Liberation of Al-Mokha ‘blow to Houthis and Iran’

Pro-government fighters give food to Yemeni children on the road leading to the southwestern port city of Mokha, in this January 26, 2017 photo. (AFP)
Updated 09 February 2017

Liberation of Al-Mokha ‘blow to Houthis and Iran’

ADEN: The Yemeni Army on Wednesday announced that it has liberated Al-Mokha strategic port and its surroundings from the grip of Houthi and deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s militias.
The army said in a statement that the operation was backed by the Saudi-led Arab alliance. It added that the coup militia elements fled toward the road leading to the city of Al-Hodeidah, west of the country.
Arab News called Rajeh Badi, a Yemeni government’s spokesman, for comment, but he didn’t reply.
Al-Mokha’s liberation has allowed coalition, government and Popular Resistance forces to link fronts in their battle against the militias.
The liberation has allowed for the elimination of Houthi rebels hiding in the city, and led to the deaths of 27 Daesh militants who were also holed up there.
The liberation represents a double strike against rebel militias and Iran, as the coalition, the Yemeni Army and Popular Resistance forces have cut off their last lifeline for the smuggling of Iranian weapons via the strategic port.
This has allowed for the halting of contraband trade by Houthis to finance their operations. Military analysts say it is also a blow to Iran, which had announced its readiness to establish naval bases close to Bab Al-Mandab, having expected continuous Houthi control of the coast of Taiz.
According to analysts, Al-Mokha’s liberation will open two main fronts: One headed toward the city of Al-Hodeidah and from there to Sanaa, and the other eastward to complete the liberation of Taiz and head toward the provinces of Ibb and Dhamar in order to fully encircle Sanaa.
The importance of control of Al-Mokha and its port lies in the fact that it secures the Bab Al-Mandab strategic naval passage, as the city links the province of Taiz with Al-Hodeidah. This allows for control over it and to regain what is left of towns along the Al-Hodeidah–Taiz route.
Analysts said control of Al-Mokha enables legitimate forces to launch military operations in the direction of the directorates on the western coast of Al-Hodeidah, and in the direction of Khaled Camp east of Al-Mokha, the largest rebel camp in Taiz, thus cutting off the main artery for arms supplies via the Red Sea.
The liberation of Al-Mokha aims to guarantee the entry of assistance to the city, and to enable preparations for the launch of the second phase of the Golden Spear operation in Yemen.
Apache helicopters played a big role in targeting Houthi boats, which had been transporting military equipment and reinforcements to rebels.
Analysts said isolating militias geographically by preventing them from controlling ports that provide financial assistance and smuggled weapons will hasten the end of the war.
Militias had been using the port of Al-Mokha to receive arms shipments from Iranian vessels, as well as for sending weapons to Al-Hodeidah port.

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

Updated 20 July 2019

Emirati astronaut prepares to join elite Arab space club

  • Hazza Al-Mansoori 'living a dream' as he and backup astronaut train for space mission in September
  • Soyuz-MS 15 launch could be the beginning of a bold new era of Arab exploration of space

DUBAI: More than 30 years after an Arab first journeyed into space, an  Emirati is preparing to become the latest Arab space traveler when he joins a team of astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) in September.

For months, Hazza Al-Mansoori and backup pilot Sultan Al-Neyadi have been undergoing intensive training in Russia, Germany and the US to prepare for the mission. The first Emirati to travel into space will make the historic journey on board a Soyuz-MS 15 spacecraft due to take off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on Sept. 25.

During the eight-day mission, he will conduct a tour of the ISS for Arabic viewers on Earth and carry out 15 experiments for the Science in Space schools competition conducted by Dubai’s Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center.

The crew, who will include an American and a Russian, are allowed to take up to 1 kg of personal items with them on the mission.

“I will take my family photo and share the experience of being in space with them,” Al-Mansoori said. There will also be an image of Sheikh Zayed, the UAE’s founding father, meeting American astronauts in 1976.

“I am also going to take an Emirati flag. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.”

‘I will take an Emirati flag into space. I am living my dream and want to give something back to my country.’

Emirati astronaut Hazza Al-Mansoori

Al-Mansoori will join an elite space club comprising Saudi Arabia’s Prince Sultan bin Salman and Syria’s Muhammed Faris. Prince Sultan became the first Arab to travel to space as part of space shuttle Discovery’s crew in 1985. Faris was a crew member of USSR’s Soyuz spacecraft in 1987.

The Emirati astronaut is aware that history is resting on his shoulders. Speaking to the media recently during his training program in Houston, Al-Mansoori  said it is a huge personal honor to be the first Emirati chosen for space exploration.

“I’m excited about the whole mission, but especially to experience the microgravity and be living in the ISS, and conducting daily experiments and working with the amazing group on board,” he said.

Al-Mansoori and Al-Neyadi have been undergoing rigorous training at the Johnson Space Center in Houston. The program includes familiarization with NASA equipment on board the space station, and handling emergency situations, such as ammonia gas leaks and depressurization.

The Emiratis have been trained to fend for themselves if the return goes off course and they land in the wilderness of Russia.

Speaking of the Soyuz-MS 15 mission, Yousuf Al-Shaibani, director general of the Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center, said: “We strive to see the UAE Astronaut Program achieve its objective of preparing generations of Emiratis who will contribute to enhancing the country’s position in space science and research to serve the ambitious aspirations aimed at building a national knowledge-based economy.”

The September launch could prove to be the beginning of a bold new era for Arabs and space. Al-Neyadi, the backup pilot, has been promised a seat on a future mission, and the UAE and Saudi Arabia are drawing up ambitious plans for the development of the region’s space industry.