Arab coalition destroys two Houthi boats loaded with explosives

Houthis have used boats rigged with explosives in the past. (File/Arab Coalition)
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Updated 09 July 2020

Arab coalition destroys two Houthi boats loaded with explosives

  • The boats were six kilometres south off Al-Saleef port in Hodeidah
  • Foiled attacks highlight Houthi threat to Red Sea shipping

AL-MUKALLA: Two boats filled with explosives were destroyed near Hodeidah’s Salif port, the Saudi-led coalition said on Thursday, highlighting the Houthi rebels’ continued threat to international shipping in the Red Sea.

Yemeni political analysts and military leaders warn that the Houthi threat will persist while the Iran-backed militants control strategic locations on the Red Sea, including the major port city of Hodeidah.

Baha Khalefa, a Yemeni government officer who took part in a UN-led committee that oversaw a truce in Hodeidah, told Arab News that army troops received information that two boats assembled and laden with explosives at Salif port were poised to hit targets in the Red Sea.

“The Houthis used the port to prepare the explosive-laden boats since, along with Ras Isa, it is one of the two closest points to international waters in the Red Sea,” Khalefa said.

Government troops halted their offensive as they battled Houthis on the eastern outskirts of Hodeidah after the internationally recognized government and the rebels signed the Stockholm Agreement in late 2018.

The foiled attacks in Hodeida have again focused attention on the debate surrounding the ending of the offensive.

“Houthis will continue to pose a threat to Yemen and international navigation as along as they control Hodeidah,” Khalefa said.

The militants receive arms supplies and also generate huge amounts money from the city's ports, he said.

Liberating the city would lead to Houthi financial sources and military supplies drying up, Khalefa claimed.

“They will crumble everywhere if they lose Hodeidah.”

Yemeni analysts agree that the Houthi’s military capability in the province poses a threat to Red Sea shipping.

The militants are no longer a risk in the Arabian Sea or Bab Al-Mandab after government forces expelled fighters from Yemen’s southern and western provinces, analysts say.

“The targeted boats confirm again that the Red Sea and the Bab Al-Mandab will remain insecure and a hotbed of tension if Houthi military forces remain in Hodeidah province,” Saleh Al-Baydani, a Yemeni political analyst, told Arab News.

He said that the Stockholm Agreement has largely failed to bring peace to Hodeidah.

“The agreement must be reviewed and the government should take control of Hodeidah to put an end to failures,” Al-Baydani said.

Abdurrahman Hajjri, a leader with the Tehama Resistance, which launched a campaign against the Houthis, said the militants have turned the province’s ports into “hubs” to bring in advanced weapons from Iran after learning that government forces would halt their advance under the Stockholm Agreement.

He called for the Houthis to be “purged” from Hodeidah.

“Hodeidah and Salif seaports are the main artery of arms supplies to the Houthis and starting points for terrorist attacks in the Red Sea,” he told Arab News by telephone. “The only solution to the Houthi threats is liberating Hodeidah and bringing it and the entire coastline under state control.”

Despite the Yemeni government’s strong criticism that the Stockholm Agreement had allowed the Houthis to resupply and regroup, the UN’s Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths told Arab News in April that the pact averted a major military offensive that could ruin the city and worsen the humanitarian crisis in the country, which relies on imports of food and medicine through Hodeidah’s ports.

Angry Lebanese set up mock gallows amid calls for ‘revenge’ over blast

A Lebanese protester hangs a gallow in downtown Beirut on August 8, 2020, following a demonstration against a political leadership they blame for a monster explosion that killed more than 150 people and disfigured the capital Beirut. (AFP)
Updated 08 August 2020

Angry Lebanese set up mock gallows amid calls for ‘revenge’ over blast

  • MPs resign in protest as political fallout intensifies
  • As the dust settles from the disaster, the political fallout is intensifying

BEIRUT: Thousands of protesters set up a mock gallows in Beirut’s Martyr’s Square on Saturday and demanded “revenge” against politicians widely held responsible for the deadly explosion that devastated large swathes of the Lebanese capital.

At least 60 people are still missing after the massive blast in Beirut port, which killed more than 150 people, injured 5,000 others and left thousands homeless.

As the dust settles from the disaster, the political fallout is intensifying.

Police fired teargas and rubber bullets at thousands of people who gathered in the capital calling for the downfall of the country’s political elite, chanting:
“The people want the regime to fall.”

More than 100 protesters were injured in the clashes.

After demonstrators set up the mock gallows, effigies of political leaders, including former prime minister Saad Hariri and Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, were displayed in some of the most explicit signs of public anger seen in years.

Police shot live ammunition in the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters, who responded by hurling rocks and charging security cordons.

One of the protesters, who gave her name only as Lina, said: “We came from Hasbaya in solidarity with Beirut. We came to stand together in grief and offer condolence for the loss of sons and daughters.

“We came to tell all the leaders to leave so that we can rebuild what you have destroyed, what happened is because of your negligence and greed,” she said.

Meanwhile, the three-member Kataeb party parliamentary bloc resigned on Saturday in protest at the blast, bringing to five the number of MPs to quit since the disaster.

In an emotional speech during a funeral service for a top party official who died in Tuesday’s blast, party leader Samy Gemayel announced his resignation and that of the two other MPs.

Independent MP Paula Yacoubian also resigned, while MP Michel Daher announced his withdrawal from the Strong Lebanon bloc led by the Free Patriotic Movement head Gebran Bassil.

As international aid flows into shell-shocked Beirut, Arab League Secretary General Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Turkish Vice President Fuad Oktay and European Council President Charles Michel arrived in the city to deliver relief aid and offer support.

After meeting President Michel Aoun and inspecting damage at the Foreign Ministry, near the port, Gheit said he would ask the Economic and Social Council to meet in the next two weeks to "examine the situation in Lebanon and how to help.”

He described the situation as “a disaster,” and said that “we must recognize that the Lebanese situation is difficult and complex.”

The Netherlands Foreign Ministry announced that the wife of Dutch envoy to Lebanon Jan Waltmans died of wounds sustained in the blast.

The Syrian Embassy in Lebanon said that 43 Syrians were among those killed in the explosion.

Military teams working at the blast site carried out tests for chemical, radioactive or biological agents on Saturday, Col. Roger Khoury told Arab News during a media tour.

Rescue teams are working round the clock looking for cell phone signals in the search for those missing after the blast.

However, the teams say they are being hampered by debris from the explosion, including concrete rubble from grain silos destroyed in the blast.

Military divers searching the port and nearby ocean for victims of the blast found a body hurled 500 meters by the force of the blast.

By early Saturday, a total of 61 relief planes had landed at Beirut airport carrying medical and relief supplies as well as food, Ministry of Defense Operations Room Commander Brig. Gen. Jean Nohra told Arab News.

He said that medical supplies are being distributed in coordination with the Ministry of Health.

Supplies are being stored at the headquarters of the Central Military Medical Authority in Beirut before being distributed, he said.