MENA Brief newsletter 8-15 March 2019

The latest MENA Brief analyses tensions in the Palestinian Territories, state of emergency in Libya and Morocco, and the protests in Algeria. 

Middle East
  • Bahrain - Protests expected to mark anniversary of Arab Spring protests
  • Iran - Pipeline explosion kills four people today in south-west
  • Israel - Complete shutdown in resort city over air link dispute
  • Palestinian Territories - One protester killed, 40 injured near Israeli settlement
  • Turkey - Three German journalists expelled from country
North Africa
  • Algeria - Nationwide protests set to occur to keep pressure on president
  • Libya - State of emergency, as self-proclaimed military leader approaches
  • Morocco - Teachers holding national strike, with further action planned
  • Tunisia  - State of emergency extended by another month

 
Middle East 
Bahrain - Demonstrations expected to mark anniversary of Arab Spring protests
Bahrain - Security risk: Elevated Protests are expected to occur across the country on 15 March to mark the eighth anniversary of the Saudi Arabia-led Gulf Cooperation Council's (GCC) Peninsula Shield Force entering the country. This was to help the Bahraini monarchy quell protests during the Arab spring. Hundreds of protesters died following the intervention of GCC forces. The February 14 Youth Coalition, a Bahraini youth group led by anonymous individuals who organise protests across the country, has called for civil unrest today, and for Bahrainis to hold strikes tomorrow.
Why it matters:There will be a heightened army and police presence, as tensions increase between protesters and security personnel. Clashes and arrests are likely to occur. Security forces have used excessive force against protesters in the past, including the use of tear gas. Businesses are expected to shut in the event of protests. A2 Global advises against any travel towards central districts where protesters are likely to gather, such as the Pearl Roundabout in the capital Manama. Business travellers should monitor the situation closely and follow instructions from local authorities.

Iran - Pipeline explosion kills four people today in south-west
Iran - Security risk: Elevated Four people were killed and six were injured on 14 March, after a gas pipeline explosion occurred between the cities of Ahvaz and Mahshahr in southwestern Iran. The cause of the explosion has not yet been confirmed, however the governor of Ahvaz state has ruled out the possibility of it being a terrorist attack.
Why it matters:The explosion occurred along the Freeway 5 highway linking the two cities, several cars and water trucks caught fire during the explosion. Such incidents are not uncommon in the country due to the aging infrastructure as well as inadequate enforcement of safety measures. A2 Global advises residents of Ahvaz to follow local updates from authorities, including evacuation orders as well as expected travel disruptions along Freeway 5.

Israel -  Complete shutdown in resort city over air link dispute
Israel - Travel risk: Elevated The southern port and resort city of Eilat effectively shut down on 12 March, after the city government closed all land, sea and air routes. This is in reaction to the decision by the Israeli government to close Sde Dov Airport (SDV), which serves the city of Tel Aviv, on 1 July and build housing on the prime site. SDV is the main air link to Eilat Airport (ETH), which is itself due to close on 19 March and be replaced by Ramon Airport (ETM). Eilat government officials say that flight options to the city from Ben Gurion Airport (TLV), which serves Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, are more limited than from SDV. Public services remained shut until 1400 local time. Residents of the city blocked the traffic along the Arava highway, the main link between the city and the centre of the country.
Why it matters:The mayor of the city has stated that he will declare a state of emergency if a solution is not reached with regard to Sde Dov Airport. A2 Global advises to all visitors to monitor the situation closely.

Palestinian Territories - One protester killed, 40 injured near Israeli settlement
Palestinian Territories - Security risk: High A Palestinian man was shot dead on 12 March by Israeli security forces in Salfit, near the Israeli settlement of Ariel, in the West Bank. Some 40 people were injured, when Israeli security personnel fired rubber bullets during clashes with Palestinian demonstrators in Salfit.
Why it matters: Tensions have been extremely high between Israel and the Palestinian Territories. Protests are likely to occur in various cities across the West Bank, such as Hebron and Ramallah, as well as in East Jerusalem. A2 Global advises individuals to avoid all protests and not to travel to public squares in the area in the 48-hour outlook, due to the likelihood of clashes between Israeli security personnel and Palestinian demonstrators.

Turkey - Three German journalists expelled from country
Turkey - Security risk: High In the past week, three German journalists have been expelled from Turkey. The move came after the Turkish government refused to renew their press accreditations for unspecified reasons. The journalists were given ten days to leave the country.
Why it matters:The move is further indication that Turkey's tolerance towards press freedom is very low. Turkey remains the world's worst offender for jailing of journalists, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists. It may also indicate worsening relations between Turkey and Germany, after Ankara last week warned that Germans of Kurdish origin could face arrest on arrival in Turkey, if they had supported pro-Kurdish groups. Travellers to Turkey should ensure that personal views on Turkish government affairs are not published online in order to avoid the risk of arrests.

 
North Africa

Algeria - Nationwide protests set to occur tomorrow to keep pressure on president
Algeria - Security risk: High Hundreds of thousands of people are expected to protest in multiple cities across the country, including the capital Algiers, on 15 March. Protestors are attempting to keep pressure on President Abdelaziz Bouteflika to resign after he announced he will not be running for a fifth term in office as the 18 April presidential elections approach.
Why it matters: One of the main demands set out by protesters, who have been demonstrating since 17 February, is for the president not to seek another term. The protests have been organised by various groups such as trade and student unions, civil societies, which have a range of grievances against the government. For instance, student groups are angered over the lack of economic opportunity as well as the failure to end government corruption. Despite this, Bouteflika has decided to postpone the elections indefinitely, allowing him to hold on to power beyond 18 April. His decision prompted protests across the country on 13 March. A2 Global advices all travellers to avoid demonstrations as a precaution; in the event of clashes between demonstrators and security forces. Business travellers should also allow for additional time during their travels due to protests.

Libya  State of emergency in Sirte, as self-proclaimed military leader approaches Libya - Security risk: Extreme Libya's Government of National Accord (NGA), the Tripoli-based UN-backed interim government, declared a state of emergency in the coastal city of Sirte on 11 March. This was after the self-proclaimed Libyan National Army, forces loyal Khalifa Haftar, advanced to the southern outskirts of the city, which lies between Tripoli and the eastern city of Benghazi.
Why it matters: The NGA has mobilised its forces in the surrounding area and declared that any attack on the city will be viewed as an act of war. The Sirte Basin is home to two-thirds of Libya's oil production, and the city is situated less than 200km from the Sidra and Ras Lanuf oil export terminals. A2 Global advises business travellers to avoid travelling in the area around Sirte during the current state of emergency. Security managers should monitor the situation and review current protocols, including evacuation plans, to factor in an escalation of hostilities.

Morocco - Teachers holding national strike, with further action planned
Morocco - Travel risk: Elevated The National Federation of Teachers (FNE) and the Democratic Labour Organisation (OTD) held a national strike on 13 March and 14 March, with further action planned from 26 to 28 March. The trade unions are continuing nationwide strikes that began on 4 March. A sit-down protest is planned for 17 March, outside the ministry of education building, on Avenue d'Alger, in the capital Rabat.The FNE and OTD are demanding better salaries for members, and tighter regulation of ministry of education officials.
Why it matters:Protests are also likely to occur during strikes in various cities across the country. Individuals should monitor updates, avoid demonstrations as a precaution and allow for additional time during their journeys.

Tunisia - State of emergency extended by another month
Tunisia -Travel risk: Elevated Four people were killed and six were injured on 14 March), after a gas pipeline explosion occurred between the cities of Ahvaz and Mahshahr in southwestern Iran. The cause of the explosion has not yet been confirmed, however the governor of Ahvaz state has ruled out the possibility of it being a terrorist attack.
Why it matters:The explosion occurred along the Freeway 5 highway linking the two cities, several cars and water trucks caught fire during the explosion. Such incidents are not uncommon in the country due to the aging infrastructure as well as inadequate enforcement of safety measures. A2 Global advises residents of Ahvaz to follow local updates from authorities, including evacuation orders as well as expected travel disruptions along Freeway 5.