How Saudi Arabia’s fleet of aircraft provide round the clock security to millions at the Grand Mosque in Makkah

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Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba during Ramadan (Arab News photos by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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The Grand Mosque in Makkah can be seen with the clock tower in the foreground (Arab News photos by Ziyad Alarfaj)
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Pilgrims circumambulate the Kaaba during Ramadan (Arab News photos by Ziyad Alarfaj)
Updated 13 June 2018
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How Saudi Arabia’s fleet of aircraft provide round the clock security to millions at the Grand Mosque in Makkah

  • It runs continuous missions to keep an eye on Makkah’s traffic conditions and the Grand Mosque from the sky
  • Recorded data is transferred directly to the necessary authorities, where procedures are put in place to enhance security and ease traffic

JEDDAH: The Ministry of Interior’s General Security Aviation Command, with its advanced fleet of aircraft, is the main element in the authorities’ security plans for the Grand Mosque this Ramadan. 

It runs continuous missions to keep an eye on Makkah’s traffic conditions and the Grand Mosque from the sky. Arab News accompanied the Security Aviation aircraft in one of the tours above the Grand Mosque and the routes leading to it.

The aircraft took off from the Security Aviation base in Jeddah an hour before sunset and headed toward Makkah, where the aircraft continuously scanned areas of the Grand Mosque, the areas around it and the routes leading to it using latest monitoring gadgets.

Recorded data is transferred directly to the necessary authorities, where procedures are put in place to enhance security and ease traffic. The planes also execute medical evacuation, take part in mock drills and perform security and humanitarian tasks (search, rescue and evacuation).

Security Aviation Commander Brig. Gen. Hassan Al-Bassam said the General Aviation Security Command is working in the Ramadan season according to plan. He said that all services are focused on visitors to the Grand Mosque.

Al-Bassam said they are preparing themselves with each passing day of Ramadan and the increasing number of pilgrims, along with getting ready for the last 10 days of the holy month. Air presence has been intensified, with continuous surveillance and monitoring of the central district and the roads leading to it.


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 20 June 2018
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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.