The Assad regime and Russian jets have pounded rebel-held neighborhoods of Aleppo in recent days as rebels try to break a government siege of eastern portions of the city. One Aleppo resident told CNN that he had counted 30 strikes on his neighborhood over the course of a single day. Earlier this week, 24 people were affected by a barrel bombing attack that may have included chlorine gas, an incident that drew the concern of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons. The pro-regime forces also bombed six hospitals in Aleppo during the last week in July, according to Physicians for Human Rights, making finding treatment for injuries sustained in the recent clashes more difficult. Russian and Syrian officials say they have created three humanitarian corridors to provide access to the city, but they are not being used and U.N. official Jan Egeland stressed that it the safety of the passages must be guaranteed by all parties to be effective. The timing of the flare-up in Aleppo could partially be a reaction to the failed coup in Turkey, the Wall Street Journal reports. Many of the military leaders who have coordinated Turkey’s support to Syrian rebels have been imprisoned in the purges since the July 15 coup attempt and Syrian rebels are concerned that the aid reaching them could be reduced or cut off.
Families File Suit Against Houthis for Death and Captivity of U.S. Contractors
The families of two American U.N. contractors who were abducted by Houthi rebels in Yemen last year have filed a federal lawsuit demanding nearly $700 million in damages for the imprisonment of Mark McAlister and murder of John Hamen. The two men were imprisoned on suspicion of being spies; according to the lawsuit, an autopsy of Hamen found evidence of torture and identified homicide as the cause of his death in captivity, and McAlister was kept in inhuman conditions until his release in April. Syria and Iran are also cited in the suit for providing material support to the Houthis.
Editor’s Note: The Mideast Brief daily newsletter will cease publication on Aug. 5, 2016. But Foreign Policy’s Middle East Channel will continue to be the home of daily thought-provoking content on the politics, trends, and latest news and breaking analysis from across the region.
- Bahraini telecommunication companies appear to be deliberately disrupting mobile internet services on a daily basis in the Diraz neighborhood, where opposition activists have held protests against the government, according to a report by Bahrain Watch.
- Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi nominated Minister of Local Affairs Youssef Al-Shahed to succeed Prime Minister Habib Essid, who was ousted last weekend in a vote of no confidence; Shahed, who belongs to Essebsi’s Nidaa Tounes party, now has one month to form a governing coalition and cabinet.
- Israeli officials arrested Mohammad Halabi, a Gazan man employed by the charity World Vision, on charges that he had diverted humanitarian aid contributions to fund Hamas’ operations.
- Iran executed 20 Sunni men accused of being terrorists responsible for the murder of women and children and undermining state security.
- Muhammad Wisam Sankari, a gay Syrian man living in Istanbul, was beheaded and his body left in a central district of the city on July 25; his friends say authorities are not investigating his murder because of his sexual orientation and took no action when he previously reported a gang-rape.
- Despite an agreement reached between Libya’s Government of National Accord and the militia guarding the country’s oil terminals, oil traders are doubtful any exports will resume this month or that the arrangement will last.
Arguments and Analysis
“Al-Qaeda Steps Back to Let Nusra Move Forward in Syria” (Hassan Hassan and Bassam Barabandi, Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy)
“Notwithstanding the circumstances surrounding the declaration on Thursday, the move is eerily reminiscent of a similar one made in January 2006, when al-Qaeda in Iraq dissolved itself and merged with five insurgent groups to form Majlis Shura al-Mujahideen, or the Mujahideen Shura Council (MSC). The two statements, by the MSC and Jabhat Fatah al-Sham, are similar not only in content but also in terms of wording and structure. The MSC’s founding statement listed six objectives or reasons for the rebranding, while Fatah al-Sham’s declaration listed five objectives for the establishment of the new group. Four of the six objectives, in both cases mentioned in a numerical list at the end of the statements, are identical: fighting aggressors, uniting the mujahideen, implementing sharia, and calling for others to join the newly merged entity. A letter sent following the establishment of the MSC from Ayman Zawahiri, then al-Qaeda’s deputy, to Abu Musaab al-Zarqawi, the leader of the Iraqi franchise, could help explain al-Qaeda’s calculations behind Thursday’s move. In the letter, Zawahiri advises Zarqawi to focus on fostering deeper popular support for the new group and avoid alienating Iraqis.”
“The Government’s Response to Turkey’s Coup Is an Affront to Democracy” (Benjamin Ward, Just Security)
“The first emergency decree issued by the government, on July 23, underscored its ambition to act without restraint. It orders the closure without any due process of thousands of private educational institutions, hospitals, clinics, and associations. The decree allows the permanent discharge of judges, prosecutors, and civil servants without any investigation or possibility of legal challenge. The first decree also extends police powers to detain some suspects for up to 30 days without being taken before a judge and seriously curtails the right to private communications with lawyers for those who are placed in pretrial detention, increasing the risk of ill-treatment and undermining the right to an effective defense. A second decree on July 27 permits prosecutors to restrict a detainee’s access to a lawyer for the first five days of police detention. Evidence is already emerging that military officials and others arrested in connection with the coup have been subject to torture or ill-treatment in custody.”
-J. Dana Stuster
THAER MOHAMMED/AFP/Getty Images