Houthis escalate attacks on Marib

A Houthi fighter mans a machine gun mounted on a military truck during a gathering of Houthi loyalists on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen July 8, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 15 July 2020

Houthis escalate attacks on Marib

  • A densely populated residential area of Marib was hit by one of the Houthi missile strikes on Tuesday

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have intensified their attacks on residential areas in the central Yemeni province of Marib, government officials said on Wednesday.

Influential tribes in Marib are opposed to Houthi rule, and the province is home to oil, gas and electricity facilities, so it has become a strategic target for the Iran-backed militia, which has launched ground assaults on the area as well as missile and drone attacks.

A densely populated residential area of Marib was hit by one of the Houthi missile strikes on Tuesday, Yemen’s Defense Ministry said. Images posted on official media showed a cloud of smoke billowing from the targeted area, but there was no official information about casualties. Last week, two children were wounded in a Houthi missile attack on another residential area of Marib.

The Defence Ministry linked the increase in Houthi missile attacks on Marib to setbacks the rebels had suffered on the frontlines in northern Yemen.

Yemen Information Minister Muammar Al-Iryani said that the shelling of residential areas is a violation of international laws.

“The Houthi terrorist militia continues to deliberately target civilians and residential areas in Marib with an Iranian-made ballistic missile that hit, on Tuesday evening, civilians ... in a flagrant violation of international laws,” the minister wrote on Twitter.

Yemeni army commanders claim that hundreds of Houthis have been killed or injured in fighting or airstrikes around Marib over the last two months. Soldiers told Arab News that the current focus of the fierce fighting is Qania, on the border between Marib and Al-Bayda, where the Houthis face stiff resistance from local tribesmen.

“The tribesmen have foiled all Houthi attempts to make gains on the battlefields,” a Yemeni soldier who asked to remain anonymous said, adding that the Houthis have dispatched reinforcements to Marib to shore up their depleted forces.

Houthi media outlets showed footage of Abu Ali Al-Makim, a senior Houthi military commander, meeting with allied tribal leaders who vowed to back the rebels’ offensive on Marib. Yemeni government officials said the army and local tribesmen would fight off Houthi attacks on Marib.  

“Marib is safe and (it) stands firm against Houthi aggression that failed to make progress thanks to the steadfastness and sacrifices of the army and Marib tribes,” Al-Iryani said on Twitter, adding that the Houthis have not gained any ground around Marib for four years.

Looming disaster

Yemeni activists and analysts have warned that a Houthi invasion of Marib would put the lives of hundreds of thousands of internally displaced people (IDP) at risk and would undermine the security and stability the city has enjoyed over the past several years.

“There are (more than a million) IDPs currently in Marib. This will be another humanitarian crisis on top of the many humanitarian issues in the country,” Summer Nasser, a Yemeni commentator based in the United States and the CEO of Yemen Aid, said on Twitter.

Analysts also urged the UN’s Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to step in and pressure the Houthis to halt attacks on Marib, warning that the fighting would hamper efforts to tackle COVID-19.

“Houthi ballistic missiles have been raining down on Marib. They’ve been relentlessly trying to capture the province, putting millions of civilians at grave risk in the midst of the COVID-19 outbreak,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, said on Twitter on Wednesday.


Dubai introduces facial recognition on public transport

Updated 25 October 2020

Dubai introduces facial recognition on public transport

  • ‘This technology has proven its effectiveness to identify suspicious and wanted people’
  • Dubai has ambitions to become a hub for technology and artificial intelligence

DUBAI: Dubai is introducing a facial recognition system on public transport to beef up security, officials said Sunday, as the emirate prepares to host the global Expo exhibition.
“This technology has proven its effectiveness to identify suspicious and wanted people,” said Obaid Al-Hathboor, director of Dubai’s Transport Security Department.
The emirate already operates a biometric system using facial recognition at its international airport.
Dubai, which sees itself as a leading “smart city” in the Middle East, has ambitions to become a hub for technology and artificial intelligence.
Both sectors will be on show when it opens the multi-billion-dollar Expo fair.
“We aspire to raise our performance by building on our current capabilities, to ensure a high level of security in metro stations and other transport sectors,” said Hathboor.
Earlier this week, under the watch of Dubai’s Crown Prince Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed, the city’s police used facial recognition in a simulated scenario to identify gunmen launching an attack on a metro station.
A special police unit, trained in the United States, helped “evacuate” commuters from the station in the mock attack, before working in tandem with a control center to apprehend the suspects.
Members of the special unit will be sent to major metro stations during Expo 2020.
The six-month event was delayed by one year due to coronavirus, and is now set to open in October 2021.
It was expected to attract 15 million visitors before the global economy and transport systems were disrupted by the pandemic.
Jamal Rashed, of Dubai Police’s Transport Security Department, said the facial recognition technology will be rolled out in the coming months in all metro stations.
Other technology already in use to combat the spread of the coronavirus, such as helmets with thermal cameras and smart glasses, will also be used to identify and manage large crowds.
“It took at least five hours to identify a suspect before,” said Rashed. “With this technology, it takes less than a minute.”
But while the technology to identify individuals has simplified lives, such as being used for unlocking phones, it has also raised concerns over privacy.
Berlin-based advocacy group AlgorithmWatch says that at least 10 European police forces use facial recognition technology — a trend that privacy and rights groups are concerned about.
China has also been criticized for the facial recognition systems in its public surveillance network.