Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war

Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war
This Sept. 30, 2015 photo shows weapons and equipment confiscated from a dhow, aboard the deck of USS Forrest Sherman. A ship carrying illicit arms believed to be from Iran was intercepted last week off the southern Arabian Peninsula by a member of a US-backed naval coalition and was not registered with any country, the US Navy said Wednesday. The American description of the ship’s seizure conflicted in some instances with an earlier account provided by a separate Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Shiite rebels, which claimed it had foiled the smuggling attempt. (AP)
Updated 22 March 2017

Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war

Iran steps up support for Houthis in Yemen’s war

LONDON/ANKARA/DUBAI: Iran is sending advanced weapons and military advisers to Yemen’s rebel Houthi movement, stepping up support for its Shiite ally in a civil war whose outcome could sway the balance of power in the Middle East, regional and Western sources say.
Sources with knowledge of the military movements, who declined to be identified, say that in recent months Iran has taken a greater role in the two-year-old conflict by stepping up arms supplies and other support.
This mirrors the strategy it has used to support its Lebanese ally Hezbollah in Syria.
A senior Iranian official said Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force — the external arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — met top IRGC officials in Tehran last month to look at ways to “empower” the Houthis.
“At this meeting, they agreed to increase the amount of help, through training, arms and financial support,” the official said.
“Yemen is where the real proxy war is going on and winning the battle in Yemen will help define the balance of power in the Middle East.”
Iran rejects accusations from Saudi Arabia that it is giving financial and military support to the Houthis in the struggle for Yemen, blaming the deepening crisis on Riyadh.
But Iran’s actions in Yemen seem to reflect the growing influence of hard-liners in Tehran, keen to pre-empt a tougher policy toward Iran signalled by US President Donald Trump.
Maj. Gen. Ahmed Assiri, spokesman for the Arab coalition fighting the Houthis, told Reuters: “We do not lack information or evidence that the Iranians, by various means, are smuggling weapons into the area.”
“We observe that the Kornet anti-tank weapon is on the ground, whereas before it was not in the arsenal of the Yemeni army or of the Houthis. It came later.”
Iran’s activities have alarmed Sunni Muslim countries in the Middle East, with one senior official from a neighboring country saying: “We want Iran to stop exporting Shi’ism in the region, whether in Yemen or elsewhere.”
A Saudi-led Arab coalition intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to back President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after he was ousted from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis.
Government forces in the south and east hold most of Yemen’s territory, while the Houthis control most population centers in the northwest, including Sanaa.
A former senior Iranian security official said Iran’s hard-line rulers planned to empower Houthi militia in Yemen to “strengthen their hand in the region.”
“They are planning to create a Hezbollah-like militia in Yemen. To confront Riyadh’s hostile policies ... Iran needs to use all its cards,” the former official said.

Disruptive force

A Western diplomat in the Middle East agreed: “Iran has long been trying to cultivate portions of the Houthi militias as a disruptive force in Yemen.”
“This is not to say that the Houthis are Hezbollah, but they do not need to be to achieve Iran’s goals, which is to encircle the Saudis, expand its influence and power projection in the region and develop levers of unconventional pressure.”
Sources say Iran is using ships to deliver supplies to Yemen either directly or via Somalia, bypassing coalition efforts to intercept shipments.
Western sources say once the ships arrive in the region, the cargoes are transferred to small fishing boats, which are hard to spot because they are so common in these waters.
Favored areas are believed to include fishing coves around the port of Mukalla, even though that would require smuggled men or equipment to make a long risky journey to the main Houthi-controlled districts.
The coalition ejected Al-Qaeda from the area last year, but still cannot prevent the smuggling of weapons and people, according to sources familiar with the waters.
Assiri acknowledged the difficulties of policing 2,700 km of coastline around Yemen.
“You cannot observe this length of coast even if you bring in all the navies of the world,” he said. “If we stop movement of those small boats, this will affect fishing by normal people.”
From September 2015 until March 2016, the French and Australian navies frequently intercepted weapons which officials said were most likely bound for the Houthis.
A US defense official said Iranian weapons smuggling to the Houthis had continued apace since March last year, when the seizures stopped. The equipment included long-range ballistic missiles capable of reaching deep into Saudi Arabia.
“There is no plausible explanation for these weapons’ appearance other than outside assistance. We assess that assistance has likely come from Iran,” the US official said.
Nic Jenzen-Jones, a military arms specialist and director of Armament Research Services, which has tracked Iranian equipment ending up in Yemen, also said quantities had increased.
“We have seen some more success in sea-based transfers over the last few months and I suspect the general uptick in the frequency of Iranian arms that we are documenting is partially a result of more successful deliveries by sea,” Jenzen-Jones said.
In a study of Iranian technology transfers to Yemen released on Wednesday, Conflict Armament Research (CAR) said it had evidence showing that the Qasef-1 UAV drone was made in Iran and was not of indigenous design and construction “in contrast to Houthi statements.”
On Jan. 30, a Saudi frigate was attacked near the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeidah, in an operation that Saudi official media blamed on the Houthis.
The US Navy said an unmanned remote-controlled boat laden with explosives rammed the Saudi vessel in the first known strike by a “drone” attack boat, and the Houthis had likely used technology supplied by Iran.
Jenzen-Jones said the quality of Iranian munitions had improved of late.
“Recent transfers of arms and munitions have also included Iranian Ababil series UAVs (drones), fitted with high explosive warheads and used by Houthis to engage high-value targets, such as radar and Patriot missile batteries,” he said.
Anti-ship and man-portable missiles were also suspected to have been transferred, he said.
In addition to the weapons, Iranian and regional sources said Tehran was providing Afghan and Shiite Arab specialists to train Houthi units and act as logistical advisers. These included Afghans who had fought in Syria under Qods Force commanders.


Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says

Saudi Arabia keen to protect human rights, HRC chief says
  • In observance of Friday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Al-Awwad said the Kingdom is making significant and constant efforts
  • Al-Awwad wants to criminalize and combat human trafficking through a set of actions and measures that ensure human dignity

RIYADH: Awwad bin Saleh Al-Awwad, president of the Human Rights Commission (HRC) and chairman of the National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking, said Saudi Arabia is keen to protect and promote human rights.

Al-Awwad also wants to criminalize and combat human trafficking through a set of actions and measures that ensure human dignity and protect it from all forms of abuse and exploitation.

In observance of Friday’s World Day Against Trafficking in Persons, Al-Awwad said the Kingdom is making significant and constant efforts to combat human trafficking through the establishment of the Saudi National Committee to Combat Human Trafficking.

The committee enacts regulations and legislation that ensure protecting victims and safeguarding their rights on a local and global level.

Not only did the Kingdom issue regulations and legislation to combat human trafficking, but it was also keen to make the necessary efforts to enforce them, Al-Awwad said.


Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours
Updated 41 min 47 sec ago

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours

Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province conducts 1,524 COVID-19 health tours

DAMMAM: Municipalities throughout Saudi Arabia have ramped up efforts to monitor compliance with health and safety measures introduced to help stop the spread of coronavirus disease (COVID-19).

The Eastern Province municipality recently carried out 1,524 inspection tours in one day at shopping malls, commercial centers, and stores.

Checks resulted in nine commercial outlets being shut down, while 77 violators were issued with penalties for ignoring health regulations, which included breaches of overcrowding rules and failure to use the Tawakkalna app.

Officials have urged members of the public to report any suspected health breaches by phoning the 940 call-center number or contacting authorities via the Balady app.


Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization
Updated 49 min 2 sec ago

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

Seven Saudi mosques reopen after sanitization

RIYADH: The Ministry of Islamic Affairs, Dawah and Guidance has reopened seven mosques in four regions that were temporarily closed for cleaning after coronavirus disease infections were confirmed among worshippers.

The ministry said on Thursday that two mosques were reopened in Riyadh, two in Qassim, two in Hail, and one in the Eastern Province.

Coronavirus infections have led to the closure of 1,909 mosques in the Kingdom in the past 173 days. The mosques were reopened after cleaning measures were completed.

The ministry urged worshippers and employees to follow precautionary measures, including wearing face masks, using their own prayer mats and maintaining social distancing.


21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen
Updated 30 July 2021

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

21 members of Saudi-backed team killed clearing Houthi mines in Yemen

JEDDAH: Twenty-one members of a Yemen-based team of Saudi and foreign mine clearance experts have lost their lives over three years operating in what has become known as the world’s largest minefield.

The tragic death toll was revealed in figures showing the scale of the project being carried out in the war-torn country in cooperation with local Yemeni teams under the umbrella of the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (Masam).

Launched by the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) on June 25, 2018, the initiative has so far cost $133 million, Masam’s director, Osama Al-Gosaibi, told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper.

He said the project’s field teams had dismantled 263,797 landmines, unexploded ordnance, and other deadly explosive devices. Since the start of the program up until July 23 this year, bomb squads dealt with 169,792 unexploded ordnances, 83,943 anti-tank mines, and 3,984 anti-personnel mines covering 25 million square meters of Yemeni territories.

The Yemen government said that the Iran-backed Houthis had planted more than 1 million landmines in the country since the start of the conflict in 2015, turning it into the most-mined nation since World War II.

KSrelief recently extended the Masam contract for another year, at a cost of $33.6 million. The project is carried out by Saudi and international experts through Yemeni teams that have been trained to remove all kinds of mines planted randomly by Houthi militias.

Al-Gosaibi pointed out that one of the main challenges faced by the teams was having to work without maps indicating the location of mines. In many cases they had to rely on local residents identifying suspected mined areas, which significantly slowed the clearance process, he added.

KSrelief’s general supervisor, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, said that the renewal of the Masam contract with the executive partner was, “out of the center’s sense of humanitarian responsibility toward the Yemeni brothers.”

He added: “It is extremely important to clear the Yemeni territories of the mines that Houthi militias manufactured and planted in a random, unpredicted, and camouflaged manner and that have caused permanent disabilities and injuries and human losses, including women, children, and seniors.”

According to statistics published by the Yemeni Observatory on Landmines in March, devices planted by Houthis in Taiz alone had killed and injured 3,263 civilians since 2015.

Data from the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, also known as the Rasd Coalition, showed 1,929 civilians, including 357 children and 146 women, have been killed in the past six years, and 2,242 civilians, including 519 children and 167 women, were disabled due to landmines.

During that same period, the coalition documented the destruction and damage of more than 2,872 public and private facilities in several Yemeni governorates, all due to anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.


Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus

Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus
Updated 30 July 2021

Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus

Saudi MOH: More than 26mn people now vaccinated against coronavirus
  • Authorities report 1,289 new coronavirus cases, 1,299 recoveries, 12 deaths

JEDDAH: More than 26 million people in Saudi Arabia have now received a coronavirus vaccine, including almost 1.5 million elderly people, the Saudi Ministry of Health announced on Thursday.

However, the ministry repeated its message that a second vaccine dose is necessary to achieve the highest levels of immunity, especially amid the emergence of the delta variant.

First dose ppointments are now available for those aged between 12 and 18 in all regions of the Kingdom, the ministry said.

People who have recovered from a coronavirus infection are now also able to complete two doses of the vaccine, with the possibility of receiving the first dose 10 days after the end of an infection.

The change was introduced following the release of medical studies that demonstrated the safety of the procedure.

The ministry said that the Kingdom’s nationwide vaccine rollout is moving forward as planned, and urged people to register to receive vaccines through the Sehhaty app.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia on Thursday reported 12 more coronavirus-related deaths, bringing the Kingdom’s death toll to 8,212.

There were 1,289 new cases, meaning that 523,397 people in the country have now contracted the disease. A total of 11,358 cases remain active, of which 1,395 are in critical condition.

Of the newly recorded cases, 260 were in the Makkah region, 253 in the Riyadh region, 220 in the Eastern Province and 63 in the Madinah region.

In addition, the ministry said that 1,299 patients recovered from the disease, increasing the total number of recoveries in the Kingdom to 503,827.

Saudi Arabia has so far conducted 24,800,706 PCR tests, with 117,620 carried out in the past 24 hours.

Testing hubs and treatment centers set up throughout the country have dealt with hundreds of thousands of people since the outbreak of the pandemic.

Taakad (make sure) centers provide coronavirus testing for those who show no or only mild symptoms or believe they have come into contact with an infected individual, while Tetamman (rest assured) clinics offer treatment and advice to people with virus symptoms such as fever, loss of taste and smell, and breathing difficulties.

Appointments for either service can be made via the ministry’s Sehhaty app.