Arab coalition hits ‘legitimate military targets’ in Hodeidah

Arab coalition announced the launched a military operation in Hodeidah on Friday. (AFP)
Updated 20 September 2019

Arab coalition hits ‘legitimate military targets’ in Hodeidah

  • The sites were used to gather and booby-trap remote boats and maritime mines
  • The coalition intercepted and destroyed a unmanned boat rigged with explosives in the Red Sea

RIYADH: The Arab coalition fighting the Houthi militias in Yemen announced on Friday that it had launched a military operation in the north of Yemen’s port city of Hodeidah against “legitimate military targets.” The coalition said it had destroyed four sites used to assemble remote-controlled boats and sea mines.
“These sites are used to carry out attacks and terrorist operations that threaten shipping lines and international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the southern Red Sea,” coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said in a statement.
The destruction of hostile sites helps protect the freedom of maritime navigation, Al-Maliki said, adding that the operation abides by international law.
“The Houthi terrorist militia is using the governorate of Hodeidah as a base from which to launch ballistic missiles, drones, and booby-trapped remote-controlled boats, as well as indiscriminately deploying naval mines, in a clear violation of international humanitarian law and in violation of the provisions of Stockholm Agreement and the cease-fire agreement in Hodeidah,” he said.
The coalition warned civilians to stay away from the targeted locations for their own safety. On Thursday, the coalition intercepted and destroyed a Houthi boat laden with explosives in the Red Sea. “The coalition’s naval forces detected an attempt by the Iran-backed terrorist Houthi militia to carry out an act of aggression and terrorism in the southern Red Sea using an unmanned, rigged boat ... launched from Hodeidah governorate,” Al-Maliki said.
He added that the foiled attack represented a threat to regional and international security and the safety of maritime routes and international trade.
The Houthis have carried out scores of attacks against Saudi Arabia using drones and ballistic missiles.
Recently, leaders from around the Arab world condemned last Saturday’s drone attacks on Saudi Arabia’s Aramco refineries in the Eastern Province.
Saudi Arabia’s Cabinet strongly condemned the attacks on two Saudi Aramco facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais and reaffirmed the Kingdom’s ability to effectively deal with such attacks and their impact.
The coalition said that it was likely Iran provided the weapons used to strike the Saudi Aramco facilities. “The investigation is continuing and all indications are that weapons used in both attacks came from Iran,” Al-Maliki said, adding they were now investigating “from where they were fired.”
In a series of recent tweets, Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel Al-Jubeir said: “The attacks on Abqaiq and Khurais with Iranian weapons were not only an assault on the Kingdom, but an attempt to target the world economy and energy supplies to international markets.”
He said that this “cowardly act of aggression” is an extension of the Iranian regime’s hostile and illegal behavior. “The international community must shoulder its responsibilities and take a firm stance toward Iran’s criminal behavior,” he wrote.
“Complacency (toward) the Iranian regime will only encourage it to commit more acts of terrorism and sabotage in our region and around the world,” Al-Jubeir tweeted.

An ongoing debate: Shops closing for prayer in Saudi Arabia

Updated 19 January 2020

An ongoing debate: Shops closing for prayer in Saudi Arabia

  • The issue has been under discussion in many settings among members of Saudi society as of late

JEDDAH: Saudi Arabia has recently announced allowing commercial activities to function for 24 hours, in a new string of promised boosts of business and provide services for all. While the change solves many problems, such as congestion and loss of potential income, many Saudis still debate whether or not it will include the custom of shops closing during prayer time, five times a day. 

A custom that has uniquely defined Saudi Arabia among all Muslim countries, which typically require shops to close only during the weekly Friday prayers, this practice has long been discussed and disputed in society. 

For over 30 years, commercial businesses in Saudi Arabia have shut and locked their doors as soon as the first call of prayer is heard. Cars would queue waiting petrol stations to open, pharmacies were closed, restaurants and supermarkets as well with patrons and visitors forced to wait outside in a manner deemed inconvenient to most people. Prior to the recent reforms which have checked the powers of the now regulated Commission for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), or religious police as they were commonly known, officers of the CPVPV had the power to arrest and punish shopkeepers for even delaying closing their stores for a few minutes. Punishments ranged from detention, lashing and even deportation if the shop attendant was not Saudi. 

The debate to keep shops and businesses open has been a topic of discussion in many settings amongst members of Saudi society as of late. From Shoura Council members, to businessmen and women and everyday ordinary citizens, with many wondering if the law would stand for all hours of the day.

However, the bigger question is being asked by a new generation of the country’s youth, which form the majority of the population of the Kingdom: Why is it that Saudi Arabia is the only country that enforced this kind of practice, as opposed to just Friday prayers? 

Executive regulations

In 1987, the executive regulations of the CPVPV were issued by the General President of the commission, and the second paragraph of the first article cited the following: “As prayer is the pillar of religion and its hiatus, then the members of the commission must ensure its performance at the specified times in mosques, and urge people to promptly respond to the call for prayer, and they must ensure that shops and stores are closed, and that sales are not done during prayer time.”

Speaking to Arab News, Sheikh Ahmad Al-Ghamdi, the former director of the CPVPV in Makkah, said that the document allowed members of the religious police to take the necessary measures, and many opted to apply what should have only been applicable to Friday prayers to all prayers of the day. 

“This second paragraph of the first article of the Commission’s executive regulations was a discretionary procedure that was not based on a system, as the executive regulations of the Commission are issued by the General President of CPVPV, and its body system does not oblige closing shops during prayer times,” said Al-Ghamdi. “It became a practice that has been established by the Commission, according to the second paragraph of the first article without relying on an established order.”

Dr. Issa Al-Ghaith, a judge, Islamic scholar, a member of Saudi Arabia’s Shoura Council and the King Abdul Aziz Center for National Dialogue, has spoken about the matter a number of times. In a recent article published in Makkah newspaper on Jan. 1, 2020, Dr. Al-Ghaith explained that there is no religious or legal base.

“There is no legal base for closing shops for prayer after amending the bylaws of the authority, noting that forcing shops to close their doors and people to pray right at the beginning of prayer time, and to do this in a mosque, stands no ground neither in Shariah nor in law,” said Dr. Al-Ghaith.

“It is rather a breach of both of them, and an infringement on people’s religious rights (right of Ijtihad and freedom to follow a reference) and worldly rights (freedom of movement, shopping, benefitting of services round the clock without being forced to abide by judicial matters subject to conflict and differences).”

Dr. Issa Al-Ghaith

Religion and laws aside though, it seems there is no clear verdict within society on whether or not the practice of closing shops during prayer times should continue or not.

Speaking to Arab News, a number of female retail workers at one of Jeddah’s biggest shopping malls told of the benefit of closing shops during prayer times. The group of females who requested to stay anonymous told Arab News that it’s not all that it seems to be when shops close.

“Many believe we actually take a break and lounge around for the 20-40 minutes when stores close for prayer times. Rarely do we have that freedom to be honest,” said 25-year-old S.K., a Saudi working in the store for 7 months now. “The mess that customers leave behind is too much to handle during regular open store hours so we take advantage of the time we have and reorganize the store, clean up and replace all clothes on the racks.”

“I agree with my colleague,” said 29-year-old M.A. “We don’t mind the closing hours as things get really hectic especially on holidays and as you can see now during the sale. So we do take the opportunity sometimes and either try to relax in the quiet before we finish whatever it is we need done during that time. We understand people’s frustrations but it helps us.”

“I don’t have the luxury of time unfortunately,” said Rawan Zahid, a mother of three girls and a worker at a private company. “I live close to an hour away from my office and my youngest is 4 months old so I don’t have the luxury of time to go shop after work as the call for Maghreb (sunset) prayers are called and I would rather go home and spend some time with my daughters.”

While juggling her job and family life, Zahid believes that it’s difficult to sustain this for long. “It’s unreasonable in my opinion,” Zahid said. “I think it’s too much of a burden on many people especially those who work long hours of the day. For those who don’t have help to care for their children, it’s very difficult to run simple errands and it’s extremely tiresome.”