Top News: UN to Send Aid to Half a Million Iraqis

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that its launching a major aid operation to deliver supplies to more than half a million Iraqi people displaced by the fighting. A four-day airlift of tents and other goods will begin on Wednesday to Irbil from Aqaba in Jordan, followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next ten days.




Egypt calls on US to exercise restraint towards Missouri protests
The Egyptian foreign ministry has said it is closely watching developments in the US city of Ferguson following clashes between security forces and protesters over the murder of African American teenager Mike Brown last week. It has called on US authorities to exercise restraint and deal with the protests in accordance with US and international standards, foreign ministry spokesperson Ambassador Badr Abdel-Atty told state news agency MENA. Abdel-Atty said the ministry was closely following reactions to the violence. Deputy Spokesperson of the US State Department Marie Harf said in a press briefing on Monday that Egypt’s President Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi is leading the country’s democratic transition, despite recent criticism by the United States of Egypt’s human rights record and the US holding some of its aid to Egypt pending democratic reform. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Shorouk (Arabic), Ahram Gateway (Arabic), 8/19/2014]

Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis releases video threatening military, police
In a video uploaded on Monday night, the militant Ansar Bayt al-Maqdes group shows footage of four soldiers killed at a checkpoint as well as the bombing of the military checkpoint in Farafra in the Western desert. In the ten minute video, the voice of Sheikh Ibrahim al-Rabish is featured as he warns the Egyptian Armed Forces of militants’ attacks against them. The video was uploaded by Abu Qattada al-Ansary’s YouTube channel, bearing the logo “exclusive from Rassd,” the portal known for its Islamist affiliation. Rabish’s name has been often associated with video releases by Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis. The video closes with footage of a masked militant shooting four men who are allegedly soldiers at a checkpoint. Then footage of the explosion of the military checkpoint in Farafra is shown, where 22 soldiers were killed. [Egypt Independent, Mada Masr, 8/19/2014]

NCHR makes recommendations to amend protest law, organizes workshop for NGO law
Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights (NCHR) presented recommendations for legislative amendments to the Supreme Legislative Reform Committee on Monday. The recommendations included proposals for making changes to a controversial protest law, to articles on terrorism in the penal code and for drafting an anti-discrimination law. NCHR President Mohamed Fayek also said that the NCHR would organize a workshop with the ministry of social solidarity to provide a vision for Egypt’s NGO draft law. Relevant ministries and civil society representatives will participate in the workshop. Fayek added that cooperation with civil society organizations is a priority for the Council because such groups contribute to achieving the objective of protecting human rights. [Ahram Online, 8/19/2014]

Egypt rebuts news on resuming loan talks with the IMF
Egypt’s Finance Minister Hani Kadry Dimian has denied media reports about plans to resume talks with the IMF over a loan worth $10.4 billion. The minister added, however, that Egypt intends to invite an IMF delegation before the end of 2014. The purpose of the visit would be to discuss the status of the Egyptian economy as entails the agreement between the IMF and its members, the minister noted. In a press release, the minister said the Egypt is keen on continuing ties with the fund and the World Bank, adding that the government will continue to cooperate with the fund in technical support and financing of infrastructure projects. [DNE, 8/18/2014]   


Libyan militia fire rockets into affluent Tripoli residential district
Libyan militiamen fired rockets into an affluent district of Tripoli early on Tuesday, moving inter-militia battles closer to the center. Hours later after nightfall, unidentified militiamen fired rockets into a couple of the most well-to-do areas of Tripoli. Residents claimed three people were killed, but.a health ministry official had no casualty figures. Meanwhile, an Operation Dignity commander said that an air force controlled by renegade general Khalifa Haftar was responsible for strikes on Islamist militias on Monday, after residents reported unidentified planes carrying out strikes. [Reuters, 8/19/2014]

Ansar al-Sharia and Muslim Brotherhood in Benghazi split
The Islamist Revolutionary Council of Benghazi and the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies in the eastern city are locked in a bitter feud over a new local organization. The Revolutionary Council of Benghazi, an umbrella organization including Ansar al-Sharia and Libya Shield, denounced the newly formed Shura Council of Benghazi, accusing it of attempting to grab power amid instability. It also said the similarity in the names of the two organizations was an attempt to steal credibility. The Shura Council, inaugurated last week, comprises several local tribal elders and Muslim Brotherhood members of the Benghazi municipal council. [Libya Herald, 8/18/2014]

Councils, charities, and United Nations struggle to aid Tripoli refugees
More than 7,000 families have so far fled Tripoli in search of safety. The UN refugee agency has said that, although many families have temporarily moved in with friends and family in other Libyan towns, others have settled in the woods and open areas outside of the capital. The UN refugee agency has revealed that it cannot get to urgently needed stockpiles of relief material in its warehouse in Tripoli due to the ongoing violence, so it is sending aid from its temporary base at Medenine in Tunisia. [Libya Herald, 8/18/2014]


Syria targets ISIS positions in Raqqa for second day
Syrian warplanes bombed positions belonging to the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) in the northern province of Raqqa for a second day on Monday. According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least sixteen raids were conducted on jihadist positions. The raids involved the use of precision weapons rather than the explosive-packed barrel bombs, the regime’s weapon of choice. [AFP, 8/19/2014]

US claims Syria’s chemical arsenal fully destroyed
The United States said Monday that it completed the destruction of the deadliest chemical weapons in Syria’s arsenal. On Monday, President Obama said that the destruction of the weapons “advances our collective goal to ensure that the Assad regime cannot use its chemical arsenal against the Syrian people.” Secretary of State John Kerry said that the destruction of the chemicals was a milestone, but that Assad’s arsenal still presented a threat. [NY Times, 8/19/2014]

United States bans flights over Syria
The US Federal Aviation Administration has barred all American airlines from flying over Syria, saying the ongoing conflict poses a serious potential threat. The new rule requires operators to contact the FAA before operating in the airspace. Recent reports indicate that armed groups in Syria have several hundred portable anti-aircraft missiles that can be used to destroy commercial planes. [The Guardian, Reuters, 8/19/2014]

ISIS recruits at record pace in Syria
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported that thousands of new fighters joined the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) last month in its fastest expansion to date. The founder of the Observatory, Rami Abdelrahman, announced that at least 6,300 men were recruited by the group in July. Much of the recruitment has taken place in the ISIS stronghold of Raqqa. [Reuters, 8/19/2014]


Defense ministry denies Tunisian-Algerian joint military operations
The official spokesman for the ministry of national defense, on Monday, denied Tunisian-Algerian joint military operations were conducted to hunt down terrorists on both sides of the border. “[Though] there has been permanent coordination between the two countries in the field of intelligence, in particular, this does not mean there were jointly conducted bombing,” he said. This is not the first time that information relating to the security situation at the borders has been denied by official sources. [TAP, 8/18/2014]

Prime ministry’s crisis response unit to freeze activity of 157 organizations
Interim Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa has decided, within the framework of the Crisis Response Unit, to freeze the activity of 157 out of 18,000 organizations in the country. The statement said the freeze does not mean the dissolution of the concerned organizations. This is a precautionary measure taken for security reasons in accordance with decree No. 88 for the year 2011. It also noted that the judicial appeal remains open for all organizations, recalling that the decisions taken by the prime minister aim to ensure the success of the transitional period and create conditions for the success of the upcoming elections. [TAP, 8/18/2014]

NCA passes first five articles of draft anti-terrorism law
The first five articles of the bill on the fight against terrorism and money laundering were passed by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA) at a plenary session held Monday afternoon. Article 1, which sets the goal of the law, was passed in its original form (112 votes). Article 3, which defines the concepts used in the text, was subject to the largest number of changes before its approval by 127 votes. [TAP, 8/19/2014]


Military breaks up al-Qaeda-linked terror cell in Hadramawt
Four al-Qaeda members were killed and five others were taken into custody when a military unit broke up a terror cell linked to al-Qaeda in Hadramawt. Clashes between al-Qaeda and the military in Hadramawt, involving military helicopters and warships, resulted in the death of one soldier and the injury of five others. [Yemen Post, 8/18/2014]

Tens of thousands of Yemenis protest against fuel reform
Tens of thousands of people joined an anti-government rally in Sana’a on Monday in response to a call by Houthi rebel commander Abdulmalik al-Houthi. The protesters dispersed in the afternoon, and no incidents were reported. The demonstrators chanted slogans against the government, which has struggled to manage the political transition since the ouster in 2012 of Former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. They also protested against a petrol tax increase enacted at the end of July. [Reuters, Yemen Times, Al Jazeera, 8/18/2014]

IFJ demands Yemeni authorities to increase media protection
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) demanded of Yemeni authorities to increase immediately protection for media workers on Monday. IFJ’s renewed appeal follows an escalation in attacks over the last few days, including the murder of a senior journalist. According to the Yemeni Journalists’ Syndicate (YJS), Abdul-Rahman Hameed Aldin worked for Sana’a Radio and was shot in the head on August 15 by an armed group in Sana’a. He passed away the following day. [Saba, Al Masdar (Arabic), 8/18/2014]


UN to send aid to half a million Iraqis
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Tuesday that its launching a major aid operation to deliver supplies to more than half a million Iraqi people displaced by the fighting. A four-day airlift of tents and other goods will begin on Wednesday to Irbil from Aqaba in Jordan, followed by road convoys from Turkey and Jordan, and sea shipments from Dubai via Iran over the next ten days. UNHCR spokesman Adrian Edwards declared the operation as “a very, very significant aid push and certainly one of the largest I can recall in quite a while.” [Reuters, 8/19/2014]

Iraqi forces launch string of attacks on ISIS militants
Iraqi forces launched a string of attacks on the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) on Tuesday, including at Saddam Hussein’s hometown Tikrit. Across the west of Iraq, security forces backed by militiamen and tribesmen launched strikes against the jihadists at numerous flashpoints. On Monday, Obama hailed the recapture of Mosul dam after a joint effort by Iraqis, Kurds, and the US but warned Baghdad that they must move quickly to build an inclusive government. [AFP, Reuters, 8/19/2014]

Main religious authority in Saudi Arabia denounces ISIS
Saudi Arabia’s Grand Mufti Sheikh Abdulaziz Al al-Sheikh, the highest religious authority in the country, said on Tuesday that the Islamic State in Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS) are enemy number one of Islam. The Grand Mufti announced that “Extremist and militant ideas and terrorism which spread decay on Earth, destroying human civilization, are not in any way part of Islam, but are enemy number one of Islam, and Muslims are their first victims.” [Reuters, 8/19/2014]