Monday, 11th April 2016

EGYPTEgypt’s president, Abdel Fatah al-Sisi, has been criticised at home and abroad for agreeing to transfer two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia that have been controlled directly from Cairo for more than 60 years. The deal on Tiran and Sanafir paves the way for the construction of a bridge linking Saudi Arabia to Sharm el-Sheikh, at the tip of the Sinai Peninsula. (The Guardian)

The social media hashtag #Egyptissold says it all. The virtual world of Egyptians erupted on Sunday with the news that Egypt had handed over two Red Sea islands, Sanafir and Tiran, to Saudi Arabia as a show of gratitude for the kingdom’s immense economic aid. Thousands took to Twitter and Facebook to condemn the decision by Egypt’s cabinet. (The Washington Post)

ISRAEL – Israel gave its blessing on Tuesday to Egypt’s return of two Red Sea islands in a strategic strait to Saudi Arabia, and Defence Minister Moshe Yaalon said that Riyadh had undertaken to respect relevant terms of the Israeli-Egyptian peace deal. (Reuters)

JORDAN After the arrival of the Saudi deputy crown prince to Jordan on Monday, both Riyadh and Amman said in a joint statement that they rejected Iranian interference in the region, Al Arabiya News Channel reported. (Al Arabiya)

SYRIAISIS has retaken a northern town along Syria’s border with Turkey just days after losing it to rebel forces and allied militants, Syrian activists said Monday as UN envoy to Syria stressed on the importance of maintaining cessation of hostilities with the Syrian foreign minister. (Al Arabiya)

Tuesday, 12th April 2016

MACEDONIA The president of Macedonia abruptly ended a far-reaching criminal investigation into corruption and abuse of power throughout the government on Tuesday, plunging the tiny Balkan country into a political crisis. (The New York Times)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Greece said authorities would start ruling on asylum applications from hundreds of migrants in the next two weeks, in a major test of a new deal to try to control the flow of people desperate to reach Europe. (Reuters)

SYRIA – As the Syria conflict enters its sixth year, the Bashar al-Assad regime has announced its intention to hold parliamentary polls on April 13 in regime-controlled parts of the country. One of the candidates who will vie for a seat in the 250-seat assembly is Rami Makhlouf, a cousin of Assad, according to Damascus-based sources who preferred anonymity. (Middle East Monitor)

TURKEY Six Turkish soldiers and 30 Kurdish militants have been killed in the past 24 hours in attacks and clashes across Turkey’s turbulent southeast region, security sources and the army said on Tuesday. (Reuters)

WAR ON TERRORTwo more people were detained and charged on Monday as part of the investigation into the deadly attacks in the Belgian capital last month, bringing to more than 20 the number of people charged in Belgium in connection with the assaults in Brussels, Paris or both, the federal prosecutor said on Tuesday. (The New York Times)

Wednesday, 13th April 2016

EGYPT – Egypt’s president has hit back at criticism of his government’s deal to hand two Red Sea islands to Saudi Arabia and of its investigation into the murder of an Italian student. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi warned evil people were conspiring against Egypt and urged Egyptians to trust him. (BBC)

MACEDONIA Political turmoil in the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia took a violent turn a day after the president declared a sweeping amnesty in a massive wiretapping scandal that has rocked the tiny Balkan country for more than a year. Thousands of protesters took to the streets late Wednesday throwing stones and eggs at government buildings. Every window of the president’s office was broken, and then protesters broke into the building and set furniture on fire. (Deutsche Welle)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Clashes erupted at Greece’s northern border for the second time in three days on Wednesday, with the Macedonian police firing tear gas on scores of migrants as they protested border closings that have left more than 12,000 stranded in a makeshift refugee camp. (The New York Times)

SYRIA Syrians in government-controlled areas headed to polling stations Wednesday to elect a new 250-member parliament that is expected to serve as a rubber stamp for President Bashar Assad. (The Telegraph)

Syria’s landmark ceasefire was threatening to fall apart after a surge of fresh fighting, especially in northern Aleppo province, just as peace talks were set to resume in Geneva on Wednesday. (Al Jazeera)

Thursday, 14th April 2016

IRAQI KURDISTAN Denied their own state in reality, Iraq’s Kurds have declared independence in cyberspace with a new domain name that has provoked the ire of a neighbor hostile to their aspirations. The new top-level domain “.krd” gives Kurds a separate space in the virtual world at a time when they are gaining legitimacy on the ground through their alliance with the U.S.-led coalition against Islamic State. (Reuters)

LIBYAFrance, Britain and Spain have sent ambassadors to Tripoli as the international community tries to show solidarity with the UN-brokered unity government for Libya. (The Guardian)

SYRIA – A new wave of refugees has fled northern Syria for the Turkish border after Islamic State opened fire on communities that had sheltered them, killing at least three people and uprooting thousands more. (The Guardian)

Syria’s main opposition group is willing to share membership of a transitional governing body with current members of the government of President Bashar al-Assad, but not with Assad himself, the group’s spokesman said in Geneva. (Reuters)

TURKEYTurkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) will support draft legislation by the ruling party that would strip lawmakers of their immunity from prosecution. President Tayyip Erdogan has repeatedly called for deputies of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) to face prosecution, accusing them of being an extension of the outlawed militant group, the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). (Reuters)

Friday, 15th April 2016

EGYPTEgyptian security forces fired tear gas and live ammunition into the sky to scatter hundreds of protesters demonstrating on Friday against the government of President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. Protesters gathered in the Giza area of Cairo after Friday prayers calling for the overthrow of the “regime”. (Al Jazeera)

LIBYA – The European Union is signalling that it will consider moving security personnel into Libya to help stabilize the chaotic country if requested by a new U.N.-backed Libyan government, according to a draft statement seen by Reuters. (The Daily Star)

MACEDONIAMacedonian President Gjorge Ivanov said on Friday he stood by his decision to grant pardons to 56 officials in a wire-tapping scandal despite days of street protests and mounting national and international calls to change his mind. (Reuters)

MIGRANT CRISIS – Nearly 6,000 migrants who crossed the Mediterranean have reached Italy since Tuesday, the International Organisation for Migration said, warning that the surge in arrivals was set to continue. (Middle East Eye)

SYRIARussia’s Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and US Secretary of State John Kerry discussed the Syria crisis settlement in a phone talk on Friday, Russia’s ministry said in a statement. (The Jerusalem Post)

Syrian government air strikes hit rebel-held areas north of the city of Homs for a second day, forcing authorities to cancel Friday prayers for the first time in six months, monitors and a doctor there said. (Reuters)