Dozens of Houthis killed in Najran misadventure

Updated 02 December 2015

Dozens of Houthis killed in Najran misadventure

DUBAI, UAE: Dozens of Yemeni Houthi fighters were killed during an assault on the border with Saudi Arabia, residents and Saudi state television said on Tuesday, in what they described as a major push to try to capture territory inside the kingdom.
The Houthis have been trying to push into Saudi territory since a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia threw its support for the UN-recognized Yemeni government led by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
“There was an attempt, as usual, to breach the border and sneak into Saudi territory but the ... armed forces as a whole, were watching them and this attempt was thwarted,” Brig. Gen. Ahmed Al-Assiri, spokesman of the Saudi-led coalition, said in comments broadcast by Saudi state television on Tuesday.
“Those who tried to infiltrate were killed and the situation is stable, thanks be to God,” he added.
The channel said Assiri put the number of those killed at 180 Houthis and allied fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
That number could not be independently verified, but local residents said dozens of Houthi fighters had been killed in what they said was a major assault by hundreds of Houthi fighters on the border. Saudi forces used helicopters as well as rockets to repel the Houthis, they said.
The Houthi-run Saba news agency claimed that fighters had seized three Saudi military outposts near the city of Najran, destroying several armored vehicles, including two US-made Abrams tanks and three Bradley vehicles.
Saudi authorities on Monday said three Border Guard soldiers were martyred in the heavy fighting but the infiltrators were repelled.
The United Nations says that at least 5,700 people, nearly half of them civilians, have been killed since the war in Yemen escalated in March 2015, with Iran-backed Houthis and Saleh loyalists on one side and forces loyal to President Hadi's government on the other.
Hadi supporters, backed by ground forces from the Saudi-led coalition, have since then driven the Houthis out of the southern port city of Aden and other areas in the former South Yemen, as well as Marib east of the capital Sanaa.
But the rebel forces remain firmly in control of the capital and much of the northern part of Yemen.

(Reporting by Sami Aboudi)

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

Updated 45 min 56 sec ago

Tehran mayor sees ‘threat’ in Iranians’ dissatisfaction

  • The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year

TEHRAN: Iran’s low voter turnout reflects a wider malaise in a country long buckling under sanctions and more recently also hit hard by the coronavirus, spelling “a threat for everyone,” Tehran’s mayor Pirouz Hanachi told AFP.

“The turnout at the ballot box is a sign of people’s satisfaction level,” said Hanachi, mayor of Iran’s political and business center and largest city, with more than 8 million people.

“When there is dissatisfaction with the government or the state, it then reaches everyone and that includes the municipality too,” he said in an interview on Tuesday.

Iran has suffered the double blow of a sharp economic downturn caused by US economic sanctions over its contested nuclear program, and the region’s most deadly COVID-19 outbreak.

Reformists allied with moderate President Hassan Rouhani lost their parliamentary majority in a landslide conservative victory in February, in a major setback ahead of presidential elections next year.

Voter turnout hit a historic low of less than 43 percent in the February polls after thousands of reformist candidates were barred from running by the Islamic republic’s powerful Guardian Council.

Such voter fatigue “can be a threat for everyone, not just reformists or conservatives,” warned the mayor, a veteran public servant with a background in urban development who is tied to the reformist camp.

The conservative resurgence reflects dissatisfaction with the Rouhani camp that had sought reengagement with the West and the reward of economic benefits — hopes that were dashed when US President Donald Trump in 2018 pulled out of a landmark nuclear deal and reimposed crippling sanctions.

The International Monetary Fund predicts Iran’s economy will shrink by 6 percent this year.

“We’re doing our best, but our situation is not a normal one,” Hanachi said. “We are under sanctions and in a tough economic situation.”

As he spoke in his town hall office, the shouts of angry garbage truck drivers echoed from the street outside, complaining they had not received pay or pensions for months.

The mayor downplayed the small rally as the kind of event that could happen in “a municipality in any other country,” adding that the men were employed not by the city itself but by contractors.

Iran’s fragile economy, increasingly cut off from international trade and deprived of crucial oil revenues, took another major blow when the novel coronavirus pandemic hit in late February.

Since then the outbreak has killed more than 12,000 people and infected over 248,000, with daily fatalities reaching a record of 200 early this week, according to official figures.

A temporary shutdown of the economy in recent months and closed borders sharply reduced non-oil exports, Iran’s increasingly important lifeline.

This accelerated the plunge of the Iranian rial against the US dollar, threatening to further stoke an already high inflation rate.

In just one impact, said Hanachi, the Teheran municipality lost 2 trillion rial ($9 million) because of sharply reduced demand for public transport in recent months.

As many Tehran residents got back into their cars to avoid tightly packed subways and buses, this has done nothing to help solve Tehran’s long-standing air pollution issue.

Tehran has had only 15 “clean” air quality days since the March 20 Persian New Year, according to the municipality.

One of Hanachi’s tasks is to fight both the virus and air pollution — a tough juggling act as car travel is safer for individuals but also worsens the smog that often cloaks the capital.

The mayor said he worried that, after restrictions on car travel were reimposed in May to reduce air pollution, subways are once again packed during peak hours, as is the bustling city center.

Tehran’s Grand Bazaar, which is now crowded with shoppers, warned Hanachi, “can become a focal point for the epidemic.”