Houthis start withdrawal from Hodeidah port, Yemeni minister dismisses pullout as a ‘show’

Houthis start withdrawal from Hodeidah port, Yemeni minister dismisses pullout as a ‘show’
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Houthis in the port city of Hodeidah on December 29, 2018. (File/AFP)
Houthis start withdrawal from Hodeidah port, Yemeni minister dismisses pullout as a ‘show’
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Yemen's Houthi militia members are seen during withdrawal from Saleef port in Hodeidah. (Reuters)
Updated 16 May 2019

Houthis start withdrawal from Hodeidah port, Yemeni minister dismisses pullout as a ‘show’

Houthis start withdrawal from Hodeidah port, Yemeni minister dismisses pullout as a ‘show’
  • The Houthis was said to make an “initial unilateral redeployment” from the ports of Saleef
  • The UN mission will monitor the redeployment, a first step toward concluding the peace agreement

HODEIDAH: Houthi militia on Saturday started withdrawing forces from Saleef port in Hodeidah under a UN-sponsored deal stalled for months, a Reuters witness said, reviving hopes for peace efforts to end the four-year war.

But a minister in the Yemeni government backed by Saudi Arabia dismissed the Iranian-backed Houthis' pullout as a "show" meant to "misinform the international community".

The move is the first major step in implementing the pact reached last year by the government and the Houthis for a truce and troop withdrawal in Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis.

UN teams were overseeing the Houthi redeployment in Saleef, used for grain, as other teams headed to the second port of Ras Isa, used for oil, to start implementing the withdrawal from there, according to the witness.

A dozen trucks carrying Houthi fighters, armed with rocket-propelled grenade launchers and machine guns, departed from Saleef. Two ships were docked at the port and operations were running normally, said the witness who was at the facility.

"The coast guards have taken over in Saleef," he said. "They and UN officials have started checking equipment at the port."

The Houthis said their "unilateral step shows our commitment to implement the Hodeidah agreement and to achieving peace," after four years of fighting in the Arab nation.

However, Yemeni Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani told Reuters the pullout was "a flagrant show".

"It's an attempt to misinform the international community ahead of a meeting of the UN Security Council" on Yemen, he said. "A group of (Houthi) militiamen left and they were replaced by others wearing coast guard police uniforms."

The UN Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) has said the Houthis would make an "initial unilateral redeployment" from the ports between May 11 and May 14.

It said the redeployment would enable the United Nations to take a leading role in supporting the local Red Sea Ports Authority in managing the ports and enhance UN checks on cargoes. It would also allow humanitarian corridors to be reopened.

The first day of a withdrawal of forces by the Houthis from three of Yemen's Red Sea ports went "in accordance with established plans", the head of the UN mission to monitor the deal said on Sunday.

"All three ports were monitored simultaneously by United Nations teams as the military forces left the ports and the Coast Guard took over responsibility for security," Lt. Gen. Michael Lollesgaard, head of the UN's Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC), said in a statement.

The UN also said that the government of Yemen will deliver their part of phase one of the withdrawal plan “when requested” to do so.

There has been no comment so far from the Arab coalition that has massed forces outside Houthi-held Hodeidah, which handles the bulk of Yemen's imports and aid supplies.

Western allies, which supply arms and intelligence to the coalition, have pushed for an end to the war.

Hodeidah became the focus of the war last year when the coalition twice tried to seize its port to cut off the main supply line of the Houthis, whom they accuse of smuggling Iranian weapons, including missiles that have targeted Saudi cities. The Houthis and Tehran deny the accusations.

It was not clear if UN special envoy Martin Griffiths had secured agreement between the two sides over the main sticking point regarding which local authorities would control the ports and city under UN supervision after both sides withdraw.

The coalition had disputed an earlier unilateral withdrawal by the Houthis from Hodeidah port in December, saying they had handed it over to coast guard members loyal to the group.

A UN source told Reuters on Saturday that the RCC would announce its assessment of the Houthi redeployment next week.

Under the first phase, the Houthis would pull back five km (three miles) from the ports over the next four days. Coalition forces, currently massed four kilometers from Hodeidah port on the edges of the city, would retreat one km from "Kilo 8" and Saleh districts.

In the second phase, both sides would pull troops 18 km outside the city and heavy weapons 30 km away.

The UN secured the Hodeidah deal at peace talks in Sweden, the first in two years, to avert a full-scale assault on the port that risked triggering mass famine.

The pact is also a trust-building step to pave the way for wider political negotiations to end the conflict.

The alliance led by Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen in 2015 after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The ceasefire in Hodeidah has largely held but the fighting escalated elsewhere in Yemen.


UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

UAE says US sanctions complicate Syria’s return to Arab fold

DUBAI: UAE Foreign Minster Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed said Tuesday the sanctions imposed by the US Caesar’s Act complicate Syria’s return to the Arab fold. 

The return of Syria to the Arab League is in the interest of Syria and other countries of the region, he said.

The minister made the remarks during a joint news conference with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov in Abu Dhabi. 

He also announced that the UAE is looking forward to developing relations with Russia in various fields, saying: "Russia is a reliable friend and partner."

Meanwhile, Lavrov said that Russia has been in contact with UAE officials on developments in the Gulf and the region’s the stability.


UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
Updated 09 March 2021

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant

UAE to operate second Barakah nuclear power plant
  • The Nawah Energy Company became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years

DUBAI: The UAE announced the issuance of a license to operate the second unit of the Barakah nuclear power plant in Abu Dhabi’s Al-Dhafra region, state news agency WAM reported on Tuesday.
The Nawah Energy Company – which is responsible of operating unit one to four of the power plant - became authorized to operate the second unit over the next 60 years, the report said.
The extensive evaluation process during the past five years included a review of the design of the nuclear plant, and a geographical and demographic analysis of its location.
The evaluation process also included the cooling and safety systems of the nuclear reactor, security measures, emergency preparedness procedures, radioactive waste management, and other technical aspects.
The authority also reviewed the readiness of the Nawah Energy Company in making available all the necessary procedures and measures to ensure the safety and security standards of the power plant.
“Today’s announcement represents a milestone in the UAE’s journey and realization of the vision of the wise leadership. It is considered a strategic achievement that culminates in the efforts exerted over the past 13 years,” Permanent Representative of the International Atomic Energy Agency to the UAE Hamad Al-Kaabi said.


Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq
Updated 09 March 2021

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

Airstrike kills 10 Daesh militants in Nineveh, north of Iraq

DUBAI: A US-led coalition airstrike has destroyed a site housing 10 militants from the Daesh group in Nineveh, north of Iraq, according to the country’s state news agency Tuesday. 

“The international coalition warplanes carried out an air strike in Mount Adaya, within the Nineveh sector of operations, which resulted in the destruction of a den containing about 10 members of the Daesh terror group,” the agency reported. 

A brigade from the Iraqi army searched the targeted area after the coalition strike and neutralized two other Daesh militants wearing explosive-laden belts, the report said.


With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
Updated 09 March 2021

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry

With Internet shutdown, Iran seeks to limit protest outcry
  • Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters in Sistan-Baluchistan
PARIS: After Iran last month imposed an Internet shutdown lasting several days in a southeastern region during a rare upsurge of unrest, activists say the government is now using the tactic repeatedly when protests erupt.
Rights groups say at least 10 people were killed when security forces opened fire on fuel porters around Saravan in the province of Sistan-Baluchistan on February 22, prompting protests where live ammunition was used on unarmed demonstrators.
But little information filtered out due to a near total shutdown of the Internet in the impoverished region bordering Pakistan, which has a large ethnic Baluch population and has been a flashpoint for cross-border attacks by separatists and Sunni extremists.
The Internet shutdown was a “measure authorities appear to be using as a tool to conceal gross human rights violations and possible international crimes such as extrajudicial killings,” freedom of expression groups Access Now, Article 19 and Miaan Group said in a joint statement with Amnesty International.
Campaigners say such shutdowns, which recall those seen in recent months during street protests in Belarus and Myanmar, have a dual purpose.
They seek to prevent people from using social media messaging services to mobilize protests but also hinder the documentation of rights violations that could be used to rally support at home and abroad.
Iran in November 2019 imposed nationwide Internet limits during rare protests against fuel hikes that the authorities suppressed in a deadly crackdown.
Rights groups fear the same tactic risks being used again during potentially tense presidential elections this summer.

The Sistan-Baluchistan shutdown saw mobile Internet services halted, effectively shutting down the net in an area where phones account for over 95 percent of Internet use.
“It is aimed at harming documentation and the ability of people to mobilize and coordinate,” Mahsa Alimardani, Iran researcher with the Article 19 freedom of expression group, told AFP. “It helps the authorities to be able to control the narrative.”
State media said there were attacks on government buildings in Saravan and that a policeman was killed when unrest spread to the provincial capital Zahedan.
The governor of the city’s region, Abouzarmahdi Nakahei, denounced “fake” reports of deaths in the protests, blaming “foreign media.”
Alimardani noted that targeting mobile Internet connections made the shutdown different from the one seen in November 2019.
Then, Iranians were cut off from international Internet traffic but were able to continue highly-filtered activities on Iran’s homegrown Internet platform the National Information Network (NIN).
She said the documentation of atrocities was the authorities’ biggest fear. “It is a big rallying call when these videos go viral,” she said.


Unlike some other minority groups in Iran like Arabs and Kurds, the Baluch do not have major representation in the West to promote their cause and draw attention to alleged violations on social media.
Most Baluch adhere to the Sunni branch of Islam rather than the Shiism dominant in Iran and rights groups also say Baluch convicts have been disproportionately targeted by executions.
According to information received by Amnesty from Baluchi activists, at least 10 people were killed on February 22 when Revolutionary Guards “unlawfully and deliberately used lethal force” against unarmed Baluchi fuel porters near Saravan.
The crackdown came after the security forces blocked a road to impede the work of the porters, who cross between Iran and Pakistan to sell fuel.
Amnesty added that security forces also used unlawful and excessive force against people who protested in response to the killings, as well as bystanders, leaving another two dead.


Amnesty’s Iran researcher Raha Bahreini told AFP that the toll was a “minimum figure” that Baluchi activists verified after confirming the victims’ names.
The New York-based Center for Human Rights in Iran have an even higher toll of 23 dead, citing local sources.
The Internet shutdown “severely restricted the flow of information to rights defenders from contacts and eyewitnesses,” Bahreini told AFP.
“The authorities are fully aware they are preventing the outside world from learning about the extent and gravity of violations on the ground,” she added.
She said such unlawful shutdowns had turned into a “pattern” in Iran.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Rupert Colville said that the shutdown has impeded precise verification of the death toll and had “the apparent purpose of preventing access to information about what is happening there.”
The CHRI said Iran blocked Internet access “to kill protesters indiscriminately and out of the public eye and prevent protesters from communicating and organizing.”
“Security forces killed hundreds of protesters with impunity in November 2019, and they are doing it again now,” said its director Hadi Ghaemi.
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Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam
Updated 09 March 2021

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

Egypt hopes to resume talks with Ethiopia on Grand Renaissance Dam

CAIRO: Egypt hopes to resume talks soon with Ethiopia over the controversial mega-dam to reach an agreement that serves the interests of the three parties involved in the dispute, its foreign minister said.   

Egyptian foreign minister Sameh Shoukry said his country has been communicating with Ethiopia over the Grand Renaissance Dam, which Cairo fears it will significantly cut its crucial water supplies from the Nile River.

No talks on the matter were made outside the framework of the African Union (AU), Shoukry was cited by local daily Al-Masry El-Youm . The AU has been mediating the talks between Egypt, Sudan and Ethiopia. 

Egypt and Sudan have voiced their concern about the possible threats posed by the dam and how it could negatively affect their water share if Ethiopia abstained from signing a binding and legal agreement on the dam operation and the process of filling its reservoir.