations in Egypt. Meanwhile, Prime Minister Ibrahim Mahlab asserted that Egypt supports NGOs, adding that they complete the government’s role. [DNE, Mada Masr, 7/14/2014]

Egypt’s new subsidy system tackles bread consumption
Egypt has rolled out a series of reforms to its decades-old bread subsidy system in the hopes that it will reduce the nation’s bread consumption and minimize corruption. The new smart-card system, which entitles card owners to a fixed ration of five loaves of bread per day, was first introduced in the spring in cities in the Suez Canal and Alexandria and arrived this month in several Cairo districts. [Ahram Online, 7/14/2014]

Sisi issues presidential decree to form High Elections Committee
President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Tuesday issued a presidential decree (231/2014) to form the High Elections Committee, which will be responsible for organizing the upcoming parliamentary elections. Presidential spokesperson Ihab Badawi said the decree was announced after consulting the newly modified 2014 constitution, law 45/2014 on the exercise of political rights, other related laws, and guidance from the minister of justice. The political rights law stipulates that the committee will be headed by the president of the Cairo Court of Appeals and comprised of senior members of his staff, the Cassation Court, and State Council. [EGYNews (Arabic), AMAY (Arabic), Al-Ahram (Arabic), Aswat Masriya (Arabic), 7/15/2014]


UN pulls staff out of Libya as clashes continue and shelling shut down airports
The United Nations on Monday pulled its staff out of Libya where as many as fifteen people have been killed in fighting in the eastern city of Benghazi and in Tripoli over the last two days, forcing the closure of the international airport. A militia shelled the airport in the capital, destroying 90 percent of planes parked there, according to a Libyan government spokesman. The UN mission in Libya said the airport’s closure and the deteriorating security situation made it impossible to fulfill its work. With the Misrata airport also closed and Benghazi airport shut down since May, there remain only two small airports in the country’s south and a land route to Tunisia. [Reuters, Libya Herald, 7/15/2014]

African nations to help Libya control its borders
Libya’s neighbors are offering to help the country control its borders, collect heavy weapons, and reconcile rival political forces as security deteriorates. After Tunisia hosted foreign ministers from Egypt, Sudan, Chad, and Algeria for a conference on Sunday and Monday, Tunisian President Moncef Marzouki said that that Libyan authorities have agreed to create joint border control forces. The high-level officials and diplomats also agreed on a plan to help Libyan authorities collect the heavy weapons that are circulating widely and are falling into the hands of terrorist groups around Africa. [AP, 7/14/2014]

Brega blockaders say demands must be met before terminal reopens
The group of Petroleum Facilities Guards (PFG) who have been blockading the Brega oil terminal for the past three days have said their demands must be satisfied before the blockade is lifted. Their two primary concerns revolve around the reinstatement of their former commander and pay. The protesters are specifically demanding that Idris Buhamada be brought back as PFG commander. He was replaced as part of a deal with Ibrahim Jadhran to settle the blockade of eastern terminals. Regarding pay, protestors are demanding the salaries of 600 guards who they claim never received salaries. [Libya Herald, 7/14/2014]

Oil halts slide on renewed turmoil in Libya
The price of oil paused Tuesday after tumbling last week as deteriorating security in Libya raised questions over the restoration of exports following an agreement to end oil terminal blockages. Prices fell sharply last week with the prospect of more supplies from Libya, as well as easing worries about supply disruptions from Iraq. But fighting between rival militias in Libya over recent days are casting uncertainty over plans to reopen two oil terminals that would boost the country’s crude exports by about 500,000 barrels per day (bpd). Libya currently produces only around 350,000 bpd – a trickle compared to its pre-war levels of 1.6 million bpd. [AP, 7/15/2014]


UN Security Council authorizes cross-border aid access in Syria
Despite strong objections by the Syrian government, the United Nations Security Council voted unanimously on Monday to authorize cross-border convoys of emergency aid for millions of deprived Syrian civilians in rebel-held areas. The aid will be delivered through different routes coming from Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq, without the prior approval of the Syrian government. Western diplomats said the resolution was not as ambitious as the initial text, which demanded blanket cross-border access. [NY Times, Reuters, 7/15/2014]

ISIS expels rivals from Syrian city
ISIStook over opposition-held areas of a provincial capital near the border with Iraq on Monday after expelling rival fighters from an al-Qaida-linked group, activists said. The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human rights said militants from ISIS took over opposition areas in Deir al-Zour on Monday, while fighters of the rival al-Qaeda-linked Nusra Front group withdrew from the area after the clashes. [AP, 7/15/2014]

Hundreds of Kurds enter Syria from Turkey to fight jihadists
Hundreds of Kurdish fighters have entered northern Syria to help battle jihadists besieging the Kurdish city of Ain al-Arab, a monitor said Tuesday. A Kurdish Syrian activist said the flow of fighters came after Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), blacklisted in Turkey as a terrorist organization, gave orders for Kurdish fighters to move to protect Ain al-Arab. The Kurdish fighters are gathering forces in preparation for an assault by ISIS. [Naharent, 7/15/2014]

Fresh fighting breaks out between Syrian rebels and Hezbollah fighters
Hezbollah has taken into captivity fourteen Syrian rebels as the death toll from its clashes with armed groups on the Lebanese-Syrian border has risen to sixteen, a monitoring group said Monday. According to the head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights “Seven members of Hezbollah were killed and 31 wounded” in the clashes which raged from Saturday until Sunday night. [AFP, 7/15/2014]


NCA adopts law to grant loan of $233 million
The National Constituent Assembly (NCA) adopted Monday a draft law on a loan agreement worth 398 million Tunisian dinars ($233 M) concluded between Tunisia and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD). The loan is meant to boost the national economy and support the state budget. The support budget program, the subject of this loan, seeks to boost economic activity. Two loan agreements will be signed shortly between Japan and Tunisia during the visit of President of the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA) Akihico Tanaka July 16-18, JICA resident representative in Tunisia Atsushi Asano said. [TAP, 7/14/2014]

Stamp tax imposed on marriage contracts rejected
Chairman of the Committee on Finance and Planning at the NCA announced a cancellation of the tax stamp 30 dinars ($17.55) imposed on marriage contracts, under the bill of additional finances. The tax on marriage was received with controversy by Tunisians. Many felt that the tax would only increase the already high rate of single men and women unable to marry for financial reasons. [Mosaique FM, 7/15/2014]

Security coordination between Tunisia and Algeria reviewed
Monday in Tunis, Algerian Foreign Minister Ramtane Lamamra pointed out the need to continue security coordination between Tunisia and Algeria in order to achieve concrete results, particularly with regard to the security situation in Libya and its spillover effects. The joint statement of the Ministerial Conference of Libya’s Neighbor Countries, held Sunday in Hammamet, points out that a security working group will be created and Algeria will ensure coordination. The group will be tasked with addressing security and military issues, including border control, as well as developing a plan for the recovery of heavy weapons. [TAP, 7/14/2014]


Clashes erupt between Yemen’s army and Houthi rebels in Jawf and Hamdan
Clashes broke out between Houthi rebels and residents of Hamdan after hundreds of Houthi rebels arrived in Hamdan on Monday. The rebels kidnapped four of its residents. Clashes continued on Tuesday between the rebels and the Yemeni army in Jawf resulting in multiple deaths. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/15/2014]

Constitution drafting committee establishes judicial branch
In an initial drafting of the constitution on Monday, the constitution drafting committee established the judicial branch of the federalist government. The articles discussed the responsibilities and structure of the judicial branch and the different types of courts that make up the judicial system. The committee also began drafting parts of the constitution that address the legislative and executive branches of government. The initial draft will be discussed in a public forum. [Al Masdar (Arabic), 7/15/2014]

Yemeni coast guard captures boat carrying forty-five Ethiopians
The Yemeni coast guard captured a boat smuggling forty-five Ethiopians into Yemen. The passengers were arrested and taken to the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The Yemeni coast guard revealed that it had captured eighty-one African nationals smuggled illegally into the country in July 2014 alone. [Sahafa (Arabic), 7/15/2014]


Iraq parliament elects Salim al-Juburi as speaker, as fighting continues
Iraqi parliament elected a speaker Tuesday after two failed sessions, with Salim al-Juburi winning comfortably according to a tally announced live on state television. This move comes as Iraqi security forces launched a new offensive into militant-held city of Tikrit on Tuesday. According to government officials, security forces attacked on Tuesday morning and have succeeded in retaking government facilities south of the city. On Monday, residents in a town north of Baghdad found twelve corpses with execution-style bullet wounds following fighting between rival Sunni insurgents. [Reuters, 7/15/2014]

Qatar set to invest in $11 billion arms deal with United States
Qatar plans to buy US Patriot missile batteries and Apache attack helicopters in an arms deal worth about $11 billion, according to Pentagon officials. The investment comes as Qatar seeks to build up its missile defense systems to counter the threat across the Gulf from Iran. The sale would provide Qatar with roughly ten radars and thirty-eight launchers for Patriot systems designed to knock out incoming missiles, as well as twenty-four Apache helicopters and Javelin anti-tank missiles. [AFP, 7/15/2014]

Jordan’s Abu Qatada denounces the declaration of caliphate by ISIS
Radical religious authority Abu Qatada, who is being tried on terror charges in Jordan, denounced  the declaration of a caliphate by Sunni jihadists in Iraq and Syria calling it “void.” Abu Qatada declared, “This group does not have the authority to rule all Muslims and their declaration applies to no-one but themselves.” Abu Qatada’s statement came after leading Jordanian jihadist ideologist Issam Barqawi denounced the declaration of the caliphate on July 2. [The Daily Star, 7/15/2014]