Monday, July 28

FRANCE/IRAQ – France said on Monday it was ready to welcome Christians from northern Iraq who have been told by the al Qaeda offshoot group now ruling the region to either convert to Islam, pay a religious levy or face death. Islamic State insurgents seized large swathes of northern Iraq last month, prompting hundreds of Christian families in Mosul to flee a city which has hosted the faith since its earliest years. (Reuters)

TUNISIA – After official celebrations and calls for unity on Tunisia’s Republic Day Friday, the Maghreb country was once again at the center of terror attacks over the weekend. On Saturday afternoon in Sakiet Sidi Youssef (in the region of Kef, close to the Algerian border), two soldiers died in an ambush and four other people, including a civilian aged 16, were injured. On the same day, one security official was injured in a shoot-out in Mahdia which was part of a police operation that led to the arrest of a reportedly dangerous terrorist, and an attack by unknown gunmen on a military base in Kasserine. (ANSAmed)

IRAQ – An Iraqi government raid on targets of armed groups in a town southwest of Baghdad has killed 17 people, including at least three civilians, according to medical and tribal sources. Among the dead in Fadhiyya district, in the town of Jurf al-Sakhr, were two women and a child, Sheikh Mohammad al-Janabi, a tribal chief from the town, said on Monday. “Bombardment targeted the Fadhiyya district at 1am,” he said. The toll was confirmed by a medic in a nearby hospital, according to the AFP news agency. At least 12 people were reported wounded in the violence in Jurf al-Sakhr, 60km from Baghdad. (Al Jazeera)

 

Tuesday, July 29

LIBYA – Libyan government forces battled Islamist militants with rockets and warplanes for control of an army base in the eastern city of Benghazi on Tuesday, after at least 30 people were killed in overnight fighting. Intense fighting in Libya’s second city, and clashes between rival militias in the capital, Tripoli, have pushed the country deeper into chaos after two weeks of the fiercest violence since the 2011 civil war that ousted Muammar Gaddafi. Foreign states followed the US and the United Nations in pulling diplomats out of the North African oil-producing state after clashes between two rival brigades of former anti-Gaddafi fighters closed Tripoli’s international airport. (The Guardian)

RUSSIA/EU – The knock to confidence from harsher European sanctions on Russia could spoil the euro zone’s budding economic recovery even if it shrugs off the fallout on trade. Following months of hesitation, the European Union sealed a deal on Tuesday to impose the first broad economic sanctions on Russia – its third-biggest trading partner – following the downing of a Malaysian airliner over territory controlled by pro-Moscow rebels in eastern Ukraine. The measures will shut state-owned Russian banks out of European capital markets and target the defence sector and sensitive technologies, including oil, but exclude the vital gas sector, on which Europe is heavily dependent. (Reuters)

ISRAEL/PALESTINE/GAZA STRIP – Missiles have struck several sites in Gaza, including a park inside a refugee camp and an outpatient building of the strip’s largest hospital, disrupting a relative lull at the start of the Muslim Eid al-Fitr holiday. Eight people, including seven children, died following missile fire on a park inside the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, medics said. The children were playing on a swing when the strike hit the park, Ayman Sahabani, the head of the emergency room at Shifa hospital, told reporters. (Al Jazeera)

 

Wednesday, July 30

GREAT BRITAIN/LIBYA – Britain’s embassy in Tripoli was virtually the only diplomatic mission still open in Libya’s war-torn capital on Wednesday as fierce fighting prompted other countries to withdraw their diplomats. France had maintained a presence after the Americans evacuated their mission at the weekend, but as the fighting worsened it closed its embassy and withdrew 50 French staff and citizens, along with six British nationals, aboard a warship. Meanwhile, 75 bodies were found at an army base overrun by an Islamist militia in the eastern city of Benghazi. (The Guardian)

EGYPT – Three people have been killed in a car-bomb blast in Giza, on the outskirts of Cairo, according to Egyptian state media. Security officials were quoted as saying those killed were carrying an explosive device in their car and likely detonated it by mistake. MENA news agency said the explosion took place early on Wednesday in the town of el-Saf in Giza province. Another state news outlet, Al-Ahram, quoted Brigadier Mahmoud Shawki, a police officer, as saying those killed were likely to have been on their way to carry out a “terrorist operation”. (Al Jazeera)

SPAIN – Spain’s prime minister and the secession-minded leader of Catalonia have begun talks amid a bitter dispute over the wealthy north-eastern region’s plans for a referendum on independence in November. The Catalan president, Artur Mas, said the two-and-a-half-hour closed-door session with Mariano Rajoy “wasn’t the end of anything, and that in itself is quite positive”. There was a willingness on both sides to keep talking, he said. (The Guardian)

 

Thursday, July 31

ISRAEL/GAZA STRIP – Israel will not stop its operation in Gaza until the tunnels constructed by Hamas militants have been destroyed, PM Benjamin Netanyahu has said. He said he was determined to destroy the tunnels, which militants use to infiltrate Israeli territory, “with or without a ceasefire”. Some 425,000 people – about a quarter of Gaza’s population – have been displaced by the fighting, the UN says. (BBC)

GREECE/MACEDONIA – UN special mediator Matthew Nimetz on Wednesday wrapped up a tour to bordering Balkan neighbors Greece and Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Fyrom) which failed to produce any major breakthroughs in the ongoing name dispute between the two. Speaking to journalists after a meeting with Greek Foreign Minister Evangelos Venizelos in Athens, as daily Kathimerini online reports, Nimetz was nevertheless optimistic that the two sides can reach a settlement. “Given the fact that there is a common desire to solve the issue and some ideas floating around that may be the basis for some solution, I do think that this is an issue that will get resolved,” Nimetz said. “Exactly when I cannot say,” he added. (ANSAmed)

ITALY – Italian police have secured the arrest of several members of a mafia clan across Europe. The agents had been working from information given to them by a woman who had at one time been held as a virtual prisoner by the clan. Sixteen clan members were held in the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, accused of smuggling cocaine across Europe. The clan was based in Rosarno in the far south of Italy, a stronghold of the criminal ‘Ndrangheta crime syndicate. (BBC)

 

Friday, August 1

GAZA STRIP/ISRAEL/PALESTINE – Israel declared a Gaza ceasefire over on Friday, saying Hamas militants breached the truce soon after it took effect and apparently captured an Israeli officer while killing two other soldiers. Renewed Israeli shelling killed more than 70 Palestinians and wounded some 220, hospital officials said. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called his security cabinet into special session and publicly warned Hamas and other militant groups they would “bear the consequences of their actions”. The 72-hour break announced by U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon was the most ambitious attempt so far to end more than three weeks of fighting, driven by mounting international alarm over a rising Palestinian civilian death toll. (Reuters)

LIBYA – The new Libyan House of Representatives elected on June 25 will probably take office Saturday in Tobruk, and not on August 4 in Tripoli, as requested Thursday by the outgoing National Congress. Interim Premier Abdullah al Thani is in nearby al Bayda ”to follow preparations for the meeting of the House of Representatives Saturday in Tobruk”, according to the interior ministry’s Facebook profile quoted by the Libya Herald. The security department of the city, 50 km east of Benghazi, is also working on security ahead of the first session. (ANSAmed)

ISIS/SYRIA – Islamic State, the al Qaeda splinter group which has seized parts of Syria and Iraq, has told activists in Syria’s Deir al-Zor province they must swear allegiance to it and submit to censorship, a monitoring group said on Friday. The militant group imposed the rules after a meeting on Tuesday with activists involved in media work, the British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said. International media organizations have little presence in Syria and rely on activists and other sources to provide information on what is happening in the country. Islamic State also told the activists they must recognize the caliphate, based on their strict interpretation of Islam, that it has declared in the parts of Iraq and Syria it controls. (Reuters)