Feeling the pinch in Syria, Iran ups ante in Yemen

Saudi Patriot missiles enhance the Kingdom’s defense capability against the Houthi threat from Yemen. (Photo courtesy: Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces.
Updated 09 April 2017

Feeling the pinch in Syria, Iran ups ante in Yemen

JEDDAH: Feeling the heat from the US, Iran is attempting to shift global attention to Yemen, an analyst told Arab News, as Arab Coalition Forces intercepted 12 ballistic missiles launched by Houthi militias toward the Yemeni city of Al-Mokha.
In the early hours of Saturday, the Patriot system intercepted the missiles, which were launched within less than one hour, and prevented the deaths of civilians, Rajeh Badi, Yemeni government spokesman, told Arab News on Saturday.
Twelve ballistic missiles launched in less than one hour is an extraordinary attack, he said.
He called on the international community to move vigorously to disarm the militia, which poses a risk to the lives of Yemenis.
Hamdan Al-Shehri, a political analyst and international relations expert, told Arab News that the launching of a large number of ballistic missiles in a short time constitutes a serious escalation by the Iran-backed rebels. He added that the Houthi attacks call for an international response to curb the Iranian intervention not only in Yemen but in the region.
“The Iranians have been supplying Houthis with weapons for years, and will continue to do so,” Al-Shehri said. “The US strike in Syria in response to the use of chemical weapons was decisive; a similar action must be taken against Iran in Yemen in order to bring the Yemeni crisis to a peaceful settlement.”
He said: “Iran is suspected of having a hand in Syria’s chemical attack just as it is behind the launch of the ballistic missiles on a densely populated Yemeni city of Al-Mokha. Fortunately, the coalition’s air defense system intercepted the missiles and prevented carnage of civilians. The international community should take this Houthi crime as a serious escalation and act without delay.”
Yemeni spokesman Badi said Iran is still supplying the Houthi militia with weapons and missiles via more than one route including Yemeni seaports, which are still under the control of these militias such as Al-Hodeida Port.
He called on the international community to liberate all Yemeni ports from the Houthis. He said missiles are being launched daily on the cities of Marib, Aden and Taiz.
In the meantime, the Yemeni Army has regained two new locations in Hijah Province after a fierce battle with the Houthi militia, army sources said.
The sources said the Yemeni forces captured three members of the Houthi militia in the two captured posts, while a number of deaths and injuries were reported among the militia during the Yemeni Army’s attack on the militia in Tiba Sofa and Bihan fronts.
Meanwhile, the Yemeni Army foiled an infiltration attempt by the Houthis in the Isailan area, sources said.

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.