Thirty-one Tunisian lawmakers resigned from the ruling party bloc in parliament on Monday, allowing Islamist Ennahda to become the largest party. “We decided to resign from the party’s bloc today after the refusal to hold an executive committee meeting, which is the only legitimate structure of the party,” Hassouna Nasfi, a protesting deputy, said on Monday. After the resignations, the Ennahda Islamist party has sixty-seven seats and Nidaa Tounes fifty-four seats in parliament. Insiders say Nidaa Tounes has split into two wings: one led by the Tunisian President’s son Hafedh Caid Essebsi and the other by Mohsen Marzouk, a former leftist activist and the party’s Secretary General. [ReutersTAP, 11/9/2015]



Rights activist Hossam Bahgat detained four days on charges of “publishing false news”
Military prosecutors ordered the detention of investigative journalist and rights activist Hossam Bahgat for four days on Monday, pending investigation into charges of publishing false news that harms national interests and disseminating information that disturbs public peace. Bahgat received a summons from Military Intelligence at his home in Alexandria on Thursday and arrived at Military Intelligence headquarters in Nasr City on Sunday. He was not allowed to enter with his phone or be accompanied by a lawyer. After several hours with Military Intelligence, Bahgat was transferred to Military Prosecution, where he was held overnight before his detention. According to Heba Morayef, Associate Director at the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), the military prosecutor refused to tell Bahgat’s lawyers on Monday where he is being detained. His current whereabouts are unknown. In a statement, Amnesty International said Bahgat’s interrogation “is a clear signal of the Egyptian authorities’ resolve to continue with their ferocious onslaught against independent journalism and civil society.” The Committee to Protect Journalists called on authorities to immediately release Bahgat. Bahgat, who founded EIPR, writes a daily press review and investigative articles for Mada Masr. His latest detailed the alleged secret military trial of twenty-six army officers accused of plotting a coup. [Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, The Guardian, Egypt Independent, Ahram Online, DNE, AP, Reuters, 11/9/2015]

Newspaper owner and son detained four days on charges of illegal weapons possession
An Egyptian businessman and co-owner of Al-Masry Al-Youm, Egypt’s largest independent daily newspaper, and his son are being detained for four days for questioning over his alleged possession of unlicensed firearms, state-run Al-Ahram reported Sunday. Salah Diab and his son Tawfik were arrested on Sunday, following a decision by the public funds prosecution Saturday to freeze personal assets. Public Funds Prosecutor Ahmed Bahrawi said previously that this was a temporary decision that also included real estate tycoon Mahmoud al-Gammal and former Giza governor Yehia Saad. Diab was accused of seizing vast areas of state land at less than their real value. Diab’s lawyer Farid al-Deeb said that his client’s arrest and that of his son had nothing to do with the corruption probe launched against his client. Businessmen and the media have largely condemned Diab’s arrest. [Ahram Online, DNE, AMAY, Aswat Masriya, Mada Masr, 11/8/2015]

Interior Ministry blames Brotherhood for Alexandria floods
The Interior Ministry declared in a statement on Friday that it apprehended an alleged Muslim Brotherhood terrorist cell that may have caused recent floods in Alexandria. The alleged seventeen-member cell supposedly blocked the city’s drains with cement causing severe drainage issues. One suspect was photographed by the ministry sitting next to a drain holding a stick. The suspects were also accused of destroying electricity generators and burning garbage with the aim of “causing a crisis in the governorate and creating a state of public exasperation with the current regime.” Other accusations included planting bombs in different areas within the city, according to investigations conducted by the National Security Agency. Human rights activists strongly condemned the Interior Ministry report. [Ahram Online, Mada Masr, DNE, 11/9/2015]

For more in-depth Egypt news, please visit EgyptSource


Second phase of US-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue this week in Tunis
The second phase of the US-Tunisia Strategic Dialogue will take place this week in Tunis, new US Ambassador to Tunisia Daniel Rubinstein announced Friday. A high-level US government delegation will be in Tunisia to participate in the strategic dialogue, which was launched during former Prime Minister Mehdi Jomaa’s visit to Washington in April 2014. [TAP, 11/6/2015]

Electronic surveillance system to be installed along Tunisian-Libyan border
Minister of National Defense Farhat Horchani announced on Friday in Berlin that an electronic surveillance system will be installed along the Tunisian-Libyan border between Ras Jedir and Borj al-Khadhra. The system will be installed in cooperation with the German government, Horchani said after his meeting with his German counterpart Ursula von der Leyen, and aims to strengthen the control of Tunisia’s borders with Libya. [TAP, 11/6/2015]

Two Serbian embassy staff seized in Libya
Two Serbian embassy staff members were abducted in Libya on Sunday when their diplomatic convoy came under fire in the coastal city of Sabratha while taking the Serbian ambassador to Tunisia. Serbia’s Foreign Ministry named the kidnapped pair as Sladjana Stankovic, a female communications officer, and Jovica Stepic, a male driver. Ambassador Oliver Potezica was in the motorcade but escaped injury. Military forces safely escorted the rest of the convoy to the Tunisian border. [Reuters, AP, 11/8/2015]

Brega gas production workers go on strike
Workers at the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant in Brega have gone on strike, demanding their salaries be paid. The strike threatens electricity production and supplies of cooking gas, already in short supply, in the east. The plant, run by the Sirte Oil and Gas Company and with a production capacity of some 900 million cubic meters per year, provides gas to Benghazi North power station, the largest electricity producer in the east of the country. [Libya Herald, 11/8/2015]

Morocco stands fast on Western Sahara autonomy plan on rare visit
Morocco’s King Mohamed VI has vowed that revenues from the mineral-rich Western Sahara will continue to be invested locally while on a rare visit to the disputed territory. He listed several projects that will be implemented to improve infrastructure in the territory, including a desalination plant, a new roads program, an international airport, and industrial zones. King Mohamed also said he will offer no more than autonomy for the disputed Western Sahara, a few days after UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called for “true negotiations” to end the four-decade deadlock over the region. “This initiative is the maximum Morocco can offer,” King Mohamed said in a televised speech commemorating the fortieth anniversary of the Green March day, when thousands of Moroccans marched on Western Sahara. [Reuters, AFP, AP, Al Arabiya, 11/7/2015]


Pentagon chief says more US troops possible in Syria; US to launch refugee screening centers
More US troops could “absolutely” be deployed to Syria if Washington identifies more “capable local forces” as partners in the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL), Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said. Carter’s statement came about a week after the White House announced the deployment of “fewer than fifty” special operations personnel in the north of Syria. The Obama administration is also moving to increase the number of Syrian refugees who might be admitted into the United States and accelerate the process by opening new screening outposts in Iraq and Lebanon, administration officials said. The US State Department confirmed the plans to open a refugee settlement processing center in Erbil, Iraq, before the end of 2015, and to resume refugee processing in Lebanon in early 2016, said spokeswoman Danna Van Brandt. Brandt said the new centers are designed to “increase the channels” the United States has for reaching Syrian refugees. [Reuters, AFP, 11/8/2015]

Iran plans to attend next round of Syria talks, demands identifying terrorist groups
Iran will attend the next round of Syria peace talks, a top advisor to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quoted as saying on Saturday, a week after Tehran threatened to withdraw from the process. “Iran will be actively present in [Syria peace] talks, while announcing its standards and preserving its red lines,” Khamenei’s top foreign policy advisor Ali Akbar Velayati said. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said on Monday, “There are two important items on the agenda for the next meeting of Vienna … First is determining which groups are terrorists, which is clear to us. And then agreeing on how to proceed.” Diplomats said the next round of international talks will likely begin later this week. [Reuters, AFP, 11/9/2015]

ISIS frees thirty-seven kidnapped Syrian Christians
ISIS on Saturday released thirty-seven Syrian Christians, most of them women, the Assyrian Monitor for Human Right said. They arrived on Saturday morning to the town of Tal Tamr in the Khabur region of Hasaka province in northeastern Syria. The releases were confirmed by the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR), which said most of those freed came from other towns elsewhere in the Khabur region. The former hostages were among a group of 220 Assyrians captured by ISIS when they overran parts of the Khabur region in February. The Assyrian Monitor said the releases were the result of negotiations carried out by the church, but other reports suggest that ISIS was paid to free the hostages. [AFP, 11/7/2015]

France hits ISIS oil facility in Deir Ezzor; Russian air strikes kill eleven civilians in Idlib
The French Army on Sunday bombed an oil supply center held by ISIS in eastern Syria, Defense Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian announced Monday. “We intervened in Syria … yesterday evening with a strike on an oil supply center near Deir Ezzor on the border between Iraq and Syria,” Le Drian said. In Syria’s northwestern Idlib province, SOHR reports that apparent Russian air strikes killed at least eleven civilians on Sunday in two towns. [Al Arabiya, 11/9/2015]

Syrian children in Turkey not in school
More than 400,000 Syrian refugee children in Turkey are not able to attend school despite a Turkish government move that allowed them access to the Turkish schooling system, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report released Monday. HRW cited a language barrier, integration issues, and financial difficulties as reasons for the children’s poor access to education in Turkey. It called on the international community to provide “urgent financial and technical support” for initiatives that would expand the children’s access to education. “Failing to provide Syrian children with education puts an entire generation at risk,” said Stephanie Gee of the HRW’s refugee rights program. “With no real hope for a better future, desperate Syrian refugees may end up putting their lives on the line to return to Syria or take dangerous journeys to Europe.” [AP, 11/9/2015]

Anti-terror operations escalate in Turkey; Turkish Armed Forces release operation details
Turkish security forces and police have ramped up anti-terror operations against ISIS and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) after parliamentary elections on November 1 and in the lead up to next week’s G20 Summit in Antalya. In the offensive against ISIS, Turkish security forces detained twelve suspected ISIS members in the southeastern province of Gaziantep on Sunday. Two ISIS suspects were detained Saturday in the southern province of Kilis as they tried to cross into Turkey on the Syrian border. Turkish police have also detained twenty suspects in an operation against ISIS in Turkey’s southern Antalya province. Adana Police Department Counter Terrorism Unit officers detained another thirty-eight foreign nationals on Monday, after gathering intelligence that they had come to Adana with their families in a bid to join ISIS. Simultaneous operations against the PKK in Turkey’s southeastern Hakkari, Sirnak, and Diyarbakir provinces on Saturday resulted in at least thirteen PKK militants killed. The Turkish Armed Forces also released details over the weekend of a forty-day air and land operation against PKK mountain bases in Hakkari. During the operation (September 27 – November 5), the Turkish Armed Forces killed 119 PKK militants and seized several improvised explosive devices and the components used to make them. Six soldiers were reportedly killed during clashes. [Anadolu Agency, Hurriyet, 11/9/2015]

UN prepares for refugee exodus when Iraqi forces attack Mosul
The United Nations is expecting huge numbers of civilians to flee when Iraqi forces mount an offensive to retake the city of Mosul from ISIS. The much anticipated counter-offensive has been repeatedly postponed due to a lack of preparation and distraction by battles elsewhere. UNHCR representative in Iraq Bruno Geddo said the agency was preparing to help people fleeing Mosul identifying potential sites for new camps, although there will not be enough room for all displaced persons. A large part of Mosul’s population of more than 1 million remained in the city after it was overrun by ISIS in June 2014. “This time the humanitarian community is acutely aware that there will be no justification if we are caught unprepared again,” Geddo said. [NYT, 11/9/2015]

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


Yemen fighting kills more than fifty
More than fifty people were killed in Yemen over the past two days in fighting between the Saudi-led Arab coalition and the Houthi rebel fighters backed by troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh. In Taiz, twenty-nine people including eight civilians were killed in clashes in Yemen’s third largest city, where relief workers said that fighting has blocked food supplies and left thousands of people in extreme hunger. About thirty people were killed in fighting in that Damt district of al-Dali’ governorate in the south. Meanwhile, a Saudi woman and her child were killed in the border region of Najran when a shell fired from within Yemen hit her house. While all major combatants have publicly agreed to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216, peace efforts have made limited progress. At least 5,600 people have been killed in seven months of war, and the United Nations says the humanitarian situation, exacerbated by the Arab coalition’s blockade of Yemeni ports, grows worse every day. [Reuters, NYT, 11/8/2015]

Houthi rebels make gains in Yemen
Yemen’s Houthi rebels retook a strategic hilltop overlooking the al-Anad air base in Lahj province, which Saudi-led coalition forces seized this summer. The Houthis also captured Damt in al-Dali’ province, but pro-government forces retook the entry points to the city after being air-dropped more weapons and supplies. While fighting continues in Taiz, Prime Minister Khaled Bahah said that that pro-government forces plan on capturing the city before beginning peace talks. Houthi territorial gains over the weekend has raised concerns that the rebels may capture important roads linking the country’s north and south that lead to oil fields in Shabwa province. Yemeni tribal fighters, however, have been repelling Houthi attacks and preventing the rebels from reaching Wadi al-Nahr in the south. Meanwhile, a 400-strong Sudanese force arrived in Yemen’s port city Aden on Monday to support the pro-government forces, preparing to block a possible attempt by the rebels to reenter the city. These additional forces will join the 500 Sudanese soldiers who arrived in Aden on October 19. [Foreign Policy, Yahoo News, Sahafah (Arabic), The Daily Star, 11/9/2015]

Iran criticizes Saudi Arabia over execution of its citizens
Iran summoned the Saudi charge d’affaires in Tehran on Sunday to protest over the execution of three Iranians in Saudi Arabia for drug trafficking. The regional adversaries have been fighting over crises in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, and the disaster at the hajj in September in which 465 Iranians died in a crush of pilgrims near Mecca. According to Iranian state media, the death sentences of the three men, who had been convicted of smuggling large amounts of hashish to the kingdom, was carried out in the city of Dammam earlier in the day. Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Hassan Qashqav said, “Countries refrain from executing such sentences by respecting bilateral relations and keeping in mind that implementing such sentences will not bear a positive effect on ties.” [Reuters, 11/8/2015]

Yemen announces officials attending Geneva peace talks
Yemeni government sources have revealed the names of the officials who will attend the upcoming peace talks between the Houthi rebels and the pro-government forces, backed by the Saudi-led coalition. The officials include Dr. Mohammad al-Amiri and Dr. Abdulaziz al-Jabari, both advisers to President Hadi, Abdulwahab al-Ansi, a member of the Islah Party, former Prime Minister Haidar Abubakr al-Attas, and Sultan al-Atwani, Secretary-General of the Nasserite Popular Unionist Organization. This committee will discuss a framework for UN Resolution 2216 to be implemented in the country. [Aden al-Ghad, 11/9/2015]

US drone crashes in Kuwait
An unmanned US military drone crashed in rural Kuwait on Sunday, causing no injuries, Kuwait’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. The incident occurred in Bir Mutla, the ministry said, near the Ali al-Salem air base which hosts US air force personnel and planes. Kuwait is considered a vital regional actor to the United States, providing intelligence, funding, and the use of airfields for attacks by some members of a Western-Arab coalition fighting the Islamic State (ISIS or ISIL) based in Syria and Iraq. [NYT, 11/8/2015]


IMF’s Lagarde urges tax, spending reforms in Gulf
International Monetary Fund (IMF) Chief Christine Lagarde urged Gulf Arab oil states on Sunday to introduce radical tax and spending reforms in light of the drop in global oil prices. At a meeting with Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) finance ministers in Doha, Lagarde said GCC governments needed to do more to control their budget deficits. Lagarde urged Gulf countries to institute “firm control” on spending, particularly on public sector wages, and encourage private sector growth. “Given the new fiscal realities, there is not room for public wage bills to grow further. We have to face that reality,” she said, emphasizing that “well-planned fiscal consolidation strategies need to be put in place as soon as possible.” She also urged GCC countries to introduce a regional value-added tax. On Monday, oil ministers from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates rebuffed the IMF’s concerns. Saudi Vice Oil Minister Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman said long-term oil market fundamentals remain robust. Emirati Energy Minister Suhail Mohamed al-Mazrouei said he expects oil prices to rebound in 2016. Meanwhile, on Sunday, Chairman of Saudi’s state-owned Aramco Khalid al-Falih said the company has no plans to cut oil production. However on Monday, Oman’s Oil Minister Mohammed Bin Hamad al-Rumhy called current oil production levels “irresponsible.” [Reuters, AFP, 11/8/2015]

Focus at Dubai Airshow shifts to military needs
A number of military purchases were announced on Monday at the Dubai Airshow. The United Arab Emirates announced a $1.27 billion deal for upgraded Saab surveillance systems aboard newly acquired Bombardier aircraft. Lockheed Martin announced it has been awarded a $262.8 million contract from the US Air Force to service Saudi Arabia’s F-15 sniper targeting system, search and track sensors and radars that allow for day and night low-level navigation. Embraer Defense and Security said Lebanon would acquire six A-29 Super Tucano turboprop aircraft. Meanwhile, Dubai-based carrier Emirates announced the signing of another twelve-year services contract worth $36 million with General Electric (GE) Aviation. The deal means GE Aviation will be tasked with maintenance, repair, and overhaul of the GE9X engines that power the airline’s fleet of 150 Boeing 777X aircraft. [AP, 11/9/2015]

Libya’s Tripoli NOC sees full backing for state oil company unity
Libya’s oil partners and the international community fully back keeping the National Oil Corporation (NOC) united and reject attempts by Libya’s internationally recognized government in Tobruk to institute a parallel oil revenue system, according to NOC Tripoli Chief Mustafa Sanalla. “The international community, the international companies, and also governments are supporting the NOC to be united and to be one body,” he said. Despite moves taken by the Tobruk government, Sanalla said the way oil transactions are handled has not changed. “The system still works properly and is functioning well for NOC trading and the central bank. All the money is in the same procedure. It is very clear and transparent,” he said. Sanalla said current national oil production is around 415,000 barrels per day (bpd) with exports at 320,000-330,000 bpd. He said negotiations to reopen El Sharara oilfield, which has been closed for a year, and the El Feel oilfield are in their “last stages.” Reopening those oilfields would boost national oil output to 450,000 bpd. [Reuters, Libya Monitor (subscription), 11/8/2015]

Egypt state banks launch products with 12.5 percent interest rate to support pound
Egypt’s two largest state banks have launched savings certificates for the Egyptian pound with an interest rate of 12.5 percent in order to support the currency, local media and bankers said on Sunday. A Cairo-based banker said the increase is significant as the average interest rate at Egyptian banks is currently about 10 percent. He said the decision aims to “support the pound and take pressure off foreign currencies.” He noted that the central bank will have to hike interest rates in its next meeting, “otherwise these banks will be under pressure with very low margins.” An official from Banque Misr also said that the launch of the certificate is a preemptive step before raising interest rates. He said he expects other banks to follow suit and raise their interest rates. Meanwhile, yields on five-year and ten-year Egyptian treasury bonds rose marginally at an auction on Monday. [Reuters, 11/8/2015]