Monday, February 16th

EGYPT – Egypt’s air force bombed Islamic State targets inside Libya on Monday, a day after the group released a video showed the beheading of 21 Egyptians there, marking an escalation in Cairo’s battle against militants. It was the first time Egypt confirmed launching air strikes against the group in neighboring Libya, showing President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is ready to expand his fight against Islamist militancy beyond Egypt’s borders. A Libyan air force commander said between 40 to 50 militants were killed in the attack. (Reuters)

ITALY – The Italian coastguard launched a massive operation Sunday to rescue more than 2,000 migrants in difficulty between the Italian island of Lampedusa and the Libyan coast, local media said. The emergency rescue came on the same day Italy said it was evacuating staff from its embassy in Libya and suspending operations there, highlighting the worsening security situation in the violence-plagued country. Some 2,164 migrants coming from Libya had to be saved from a dozen boats, Italian media reported, citing the country’s emergency services. By Sunday evening, around 520 migrants were on board an Italian navy ship, the TGcom24 television station’s website said. (The Guardian)

Italy ruled out military intervention in Libya to help restore order as armed militants from the Islamic state expand their presence in the oil-rich country. Calls for Rome to lead a coalition of 5,000 ground troops were floated by Italy’s Defense Minister Roberta Pinotti. Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni had also said Italy was ready to fight, as part of a larger international effort to contain the violence in the near lawless country should UN-led diplomatic efforts fail. (EuObserver)

Tuesday, February 17th

LIBYA – Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi called for a United Nations resolution mandating an international coalition to intervene in Libya after its jets bombed Islamic State targets there. “There is no other choice, taking into account the agreement of the Libyan people and government and that they call on us to act”, he told France’s Europe 1 radio in an interview aired on Tuesday. Asked if it would recommence its own action: “We need to do it again, and all of us together”. (Reuters)

ISRAEL – French and German leaders have urged Jews to stay in their countries, following a call by Israel Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to emigrate to Israel. “France is wounded with you and France does not want you to leave. The place for French Jews is France”, said French Prime Minister Manuel Valls. Their statements came after a Danish synagogue was one of the targets of a shooting on Sunday and after a few hundred Jewish graves in a northeastern French town Sarre-Union were vandalised. (EuObserver)

JAPAN – Japan will provide $15.5 million in aid to support counter-terrorism efforts in the Middle East and Africa, Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said on Tuesday, doubling the figure pledged last month. Islamic State militants have said they would target Japanese citizens after Prime Minister Shinzo Abe pledged $200 million in humanitarian aid to countries fighting the group. Two Japanese citizens were beheaded by the group last month. (Reuters)

 

Wednesday, February 18th

EUROPEAN UNION – European Commission Vice-President Frans Timmermans told EU member states to improve cooperation on security, using the systems already in place. France called for better coordination of border checks for foreign fighters returning from Syria and elsewhere. The European Commission Vice-President called on member states to make better use of the tools currently at their disposal to coordinate their security and counter-terrorism efforts. Timmermans said it was important to look for new ways to share information, using Europol or other services. (Euractiv)

GREECE – Greek parliamentarians elected law professor and center-right New Democracy member Prokopis Pavlopoulos as the country’s seventh president, reports Kathimerini. Pavlopoulos was largely backed by the Syriza, Independent Greeks, and New Democracy parties. He received the support of 233 out of 300 lawmakers. (EuObserver)

TUNISIA – Four Tunisian police have been killed in a militant attack in the central region of Kasserine close to the border with Algeria, the government said on Tuesday without giving further details. Local radio said on Wednesday suspected militants had opened fire on a national guard police checkpoint. Tunisia is engaged in a campaign against Islamist fighters who carry out shootings and bombings mostly against security forces. Troops are also trying to flush out fighters from a base in the Chaambi mountains near Algeria. (Reuters)

 

Thursday, February 19th

LIBYA – Libya and Egypt asked the United Nations Security Council to lift an arms embargo on Libya, impose a naval blockade on areas not under government control and help build the country’s army to tackle Islamic State and other militants. Libya has descended into factional fighting, leaving the country almost lawless nearly four years after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi. Two competing governments backed by militia brigades are scrambling for control of the oil-producing country and the chaos has created havens for Islamist militants. (Reuters)

ITALY – The European Commission extended its rescue mission off Italy until at least the end of the year, it said on Thursday, and gave Rome extra funding to deal with an influx of migrants from Africa and the Middle East. The Commission launched the mission, dubbed Operation Triton, in November just as Italy wound down a much larger and more costly program known as Mare Nostrum. (Reuters)

GREECE – Greece formally requested a six-month extension to its euro zone loan agreement on Thursday as it races to avoid running out of cash within weeks and overcome resistance from skeptical partners led by Germany. With its EU/IMF bailout program due to expire in little more than a week, the government of leftist Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras urgently needs to secure a financial lifeline to keep the country afloat beyond late March. (Reuters)

 

Friday, February 20th

CYPRUS – The European Commission has granted Cyprus funds of 0.98 million euro from the Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund to address the daily needs and health care of 400 Syrian citizens who were rescued by the Cypriot authorities in rough seas 55 nautical miles south of the coastal city of Paphos, on 25 September 2014. The funding, as Famagusta Gazette online reports, will be granted in a period of four months. (ANSAmed)

EUROPEAN UNION – The European Commission extended its sea border surveillance mission Triton until the end of 2015. The joint-operation started in November last year after Italy phased out its Mare Nostrum search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean. The commission says Triton has helped save 6,000 lives. (EuObserver)

QATAR – Qatar recalled its ambassador to Egypt following a row over Cairo’s air strikes on terrorist targets in Libya, threatening fresh divisions between the two Arab countries. A Foreign Ministry official said Doha was recalling its envoy “for consultation” after Egypt’s delegate to the Arab League accused Qatar of supporting “terrorism”, during discussions on Libya. (Arab News)