Middle East – North Africa News Brief

by

MENA BRIEF, SITREP July 16 – July 31: Middle East and Northern Africa Regional Low Intensity Conflicts.

[FEATURES]:

The Qatari Diplomatic Crisis Continues. The Qatari diplomatic crisis continues, despite the previously reported 13 demands being replaced by “6 guiding principles,” and a statement of intent for a diplomatic resolution. On July 18, diplomats from Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, and Egypt, stated that they no longer insist on the immediate enactment of the 13 demands that were presented to Qatar in early July. Instead 6 “broad principles” have been presented. The principles do not include the immediate closure of the news agency al Jazeera.

While attempts by all parties to mediate remain ongoing, the situation continues to worsen. Egypt announced the immediate end of visa-free entry for Qatari nationals; the United Arab Emirates was accused by the US of having sponsored a cyberattack against Qatar’s state news agency; The United Arab Emirates ambassador to Moscow, Omar Ghobash, accused Qatar of having provided al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) with Emirati troop movements in Yemen.

The US Department of State has updated its travel advisory for Egypt. The US Department of State has updated its travel advisory for Egypt, replacing the December 23, 2016 alert. The previous advisory warned US citizens of an increased risk by “terrorist groups” to strike against foreign interests and individuals. The new advisory has the same warning, but adds that “violent political opposition groups” are emerging as a threat.

No US restriction remains on planes from the Middle East to the US. The removal of the Saudi Arabian airport King Khalid International Airport in Jeddah from the US electronics ban means that there are now no Middle Eastern international airports which remain on the list. This occurred after several airports raised their security profiles to match the new restrictions by the US. A similar ban is however still in place for planes going to the UK.

Diplomatic rift between Jordan and Israel over shooting inside Israeli embassy compound. Diplomatic rift between Jordan and Israel over the shooting inside an Israeli embassy compound that saw 2 Jordanians dead, and 1 Israeli injured, on July 23. The Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) states that the 2 Jordanians were inside an Embassy compound house, used as living quarters, to install furniture. The 2 were accompanied, and guarded, by an Israeli military guard. According to the MoFA statement, 1 of the Jordanian workers attacked the Israeli guard with a screwdriver, which led the guard to open fire and kill both Jordanians. The Israeli embassy has been surrounded by Jordanian security forces in the aftermath of the incident, preventing Israel from extracting the guard to Israel. Israel, in turn,has refused requests by Jordanian authorities to enter the compound to investigate the incident. However, both bodies of the Jordanians have been turned over to the local authorities.

Canada advises against travel to al Qatif, Saudi Arabia. Canada advises against travel to al Qatif, Saudi Arabia, and has updated its advisory. The new advisory states that any and all travel to the al Qatif province of Saudi Arabia should be avoided. This in light of “clashes between government security and activists.”

[BAHRAIN]: Opposition Shiite groups continue to call for daily protests and public gatherings against the Sunni-led government throughout the week. Small gatherings and protests were held, but with little impact or local coverage. No gathering reached critical mass, which would have resulted in Bahraini security forces interjecting. Single digit arrests have been reportedly made of individuals involved in the protests.

JUL18, Manama, Bahrain; A report from the Bahrain News Agency (BNA) said that founders of the Manama Human Rights Observatory will stand trial, accused of forming an “illegal organization”, and for said organization being “a front and cover to support acts of terrorism in Bahrain.” The organization has ties to Shiite opposition groups, and is believed to have been in part sponsored by Iranian state affiliated individuals. Part of the group’s intent is to, allegedly, incite riots and spur on public discourse in the form of protests and demonstrations.

[SAUDI ARABIA]:

No new cases of Middle East Respiratory Syndrome Corona virus (MERS-CoV) were reported between July 16, and July 22. New cases were however reported on July 26, and July 27.

Saudi Arabian military and civilian intelligence agencies have launched “pre-emptive” security operations against individuals that they deem to be threats to the stability of the Sheikhdom. This has resulted in mass arrests in al-Awamiyah, al Qatif, and al-Masoura. The operations come after a recent surge in lethal attacks against security personnel.

JUL21, al-Zuhur, Saihat, al-Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia; 3 suspected militants were killed during a clash with Saudi security forces. Security forces surrounded a Toyota Corolla that the suspects were inside, and upon being requested to surrender refused. The 3 individuals are believed to have been involved in a string of kidnappings and killings of security personnel in recent years. Inside the vehicle, Saudi security forces found several machine guns, a pistol, and 10kg of a “non-plastique based explosive”.

JUL22, Saada Province, Northern Yemen; A missile of the SCUD design was launched by al Houthi militia members against the oil facilities near Yanbu, some 930 kilometers into Saudi Arabian territory. The missile missed its intended target, instead landing near the western coast of Saudi Arabia, and caused no damage upon impact.

JUL23, Qassim, Qassim Province, Saudi Arabia; The head of the local Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV, more commonly known as the “religious police”), Fahd al-Khudair, was shot and killed on July 23 in his home. The house was also set on fire.

JUL27, Hudaydah Port, Northwestern Yemen; A missile of the SCUD design was launched by the al Houthi militia members aimed at Makkah. The missile was intercepted over a-Wasliyah in Taif, Makkah Province, by the Saudi missile shield system.

JUL30, Mousawarah, al-Awamiyah, al Qatif, Eastern Province, Saudi Arabia; A regularly scheduled security patrol was struck by an explosively formed penetrator (EFP) Improvised Explosive Device (IED), which killed 1 and injured 6 others.

[EGYPT]:

JUL16, Warraq Island, Cairo, Egypt; Ministry of Interior (MoI) states that 31 members of the security forces were injured during confrontations between police and residents of the Warraq Island. The unrest is due to the government ordering the demolitions of multiple homes in the area, and using heavy handed tactics to clear protestors. According to local reports, approximately 20 local residents were injured, and 1 killed, during the government clearing of the site.

JUL16, Western Egypt-Libya border area; Egyptian Ministry of Defense (MoD) stated that its air force attacked 15 SUVs transporting weapons, munitions, and explosive materials, from Libya into Egypt on July 16. According to the MoD statement, all ground targets were destroyed during the attack.

JUL18, Suez Road, North of New Cairo, Egypt; 2 individuals, believed to belong to the Muslim Brotherhood break away faction Hasm, were killed during a shootout with Egyptian Security Forces on the morning of July 18. The individuals were traveling in a vehicle, which refused to stop at a security checkpoint. After the ensuing shootout, security forces seized a number of weapons from the vehicle. The individuals have been identified as Ahmed al Bahnasawy and Emad al-Far, both described, by the Egyptian government, as “prominent members of Hasm.

JUL20, Ring Road, Fayoum, Mid Egypt; A drive-by-shooting on a police motorcade was carried out by the Hasm group. The shooting resulted in 1 death and 3 injuries.

JUL21, Tamiya, Fayoum, Mid Egypt; MoI stated that 2 individuals believed to belong to the Hasm militia, and  suspected of being involved in the drive-by-shooting on July 20, were killed during a shootout with police. According to the MoI, the police came under fire as they approached a farm area where the militants were believed to have been located. After the incident, a pistol and a Libyan made AK-47 were found inside the farm house.

JUL23, Fayoum Province, Mid Egypt; MoI stated that 8 individuals believed to belong to the Hasm militia were killed during a raid by police. According to the statement, the individuals opened fire against the police during the raid, and the police responded in kind. Rifles and  ammunition, were found on the scene.

JUL24, Al Ajamiyyin, Fayoum Province, Mid Egypt; A raid against a suspected Hasm safe house resulted in the retrieval of several ready-made Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs), grenades, and fully automatic rifles. According to local reports, there were no arrests made during the raid.

JUL26, Northern Military Region, Northern Egypt; The Egyptian Ministry of Defense (MoD) released a video showing a vehicle with 1.5 tonnes of explosives attempting to breach a security perimeter. Security forces shot and killed the driver, who was found wearing a suicide belt. Inside the vehicle, security agents found explosives with fragmentation features and at least one pistol.

[TURKEY]:  

JUL19, Istanbul, Turkey; 14 individuals, who the Turkish government describe as being affiliated with the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) youth wing have been detained. They stand accused of having carried out a molotov cocktail attack, targeting a bus, which was traveling on Ahmed Yesevi Street, Guvercintepe, Istanbul, on July 15.

JUL27, Istanbul, Turkey; 26 foreign nationals, 18 of whom are Syrian, were arrested throughout Istanbul on July 27. The Turkish government says that the individuals are believed to be affiliated with the Islamic State.

[IRAN]:

JUL17, Tehran, Iran; Iranian state affiliated media has released the names of the American-Chinese citizen that was sentenced to 10 years in prison for espionage in Iran. The individual is described as 37-year-old Xiyue Wang, a dual American-Chinese citizen, and a history researcher at Princeton University. Wang was arrested in Iran inthe summer of 2016, during a trip that is described as being related to his work at Princeton University.

JUL25, Northern Arabian Gulf, Iranian Territorial Waters, Iran; A US Navy vessel, inside international waters, fired warning shots against an approaching Iranian ship on July 25. The Iranian boat came within 150 yards of the US Navy vessel, and is believed to belong to the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

JUL27, Iran; Iranian state media claims that a 250kg satellite, of the domestically designed “Simorgh” design, was launched into space on July 27. It is unclear if the rocket carrying the satellite was able to gain the necessary orbit for deployment.

[UNITED ARAB EMIRATES]:

JUL16, Washington DC, USA; The Washington Post reported that unnamed US Intelligence officials are accusing the UAE of having carried out a cyberspace attack on the Qatar News Agency (QNA), which sparked the current gulf state diplomatic crisis.

JUL29, Yemeni Territorial Waters, outside of the Mocha Port, Western Yemen; Al Houthi militia claims to have attempted to strike an Emirati Navy vessel outside of the Mocha Port using a missile of unknown design. Emirati and Saudi media describe a failed attempt to launch a remote controlled boat carrying explosives against a Navy vessel in the vicinity of the Mocha port at the same time.

[JORDAN]:

JUL17, The main thoroughfare of Jordan; the Desert Highway, South Jordan; The Huwaitat tribe held protests against the for-life verdict handed down to one of its tribal members, Ma’arik al-Tawayha, for the murder of 3 US Special Forces troops at a Jordanian Airbase outside of Amman in November 2016. The 3 US Special Forces members were stationed at the base as part of counter-insurgency operations in the region, and part of a Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) task force. A video of the incident, recently released by the Jordanian Ministry of Defense (MoD),  clearly show al-Tawayha opening fire against, and killing, the 3 individuals and injuring a 4th, while they were entering the Airbase through a checkpoint. Al-Tawayha has been described as being largely uncooperative during the trial processes.

LIMA CHARLIE, MENA Desk

Lima Charlie provides global news, insight & analysis by military veterans and service members Worldwide.

For up-to-date MENA news, please follow us on twitter at @LimaCharlieMENA and John Sjoholm @JohnSjoholmLC

In case you missed it:

Image Lima Charlie News headline General Dostum

Image Lima Charlie News headline Kurds