Iranian regime’s strategy of deepening suffering of Yemeni people condemned

An Arab coalition soldier patrolling the Saudi border with Yemen. (File/AFP)
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Updated 30 March 2020

Iranian regime’s strategy of deepening suffering of Yemeni people condemned

  • Houthis ‘not serious about peace push as their attack came shortly after they welcomed UN call for truce’

AL-MUKALLA: The internationally recognized government of Yemen has strongly condemned Houthi ballistic missile attacks on Saudi Arabia on Saturday night, saying that the Houthis sought to pressure the Kingdom to halt its military support to their Yemeni opponents.

“We strongly condemn the cowardly terrorist attack by the Houthi militia on Riyadh and Jizan,” Yemen’s foreign ministry said in a statement.

The government said that the Iran-backed Houthis were not serious about making peace in Yemen as their attack came shortly after they welcomed a UN call for a truce in Yemen.

“This is Iran’s continued strategy for deepening the suffering of the Yemeni people,” the statement said.

In the port city of Aden, Salem Al-Khanbashi, Yemen’s deputy prime minister, linked Houthi missile attacks to fresh territorial gains by the government backed by Arab coalition warplanes, noting that the Houthis wanted the Kingdom to stop its military support, which blocks their advances on the ground.

“This is a natural reaction to the victories in Nehim, Serwah and Jawf,” Al-Khanbashi said, referring to raging battlefields where government forces battle major Houthi offensives.

Military commanders and officials say that massive air support and military logistics from the Saudi-led coalition helped Yemen’s army troops and allied tribesmen push back Houthi attacks on Marib’s Kawfal military base and recapture areas in the northern province of Jawf.

Hundreds of Houthi fighters have been killed over the past couple of months in airstrikes by the coalition’s warplanes.

“The Houthis targeted the Kingdom since it’s the leader of the coalition. The coalition has contributed to the successes on the ground,” Al-Khanbashi said.

When the Houthis supported the UN call for a cease-fire to prevent the spread of the coronavirus pandemic, many Yemeni officials questioned their stand, arguing that Houthi actions on the ground and their breaches of the previous deal showed that they would not stick to their word.

“This is an untrusted group. They have not put into place arrangements related to the Stockholm Agreement such as releasing prisoners and lifting their siege,” Al-Khanbashi said.

Yemeni officials also think the Houthis positively responded to the truce calls to get a commendation from the UN.

Experts also believe that the Houthis shelled the Saudi cities with ballistic missiles to warn the Kingdom against maintaining its support of the Yemeni government.

Yasser Al-Yafae, a political analyst based in Aden, told Arab News that Saudi military support had played an important role in shoring-up government forces that fight off Houthi attacks on the central city of Marib.

“They want to force the Kingdom to stop airstrikes that obstruct their continuous push on Marib,” Al-Yafae said.

Houthi missile attacks on the Kingdom also boosted calls by Yemeni military commanders for intensifying military pressure on the Houthis on all battlefields, including the western city of Hodeida, instead of seeking peace from the rebels. Houthis have exploited the truce in the western city of Hodeida for regrouping and escalating attacks on other fronts, Yemeni officers said.

Rafeq Doumah, a military officer from the pro-government Tehama Brigades in Hodeida, said that the Houthi missile attack was proof that the Houthis did not want peace, or respected any agreement, calling for the resumption of a military offensive on Hodeida city that was stopped following the Stockholm deal.
“The only solution (is that army) troops march toward Hodeida and Saada,” he said.

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

Updated 29 May 2020

Lebanese MPs fail to reach agreement on draft amnesty law

  • The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty

BEIRUT: The Lebanese Parliament on Thursday failed to approve a draft law on general amnesty, after tensions rose during a vote and the Future Movement, led by former prime minister Saad Hariri, walked out of the legislative session.

“They want to bring us back to square one,” he said. “Every party has its own arguments, as if they want to score points.”

The Free Patriotic Movement tried to amend the law by excluding “perpetrators of crimes against public funds and terrorist crimes” from the amnesty. Minister of Justice Marie Claude Najm, who is affiliated with the FPM, asked for “amendments to the draft law so that it does not include those accused of tax evasion and violating maritime property.”

The draft law was referred to the parliament despite disagreements between parliamentary committees over the basic issue of who should and should not be included in the amnesty. The former government, led by Hariri, proposed a general amnesty law before it resigned last October in the face of mounting pressure resulting from public protests.

There were a number of protests during the legislative session, some opposing the adoption of the law entirely, while others were directed at specific provisions within it.

The draft law includes an amnesty for about 1,200 Sunni convicts, 700 of whom are Lebanese. Some are accused of killing soldiers in the Lebanese Army, possessing, transporting or using explosives, kidnap and participating in bombings.

It was also covers about 6,000 Lebanese Christians, most of whom fled to Israel following the withdrawal of occupying Israeli soldiers from southern Lebanon in 2000, as well as nearly 30,000 people from the Bekaa region, the majority of whom are from the Shiite community and wanted for drug trafficking, drug abuse, murder, kidnap, robbery and other crimes.

Hezbollah appeared to agree to a pardon for entering Israel, but object to a pardon for anyone who worked or communicated with the enemy or acquired Israeli citizenship.

Before the session, the Lebanese Order of Physicians highlighted overcrowding in Lebanese prisons, and this health risk this poses during COVID-19 pandemic.

“There are 20 prisons for men, four for women and one juvenile prison holding a total of 8,300 inmates, 57 percent of whom are in the Roumieh Central Prison,” the LOP said. It added that 57 percent of prisoners are Lebanese and 23 percent are Syrian, one third have been convicted while the rest are awaiting trial, and the overcrowding is so bad each prisoner has the equivalent of only one square meter of space. The organization described the situation as “a time bomb that must be avoided.”

In other business during the session, as part of anticorruption reforms required as a condition for receiving international economic aid, the Parliament approved a law to increase transparency in the banking sector, with responsibility for this resting with the Investigation Authority of the Lebanese Central Bank and the Anti-Corruption Commission.

It also endorsed a draft law to create a mechanism for top-level appointments in public administrations, centers and institutions. An amendment was added to prevent ministers from changing or adding candidates for the position of director general. The FPM opposed this, while Hezbollah and the Lebanese Forces voted in favor. Hariri accused the FPM of having a “desire to possess the entire country.”

MPs rejected a draft law to allow Lebanon to join the International Organization for Migration because, said MP Gebran Bassil, “it’s unconstitutional and facilitates the accession, integration and settlement process.” Lebanon hosts about 200,000 Palestinian and a million Syrian refugees.

The session sparked a wave of street protests. Some of them, led by the Syrian Social Nationalist Party and the Lebanese Communist Party, opposed the approval of a general amnesty that includes those who fled to Israel.

Protesters burned the Israeli flag in Sidon in protest against a law that “affects Israeli agents who sold their land, fought their people, and plotted against them.” They set up a symbolic gallows on which they wrote: “This is the fate of Zionist agents who fled execution.”

Others, including the families of Muslim detainees, staged demonstrations in support of the amnesty.