Top News: US Navy Report Says Arab Coalition Slowing Aid Efforts in Yemen

A US Navy report has said that the Saudi-led coalition has slowed down its aid to Yemen by warning commercial vessels to stay away from areas hit by fighting. The Arab coalition, fighting to end control of much of Yemen by the Houthi movement, denied the allegation and said it was keen for ships to take in relief. Yemen is suffering what the United Nations says is one of its worst humanitarian crises. Continued fighting and extended and air- and seaport blockades have hampered aid efforts. The navy report said that the Yemeni government had permitted the vessels to enter but the coalition was preventing this, indicating a possible “gap” between the government and its Arab allies. However, coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri denied warships had sent any messages aimed at deterring vessels from docking. This report coincides with the recent announcement from the King Salman center for relief and humanitarian care that it will give 50 million Saudi riyals to humanitarian relief work in Yemen. [ReutersAl-Masdar (Arabic), 10/15/2015]



Egypt designated a “country of particular concern” in US religious freedom report
For the fifth year in a row, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) recommended in its 2015 report that Egypt be designated a “country of particular concern,” or CPC, under the International Religious Freedom Act (IRFA). While the annual report acknowledges President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s several important public statements encouraging religious tolerance (including being the first head of state to attend a Coptic Christmas eve mass), it also holds the government accountable for “not adequately [protecting] religious minorities, particularly Coptic Orthodox Christians and their property, from periodic violence.” It notes increased government control over Muslim religious institutions as well as the negative effect that the government’s efforts to combat terrorism and extremism have had on civil society and a crackdown on activists and journalists. The government-run State Information Services covered the positive aspects of the report, stating improvements in the status of Christians in Egypt. [Aswat Masriya, 10/15/2015]

No forced disappearance cases in Egypt says Interior Ministry
There are no cases of involuntary or forced disappearance in Egypt, said Salah Fouad, the Interior Minister’s Aide for Human Rights on Wednesday, demanding that those “who promote such allegations must prove them.” Fouad accused the Muslim Brotherhood–now designated a terrorist organization–of waging a propaganda campaign to “exploit civil society organizations, whether international or domestic, by claiming that there are cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt in order to put pressure on the government and restrict its ability to prosecute terrorists.” In an interview with state-affiliated MENA News Agency, Fouad explained that Egypt is one of the countries that signed a treaty with the United Nations to fight against forced disappearances. Fouad also denied claims made by Egypt’s National Council for Human Rights, a government entity, that there are currently 163 cases of enforced disappearance in Egypt, challenging the group to provide a list of names, not numbers to allow him to “verify” these claims, which he says only serve to “create chaos and confusion.” [Ahram Online, Aswat Masriya, 10/15/2015]

Zawahiri acquitted in al-Qaeda linked case, faces fresh charges
An Egyptian court has acquitted the younger brother of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri of terror charges. Mohamed al-Zawahri was arrested in August 2013 in the wake of the ouster of former president Mohamed Morsi. He was charged with the formation and leadership of a terrorist organization and with attempting to overthrow the government by force. In its Thursday ruling, the court sentenced ten of al-Zawahri’s sixty-seven co-defendants to death and handed life sentences to thirty-two others. After the ruling, prosecutors filed a new case against him for forming a terrorist group called ‘al-Taefa al-Mansoura’ (The Victorious Sect). [Ahram Online, AMAY, AP, Mada Masr, Cairo Post, 10/15/2015]

Two dead, six injured in blast at Egypt’s al-Arish police station
A police conscript and a citizen died late Wednesday in a blast that detonated in the North Sinai city of al-Arish, Egypt’s Interior Ministry announced in a statement. Six other police officers were also injured in the explosion. The Ministry statement explained that “unknown assailants” planted the bomb near a police station in al-Arish city and that the citizen who died was passing by the station at the time of the blast. Additionally, the Air Force destroyed three vehicles suspected of belonging to militants in the area of al-Arish and Sheikh Zuweid. The vehicles were found to be full of weapons and ammunition. Meanwhile, unknown assailants and security forces exchanged fire during a gunfight in Badrasheen, North of Cairo after the men were caught trying to steal a vehicle. The assailants managed to escape. [Ahram Online, AP, Cairo Post, 10/15/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Libya’s GNC continues to mull over candidates for unity government
Following a meeting Wednesday to debate the names proposed by the UN for Libya’s Government of National Accord, the General National Congress (GNC) in Tripoli has said that it needs more time. At a press conference Wednesday afternoon, the head of the GNC’s Dialogue negotiating team, Awad Abdul Saddeq, said the proposals were still being discussed. He also claimed that the GNC was “surprised” at the names because they were never mentioned in nine months of negotiations. The GNC is believed to be under intense pressure to agree the deal, notably by Turkey and Qatar. It is not known when the GNC will reconvene. The House of Representatives (HOR) similarly failed to reach a conclusion on the deal on Wednesday. Meanwhile, a group within the HOR has rejected the deal as “morally and legally ridiculous.” Citizens in Misrata, on the other hand, have shown their support in public demonstrations, and Misratan militias have promised protection for the new government. [Libya Herald, 10/14/2015]

Clashes near Tripoli airport
Heavy clashes broke out last night in Tripoli’s Hay al-Akwak area next to Abu Saleem and the airport road. According to residents living in the area, a militia from Misrata and a group of residents from Kikla clashed. They said that the fighting started after the Saitara (Control) militia shot one Kikla man and seized another. The area is a notorious friction point in the capital. [Libya Herald, 10/14/2015]

Examination of economic reconciliation in Tunisia deferred
Mohamed Kamel Gharbi, Chairman of the Réseau Tunisien de la Justice Transitionnelle, said on Thursday that the Prime Minister and the President of the Assembly of the Representatives of the People agreed on Wednesday to postpone consideration of the draft economic and financial reconciliation law. The draft will be discussed at the beginning of next year, assured Gharbi, who said the decision was made following pressure by civil society opposed to the project. [Mosaique FM (French), 10/15/2015]

Moroccan intellectual collapses after hunger strike
A prominent Moroccan intellectual who went on hunger strike a week ago has collapsed and is in the hospital. It is the second time Maati Monjib, a professor at the University of Rabat and a writer for national and international news organizations, has been on hunger strike. He collapsed on Tuesday night. Monjib started the hunger strike last Wednesday after authorities banned him from boarding a plane to Norway for an international conference on journalism in Lillehammer. Moroccan authorities said they imposed the ban because of an investigation into suspected financial wrongdoing. Monjib and many of his associates have been interrogated by Moroccan police on allegations of tarnishing Morocco’s image abroad, getting funds from hostile foreign organizations, and destabilizing citizens’ confidence in their institutions. [Reuters, AP, 10/14/2015]


Syrian army pushes offensive in central Homs
Syrian government forces launched an offensive Thursday in the central province of Homs under the cover of Russian air strikes in an attempt to clear the central region of militants and open the highway between Syria’s third and fourth largest cities, a military official and activists said. Hama is under government control but the highway connecting Hama and Homs is largely controlled by a patchwork of rebel groups. A military source in Syria said the Homs operation was “linked strategically” to regime operations in neighboring Hama province in recent days. “The operation will continue until it reaches its goal of securing northern Homs and severing contacts between militants in Hama and militants in Homs,” the source said. [AFP, AP, 10/15/2015]

Iran sends fighters to Syria, escalating its involvement
Iran deployed hundreds of troops to northern and central Syria in an escalation of Tehran’s involvement in Syria’s civil war. The troops will join fighters from Lebanon’s Hezbollah in an offensive alongside Assad’s army and Russian air strikes that seek to retake key areas from opposition forces. Syrian activists said that the arrival of a significant number of Iranian troops reveals the underlying goals of Russia’s recent military intervention, suggesting that the main goal is to bolster the Assad’s regime. Combating the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), they said, would only come as a secondary goal. The development is almost certain to increase pressure on Western-backed rebels, who are battling on multiple fronts. [AP, Washington Post, 10/15/2015]

UN sees chance for local ceasefires in Syria
The United Nations is pushing for local ceasefires in three or four areas in Syria. It believes that an escalation in the overall fighting could actually create a chance for political talks, UN Deputy Secretary-General Jan Eliasson said on Thursday. A series of peace initiatives, backed by the United Nations and world powers, has failed to end the civil war. Eliasson said the recent surge in the fighting could remind the warring parties of what was at stake and end up pushing them to the negotiating table. “I don’t think the distance between the parties is insurmountable,” Eliasson told a news conference in Geneva. “If there is political will now, I think paradoxically we could use a serious part of the risks involved with the present escalation as a good reason to create a credible track on the political area.” Local ceasefires have been somewhat successful in the past in Syria and their examples can serve as a backdrop against an increased effort to create more of them. [Reuters, 10/15/2015]

Turkey says ten more suspects detained over bombings
Turkey’s Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Thursday that authorities investigating the blasts at a peace rally that killed ninety-nine people have detained ten more people suspected of links to Kurdish rebels and ISIS. Detentions were linked to two suspects who were detained on Wednesday for posting tweets about a bombing in Ankara a day before the suicide bombings occurred. The government said the two have links to the Kurdish rebels. Some analysts are skeptical about claims of Kurdish rebel involvement because many Kurdish activists attended Saturday’s rally, and some were among the dead and injured. Turkey has banned reporting on the investigation, which media groups have slammed as censorship. Amid rising tensions over Turkey’s security failures, Davutoglu said on Wednesday that the Syrian regime, ISIS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) agreed in May to attack the anti-Assad opposition forces and share Turkey’s border with Syria. [AP, 10/15/2015]

Europe court clears Turkish politician, rules denying ‘Armenian Genocide’ not a crime
The European Court of Human Rights has ruled that Switzerland violated a Turkish politician’s right to freedom of speech by convicting him for rejecting that 1915 Armenian killings in Ottoman Empire constituted a genocide. “It was undisputed that Mr. Perincek’s conviction and punishment, together with the order to pay compensation to the Switzerland-Armenia Association, had constituted an interference with the exercise of his right to freedom of expression,” a statement by the court said. [Al Jazeera, 10/15/2015]

For more in-depth Syria news and analysis, please visit SyriaSource.


Yemen Houthis say fire missile in retaliation for Saudi ‘war crimes’
Yemen’s Houthi forces fired a ballistic missile on Thursday in retaliation for attacks by a Saudi-led coalition. Houthi-linked television station Al-Masirah reported that the Scud missile had been fired at a military base near the city of Khamees Mushait where King Khaled Air Force Base is located, the largest in southern Saudi Arabia. Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman, a spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi-allied armed forces said the missile hit the base and caused “widespread destruction.” He added that ballistic missile was fired “in response to the continuation of the Saudi aggression in the commission of war crimes against the Yemeni people.” There was no immediate comment from the Saudi side. This missile attack coincides with UN Deputy Secretary Jan Eliasson saying on Thursday that he hoped that peace talks to end the war in Yemen could start by the end of October. [Reuters, 10/15/2015]

Houthi landmines kill seventeen, as Saudi-led coalition prepare for Jawf offensive
Five Yemeni civilians and twelve Saudi-led coalition and pro-government fighters were killed this month by rebel-planted mines in the central province of Marib. Security officials said that the Houthi rebels planted the mines before they were pushed out from their last outpost in Marib province last week. Since taking full control over the Marib province, the Saudi-led coalition and pro-government forces have been securing their presence and prepping for a large-scale operation to take over Jawf province to the north, which neighbors Houthi-dominated Saada. Reinforcements from the Saudi-led coalition, including troops and weaponry, were also sent into Marib over the past three days. [AP, 10/15/2015]

Hundreds protest in Aden calling for secession from the north
Thousands of Southern Yemenis demonstrated on Wednesday in Aden demanding the secession of their formerly independent region from the north, three months after the Saudi-led coalition and pro-government fighters drove out the Houthi rebels. Now that the rebel threat has eased, protesters said they would not continue the fight against the insurgents in the north and demanded their own state. Marching to commemorate the anniversary of independence from Britain in 1967, protesters carried flags of the former South Yemen state before reunification in 1990. Northern forces crushed a secession attempt in 1994. The crowds gathered despite threats from al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch against the rally that were circulated on social media. The new governor of Aden Major General Saad Mohammad Jafar said that once residents return to normal life, receive basic rights and more support from the Gulf states, they will unite with the north to fight the Houthi threat. [Middle East Eye, Aden al-Ghad (Arabic), AP, 10/15/2015]


World Bank may compensate Syria’s neighbors for refugee costs
The World Bank plans to discuss the possibility of compensating Syria’s neighbors for the substantial financial cost of hosting refugees for long periods of time, Senior Advisor to the World Bank President Colin Bruce said in Geneva on Thursday. “We recognize that for many of these countries there’s a cost associated with hosting with refugees and they need to be compensated,” Bruce said. “It’s actually quite significant for countries like Jordan, for Lebanon and for Turkey, and some estimates put that at about 1.1 to 1.4 percent of [gross domestic product].” He noted that the World Bank is prepared to enter into a dialogue with it shareholders regarding compensation, particularly for middle-income countries “that do not have access to concessional resources.” Humanitarian officials have previously said that the World Bank’s rules forbid it from making grants to middle-income countries such as Lebanon. Bruce added that the bank is also mindful of the fact that refugees and migrants could have a positive economic impact over the longer term, and it is seeking to advise governments about policies that would generate a dividend from hosting displaced people. [Reuters, 10/15/2015]

Egypt’s Central Bank depreciates pound against dollar
The Egyptian Central Bank depreciated the pound for the third time this year after the nation’s foreign reserves tumbled and the currency fell to a record in black-market trading. The Egyptian pound weakened by 10 piasters to 7.93 per dollar on Thursday after the Central Bank reduced its price in an auction to 7.83 per dollar. This marks a 9.8 percent currency decline in 2015. The depreciation was expected and urged by many economists who say that propping up the pound had helped deplete Egypt’s foreign currency reserves. Egypt’s foreign currency reserves fell 9.7 percent in September to $16.3 billion, the third consecutive monthly drop, the central bank said last week. “[Devaluation] was becoming more expected given the toll that maintaining an overvalued currency was taking on the economy,” said Middle East Economist at Capital Economics Jason Turvey. “A move closer to the black market rate would, in our view, start to restore Egypt’s external competitiveness. But it’s difficult to see for how long and how far the central bank will allow the pound to fall.” [Reuters, AP, Bloomberg, Aswat Masriya, 10/15/2015]

Iraq sees oil production, exports rising in 2016
Iraq hopes to raise oil output and sell record volumes to customers from its southern terminal in 2016, according to a senior Iraqi oil source. “Production will rise next year. Not as steep as this year but it will rise. There will be no cut,” the source said. The plan is a further indication leading members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries are not wavering in their pursuit of market share. The source said 2016 exports from southern Iraq were currently planned at 3 million to 3.2 million barrels per day (bpd). “Some 60 percent will go to Asia as (state oil marketing firm) SOMO has to serve its term customers. But for the first time in many years the European market looks more interesting than the Asian market. So Middle Eastern producers are looking to take that opportunity,” the source said. Meanwhile, Gulf Keystone said Thursday it had received a $15 million gross payment for crude oil exports by Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), signalling that the KRG is serious about making regular payments to producers after months of building up debt. [Reuters, 10/14/2015]

Yemen’s Marib province to withhold oil revenues from Houthis
A local government run oil company in Yemen’s Marib province has been asked by Governor Sultan al-Aradeh to continue to withhold oil revenues from the Houthi-controlled capital. Media Secretary to the Governor Ali al-Ghoulais said that the governor alerted President Abdrabbo Mansour Hadi about his decision and said that he would transfer the revenue to any branch of the Central Bank that is not controlled by the Houthis. Marib province has generated revenue by selling oil in the local market. Al-Ghoulais said the decision prompted the Houthis to cut salaries for the army in Marib. “I expect they will stop paying public servants in Marib next year, if this continues,” he added. Meanwhile, in the neighbouring Shabwa province, local authorities are trying to get oil and gas companies to share their revenues to help finance the electricity and security sectors. [Gulf News, 10/14/2015]