Operation to take Hodeidah essential for Yemenis, security of Red Sea: Saudi ambassador to US

File photo showing Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US, Prince Khalid bin Salman, arriving at Capitol Hill in Washington. (Reuters)
Updated 14 June 2018
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Operation to take Hodeidah essential for Yemenis, security of Red Sea: Saudi ambassador to US

  • Prince Khalid: 'Coalition operations to liberate Hodeidah aim to support the freedom of Yemenis against the Houthi militia.'
  • 'Operations to re-take Hodeidah are important to secure Red Sea maritime routes.'

LONDON: The Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Khalid bin Salman defended the coalition advance on Hodeidah, assuring the world that it was done to secure Yemen and maritime routes in the Red Sea.

Prince Khalid said that the "operations to liberate the city of Hodeidah are in line with the support delivered by the Saudi-led Arab coalition to the Yemeni people, and a way to support their freedom against the militia supported by Iran bent on sowing chaos and destruction in the country."

The Saudi ambassador was speaking as operation ‘Golden Victory’ launched by the Saudi-led coalition to re-take Hodeidah port and town has been gaining momentum after Yemeni forces, backed by coalition air power, advanced to areas south of Hodeidah on Yemen’s western Red Sea coast. Yemeni forces on Wednesday got closer to Hodeidah after taking control of the suburb of Nekheila south of the town.

Prince Khalid added in a separate tweet that the Saudi-led coalition’s operations in Hodeidah are important in light of the increased threat the militias controlling the port have been posing for maritime security in the Red Sea. The ambassador noted that Hodeidah port, which is on the Red Sea close to the Bab-el-Mandeb strait, "is a vital waterway through which 15 percent of world trade passes annually as well as regional trade and commerce." He added that "Iran-backed Houthi militia have launched repeated attacks on commercial and military ships belonging to Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the US."

In later tweets, Prince Khalid reminded the world that "the Kingdom has been and will continue to be at the forefront of humanitarian efforts to support the brotherly people of Yemen." He added that Saudi Arabia has supported Yemen all along and "these efforts included the recent contribution of $1.5 billion to UN relief efforts in Yemen, the largest in UN history, as well as initiatives to enhance the capacity of ports throughout Yemen including facilitiating the entry of cranes into Hodeidah." The ambassador reiterated his country’s position regarding an end to the conflict, saying that "the most effective solution to the situation in Hodeidah, and in Yemen, is for the Houthi militias to adhere to UNSC resolution 2216 which calls for the unconditional withdrawal from all occupied cities."

He added that Houthi militias continue to obstruct UN mediation efforts to end the conflict, leading special UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffith to propose handing over control of Hodeidah port to the UN, which is the same proposal made by the coalition many months ago.


Enigmatic traveler who revealed full majesty of Makkah to the world

Pilgrims camp in Arafat during Hajj in this rare old picture. (Supplied)
Updated 19 min 28 sec ago
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Enigmatic traveler who revealed full majesty of Makkah to the world

  • The next day he and his companions wore Ihram garments and walked along winding roads until they reached Makkah
  • The vessel floundered and sank, forcing Al-Abbasi and his men to flee in a lifeboat and row for hours before reaching the safety of a Red Sea island

JEDDAH: Ali Bey Al-Abbasi was not the first European enamored with the Arab Peninsula and the mysteries of Makkah. Nor was he the first Westerner to visit the city — but he was an unusually resourceful man, with wealth of unknown origin and a great thirst for discovery, who provided Westerners with the first comprehensive account of the city.
He was born Domingo Francisco Jorge Badía y Leblich in Barcelona in 1767. After receiving a liberal education, he focused on astronomy, medicine and mineral science. He also developed an interest in learning Arabic.
“Al-Abbasi was an agent of the king of Spain or of Napoleon,” says August Raleigh, author of the book “Makkah in the Eyes of a Christian Pilgrim.”
In 1801, Al-Abbasi set off for Paris and London, returning to Spain two years later wearing Islamic clothing. Later, he formed a close friendship with the sultan of Morocco who, with growing affection, advised the Spaniard to find a wife, to which Al-Abbasi replied that he had made a pledge not to marry before visiting Makkah. The sultan tried to discourage Al-Abbasi from making the trip but when he could not, and saw the determination of his friend, he presented him with a beautiful, extravagant tent as a gift.
On the third day of Shawwal, 1806, Al-Abbasi joined a convoy heading to Makkah, taking with him 14 camels and two horses. He boarded a ship from Suez but fate, and the weather, were not on his side. The vessel floundered and sank, forcing Al-Abbasi and his men to flee in a lifeboat and row for hours before reaching the safety of a Red Sea island. From there, they were rescued and taken to Jeddah.
On the 12th day of Dul Qaada, Al-Abbasi had to be carried on a stretcher because he had a fever that weakened him and damaged his bones. The next day he and his companions wore Ihram garments and walked along winding roads until they reached Makkah.
Al-Abbasi entered the city and when he reached the courtyard of the mosque, a guide gestured for him to stop. He pointed to the Kaaba and said: “Look. Look at the house of God.”
The Spaniard was deeply affected by the reverence of his experience. He wrote: “The house of God is covered with a black robe from above to be draped, surrounded by a ring of lamps, the unaccustomed hour and the stillness of the night; and our guide, who was speaking before us as if he were inspired, all these images formed an amazing image that will not be erased from my memory.”
He remained in the city, living among noblemen and aristocrats. The governor of Makkah even asked him to help clean the Kaaba. Describing one of the many incredible sights that he witnessed, during a year when the number of pilgrims was 83,000, Al-Abbasi wrote: “Only in Arafat can one get an idea of the majestic scene of pilgrimage. There are countless people from all nations and colors from every corner of the world. Despite the thousands of countless dangers and obstacles that they had to overcome, all of them worship one God. Everyone counts themselves as members of one family. There is no intermediary between man and his Lord; everyone is equal before their creator.”
Al-Abbasi, who later wrote of his experiences, was the first European to present to the world a detailed account of Makkah, unlike the fragmented notes of earlier travelers such as Ludovico di Varthema and Joseph Bates. He went so far as to include a precise location, determined through astronomical observation, and recreated a map of the Grand Mosque.
Al-Abbasi continued to travel, visiting many countries before he died of dysentery in 1818, in Aleppo, Syria. He was buried in Balqa, near Amman, the capital of Jordan.