UN’s World Food Programme threatens Houthis with cut to aid

Saudi aid packets being distributed among the needy in Lahj, Yemen. (SPA)
Updated 02 January 2019
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UN’s World Food Programme threatens Houthis with cut to aid

  • Its ultimatum was a strong warning and an indication of how corruption has increased the threat of famine in Yemen, where four years of war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

JEDDAH: Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani on Tuesday praised the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) for revealing the misuse and theft of food aid by Houthi militia, who have been accused of distributing aid to their followers and fabricating records. 

The minister said the report, while delayed, stressed that the organization's aim was to ensure aid reached those who needed it.

The WFP threatened to suspend some aid shipments to Yemen if the Houthis did not investigate and stop theft and fraud in food distribution, warning the suspension would affect some 3 million people.

Its ultimatum was a strong warning and an indication of how corruption has increased the threat of famine in Yemen, where four years of war has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Al-Iryani said in a statement to Saba news agency: “The WFP report indicates that the Houthi militia is deliberately starving the population in the areas under its control to increase their suffering, which gives it an opportunity to exploit this suffering through international forums to achieve political and military objectives.

“The Houthi militia deliberately deprives millions of Yemenis of salaries, livelihoods and aid from donor countries, increasing their suffering, and pushing many of them to participate in the war, after opening the door of recruitment and joining the fronts as a single option for those who lost their sources of income.”

Al-Iryani added that the Houthi militia had developed local and affiliated entities and organizations,  and were receiving assistance from international organizations, redirecting it to their supporters and fighters on the front lines, or exploiting it to spread extremist ideology among citizens, helping to prolong the conflict rather than using aid to ease the lives of people.

He also called on aid organizations to enhance the transparency of their work and to move their offices as soon as possible to the temporary capital of Aden to help them carry out their work with transparency and neutrality, away from the restrictions imposed by the Houthi militia.

In a letter sent to militia leader Abdul-Malek Al-Houthi, WFP director David Beasley said that an agency survey showed that aid was only reaching 40 percent of eligible beneficiaries in the militia-held capital, Sanaa. Only a third were receiving aid in the militia’s northern stronghold of Saada.

“If you don’t act within 10 days, the WFP will have no choice but to suspend the assistance... that goes to nearly three million people,” the letter said. “This criminal behavior must stop immediately.”

Earlier the WFP accused the Houthis of stealing “from the mouths of hungry people” and diverting food deliveries. The agency said it obtained photographic evidence showing militias seizing food and manipulating lists of aid recipients. The WFP is helping around 8 million hungry people in Yemen and has been working to increase its scope to reach a total 12 million. 


Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

Updated 12 min 5 sec ago
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Netanyahu to cut US trip short after rocket attack near Tel Aviv

  • Netanyahu said the incident will evoke a strong Israeli reaction
  • Palestinian rockets rarely reach an area at that distance from Gaza

MISHMERET/JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said on Monday that he is to cut short his trip to the United States after a rocket attack near Tel Aviv.

“In light of the security events I decided to cut short my visit to the US,” Netanyahu said, calling the attack a heinous crime that would draw a strong Israeli response.

He said he would meet with President Donald Trump in the coming hours and then fly back immediately.

A rocket fired from the Gaza Strip hit a house in a community north of Tel Aviv and caused it to catch fire, wounding seven Israelis, authorities and medics said.

Israel’s army said the rocket was fired from the Palestinian enclave run by Islamist movement Hamas, raising the risk of another escalation between the two sides just ahead of April 9 Israeli elections.

The house hit was located in the community of Mishmeret, police said. Medics said they were treating one Israeli with moderate wounds and four others injured lightly.

Mishmeret is more than 80 kilometers from the Gaza Strip and rocket fire from the Palestinian enclave at that distance is rare.

Monday’s incident comes after two rockets were fired from Gaza toward Tel Aviv — also rare — on March 14.

No damage or injuries were caused, but Israel responded to that and further rocket fire by hitting what it said were around 100 Hamas targets across the Gaza Strip.

Four Palestinians were reported wounded in those strikes.

Both Hamas and its ally Islamic Jihad denied they were behind the March 14 rocket fire toward Tel Aviv, raising the possibility they were launched by fringe groups.

Israel’s military said they were launched by Hamas, but later there were Israeli media reports that the army’s preliminary assessment was that they had been fired by mistake during maintenance work.

The reports were a sign that Israel was seeking to calm tensions. The military had refused to comment on the reports at the time.

Monday’s rocket comes just days ahead of the March 30 one-year anniversary of Palestinian protests and clashes along the Gaza Strip’s border with Israel.

An informal truce between Hamas and Israel had led to relative calm along the border of the blockaded strip, but recent weeks have seen another uptick in violence.