Yemeni city under 24-hour lockdown as residents ignore health warnings

Security men wearing protective masks stand on a street during a 24-hour curfew amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Sanaa, Yemen May 6, 2020. (REUTERS)
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Updated 30 May 2020

Yemeni city under 24-hour lockdown as residents ignore health warnings

  • Starting from May 28, the city of Tarim will be put under complete lockdown for 14 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus

AL-MUKALLA: Local authorities in Yemen’s southeastern province of Hadramout have put the city of Tarim under 24-hour lockdown for 14 days to stop the spread of coronavirus (COVID-19) as residents had widely broken social distancing rules, local government officials said. The Aden-based national coronavirus committee on Thursday and Friday recorded 27 new cases and eight deaths in the government-controlled areas of Hadramout, Lahj, Shabwa, Taiz, Marib and Abyan, bringing total number of confirmed cases to 283, with 65 deaths and 11 recoveries.

“Starting from May 28, the city of Tarim will be put under complete lockdown for 14 days to prevent the spread of coronavirus,” city director Khaled Huwaidi told Arab News by telephone.
Tarim has a population of more than 100,000 and is described as the religious capital of Yemen as it is the country’s main center for Sufism. On Tuesday, thousands of mourners thronged the city’s streets to attend the funeral of a popular Sufi scholar, despite the pandemic. Officials say they were forced to seal off the city for 24 hours as residents appeared to ignore health warnings and appeals to stay at home and avoid large gatherings.

“In the past, we counted on people’s awareness to adhere to the orders to prevent the transmission of the disease. That did not happen. So we were forced to put the city into lockdown,” Huwaidi said. The decision came shortly after a local health office urgently advised the authorities in the city to seal off the city after public health facilities detected a surge in the number of coronavirus cases since early last week.

Huwaidi said that the security forces were deployed inside the city’s districts to enforce the lockdown and only one person from each house would be allowed to go out from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. for essentials.

HIGHLIGHT

The decision came shortly after a local health office urgently advised the authorities in the Tarim city to seal off the city after public health facilities detected a surge in the number of coronavirus cases since early last week.

At the same time, health officials have sent fresh appeals to residents to comply with the new measures as to help local health facilities cope with the influx of coronavirus patients.

“We must take this issue seriously. The pandemic is spreading and we must adhere to the measures by stopping all gatherings and Eid greeting sessions. The hospital’s capabilities are weak, coupled with shortage of staff,” Mohammed Haddad Al-Kaf, Tarim General Hospital’s manager, said in a post on the hospital’s Facebook page. Under preventive measures approved by the Yemeni government on April 10, public parks, mosques and markets are supposed to be closed and people were required to adhere wear protective items when they go out.
Those measures have largely been broken as people gathered inside mosques and markets and roamed around cities and villages exchanging Eid greetings.
On the battlefield, Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted Houthi military reinforcements heading to the battlefields in Qania, north of the province of Al-Bayda, on Friday, Yemen’s defense ministry said in a statement. Yemen army troops and allied tribesmen pushed back a Houthi attack on Al-Jadafer region in the northern province of Jawf on Thursday.

 


Tensions between Turkey, France pose threat to NATO alliance, warn experts

Updated 07 July 2020

Tensions between Turkey, France pose threat to NATO alliance, warn experts

  • Turkey ‘challenging’ international norms by breaking arms embargo on Libya, invading northern Syria, claims analyst

JEDDAH: Increasing tensions between France and Turkey were posing a threat to the cohesion of the NATO alliance, experts have warned.

Paris’ recent decision to suspend its involvement in the NATO Sea Guardian maritime security operation in the eastern Mediterranean following an incident between a French frigate and Turkish vessels, has highlighted the organization’s difficulties in maintaining order and harmony among its members.

Months of escalating dispute between France and Turkey came to a head on June 10, when Paris claimed that its La Fayette-class Frigate Courbet was targeted three times by Turkish Navy fire control radars while it was trying to approach a Tanzanian-flagged civilian cargo ship suspected of trafficking arms to Libya.

The cargo ship was under the escort of three Turkish vessels, but Ankara denied harassing the Courbet and demanded an apology from France for disclosing “improper information,” saying the ship in question had been carrying humanitarian aid.

The incident resulted in France pulling out of the NATO operation, partly aimed at enforcing a UN embargo on arms supplies to Libya, and accusing Turkey of importing extremists to Syria.

French President Emmanuel Macron said: “I think that it’s a historic and criminal responsibility for a country that claims to be a member of NATO. We have the right to expect more from Turkey than from Russia, given that it is a member of NATO.”

The classified report on the Courbet incident is expected to be discussed soon by member states of the alliance.

Turkey’s purchase of the Russian S-400 missile system has also angered some NATO members over concerns it could undermine Western defense systems and led to Turkey’s expulsion from the alliance’s F-35 stealth fighter jet program.

Seth J. Frantzman, executive director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis, told Arab News: “NATO faces increasing challenges from its member state Turkey which behaves contrary to NATO’s mission and values.

“Turkey’s government has begun to violate international norms by breaking an arms embargo on the Libyan conflict and invading northern Syria, backing extremist groups, and bombing northern Iraq.

“Ankara has tried to strong-arm NATO into supporting it through threats to hold up a Baltic defense plan and also through threatening and insulting other NATO members.

“Turkey insinuated to the US that Turkey would brush US forces aside in Syria in 2019 if the US didn’t leave, it has escalated conflicts rather than reducing them, and threatened to send refugees to Greece while staking counter claims to the Mediterranean against Greek claims,” he added.

Frantzman pointed out that the controversy with France was a byproduct of this.

“NATO increasingly looks like it is being called upon to appease Ankara’s monthly crises that involve new military operations in several countries. Once a key and helpful ally of NATO, Turkey looks increasingly like it seeks to exploit its NATO membership, using it as a cover for military operations that undermine human rights, democracy, and international norms,” he said.

Turkey is seen as an important and strategic member of the military alliance. On its website, NATO says that all the organization’s decisions are made by consensus, following discussions and consultations among members. “When a ‘NATO decision’ is announced, it is therefore the expression of the collective will of all the sovereign states that are members of the alliance.”

However, recent disagreements within NATO led Macron to say that the alliance was “suffering brain death” over Turkey’s cross-border military offensive into northern Syria last year.

On Turkey’s unilateral behavior, Frantzman said: “This is part of a global rising authoritarian agenda but appears to be counter to the NATO mission that once ostensibly was about defending Western democracies from the Soviet totalitarian threat.

“This calls into question the overall NATO mission and whether NATO is now enabling Ankara’s authoritarian trend. NATO countries are generally afraid to challenge Turkey, thinking that without Turkey and with a US disinterested in global commitments, NATO would become a European club with an unclear future. For Russia that is good news as it supplies S-400 systems to Turkey, further eroding NATO,” he added.

Aaron Stein, director of research at the Foreign Policy Research Institute, felt NATO would be able to manage the spat between France and Turkey.

“Libya isn’t really a NATO issue. It is out of the area for the alliance. I see this more as a bilateral dispute between two rival powers in the Mediterranean.

“What I worry more about is how NATO members, including both Turkey and France, are letting these bilateral squabbles seep into the North Atlantic Council. They should keep their fights to themselves.”