Israel reimposes blockade of fuel deliveries to Gaza

Israeli navy ships maneuver at the military port of Ashdod, southern Israel on Sunday, July 29, 2018 after intercepting a Norwegian-flagged boat trying to break its more than decade-long blockade of the Gaza Strip. (AFP)
Updated 02 August 2018

Israel reimposes blockade of fuel deliveries to Gaza

  • Israel already imposed a blockade on fuel deliveries to Gaza on July 17 but lifted it a week later
  • UN officials have called repeatedly for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the territory

JERUSALEM: Israel reimposed a blockade of fuel supplies to Gaza on Thursday in response to a resurgence of the flow of fire kites across the border, Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman said.
Lieberman said the crackdown was in response to “the pursuit of terrorism” using fire kites and balloons amid persistent protests along the border.
Israel already imposed a blockade on fuel deliveries to Gaza on July 17 but lifted it a week later in response to a reduction in the number of kites and balloons carrying firebombs into Israeli territory.
Israel says the devices have sparked hundreds of fires since April and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of damage.
Palestinians in Gaza see the kites and balloons as legitimate resistance against Israel’s decade-long blockade of the territory.
The coastal enclave suffers from a severe lack of electricity and relies on fuel-powered generators during outages that last hours at a time.
Israel controls all access to and from the territory apart from a single crossing with Egypt which has been only rarely opened.
It has fought three wars with Palestinian militants in Gaza since 2008 and says the blockade is necessary to keep them from obtaining weapons or materials that could be used for military purposes.
UN officials have called repeatedly for the blockade to be lifted, citing deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the territory, where some 80 percent of the two million population depend on aid.
Mass protests for the return of Palestinian refugees to their former homes in Israel began along the border on March 30, triggering a deadly response from the Israeli army.
At least 157 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire. One Israeli soldier has been killed.


Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

Updated 01 October 2020

Revealed: How Iran smuggles weapons to the Houthis

  • Captured gang tells of route to Yemen through base in Somalia

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A captured gang of arms smugglers has revealed how Iran supplies weapons to Houthi militias in Yemen through a base in Somalia.

The Houthis exploit poverty in Yemen to recruit fishermen as weapons smugglers, and send fighters to Iran for military training under cover of “humanitarian” flights from Yemen to Oman, the gang said.

The four smugglers have been interrogated since May, when they were arrested with a cache of weapons in Bab Al-Mandab, the strategic strait joining the Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden.

In video footage broadcast on Yemeni TV, gang leader Alwan Fotaini, a fisherman from Hodeidah, admits he was recruited by the Houthis in 2015. His recruiter, a smuggler called Ahmed Halas, told him he and other fishermen would be based in the Somali coastal city of Berbera, from where they would transport weapons and fuel to the Houthis. 

In late 2015, Fotaini traveled to Sanaa and met a Houthi smuggler called Ibrahim Hassam Halwan, known as Abu Khalel, who would be his contact in Iran. 

This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security.

Dr. Theodore Karasik, Security analyst

Pretending to be relatives of wounded fighters, Fotaini, Abu Khalel, and another smuggler called Najeeb Suleiman boarded a humanitarian flight to Oman, and then flew to Iran. They were taken to the port city of Bandar Abbas, where they received training on using GPS, camouflage, steering vessels and maintaining engines.

“We stayed in Bandar Abbas for a month as they were preparing an arms shipment that we would be transporting to Yemen,” Fotaini said.

On Fotaini’s first smuggling mission, his job was to act as a decoy for another boat carrying Iranian weapons to the Houthis. “The plan was for us to call the other boat to change course if anyone intercepted our boat,” he said.

He was then sent to Mahra in Yemen to await new arms shipments. The Houthis sent him data for a location at sea, where he and other smugglers met Abu Khalel with a boat laden with weapons from Iran, which were delivered to the Houthis.

Security analyst Dr. Theodore Karasik said long-standing trade ties between Yemen and Somalia made arms smuggling difficult to stop. “This is a complex network that requires constant monitoring, hence the focus on maritime security,” Karasik, a senior adviser to Gulf State Analytics in Washington, DC, told Arab News.

“The smuggling routes are along traditional lines of communication that intermix with other maritime commerce. The temptation to look the other way is sometimes strong, so sharp attention is required to break these chains.”