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.


Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

Palestinian firefighters try to extinguish a fire after an Israeli airstrike, on a floor in a building that also houses international media offices in Gaza City. (Reuters/File)
Updated 08 August 2020

Seth Rogen’s Israel comments highlight fraught diaspora ties

  • Jewish comedians’ conversation on Israel spark an uproar

TEL AVIV: It began as a lighthearted conversation between two Jewish comedians, riffing on a podcast about the idiosyncrasies of their shared heritage. But after talk turned to Israel, it didn’t take long for Marc Maron and Seth Rogen to spark an uproar.

Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country “doesn’t make sense” — infuriated many Israel supporters and highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.
Israel has long benefited from financial and political support from American Jews. But in recent years the country has faced a groundswell of opposition from young progressives, disillusioned by Israel’s aggressive West Bank settlement building, its perceived exclusion of liberal streams of Judaism and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s cosy relationship with President Donald Trump.
“What Seth Rogen said is par for the course among our generation and the Israeli government has to wake up and see that their actions have consequences,” said Yonah Lieberman, spokesman for If Not Now, an American Jewish organization opposed to Israel’s entrenched occupation of the West Bank.
Rogen’s remarks follow a dramatic shift by an influential Jewish American commentator who recently endorsed the idea of a democratic entity of Jews and Palestinians living with equal rights on the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea. Peter Beinart’s argument that a two-state solution — Israel and Palestine — is no longer possible sent shock waves through the Jewish establishment and Washington policymaking circles.
For many Jews, Israel is an integral part of their identity, on religious grounds or as an insurance policy in the wake of the Holocaust and in a modern age of resurgent anti-Semitism. But polls have shown that while most American Jews identify with Israel and feel a connection to the country, that support has waned over recent years, especially among millennials.
Some have even embraced the Palestinian-led movement calling for boycotts, divestment and sanctions against Israel to protest what it says is Israeli oppression of Palestinians. Israel accuses the movement of waging a campaign to delegitimize its very existence.

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Their comments about Israel — especially Rogen saying the country ‘doesn’t make sense’ — highlighted the country’s tenuous relationship with young, progressive Jewish critics in the diaspora.

In the podcast, Rogen, who appeared in such smash comedies as “Superbad” and “Knocked Up,” talked about attending Jewish schools and Jewish summer camp while growing up in Vancouver. He said his parents met on an Israeli kibbutz.
As they continued to chat, Rogen appeared to question why Israel was established.
“You don’t keep all your Jews in one basket. I don’t understand why they did that. It makes no sense whatsoever,” Rogen said. “You don’t keep something you’re trying to preserve all in one place especially when that place has proven to be pretty volatile. I’m trying to keep all these things safe. I’m going to put them in my blender and hope that that’s the best place to, that’ll do it.”
Rogen then said he was “fed a huge amount of lies” about Israel during his youth. “They never tell you that ‘oh, by the way, there were people there.’ They make it seem like, ‘the (expletive) door’s open.’”
Maron and Rogen both joked about how frightened they were about the responses they would receive from Israel’s defenders. Their concerns were justified.
Rogen’s comments immediately lit up “Jewish Twitter.” They unleashed a flurry of critical op-eds in Jewish and Israeli media. And they prompted Rogen to call Isaac Herzog, the head of the Jewish Agency, a major nonprofit that works to foster relations between Israel and the Jewish world.
In a Facebook post, Herzog said he and Rogen had a frank and open conversation. He said Rogen “was misunderstood and apologized” for his comments.
“I told him that many Israelis and Jews around the world were personally hurt by his statement, which implies the denial of Israel’s right to exist,” Herzog wrote.
In an interview with the Israeli daily Haaretz, Rogen said he called Herzog at the urging of his mother and he denied apologizing. He said the comments were made in jest and misconstrued.
“I don’t want Jews to think that I don’t think Israel should exist. And I understand how they could have been led to think that,” he said.
Rogen also said he is a “proud Jew.” He said his criticism was aimed at the education he received, and he believed he could have been given a deeper picture of a “complex” situation.
Ironically, Rogen was on the podcast to promote his new movie, “An American Pickle,” about a Jewish immigrant to the US at the start of the 20th century who falls into a vat of pickle brine and emerges 100 years later. He called the project a “very Jewish film.”
Lieberman, from If Not Now, said the uproar shows “how much the conversation has changed” about Israel among American Jews.
Shmuel Rosner, a senior fellow with the Jewish People Policy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Israel should not be expected to change its “security and foreign policies” based on growing estrangement from Jews overseas.
But he said it can take realistic steps to close the gap, such as establishing a pluralistic prayer site at the Western Wall, long a sticking point between Israel’s Orthodox establishment and more liberal Jews in the US
“It’s a challenge for Israel. It’s inconvenient. We want everyone to love us, especially other Jews,” he said. “Israel can do certain things to make it somewhat better.”