HRW: Houthi land mines killed, maimed hundreds

Wa’el Khaled Muhammad Al-Ruja`a, 15, lost his leg in a land mine explosion near Aden airport in 2015. (Photo courtesy, HRW)
Updated 21 April 2017
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HRW: Houthi land mines killed, maimed hundreds

JEDDAH: An international rights group on Thursday decried the use of land mines by Yemen’s Shiite militias in the impoverished Arab country at war, saying they have killed and maimed hundreds of civilians and prevented many of the displaced from returning to their homes.
In a new report, Human Rights Watch said the Houthis, who are allied with the forces of the country’s ousted President Ali Abdullah Saleh, have used land mines in at least six provinces since March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign against them.
Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, said the Houthis and forces loyal to Saleh “have been flouting the land mine ban at the expense of Yemeni civilians.”
He added that Yemen had banned land mines two decades ago.
The Arab coalition has waged a campaign to dislodge the Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital and some other areas in 2014 and forced the internationally-recognized government to flee the country.
Kristine Beckerle, an HRW researcher, said the rights group had found two types of anti-personnel mines previously unreported in Yemen. “It’s time to actually hold parties accountable, investigate and publicly report on what’s going on,” she said.
Beckerle spoke at a joint press conference on Yemen with Jamie McGoldrick, the UN human rights coordinator for the war-torn country. The conference was held in the Jordanian capital, Amman.
HRW also released a photo of one of a dozen claymore-type mines, which release steel balls to a distance of about 100 meters, labeled in Chinese and found in areas that were held by Houthi militias.
The New York-based group cited the Land mine Monitor Initiative by the International Campaign to Ban Land mines as saying that at least 988 people were either killed or wounded by land mines in Yemen since 2015.
Describing one of the more recent land mine incidents, the HRW report recounted how a demining team lost one of its members during a clearance operation in the Nihm Mountains outside of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in January. The team member stepped on a land mine and was killed; a second lost his legs the next day.
The report also cited an incident in May last year in which a young man died and his mother was wounded when they stepped on land mines near their home. The displaced family was returning home to the Nihm Mountains when the incident happened.
Days later, one of the family’s neighbors lost his legs in another land mine explosion that also killed several sheep, HRW said.
Meanwhile, Christiaan K. James, Arabic language spokesman at the State Department, told Asharq Al-Awsat, the sister publication of Arab News, that the US has repeatedly raised concerns about Iran’s destabilizing role in Yemen and other Arab states.
“We continue to hold the Iranian government accountable for its actions using a variety of tools at our disposal,” James said. “Iran remains a designated state sponsor of terror and we continue to enforce all non-nuclear related sanctions against Iran, which include those authorities that focus on Iran’s support for terrorism and its destabilizing activities in the region.”
“We will continue to work with our partners and allies to disrupt Iran’s material and financial support to militant and terrorist groups in the region,” James said.
On the US role in Yemen, James said: “The US government’s goal for the conflict in Yemen remains consistent. Our goal is to work with our international partners, including the UN special envoy, to bring peace, prosperity and security to Yemen.”
— With input from AP


Lebanese election campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

Updated 25 April 2018
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Lebanese election campaign fever turns into clash between Druze parties

  • Lebanon's independent Sabaa party talks about exploitation of positions and money.
  • Several young men from the Sabaa party demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior.

BEIRUT: Sectarian and partisan polarization resulting from fierce competition for parliamentary seats in Lebanon has led to the first armed clash between two rival Druze parties.
Machine guns were used in the clash between the Progressive Socialist Party, led by MP Walid Jumblatt, and the Lebanese Democratic Party, led by Talal Arslan, which took place on Sunday evening in the city of Choueifat, about 5 km south of Beirut.
The two parties’ leaders acted quickly to calm their supporters.
“When politicians plant seeds of hatred and grudges among people, they commit a crime against citizens who have been breaking bread together for centuries,” Jumblatt said in a tweet.
In a joint statement, the two parties stressed “the need to avoid any steps that could provoke anger among supporters or disturb citizens who look forward to freely exercising their right to vote in an atmosphere of democratic competition.”
The two parties, alongside other parties with supporters in Choueifat, such as Hezbollah, the Lebanese Forces, the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Amal Movement, have agreed on “disowning anyone who breaches security, requesting that the security forces intensify their presence in Choueifat, identifying fixed locations until the elections are over, and restraining from carrying out provocative processions.”
Campaigning lasts 24 hours before polling and has seen various kinds of violations of the electoral law.
Several young men from the Sabaa party — a group of independent activists — demonstrated on Tuesday outside the Ministry of Interior, carrying banners questioning the ministry’s role in election-related issues.
“Serious violations are taking place because the country is out of control; many are exploiting their positions and pouring (in) their money, and conflicts are happening at grassroots level — people are tearing down photos of candidates and individuals are fighting with one another,” said Gilbert Hobeish on behalf of the demonstrators.
He added: “This is unacceptable, and the minister of interior must take responsibility.”
Hobeish criticized the Electoral Supervisory Commission, saying “it only oversees the civil society or change candidates.”
“We reject this in toto,” he said.
Ali Al-Amin, a candidate on the Shbaana Haki electoral list (who was assaulted last Sunday by Hezbollah supporters in the town of Shaqra because he hung his photo outside his house), held a press conference in the town of Nabatiyah Al-Fawqa and renewed his protest against “the tyranny that silences voices, oppresses liberties and acts on its own will and temperaments, making us feel as if we were in the law of the jungle era.”
He said that “resistance isn’t anyone’s property nor is it one party’s ownership.”
He also called on “the free people of the south to decide which life they wanted and to which homeland and identity they belonged.”
Campaign fever is rising in Lebanon 48 hours before the elections are held for the first time for Lebanese communities in several Arab countries. These elections are to be held 11 days before parliamentary elections take place inside Lebanon.