Turkey freezes assets of senior Houthi militia leaders

The ensuing conflict due to the Houthi uprising has killed around 10,000 Yemenis, according to the World Health Organization. (AFP)
Updated 18 April 2019
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Turkey freezes assets of senior Houthi militia leaders

  • Ankara has in the past targeted assets of then Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh and his son
  • The new sanctions targeted Houthi leader Abdulmalek Al-Houthi and two military commanders

ANKARA: Turkey has frozen the assets of three senior Houthi leaders in line with UN Security Council sanctions, the country’s official gazette said Thursday.

The decision is valid until Feb. 26, 2020, and affects Abdulmalek Al-Houthi, Abd Al-Khaliq Al-Houthi and Abdullah Yahya Al-Hakim.

The Iran-backed Houthi leadership and former Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh were sanctioned and blacklisted by the UN in 2014 for obstructing peace, security and stability in the country.

Ankara temporarily froze the assets of Saleh and his son in Turkish banks and other financial institutions, including safes, about two years ago. It has extended the duration of this freeze.

Saleh amassed between $32 billion and $60 billion through corruption and stashed assets in at least 20 countries during his 33 years in power, according to a UN report.

Experts are divided about Ankara’s real intention. 

Selim Sazak, an analyst and doctoral researcher at Brown University, said Ankara should have carried out these actions years ago.

“I think this is an effort to remove one of the problems in the relationship while Ankara is trying to negotiate a face-saving solution for the S-400s, while ensuring some arrangement in northern Syria that would perhaps permit Turkish troops into YPG-controlled territory,” he told Arab News.

Sazak said a senior minister was in the US capital last week to meet officials and that the decision to freeze assets might be connected to that visit.

“It is known that the US Treasury hasn’t been happy about Turkey’s inaction on Yemen sanctions. I would be surprised if it didn’t come up in the diplomatic meetings. So, they’re probably patching up that rift.”

For others, the move would contribute to the further isolation of the Houthis by blocking financial resources.

Oubai Shahbandar, a Turkey-based defense analyst, said the sanctions were an important message to the Houthis.

“Until they renounce terrorism and accept a peace process with the Yemeni government, the Houthis will continue to be viewed as pariahs by the international community. This latest measure adds more pressure as Houthi resources dry up,” he told Arab News.

Earlier, the UN Security Council expressed “grave concern” that agreements reached four months ago between the warring parties in Yemen had not been carried out and called for their implementation “without delay.”

The warring parties could start withdrawing forces from Hodeidah within weeks, a move needed to pave the way for political negotiations to end the war, the UN special envoy said on Thursday. 

Martin Griffiths said he had received on Sunday the formal acceptance of the government and the Houthis to implement a first phase of troop redeployments, while discussions were still underway for the second phase.


Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

Updated 22 May 2019
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Air raids kill 12 civilians in militant-held Syrian town: monitor

  • The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal
  • The Observatory said they have no proof of the chemical attacks

BEIRUT: Air strikes by Damascus or its ally Moscow killed 12 civilians in a market in Syria’s Idlib province, a monitor said Wednesday, and denied allegations that the government used chemical weapons.

Another 18 people were wounded when the warplanes hit the militant-held town of Maarat Al-Numan around midnight on Tuesday, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said.
The market was crowded with people out and about after breaking the daytime fast observed by Muslims during the holy month of Ramadan.

The Observatory said it had no evidence to suggest the Syrian army had carried out a new chemical attack despite Washington’s announcement it had suspicions.

“We have no proof at all of the attack,” Rami Abdul Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, told AFP.

“We have not documented any chemical attack in the mountains of Latakia,” he said.
The air strikes in Idlib came as heavy clashes raged in the north of neighboring Hama province after the militants launched a counterattack on Tuesday against pro-government forces in the town of Kafr Nabuda.
Fresh fighting on Wednesday took the death toll to 52 — 29 troops and militia and 23 militants, the Observatory said.
It said that the militants had retaken most of the town from government forces who recaptured it on May 8.
The militant-dominated Idlib region is nominally protected by a buffer zone deal, but the regime and its Russian ally have escalated their bombardment of it in recent weeks, seizing several towns on its southern flank.
A militant alliance led by Syria’s former Al-Qaeda affiliate, Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham, controls a large part of Idlib province as well as adjacent slivers of Aleppo, Hama and Latakia provinces.

The northern mountains are the only part of Latakia province, on Syria’s Mediterranean coast, that are not firmly in the hands of the government.

The Hayat Tahrir Al-Sham accused government forces on Sunday of launching a chlorine gas attack on its fighters in the north of Latakia province.

The Syrian army dismissed the reports as a fabrication, a military source told the pro-government Al-Watan newspaper.

But the US State Department said on Tuesday it was assessing indications that the government of president Bashar Assad used chemical weapons on Sunday.

“There were no civilians in the area,” Abdel Rahman said.

White Helmets rescue volunteers, who have reported past chemical attacks in rebel-held areas of Syria, told AFP Wednesday that they had no information on the purported gas attack.

International inspectors say Assad’s forces have carried out a series of chemical attacks during the Syrian civil war, which has killed more than 370,000 people and displaced millions since it started in 2011.
Russia and rebel ally Turkey inked the buffer zone deal in September to avert a government offensive on the region which threatened humanitarian disaster for its three million residents.
President Bashar Assad’s government has renewed its bombardment of the region since HTS took control in January.
Russia too has stepped up its air strikes in recent weeks as Turkey proved unable to secure implementation of the truce deal by the militants.
The Observatory says more than 180 civilians have been killed in the flare-up since April 30, and the United Nations has said tens of thousands have fled their homes.