Yemen PM prepares to flee Aden as separatists advance

Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar is reported to be on the verge of fleeing to Saudi Arabia. (Reuters)
Updated 30 January 2018
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Yemen PM prepares to flee Aden as separatists advance

SANAA, Yemen: Yemen’s Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar was preparing to flee to Saudi Arabia on Tuesday after separatists backed by the United Arab Emirates seized the area around the presidential palace in the southern city of Aden in fierce battles, security officials said.
A Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE has been battling rebels in northern Yemen for nearly three years on behalf of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi’s government. But despite having a common enemy, the UAE and Hadi have been locked in a long-running power struggle, which boiled over on Sunday as clashes erupted across the government’s seat of power.
Elsewhere in Yemen, Al-Qaeda militants attacked a checkpoint in the southern Shabwa province, killing at least 12 soldiers in an area where Yemeni troops had claimed victory against the extremist group. The militants claimed the attack in a statement circulated on social media, saying it was in retaliation for abuses by US and UAE-backed forces.
The security officials said fighters loyal to the so-called Southern Transitional Council fought all way to the gates of the palace in central Aden, forcing Hadi’s troops to abandon their positions. The officials said Hadi’s prime minister and several Cabinet members would leave Yemen imminently for Riyadh, where Hadi is already based.
Saudi troops who have been guarding the palace for months stopped the separatists at the gate, preventing them from entering. A senior government official told The Associated Press that Prime Minister Ahmed Obaid Bin Daghar and several ministers remain inside. The official declined to say whether the prime minister was to leave Aden. All officials spoke on condition of anonymity under regulations.
In the northern district of Dar Saad, witnesses said coalition jets bombed a military camp of Hadi’s forces before separatists took control of it. Brig. Gen. Mahran Al-Qubati told the AP that his forces respected a cease-fire announced by the coalition earlier in the day but the separatists used the truce to attack his base using Emirati armored vehicles.
Col. Turki Al-Malki, the coalition spokesman, declined to comment on the bombing. “I am not able to discuss the details of an ongoing operation,” he told the AP.
The fighting had subsided by midday, when checkpoints run by both sides could be seen across the city.
The fighting in Aden erupted on Sunday, when a deadline issued by the separatists for the government to resign expired. Hadi, who has been in Saudi Arabia for most of the war, has described the separatists’ action as a “coup.” The violence has killed at least 36 people and wounded 185 since Sunday, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
It has also exposed deep divisions within the Saudi-led alliance against the Iran-backed rebels, known as Houthis, who control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa. The war has been locked in a bloody stalemate for the last three years, with more than 10,000 people killed and some 2 million displaced by the fighting.
The UAE has viewed Hadi with suspicion because of his alliance with the Yemeni branch of the Muslim Brotherhood, a pan-Arab political movement that the Emirates and some other Arab states view as a terrorist organization. Over the past year, the UAE has trained and armed its own forces in Yemen, including the separatists, in a direct challenge to Hadi. Saudi Arabia has thus far avoided taking sides.
The US State Department has expressed concern and called on all parties to “refrain from escalation and further bloodshed.” Washington backs the Saudi-led coalition.
“We also call for dialogue among all parties in Aden to reach a political solution,” the statement said. “The Yemeni people are already facing a dire humanitarian crisis. Additional divisions and violence within Yemen will only increase their suffering.”
In the attack in Shabwa, the militants hit a checkpoint guarded by the so-called Shabwa Elite Force, which has also been trained by the UAE, near the southern city of Ataq, the provincial capital.
Tribesmen in the area say the attack started with a mortar round fired at the checkpoint, followed by heavy gunfire.
Tribesman Youssef Al-Khalifi, who lives nearby, said he helped carry the bodies of the wounded to a hospital but that only one survived. Al-Khalifi said the attackers had destroyed a building next to the checkpoint where some of the guards were sleeping and that he helped retrieve some of the bodies from under the rubble.
The UAE-trained Shabwa force was deployed to the region last year and later declared victory over Al-Qaeda’s branch in Yemen, which had used Shabwa as a safe haven.


Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

Updated 19 July 2019
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Retired Lebanese soldiers in tense standoff with army during benefit cuts protest

  • Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place
  • The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions

BEIRUT: Retired Lebanese soldiers on Friday came close to clashing with the country’s army when weeks of protests over planned benefit cuts reached boiling point in the capital Beirut.
Dressed in military uniforms, large numbers of veterans attempted to force their way through barricades set up to stop demonstrators reaching the city’s parliament building where a final vote on a controversial draft austerity budget was taking place.
A military source told Arab News that the Lebanese army leadership had decided to block access to Najma Square, in Beirut’s Central District, where Parliament members were sitting.
But former soldiers, joined by the parents of army martyrs and activists from the Sabaa and Communist parties, surrounded the building in nearby streets before attempting to push through barbed wire, concrete and metal barriers erected by the Lebanese army and the Internal Security Forces.
The protesters, waving Lebanese and army flags, got as far as the entrance to Maarad Street, on which Parliament is located, putting them in direct confrontation with the Lebanese troops.
Ten brigades of reinforcements were drafted in to help push back the veterans before protest leaders eased tensions by calling for a retreat to a nearby square to avoid any further clashes.
The meeting to vote on the 2019 draft budget came after a marathon three days of discussions. Before entering the parliamentary session, Lebanese Minister of Defense Elias Bou Saab said that “misleading the retired soldiers” would be “harmful to the image and demands of the protesters” and called on them to carry out “peaceful demonstrations.” He added that there had been mixed and confused messages regarding benefit cuts.
However, retired Brig. Gen. Georges Nader had vowed that protesters would not back off until the vote on their benefits was dropped.
Discussing the protests in Parliament, Samy Gemayel, president of the Phalange party, objected to the reduction in the army budget, to which Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri said: “This has been concluded on the bases of an understanding with the army and the military establishment.”
MP Paula Yacoubian said that “retired soldiers are trying to storm Parliament,” to which Berri said: “Those who want to storm Parliament have not yet been born.”
The row had centered on a controversial article concerning amendments to the country’s income tax act, and Lebanese Finance Minister Ali Hassan Khalil insisted on defending it. He said: “It does not cost the retired soldiers, for instance, more than 3,000 Lebanese pounds ($2) per month. This amount rises to 400,000 pounds for brigadiers.” He added: “Which country in the world gives a retiree 85 percent of his salary?”
After a meeting between the minister and Nader in Parliament, the retired brigadier general went out to reassure the veterans that cuts from their salaries in respect of medicine and income tax would be reduced. Less intense protests continued for more than three hours before Parliament approved the relevant article in the budget.
Meanwhile, Berri had started the Parliament session by reading a resignation submitted by Hezbollah MP Nawaf Musawi.