Civilian killed, two wounded in Houthi shelling in Yemen’s Taiz

Civilian killed, two wounded in Houthi shelling in Yemen’s Taiz
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Yemen conflict, which the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 October 2020

Civilian killed, two wounded in Houthi shelling in Yemen’s Taiz

Civilian killed, two wounded in Houthi shelling in Yemen’s Taiz
  • Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Iran-allied insurgents since 2014

DUBAI: One Yemeni was killed and two others wounded in shelling carried out by the Iranian-backed Houthi militia on neighborhoods east of Yemen’s Taiz, state news agency Saba news reported.
Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting the Iran-allied insurgents since 2014, when the Houthis seized much of the north including the capital Sanaa.
Tens of thousands of people have been killed in the Yemen conflict, which the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.


Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
Updated 6 min 16 sec ago

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall

Iraq calls on Syria to increase water releases due to shortfall
  • By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said

DUBAI: Iraq called on Syria to increase water releases to compensate for the lack of rainfall and high temperatures that have caused a shortfall in revenues, Iraq’s state media reported on Monday.

The Minister of Water Resources, Mahdi Rashid Al-Hamdani said he “held a closed-circuit televised meeting with the Syrian Minister of Water Resources, Tammam Raad, to review the measures taken regarding the signed accord during Al-Hamdani's visit to Syria”

Last month, both countries signed a joint agreement to exchange data related to the imports of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers “periodically and in emergency situations."
The pact also includes the creation of technical committees and the unification of positions regarding the quantities of water received at the Turkish-Syrian border. 

Syria expressed willingness to attend joint meetings with Iraq and Turkey, Hamdani said, adding that the Syrian side's agreement is a development in the field of joint cooperation in the water file.”

By increasing water releases, Syria would share the damage and losses between the two sides, Hamdani said, adding that the meeting emphasized the need to continue coordination and joint cooperation with regard to training, studies and exchange of data.

Syria will participate in the research center to be established in Iraq, according to Hamdani.


UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school
Updated 03 August 2021

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school

UAE makes COVID-19 vaccination mandatory for students 16 years old and above to return to school
  • The Gulf state has one of the world’s highest immunization rates
  • Abut 79 percent of its population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine

DUBAI: The UAE’s education ministry has advised all students 16 years old and above to receive their COVID-19 jabs before the school year reopens, as only vaccinated pupils would be allowed entry into campuses.

“The Ministry of Education encourages all individuals (aged 16 and above) to get vaccinated as soon as possible. Vaccination is a mandatory requirement for entering educational facilities,” the ministry said in a social media post.

Dubai students are not affected by the requirement as the emirate has a separate COVID-19 policy body and private schools are regulated by its own education authority.

The ministry also asked other stakeholders in the education sector – teachers, administrative staff, support services and parents – to get themselves vaccinated against coronavirus.

Health officials on Monday allowed the emergency use of the Sinopharm vaccine for the 3 to 17 age group as part of efforts to combat the spread of the highly contagious disease.

The Gulf state has one of the world’s highest immunization rates, with 79.04 percent of its population with at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine while 70.69 percent are already fully vaccinated.

The total number of doses that has been administered is now at 16,810,996, for a vaccine distribution rate of 169.97 doses per 100 people.


Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires
Updated 03 August 2021

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires

Turkey calls on EU help to battle deadly wildfires
  • Ankara activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask the European Commission for firefighting support

Turkey has requested assistance from the EU as it struggles to battle the unprecedented deadly wildfires that have swept the nation, revealing the government’s poor preparation for the natural disaster.

Ankara activated the EU Civil Protection Mechanism to ask the European Commission for firefighting support.

Brussels has sent some firefighting aeroplanes, including one Canadair plane from 
Croatia and two Canadairs from Spain as part of rescEU, the European reserve of civil protection assets.

EU Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarcic said: “The EU stands in full solidarity with Turkey at this very difficult time.”

He added: “I thank all the countries which have offered help. Our thoughts are with the Turkish people who have lost their loved ones and with the brave first responders who are doing their best to battle the deadly fires. We stand ready to provide further assistance.”

Portugal, Spain, France, Italy, Greece and Croatia are considered the most fire-prone countries in Europe. Croatia, France, Greece, Italy, Spain and Sweden have provided 11 firefighting planes and six helicopters for the use of other EU Member States in case of an emergency.

The response to the wildfires has revealed that Turkey — which boasts 13 airplanes in the presidential fleet — does not possess a single firefighting plane. The EU’s 24/7 Emergency Response Coordination Center is holding regular contact with the Turkish authorities to observe the situation and effectively guide its assistance.

Cigdem Nas, secretary-general of the Economic Development Foundation of Turkey, told Arab News that it is an important show of solidarity in these difficult times. 

“As countries in the Mediterranean region, Turkey shares similar effects of climate change with EU member states such as Greece and Italy. Therefore it is important to increase the capacity to deal with such natural disasters in a joint manner,” she said.

Nas added that the EU and Turkey can reinforce and strengthen their cooperation in response to natural disasters, especially in the Mediterranean region. 

“This may constitute a pool of resources including planes, human power and other necessary equipment that may be jointly used by the countries in the region which will be sponsored by Turkey and the EU,” she said.

Despite being offered help by the EU, Turkey has continued its skepticism about some EU members.

Meanwhile, confusion has sparked conspiracy theories behind the causes of the sudden fires.

Pro-government figures have blamed the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for starting the fires on orders from Athens.

On July 29, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Dendias telephoned his Turkish counterpart Mevlut Cavusoglu to express his condolences over the lives lost due to the wildfires.

“I also expressed Greece’s readiness to provide assistance if requested,” he tweeted. 

Turkey, however, rejected the offer of firefighting help from Greece.

Turkey and Greece are expected to feel the effects of the hottest temperatures of the ongoing intense heatwave this week, reaching European record levels.

Separately, Turkey’s exiled mafia boss Sedat Peker warned against any provocation after the fires as they could be used for stoking ultranationalist people to attack Kurdish citizens. 

Seven members of a Kurdish family in the Central Anatolian province of Konya were recently killed following months of threats and a knife attack by the same offenders in May.

Elsewhere, a new law giving the Ministry of Culture and Tourism the authority to open forest areas for construction has attracted significant criticism. 

The law — that came into force with presidential signature — is being challenged over the possibility of it opening the recently burned areas to new developments.


‘Our protests will become fiercer’ say families of Beirut blast victims

A general view shows the site of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, almost a year since the blast. The explosion killed more than 200 people. (Reuters)
A general view shows the site of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, almost a year since the blast. The explosion killed more than 200 people. (Reuters)
Updated 03 August 2021

‘Our protests will become fiercer’ say families of Beirut blast victims

A general view shows the site of the deadly Aug. 4 explosion in Beirut’s port, almost a year since the blast. The explosion killed more than 200 people. (Reuters)
  • Rights group Amnesty International accused the Lebanese authorities of spending “the past year shamelessly obstructing the victims’ quest for truth and justice in the aftermath of the catastrophic blast

BEIRUT: The people of Lebanon will on Wednesday mark the first anniversary of the devastating explosion at Beirut’s port, the country’s worst peacetime disaster.
The massive blast that destroyed a large section of the capital on Aug. 4, killed at least 214 people and injured more than 6,500. It was caused by 2,750 tons of ammonium nitrate that had been stored at the port for several years without proper safety precautions.
The families of those who died will hold a commemorative religious service at the port, business owners have said they will cover the city with black ribbons on Wednesday, and activists are planning anti-government demonstrations.
Lebanese flags were raised over balconies and shops in the city on Monday ahead of the anniversary.
A year after the tragedy, the families of the victims remain determined to ensure justice is served and those responsible for the failures that resulted in the explosion are held to account.
“Our protests will soon become fiercer,” said Ibrahim Hoteit, whose brother, Tharwat, died.
He condemned “the heinous state that did not even bother to console us,” and added: “(They) removed Judge Fadi Sawan just because he came close to (their) sectarian and political idols. Today, this whole play is being repeated under a new title: ‘immunity’ (from prosecution).”
Sawan, who was appointed to investigate the explosion, was removed from the investigation in February after two former ministers he had accused of negligence filed a complaint. In addition, requests for immunity to be lifted from a number of top officials so that they can be questioned have not been granted.
Hoteit, who said he was speaking on behalf of the families of the victims, gave “the state 30 hours to lift immunity from the defendants, including former ministers, present lawmakers and security officials.”
He added: “The authorities are asking us to pacify the street movements on Aug. 4 — we are not the police of discipline. The people of Lebanon have the right to express their anger and rage by all available and legitimate means after you destroyed the country. Never expect us to be your mediators.”
A committee of the victims’ families announced on Monday that they reject any attempt to politicize their cause.
In a statement issued for the anniversary of the explosion, rights group Amnesty International accused the Lebanese authorities of spending “the past year shamelessly obstructing the victims’ quest for truth and justice in the aftermath of the catastrophic blast.”
Waleed Taha, 67, who was only a few hundred meters from the explosion, told Arab News: “If someone can help me on Wednesday, I will certainly take part in the mourning day with the families of the victims, the wounded and protesters.
“I feel like doing something crazy, maybe destroying something, but my mind is stopping me. Anger will not do me any good and will not heal the wounds I have been suffering from since the explosion, which broke my ribs, shoulder and knee and has left me sleepless ever since.”
Taha, who is an electrical engineer, worked in Jeddah for 10 years before returning home to Beirut in 2015 to be with his family. He loves fishing and had obtained a permit from Lebanon’s General Security that allowed him to fish at the port. He said that Aug. 4 was the first day he had gone there to fish after a COVID-19 lockdown was lifted. He was at dock 11, where the Orient Queen cruise ship was docked. At about 5 p.m., he called his wife and told her he could see a fire at dock 9, only 300 meters away. He thought the silo there contained only fireworks.
“I spoke to the other fishermen and we decided to stay because it was just fireworks,” he said.
However the sounds of explosions got louder and louder, he said.
“I was standing in front of the cruise ship and could not see what was happening,” he said. “At around 6 p.m. an explosion occurred and sent rocks flying to where I was standing. I rushed to my car. Filipino hostesses from the cruise ship’s staff were walking on the dock and one of them came to my car for protection.
“When the second, massive blast hit, the car was thrown intro the sea — but the waves, which were as high as a 10-story building, threw us back to where we were. I lost consciousness until my son came looking for me in the rubble.
“I heard his voice calling me and all I was able to do was raise my head and tell him ‘I am here.’ He called the Civil Defense, who rescued me and took me to the hospital. My son had to walk between tens of bodies and injured people who were bleeding.”
Taha said that three of his closest friends died on the dock “including two retired officers and a greengrocer fishing to provide for his family.”
He added: “On that day, more than 50 people were jogging on the port’s docks. Some of them died, some of them were injured and disabled. A friend of mine survived the blast because he had moved to dock 14 to find more fish. The Filipino girls that were near me disappeared, maybe drowned in the sea.”
Taha said he paid his own treatment and recovery expenses and that “no one cared for the injured and their fates.”
He added: “I am reliving the shock every single day; I probably need therapy, I do not know. But I lost my job as I cannot walk long distances and I am in pain.”
He is pessimistic about the chances of the truth about the explosion and those responsible being revealed, saying that the truth about the assassination of former US president John F. Kennedy would be known before who is to blame for the Beirut blast. He added that he feels hopeless about the prospects for justice in a country where the state does not care about its citizens.
“I used to pass in front of the silo that contained the ammonium nitrate every day,” Taha said. “It was an abandoned silo with a rusty door, where some people used to urinate.
“To enter the port, one had to pass through three security checkpoints where army intelligence, the general security and the army checked the identities of those going in and the permissions they had — but the explosion still happened.”


Iranian Americans, US foreign-policy figures rally in DC in protest against Raisi presidency

Hundreds of Iranian Americans whose relatives were put to death by incoming Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi have rallied in DC to call on the US and its allies to hold him accountable. (Supplied: OIAC)
Hundreds of Iranian Americans whose relatives were put to death by incoming Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi have rallied in DC to call on the US and its allies to hold him accountable. (Supplied: OIAC)
Updated 03 August 2021

Iranian Americans, US foreign-policy figures rally in DC in protest against Raisi presidency

Hundreds of Iranian Americans whose relatives were put to death by incoming Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi have rallied in DC to call on the US and its allies to hold him accountable. (Supplied: OIAC)
  • Ebrahim Raisi, who takes office in Tehran on Tuesday, is accused of crimes against humanity for his part in the execution of thousands of political prisoners
  • As far is Tehran is concerned, ‘sanctions relief is the only game in town,’ former diplomat Marc Ginsberg told Arab News

LONDON: Hundreds of Iranian Americans whose relatives were executed more than three decades ago following sham trials involving new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi took part in a rally in Washington on Monday. They were calling on the US and its allies to hold him accountable for his crimes against humanity.

A number of current and former officials involved in US foreign policy spoke during the rally, at which Arab News was present. They expressed their support for the demonstrators, adding their voices to the calls for justice and for the Iranian regime to be held accountable for its actions.

The rally, hosted in the grounds of the Capitol Building by the Organization of Iranian American Communities, took place the day before Raisi was due to be officially inaugurated as the president of Iran.

The participants had a clear message for the Biden administration and the wider international community: Raisi is not a leader but an international war criminal, and should be treated as such.

Texas Senator Ted Cruz told the crowd: “For too long the Iranian people have suffered at the hands of (Supreme Leader) Ali Khamenei and Ebrahim Raisi. Their cries for freedom and justice ring across the world and have the support of freedom-loving Americans.

“We will stand with the families of those massacred, and strenuously encourage the Biden administration to hold Raisi and Khamenei accountable through sanctions and pressing for Raisi’s prosecution for crimes against humanity.”

Many people Arab News talked to during the event said their loved ones were killed in the late 1980s while Raisi, at the time a prosecutor for Tehran, presided over what Amnesty International dubbed “death commissions” — sham trials of political prisoners following the Iran-Iraq war. Thousands were executed for their affiliation with or support for Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK), an Iranian revolutionary opposition group that fell out of favor with the regime and was violently crushed. Everyone Arab News spoke to during the rally said they continue to support the MEK.

Eshrat Dehghan said that she lost three of her sons to the death commissions. For these crimes and thousands of others, she said Raisi “should not be allowed into the UN.”

“The Biden administration should support the people of Iran and the MEK in their struggle against the regime,” said Dehghan, who was herself tortured by the regime, as a result of which she has to use a stick to help her walk.

Listed for many years as a terrorist organization, the MEK was removed from the US and European terror lists in 2012. This was a victory for Lincoln Bloomfield, who had served as assistant secretary of state for political-military affairs in the Bush Administration and exhaustively investigated the claims of terrorism leveled against the MEK.

He told Arab News that his investigation found no evidence that the group had targeted the US or its allies with terrorism.

“If there had been any indication of targeting civilians, children or innocent people that would be different — but this is legitimate resistance to tyranny,” he said.

Marc Ginsberg, a former adviser on the Middle East to the White House, and a long-time US diplomat, told Arab News that a lethal drone attack on an Israeli-owned cargo tanker on Saturday was “just one more reason” to hold Raisi and the Iranian regime to account.

“I’m in favor of doing everything possible to undermine this regime and its ability to continue to repress, to instigate violence and incite terrorism in the Middle East,” he said. “Even if (the regime) agrees to roll back their violations of the Iran nuclear agreement, that’s still never going to accomplish the objective of preventing them from developing a nuclear weapon.”

The former ambassador also said that aside from its nuclear activity, Tehran continues to refuse to halt its other destabilizing activities throughout the Middle East, and would use the “lifeline” of sanctions relief to further those activities.

“They will not agree to constraints on their ballistic-missile program and they certainly are not going to give up their support for Hezbollah (in Lebanon), Hamas (in Palestine), the Houthi rebels (in Yemen) or Syria’s Assad regime,” said Ginsberg.

“All they want is sanctions relief. Their question is: how little can we give up in exchange for sanctions relief? For them, sanctions relief is the only game in town.”