Men pull a girl from the rubble and haul her onto a dirty sheet of plastic, while another child, coated in white dust save for a red streak of blood from his nose, lies with his crushed leg dangling off a gurney—the grisly aftermath from the dropping of a crude “barrel bomb” by Syrian forces on the city of Aleppo. The bombing—one of at least seven such attacks in Aleppo on Tuesday—struck a mosque that was being used as a school, killing at least eleven people. The Aleppo bombing campaign has created a massive surge of refugees at the Turkish border, and Syrian families without passports are being turned away, the Turkish Humanitarian Relief Foundation (IHH) said on Wednesday. Ankara is sticking to its “open border” policy and refugees will be accepted “following necessary security controls,” said a Turkish aid official. A camp inside Syria near the Bab al-Salam border crossing, about 30 miles north of Aleppo, is also full, IHH’s Kilis media officer said, adding that numbers there had risen to 25,000 from 14,000 in the last week. [AP, 2/5/2014]




Morsi ‘presidential palace’ trial adjourned to March 1
During its fifth hearing, the trial of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and fourteen co-defendants has been adjourned until March 1. Morsi, his presidential aides and senior Muslim Brotherhood leaders are accused of inciting the murder and torture of opposition protesters outside the presidential palace in December 2012. The court also adjourned the hearing for the prosecution witnesses until the next session. The witnesses include the chief of the Republican Guards among them. A hearing session is also scheduled for a tripartite commission from the Radio and Television Union on March 1 to provide its report on footage that it presented to the prosecution as evidence against Morsi and his aides during the clashes. Civil rights lawyers also requested that Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi testifies in the case about a phone call that took place between him and the deposed president during the December events, Shorouk reported. According to Al-Masry al-Youm, Morsi spent the duration of the trial speaking with his co-defendants, but could not be heard due to the glass cage the defendants were placed in. [Ahram Online, DNE, Egypt Independent, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 2/5/2014]

Egypt destroys ten militant hideouts, arrests four in Sinai
The Egyptian armed forces have destroyed ten hideouts of suspected militants in the Sinai Peninsula and arrested four suspects as part of an ongoing campaign against Islamist insurgents in the region. Ten shacks and buildings used as bases for terrorist attacks were torched and destroyed in Tuesday’s offensive in the North Sinai town of Sheikh Zuweid, a security source told state news agency MENA. Four suspects, including two Palestinians, were arrested in the raid, the official added. Security sources said in a press statement on Tuesday that the campaign targeted the Kharouba area. [Ahram Online, Egypt Independent, 2/5/2014]

Saudi Arabia to lend Egypt $200 million in revolving loans
The Minister of Planning and the acting Minister of International Cooperation announced Tuesday that an Egyptian delegation is seeking to secure a $200 million (EGP 1.39 billion) Saudi loan agreement for funding Egyptian small and midcap enterprises. Revolving loans allow investors to define the repayment system to suit their needs. They are potentially more flexible than fixed installment credit and as they allow the debtor greater leeway in determining loan amounts and transactions. [Cairo Post, SIS]

US concerned over freedom of speech in Egypt, urges release of Al-Jazeera journalists
The United States has expressed alarm over the detention of three Al-Jazeera television journalists in Egypt and called for their release. During a press briefing, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on Tuesday that the detention of the journalists was “of deep concern” to Washington. Australian Peter Greste, Al Jazeera Cairo bureau chief Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian producer Baher Mohamed were arrested on December 29 over an allegedly illegal broadcast from a hotel. The three were accused by prosecutors of harming national security, airing false news and working without permits. “The restrictions on freedom of expression in Egypt are a concern, and that includes the targeting of Egyptian and foreign journalists and academics simply for expressing their views,” Carney told reporters at a briefing. “These figures, regardless of affiliation, should be protected and permitted to do their jobs freely in Egypt.” Carney said that the US administration had strongly urged the Egyptian government to drop the charges against the journalists and release them. [Ahram Online, DNE, Reuters, 2/5/2014]


Misrata leaders say removal of GNC would lead to chaos
In response to a growing sense that the General National Congress (GNC) ought to be dissolved on February 7, its expiration date, local leaders and officials in Misrata have announced their support for the legislature, saying that it is the source of legitimate power in the country and that any illegitimate removal of the body would plunge Libya into chaos. The Libyan Revolutionaries’ Operation Room and several other revolutionary groups have also submitted statements pledging their support to the GNC. Under a proposed roadmap, the GNC could remain in power until September of next year. The Misratan leaders called on revolutionaries to be ready to protect the legitimacy of the state. A large demonstration took place in the eastern city of Shahat against extending the legislature’s mandate and calling for a peaceful transfer of power to a legitimate body. [Libya Herald, 2/4/2014]

Libya government has presented the 2014 budget to GNC
Prime Minister Ali Zidan and Deputy Minister of Finance Maraja Ghait confirmed that the 2014 budget was presented in the last few days to the GNC for approval. Neither gave details of the content of the budget, saying that despite the shortfall of revenue as a result of the of blockades in the east, they were able to manage for the year 2013. Ghait complained that his ministry has inherited old and outdated regulations that cause delays for the government but that, despite national revenue dropping to very low levels, he expected that the government would be able to carry on for another three to four months without problems. [Libya Herald, 2/4/2014]

Blast at Libya school wounds six children, say hospital and security sources
At least six children were wounded when unknown assailants tossed a hand grenade into a school in the eastern city of Benghazi, according to hospital and security sources. The force of the explosion was described as “weak” by a security official who spoke to AFP on condition of anonymity. However, witnesses said that the blast damaged part of the building and that some of the victims were seriously wounded. [Reuters, Al Arabiya, 2/5/2014]

Weapons collection plan being created, says Zidan
Speaking at a press conference, Prime Minister Ali Zidan revealed that his government is on the verge of establishing a team that will create a weapons collection plan. The idea is to have a nation that is not “totally armed” with the “streets dominated by weapons.” The Prime Minister admitted that it is a long term plan and one that involves the participation of the UN and the international community. Zidan also made clear he was not in favor of forming a crisis government “just to satisfy the demands of the street.” [Libya Herald, 2/4/2014


ISIS inks truce with Suqour al-Sham
The jihadist Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) has signed a truce deal with an Islamist rebel brigade involved in a widespread armed backlash against it. The deal signed Tuesday between ISIS and Suqour al-Sham was posted online on Wednesday, and also reported by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. It calls for “an immediate halt to fighting between the sides and no assault by either side on the other in any way.” It also urges that any disagreements between the groups be referred to an Islamic court. Since January 3, a coalition of rebel groups has been fighting ISIS across areas under opposition control, including Idlib, Aleppo, and Raqa provinces. The fighting has killed more than 1,700 people, according to the Observatory, and has drawn attention and resources away from the fight against the regime in some places. Earlier this week ISIS carried out an assassination of Suqour al-Sham’s commander in Aleppo. [Naharnet, 2/5/2014]

UN report details child abuses by rebels, government troops
Western-backed opposition groups in Syria are recruiting refugee children in neighboring countries and government forces are detaining and torturing children with rebel links, UN chief Ban Ki-moon said in a report on Tuesday. The report found that in the early stages of the nearly three-year conflict, government troops were largely responsible for grave violations against children; then, as the conflict intensified and armed opposition became more organized they committed an increasing number of child abuses. While the United Nations has previously accused both sides to the conflict of grave violations against children, this is the first report to the UN Security Council detailing the worsening extent of the problem. It covers the period March 1, 2011 to November 15, 2013. Ban said that armed opposition groups have recruited and used children in support roles and for combat. [Reuters, AFP, 2/4/2014]

Syria misses another chemical disarmament deadline
Syria on Wednesday missed another deadline for the destruction of its chemical weapons stockpile, although the Syrian government still says it will meet a final deadline of June 30. The UN Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons had set a timetable for the government to surrender its entire stockpile by Wednesday. Syria announced plans to remove a large shipment of chemical weapons out of the country this month and is prepared to complete the removal process by March 1, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Gennady Gatilov was quoted as saying on Tuesday. [Al Arabiya, AFP, 2/5/2014]

Washington’s Syria point man to retire
US Ambassador to Syria Robert Ford is retiring at the end of the month, current and former U.S. officials said on Tuesday. Ford, a career foreign service officer and a fluent Arabic speaker, was instrumental in negotiating with Syrian opposition groups to join talks in Switzerland last month to try to end Syria’s nearly three-year-old civil war. It was not immediately clear why Ford is retiring. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki declined to comment on whether Ford planned to retire. [Reuters, AP, 2/5/2014]


Gadhgadhi among those killed in yesterday’s police raid
Yesterday’s police raid in Raoued left one police officer and all of the suspected terrorists dead. The seven terrorists were later identified following fingerprint authentication. Kamel Ben Taieb Gadhgadhi was among the seven killed. Gadhgadhi was wanted for killing Chokri Belaid, the centrist and secular politician, outside his home on February 6, 2013 and prominent left-wing politician Mohamed Brahmi on July 25, 2013. These assassinations set off sweeping political uncertainty in Tunisia. [Tunisia Live, BBC, 2/4/2014]

Quartet meetings to resume in coming days
The quartet sponsoring the national dialogue and the participating parties will resume in the coming days. The meetings will discuss the remaining issues on Tunisia’s political transition roadmap including electoral law, which will soon be debated by the National Constituent Assembly (NCA). The meetings will also discuss the development of a supporting team that will assist the newly appointed caretaker cabinet. [TAP, 2/4/2014]

Ras Jedir border crossing reopened
The Ras Jedir border crossing between Tunisia and Libya was reopened yesterday after a three-day closure. On Sunday, seven Tunisians were detained in the province of Dhahrat al-Khass, on the Tunisia-Libya border, by Libyan security, customs and military units and released early Tuesday morning. [TAP, 2/4/2014]

Artists’ campaign supports Jabeur Mejri
Jabeur Mejri was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years of jail time in March 2012 for sharing drawings of the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook, which were considered insulting to Islam. His case led to the #FreeJabeur campaign in Tunisia, backed by Amnesty International. Artists from more than twelve countries are showing their support for Mejri by participating in the campaign, “100 Drawings for Jabeur Mejri.” President Moncef Marzouki has said on multiple occasions that he would release Mejri, but that he was “waiting for the good political moment.” In January, Mejri’s lawyers said their client had been fast-tracked for asylum in Sweden and that the request had been approved by the Tunisian government, however, the government has not yet confirmed these statements. [Tunisia Live, 2/5/2014]


UN says critical humanitarian situation threatens Yemen’s stability
“There will be no stability in Yemen if more than half of the population is waking up in the morning without the possibility to have food,” warns Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen. Ahmed went on to question the merit of elections and political progress amidst the current humanitarian conditions in the country. Half of Yemen’s 25 million citizens are in need of humanitarian aid and more than that lack access to safe drinking water. In addition, these needs are compounded by a large amount of refugees and internally displaced persons. Ahmed concluded a news conference in Geneva by calling on international communities to address these humanitarian needs, a timely request as Yemen joins the International Aid and Transparency Initiative. [UN News Centre, Voice of America; 2/4/2014]

UN Security Council continues to consider sanctions
Sources from the UN have confirmed that the Security Council has begun drafting a resolution that would impose sanctions on certain parties in Yemen who are trying to derail the transition. There appears to be a consensus on the need to pass sanctions on political parties–particularly members of the former regime—obstructing the transition process, and a draft resolution is likely to be ready next week. [al-Masdar (Arabic), 1/5/2014]

Details emerge about Houthi-Hashid agreement
After long period of clashes between Houthi militants and Hashid tribesmen in the North, the ceasefire brokered by the Sana’a mayor appears to be holding. The details of the agreement, which tribesmen say favor the Houthis, secures a safe passage route from the Houthi stronghold in Sa’ada province to the capital in Sana’a, forbids the carrying of heavy weapons on major roads in northern provinces, and allows for the return of those displaced in the conflict. In exchange, the fighters of both parties will withdrawal as the military moves into the area. The breakthrough appears to have circumvented an important Hashid clan, the al-Ahmar, that opposed the deal, indicating a major shift in the tribal federation’s politics. The leader of al-Ahmar accused other Hashid tribesmen of colluding with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh on his facebook page. [Mareb Press (Arabic), 2/5/2014]

More than 1000 workers laid off from LNG facility in Shabwa
After facing a number of security incidents and attempted attacks, seven liquified natural gas (LNG) companies have decided to temporarily lay off more than 1,000 foreign and local national laborers for security reasons. Unless the government takes emergency action to help address the situation, the export of LNG may be halted indefinitely. [al-Masdar (Arabic), 2/5/2014]


Conflict in Anbar halts Iraq’s oil exports to Jordan
According to an oil ministry spokesperson, Iraq’s trucked oil exports to Jordan, estimated to be between 10,000 and 12,000 barrels of crude oil per day, have been stopped due to deteriorating security in the Anbar province. Militants have overrun the city of Falluja in Anbar. It is unclear as to when the exporting of oil to Jordan was stopped. While Iraq’s oil exports to Jordan are small,  the halt is likely to heighten concerns about the impact of security on plans to rebuild the country’s oil industry even if most of Iraq’s oil is produced and exported from the relatively peaceful south. [The Star Online, 2/5/2014]

Israeli security chief says Palestinian militancy stems from economic hardship
In a briefing to the Foreign and Security Affairs committee of the Knesset, the head of Israel’s Shin Bet Yoram Cohen said that an increase in violent attacks committed against Israelis by Palestinians in the past year  can be traced back to economic grievances in the West Bank.  Though Cohen said that attacks were not organized, he cited corruption in the Palestinian Authority (PA) as a key source of economic hardship. The PA also just passed its 2014 budget, calling on $1.6 billion in foreign aid. A World Bank report from October 2013 placed blame on Israel’s occupation of the West Bank, assessing losses to the Palestinian economy at $3.4 billion. [Xinhua, 2/5/2014]

HRW says room for free speech in Kuwait dwindles
Human Rights Watch (HRW) calls on the government of Kuwait to amend national laws that officials are using to crack down on free speech. HRW cites a 1970 law as the source of legal justification as it prescribes up to five years in prison for anyone who publicly “objects to the rights and authorities of the emir or faults him.” Much of the crackdown on free speech has taken place in online social media websites with case brought against uses of facebook, twitter, and other social media websites, as well as bloggers. [HRW, 2/4/2015]

Saudi Arabia to launch $9.5 billion mining industrial city
Saudi Arabia signed contracts totalling $9.5 billion  for the establishment of a mineral industrial city. The Kingdom’s finance minister called the mineral mining sector promising for the national economy and called the project important “in terms of [providing] employment, and finding services to support the mining sector.” [al-Arabiya, 2/5/2014]