BREAKING NEWS

Egypt denies proposal to establish Palestinian state in Sinai
 
IS claims responsibility for Baghdad car bombing that killed 51
 
Two Emirati soldiers killed in Yemen
 

ON THE GROUND


UN creates body to investigate Syria war crimes

The United Nations is organizing a new body tasked with preparing for the prosecution of war crimes in Syria, UN officials and diplomats said on Thursday. The mechanism, which the General Assembly approved in December, is expected to begin operating “very shortly” at UN headquarters in Geneva, a UN human rights official said.

 

Libya seeks military training and equipment from NATO

Libya’s UN-backed Government of National Accord has sent NATO a detailed request to train and develop its military, the alliance said Thursday. NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Libyan Prime Minister Fayez Seraj has asked the alliance for help in developing a defense ministry along with security and military capabilities, which have been depleted by the chaos since the 2011 revolution.

 

Iraq’s Sadr calls for new electoral protest

Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr called for a peaceful demonstration in Baghdad’s Liberation Square today to demand reforms to Iraq’s High Independent Electoral Commission, which he accused of being corrupt and sectarian. During the movement's last such protest, on Feb. 11, security forces killed five protesters and injured hundreds.

 

Egypt swears in first woman governor after cabinet reshuffle

Egypt swore in nine new ministers and five new governors as part of a cabinet reshuffle on Thursday, including Nadia Saleh, the country’s first female governor. Saleh had served as deputy governor of the coastal governorate of Beheira since 2013. Her appointment as its governor breaks with a long tradition of selecting former police or army officials for the position. 

The reshuffle also led to the merger of several ministerial portfolios. Prime Minister Sherif Ismail said the reshuffle is part of economic and social reforms aimed at tackling Egypt's financial crisis. The government adopted austerity measures and other economic reforms last year.

 

Israel offers Gaza investments in exchange for hostages

Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman on Thursday offered to allow the construction of a seaport, an airport and an industrial zone in the Gaza Strip in exchange for the release of three Israeli civilians and the bodies of two Israeli soldiers held by Hamas. In an online post written in Arabic, Liberman also demanded that Hamas demilitarize Gaza. 

 

Zarif in Germany for Munich Security Conference

Iranian media are reporting that Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif is in Germany to attend the annual Munich Security Conference and hold a series of bilateral side meetings. He is accompanied by deputies Majid Takht-Ravanchi and Abbas Araghchi. It is unclear whether Zarif will be meeting with any officials from the Donald Trump administration.

 

Saudi Arabia dismantles four IS cells

Saudi Arabia's Interior Ministry announced Thursday that it had dismantled four Islamic State (IS) cells and arrested 18 suspected militants in Jeddah, Mecca, Medina, Riyadh and Qassim. The suspects — 15 Saudis, two Yemenis and a Sudanese — are accused of attempting to recruit people to fight for IS in other countries.

Ministry officials said the cells were discovered Saturday during security operations and that police seized several weapons and about $500,000. In December, the Interior Ministry said that 2,093 Saudi citizens were fighting with terrorist groups outside Saudi Arabia.

 

Israel demolished record number of Palestinian homes in 2016

The Israeli human rights organization B’Tselem announced Thursday that in 2016 Israel demolished 274 buildings, the most in a single year in the West Bank since the group began keeping records, in 2004. Some 1,134 people were left homeless as a result, including 591 minors. The buildings were allegedly built illegally.

 

THE WASHINGTON CONNECTION


Tillerson seeks to reassure allies on Syria stance

US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson sought to reassure US allies on Friday that the United States is not tilting toward Russia over the Syrian conflict and still backs UN-led efforts to broker a political solution to the war, officials and diplomats said. Tillerson met with the foreign officials on the sidelines of the G20 foreign ministers’ meeting in Bonn, Germany.

 

US Joint Chiefs chairman plans Raqqa offensive in Turkey

Joint Chiefs Chairman Joseph Dunford is in Turkey today for discussions about the offensive to take back Syria’s Raqqa from the Islamic State (IS), Turkish Defense Minister Fikri Isik said. “If we want the Raqqa operation to be successful it should be carried out with Arab forces in the region,” said Isik, not the US-supported Syrian Kurdish forces. Isik said the Donald Trump administration appeared to have a “more flexible” approach to Syria and was not insisting that the Kurds be involved.

 

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