UAE-trained ‘Giants’ assault force secures key road into Hodeidah

The coalition is supporting the Yemeni troops on the ground with fighter jets and Apache attack helicopters. (AFP)
Updated 08 November 2018
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UAE-trained ‘Giants’ assault force secures key road into Hodeidah

  • Military officials said the Houthis had been firing mainly from elevated and rooftop sniper positions
  • Hodeidah, one of the last Houthi strongholds on Yemen’s western coast, was seized by the militia along with the capital Sanaa in 2014.

JEDDAH: Saudi-led coalition forces pounded Iran-backed Houthi militia positions in Hodeidah with airstrikes and a ground assault on Wednesday, and recaptured a major road leading into the city.

UAE-trained assault troops known as the Giants, backed by Apache attack helicopters, secured an urban area along 50th Street, which leads to the city’s key Red Sea port facilities about 5 km away.

Military officials said the Houthis had been firing mainly from elevated and rooftop sniper positions, and had now resorted to burning tires to obscure the line of sight of the helicopter gunships. Most civilians had fled the area, they said.

Dozens of fighters have been killed and hundreds wounded both sides since a renewed coalition offensive on the city began at the end of last week, following calls by the Trump administration for a cease-fire by late November.

The fighting has left bodies lying on the ground and inside burnt-out vehicles at the edge of the city, and several civilians have been killed by shelling in residential areas.

The Saudi-led coalition, which seeks to restore to power the internationally recognized Yemeni government, has been at war with the Houthis since March 2015.

Hodeidah is a key entry point for humanitarian aid to Yemen, but is also the major supply route to the Houthis for Iranian weapons and ammunition, including parts for missiles used to attack Saudi Arabia.


Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

Syrian children are pictured at a refugee camp in the village of Mhammara in the northern Lebanese Akkar region on March 9, 2019. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2019
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Jumblatt expresses concern over torture of Syrian refugees

  • Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon
  • Jan Kubis: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible

BEIRUT: Lebanese Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Jumblatt has expressed concern about reports that Syrian refugees returning to their country from Lebanon face torture and murder.

This coincides with a debate in Lebanon about whether Syrian refugees should return without waiting for a political solution to the conflict in their country. 

UN Special Coordinator Jan Kubis stressed after meeting with Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri on Monday the “urgent need to ensure the safe, voluntary and dignified return of Syrian refugees home, according to international humanitarian norms.” 

Kubis added: “The UN and the humanitarian community will continue to facilitate these returns as much as possible. Another very important message was also to support the host communities here in Lebanon.”

Mireille Girard, representative of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), on Monday said: “The reconstruction process in Syria may not be enough to attract refugees to return. We are working to identify the reasons that will help them to return.”

She added: “The arrival of aid to the refugees is an element of trust that helps them to return. Their dignity and peaceful living must be ensured.”

Social Affairs Minister Richard Kouyoumdjian said the Lebanese General Security “issued lists containing the names of refugees wishing to return to their homes, but the Syrian regime accepted only about 20 percent of them.”

He added: “The solution is to call on the international community to put pressure on Russia, so that Moscow can exert pressure on (Syrian President) Bashar Assad’s regime to show goodwill and invite Syrian refugees to return to their land without conditions, procedures, obstacles and laws that steal property and land from them.”

Lebanese Education Minister Akram Chehayeb said: “The problem is not reconstruction and infrastructure, nor the economic and social situation. The main obstacle is the climate of fear and injustice in Syria.”

He added: “There are 215,000 Syrian students enrolled in public education in Lebanon, 60,000 in private education, and there are informal education programs for those who have not yet attended school to accommodate all children under the age of 18.” 

Chehayeb said: “As long as the displacement crisis continues, and as long as the (Assad) regime’s decision to prevent the (refugees’) return stands … work must continue to absorb the children of displaced Syrians who are outside education to protect Lebanon today and Syria in the future.”