Showdown looms as Iran ship nears Yemeni waters

Updated 18 May 2015
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Showdown looms as Iran ship nears Yemeni waters

DUBAI: An Iranian cargo ship carrying aid and activists crossed into the Gulf of Aden on Sunday and will reach Yemen’s Hodaida port on May 21, Iranian media reported, in a challenge to coalition naval forces controlling Yemeni waters.
A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia has imposed searches on all ships trying to enter Yemen in a bid to prevent weapons being smuggled to the Iran-allied Houthi rebel group which controls much of the country, including Hodaida.
Iranian officials last week said they would not allow the coalition forces to inspect the Iran Shahed, which is under military escort, and warned of war if the cargo ship was attacked.
“After entering the Gulf of Aden today... we expect to be in the confines of Hodaida port early on May 21,” the Iran Shahed’s captain, Massoud Ghazi Mirsaid, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Iran says the ship is carrying food aid, medical volunteers and seven Western activists, one of whom was identified by the Tasnim news agency as Caleb Maupin, a native of Ohio who has campaigned against war and the US financial system.
The presence of foreign activists has previously complicated plans to intercept ships carrying them.
Maupin also criticized a plea from his native United States that Iran redirect the ship to Djibouti, where the United Nations is coordinating relief efforts.
Reuters ship tracking data showed the Iran Shahed located off the coast of eastern Yemen at 1110 GMT, heading west toward the Bab El-Mandeb strait, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes.
— REUTERS


Donors pledge over $110 million to help Palestinian refugees

Updated 52 min 19 sec ago
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Donors pledge over $110 million to help Palestinian refugees

  • The $1.2 billion budget for UNRWA provides education, health care, food and other services to Palestinian refugees
  • The Trump administration cut all funding for UNRWA this year

UNITED NATIONS: Donors have pledged over $110 million to help some 5 million Palestinian refugees, an amount the head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees called encouraging.
But Pierre Kraehenbuehl in an announcement Tuesday after a donor’s conference at UN headquarters said, however: “The situation does remain precarious.”
The $1.2 billion budget for the UN Relief and Works Agency provides education, health care, food and other services to refugees in the West Bank and Gaza Strip as well as Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.
The Trump administration cut all funding for UNRWA this year.
Kraehenbuehl said the agency covered its expenses through May 30 but is now operating in deficit.
He expressed hope the $110 million will bridge UNRWA’s funding in coming months but said another pledging conference will be needed.