Houthi attempt to hit Saudi civilians in drone attack condemned

A Civil Defense firefighter inspects a car damaged by falling debris from a Houthi drone that was shot down by Saudi Air Defense Forces over the city of Abha on Friday. (SPA)
Updated 09 March 2019

Houthi attempt to hit Saudi civilians in drone attack condemned

  • Arab Coalition air defense forces intercepted the drone before it hit its target
  • Five people injured by wreckage from the aircraft, which ‘showed characteristics of Iranian manufacturing’

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia’s Royal Air Defense Force on Friday shot down a Houthi drone targeting civilians in a residential area of the city of Abha, the Saudi Press Agency reported.

 After examining the wreckage, the Saudi-led Arab coalition said “it showed characteristics and specifications of Iranian manufacturing.”

Col. Turki Al-Maliki, the spokesman for the coalition, warned the Iranian-backed Houthi militia “in the strongest terms” to stop targeting civilian. He said the coalition would take all measures, in accordance with international humanitarian law, to counter such threats.

The drone was intercepted over a residential area in the city of Abha, about 230 kilometers north of the border with Yemen, according to reports on Al Arabiya TV. Col. Mohammed Al-Assami, a spokesman for the Directorate of Civil Defense in Asir region, said four Saudis, one of them a woman, and an Indian expat were injured by falling debris. Six vehicles and a number of houses were damaged.

Rajeh Badi, the official spokesman for the legitimate government in Yemen, said the Houthi militias are terrorists who have no interest in peace. The latest drone attack, he added, was further proof of their continued violation of all agreements and talks sponsored by the United Nations. He said the UN and the international community must understand that the Houthis are taking advantage of the negotiations and the international efforts to end the conflict in Yemen and have no desire to end the suffering of Yemenis.

“The United Nations and the international community must unequivocally condemn Houthi terrorist operations both inside and outside Yemen,” said Badi. “The complacency about, and non-condemnation of, such operations will embolden not only the Houthis but also all other terrorists in the world to continue to threaten international peace and security everywhere.”

He said the terrorist attacks carried out by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia clearly reveal the true nature and malicious intentions of the Iranian-backed militia, and stressed that they have not yet complied with agreements reached during peace talks in Stockholm and Jordan regarding the handover of the port of Hodeidah and a prisoner-swap deal.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Saudi political analyst and international-relations scholar, described the Houthi aggression as “unacceptable” and said the UN shares the blame by not taking a firm enough stance.

"I would blame the United Nations (for this latest Houthi attack)," he said. "It should immediately rally the international community against this criminal, Iran-aligned militia. This attack on a civilian population in Abha is a clear violation of the Stockholm agreement."

He said the Houthis cannot be trusted, adding: “They are not interested in peace. They are the enemies of Yemen. They want to prolong the war so that they can continue to hold Yemenis hostage at the point of gun. The world community should understand what Saudi Arabia is facing — this is terrorism.”

Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said: “The coalition’s priority is Yemen’s security and stability, and the war was imposed on it by the Houthi coup.”

Saudi Arabia and its Arab allies entered the war in Yemen in 2015, after the Houthis drove the internationally recognized government into exile in 2014. The coalition accuses Iran of supplying the Houthis with arms, including drones and missiles. Iran and the Houthis deny the accusations.

The Houthis have fired dozens of missiles into Saudi Arabia during the four-year conflict, most of which have been intercepted by the Saudi military. Most recently, coalition forces destroyed another Iranian-made Houthi drone over Abha on Jan. 30.

Residents in the city took to social media on Friday to praise the military forces, after the Saudi Ministry of Defense (@Mod_GovSa) posted on Twitter: “The Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces has intercepted and demolished a hostile drone.”

User @d7oom_asirri_9 responded: “The drone was intercepted and we did not feel a thing, it was only sound. Everyone can sleep at ease thanks to Allah and these men.”

@Mooog990 tweeted: “A missile was intercepted and shrapnel fell on Sultan City district in Abha. Everything was taken care of.”





How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

Dr. Fatima Alakeel, cybersecurity expert. (AN photo)
Updated 20 March 2019

How Saudi women are getting ahead of men as STEM graduates

  • ‘Securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,’ says Dr. Fatema Alakeel of King Saud University in Riyadh
  • ‘Saudi women are ambitious,’ says one graduate. ‘We are acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers’

DUBAI: More and more girls in Saudi Arabia are opting for an education in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM), and now the challenge is finding them employment, said Dr. Fatima Alakeel, a cybersecurity expert and faculty member at King Saud University (KSU) in Riyadh.
“In the Kingdom, STEM-related jobs are limited at the moment, as the economy is primarily oil-based and there are few technical jobs available,” said Alakeel, who is also the founder and CEO of the non-profit Confidentiality, Integrity & Availability Group (CIAG), which focuses on information security training and research in Riyadh.
According to a government report on the labor market situation in the third quarter of 2018, more than 30 percent of Saudi women aged between 15 and 65 are unemployed.
Among them, the highest rate of unemployment is among 20-24-year-olds (more than 70 percent) and among 25-29-year-olds (55 percent).
According to the report, there are 923,504 Saudi jobseekers, of whom 765,378 are women (82.2 percent).
“We have more girls in STEM education compared to Western countries,” said Alakeel, who completed her doctoral degree in computer science in the UK at the University of Southampton in 2017.
According to a report prepared by the Saudi Education Ministry, girls accounted for 57 percent of undergraduates for the year 2015-2016 in the Kingdom.
That same year, women outnumbered men in graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, information technology (IT), mathematics and statistics, and physics.
According to a survey Alakeel recently conducted on social media, “almost 80 percent of (Saudi) girls were keen to study STEM, but securing a job after the degree remains the challenge,” she said.
Maha Al-Taleb, 22, graduated earlier this year with a degree in technology from KSU, specializing in IT networks and security.
“It’s common for girls in the Kingdom to opt for STEM education,” said Al-Taleb, who now works in a public sector company in Riyadh as a junior information security analyst.
“Saudi women are ambitious. We’re acquiring high degrees and seeking successful careers. I don’t know why the world assumes that Saudi women are a backward tribal species who have no say in these matters. This entire perception is flawed.”
Al-Taleb got a job offer immediately after university, but realizes that not all her peers are as fortunate. Women “are facing problems in securing jobs, not because companies don’t want to hire us, but because employment for Saudi youths is a major challenge,” she said.
“In today’s Saudi Arabia, parents are encouraging their daughters to get a degree not just in the Kingdom; they also want them to go to Western universities. It has become a common phenomenon. Things have changed. Women are a crucial part of the nation’s development process.”
Not all women graduating in the Kingdom are as lucky, among them Razan Al-Qahtani. “It has been several months since I graduated, yet I haven’t been able to find a job. It has been a struggle so far,” said the 25-year-old IT graduate. “We have more talented and qualified girls, especially in the field of technology, but there are few jobs available. It’s a difficult situation, but we’re hopeful things will change very soon.”
Al-Qahtani expressed confidence that the Kingdom’s Vision 2030 reform plan will bring opportunities for qualified Saudis.
As part of Vision 2030, the government has committed to raise employment among Saudi women.
Alakeel said the government is working hard to find a solution, and it is only a matter of time until more such jobs are on offer.
“As per Vision 2030, there will be more jobs, including technical jobs, available in the country. Once we have more jobs, women will eventually get their due share,” she added. According to Alakeel, female empowerment and promotion to leading roles have made huge progress in Saudi Arabia, and this may affect existing STEM job opportunities.
“We’re glad to see Her Royal Highness Princess Reema bint Bandar Al-Saud becoming the first female ambassador of the country. It only suggests change is on the way,” Alakeel said.
Al-Taleb expressed pride in the way her parents have supported her, saying: “My father isn’t educated and my mother has basic literacy, but both provided me with the education I desired. They want their daughters to be as successful as their sons.”
Like women in any country, the transition from university to the workplace is not always easy, even for young Saudi women with technology degrees. Yet they are not losing hope.
“We realize these are difficult times in terms of employment, especially in technology-related fields, but things will change,” Al-Taleb said. “Saudi women will soon be ruling the fields of STEM all over the country.”