Showdown looms as Iran ship nears Yemeni waters

Updated 18 May 2015

Showdown looms as Iran ship nears Yemeni waters

DUBAI: An Iranian cargo ship carrying aid and activists crossed into the Gulf of Aden on Sunday and will reach Yemen’s Hodaida port on May 21, Iranian media reported, in a challenge to coalition naval forces controlling Yemeni waters.
A coalition of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia has imposed searches on all ships trying to enter Yemen in a bid to prevent weapons being smuggled to the Iran-allied Houthi rebel group which controls much of the country, including Hodaida.
Iranian officials last week said they would not allow the coalition forces to inspect the Iran Shahed, which is under military escort, and warned of war if the cargo ship was attacked.
“After entering the Gulf of Aden today... we expect to be in the confines of Hodaida port early on May 21,” the Iran Shahed’s captain, Massoud Ghazi Mirsaid, was quoted as saying by state news agency IRNA.
Iran says the ship is carrying food aid, medical volunteers and seven Western activists, one of whom was identified by the Tasnim news agency as Caleb Maupin, a native of Ohio who has campaigned against war and the US financial system.
The presence of foreign activists has previously complicated plans to intercept ships carrying them.
Maupin also criticized a plea from his native United States that Iran redirect the ship to Djibouti, where the United Nations is coordinating relief efforts.
Reuters ship tracking data showed the Iran Shahed located off the coast of eastern Yemen at 1110 GMT, heading west toward the Bab El-Mandeb strait, one of the world’s busiest oil shipping routes.
— REUTERS


Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

Updated 16 min 18 sec ago

Russian mediation reopens major highway in NE Syria

  • Syria records 20 new cases of coronavirus in largest single-day increase

BEIRUT/DAMASCUS: Traffic returned to a major highway in northeastern Syria for the first time in seven months on Monday, following Russian mediation to reopen parts of the road captured last year by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Syrian Kurdish media and a Syrian Kurdish official said several vehicles accompanied by Russian troops began driving in the morning between the northern towns of Ein Issa and Tal Tamr. 

The two towns are controlled by regime forces and Syrian Kurdish fighters while the area between them is mostly held by Turkey-backed opposition fighters.

Turkish troops and allied Syrian fighters captured parts of the highway known as M4 in October, when Ankara invaded northeastern Syria to drive away Syrian Kurdish fighters. The M4 links Syria’s coastal region all the way east to the Iraqi border.

Four convoys will drive on the M4 every day with two leaving from Tal Tamr and two from Ein Issa, according to the Kurdish ANHA news agency. The report said a convoy will leave from each town at 8 a.m., and another set of convoys will do the same, three hours later.

The ANHA agency added that the opening of the highway will shorten the trip between the two towns as people previously had to take roundabout, side roads.

“This is the first time the road has been opened” since October, said Mervan Qamishlo, a spokesman for the Kurdish-led and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces.

Russia, a main power broker with Turkey in Syria, mediated the deal to reopen the highway, he said. Russia and Turkey back rival groups in Syria’s nine-year conflict.

Coronavirus cases

Syria reported 20 new cases of the novel coronavirus on Monday, the largest single-day increase to date.

The war-torn country has recorded 106 infections and four deaths so far, and new cases have increased in recent days with the return of Syrians from abroad.

Syria has kept an overnight curfew in place but has begun to open some of its economy after a lockdown. Doctors and relief groups worry that medical infrastructure ravaged by years of conflict would make a more serious outbreak deadly and difficult to fend off.