Saudi Arabia approves emergency plan to safeguard pilgrims

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Air ambulance helicopters of the Saudi Red Crescent Authority (SRCA) are on standby in Makkah for emergencies as the Hajj season approaches. (AFP file photo)
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Saudi security officials assist an elderly pilgrim at the Grand Mosque in Makkah on Thursday. (SPA)
Updated 11 August 2017
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Saudi Arabia approves emergency plan to safeguard pilgrims

JEDDAH/RIYADH: A five-point emergency response plan was approved on Thursday to ensure the security and safety of pilgrims during Hajj.
The plan covers risk assessment, the allocation of tasks and responsibilities, technical and administrative support, and the provision of food, fuel and accommodation in the event of a major incident.
Teams of volunteers will assist Civil Defense in implementing the plan if required, along with 32 government agencies. Many young people had expressed an interest in volunteer work because they were keen to help pilgrims, said Lt. Gen. Sulaiman Al-Amr, the director general of Civil Defense.
The aim was to provide the necessary resources for pilgrims to perform their rituals with ease, to guide them through the areas of pilgrimage in Makkah and Madinah and to protect them from accidents, Al-Amr said.
This year’s Hajj pilgrimage will begin in about three weeks.
Hajj infection-free so far: Health Ministry
So far, no infections have been diagnosed among pilgrims who have arrived at Hajj sites from around the world, the Health Ministry said.
Nonetheless, the ministry on its Twitter account urged pilgrims to continue to take adequate preventive measures against infectious diseases and flu, and to cooperate with health officials in the holy areas.
Points of entry by land, sea and air are manned by ministry officials to monitor the health of pilgrims.
The officials have been asked to supplement any vaccines that pilgrims may have failed to take before arrival.
6,015 pharma products, medical equipment cleared for pilgrims
The Saudi Food and Drug Authority (SFDA) has cleared 6,015 pharmaceutical products and medical equipment arriving at King Abdul Aziz International Airport in Jeddah and Prince Mohammed bin Abdul Aziz International Airport in Madinah.
“The SFDA did not authorize the release of some of the pilgrims’ food items because of poor storage, expiration or damage,” said Dr. Abdul Rahman Al-Sultan, SFDA executive director of awareness and information.
With the participation of the Madinah municipality, SFDA representatives inspected 341 food establishments, including kitchens, restaurants, fast-food outlets, bakeries and central markets, he added.
They seized 418 technical and health violators, and confiscated and destroyed 7,433 kg of food, including meat, chicken, fish, liver, vegetables, fruit, corn, chocolate and processed food.
The SFDA provided the Madinah secretariat with the establishments’ health and technical violations to implement fines and other penalties.
— With input from Mohammed Rasooldeen and Rodolfo C. Estimo Jr.


Hodeidah offensive: Coalition forces seize weapons supplied by Iran to Houthis

Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki speaks during a press conference in Riyadh. (AN photo by Bashir Saleh)
Updated 23 min 56 sec ago
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Hodeidah offensive: Coalition forces seize weapons supplied by Iran to Houthis

  • The arsenal included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a “drone boat” which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate.
  • Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels.

JEDDAH: Saudi-led coalition officials on Tuesday displayed weapons and explosives supplied by Iran to Houthi militias in the Yemeni port city of Hodeidah. 

The arsenal included drones, a sniper rifle, roadside bombs disguised as rocks and even a “drone boat” which had been filled with explosives that failed to detonate.

Equipment used to produce and load fuel for rockets that target Saudi Arabia contained Iranian labels. The weapons were captured on the battlefield in Hodeidah and displayed at a military base in the UAE. 

“Unsurprisingly, there are advanced military components in the Houthi militias’ hands,” said Talal Al-Teneiji, an official at the UAE Foreign Ministry.

“We took time to inspect and disassemble these to figure out the source ... and we can say that these elements are military-grade materials imported from Iran to the Houthi militias.”

As the week-long offensive in Hodeidah intensified on Tuesday, coalition forces consolidated their grip on the city’s airport and there was new fighting on the main coast road leading to the city center, with Apache helicopters providing air support to the coalition. 

“We can hear the sounds of artillery, mortars and sporadic machinegun fire. The Houthis have been using tanks,” one civilian on the coastal strip said. 

“Water has been cut off to many of the areas near the corniche area because the Houthis have dug trenches and closed water pipes.”

At the airport, which the coalition has controlled since Saturday, their forces stormed the main compound and took full command.

UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said: “We are waiting for the Houthis to realize the sort of military and psychological blow that they got with the airport ... we are giving them time to decide if they want to save the city ... and pull out.”

Oubai Shahbandar, a strategic communications adviser, told Arab News that “without the sea and airport of Hodeidah, the Houthi militia has effectively lost the war.”

They should agree to UN-hosted peace talks and not prolong the fighting. “The tide in this conflict has clearly turned in favor of the Arab coalition and the welfare of the Yemeni people ought to be paramount,” he said.