27 dead, dozens wounded in deadly attack on Aden airport

Bystanders and a soldier stand near a damaged portion of the airport of Yemen’s southern city of Aden after an explosion, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP)
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Bystanders and a soldier stand near a damaged portion of the airport of Yemen’s southern city of Aden after an explosion, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP)
Reports suggest at least 27 people have been killed in the attack. (AFP)
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Reports suggest at least 27 people have been killed in the attack. (AFP)
Crowds gathered on the runway as the passengers started to come off. (AFP)
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Crowds gathered on the runway as the passengers started to come off. (AFP)
There was also a heavy military presence. (AFP)
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There was also a heavy military presence. (AFP)
Then the missiles struck the airport. (AFP)
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Then the missiles struck the airport. (AFP)
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Updated 30 December 2020

27 dead, dozens wounded in deadly attack on Aden airport

Bystanders and a soldier stand near a damaged portion of the airport of Yemen’s southern city of Aden after an explosion, Wednesday, Dec. 30, 2020. (AP)
  • Terrorist attack occurred as new government flew in from Riyadh
  • Prime minister, Saudi ambassador taken to safety in presidential palace

AL-MUKALLA: Terrorists declared war on Yemen’s fledgling democratic government on Wednesday with a deadly attack on Aden airport as members of the new administration flew in from Riyadh.

At least 27 people were killed and 40 injured in a series of explosions just outside the airport’s main hall while the aircraft’s passengers were disembarking.

A local security source said the building was hit by three mortar shells, and Yemen's information minister Muammar Al-Eryani accused Iran-backed Houthi militias of carrying out the attack.

The explosions were followed by heavy gunfire from armored vehicles as plumes of smoke and dust rose from the scene.

The attack took place as the airport hall was packed with local officials and well-wishers waiting to greet the new government. “Most of the dead and wounded are civilians,” a local health official told Arab News.

The cabinet members, including Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik, were taken to safety at the city’s Maasheq presidential palace, along with the Saudi Ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber.

Later on Wednesday, Arab coalition spokesman Col. Turki Al-Maliki said it shot down an explosive drone, suspected to be from the Houthi militia, which was targeting the palace.

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READ MORE: ‘Cowardly’ Aden airport attack draws regional, global condemnation

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“We and the members of the government are in the temporary capital of Aden and everyone is fine,” Maeen tweeted from the palace. “The cowardly terrorist act that targeted Aden airport is part of the war that is being waged against the Yemeni state and its great people.

“It will only increase our determination to fulfill our duties until the coup is ended and the state and stability are restored.”

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen announced the new power-sharing cabinet this month after more than a year of intense Saudi mediation between the government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council.

The government returned to Aden to put into place the final components of the Riyadh Agreement and end months of political wrangling and violence.

Al-Jaber said the terrorists were seeking to destroy the positive atmosphere created by the formation of the new government and the full implementation of the Riyadh Agreement. “Targeting the Yemeni government upon its arrival at Aden airport is a cowardly terrorist act targeting all the Yemeni people, their security, stability and their daily life,” he said. “It confirms the extent of disappointment and confusion that the creators of death and destruction have reached as a result of the success of the implementation of the Riyadh Agreement and the formation of the Yemeni government and starting its duties to serve the Yemeni people.”

UN Yemen envoy Martin Griffiths also condemned the attack. “I wish the cabinet strength in facing the difficult tasks ahead,” he said. “This unacceptable act of violence is a tragic reminder of the importance of bringing Yemen urgently back on the path toward peace." 

Michael Aron, the UN ambassador to Yemen, said: “I condemn the cowardly attack on Aden airport timed to coincide with the arrival of the new government, a despicable attempt to cause carnage and chaos and bring suffering when Yemenis had chosen to move forward together. My thoughts are with the families of those killed and injured.”

Both the secretary of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Kuwaiti foreign ministry also condemed the attack, while, Emirati minister Anwar Gargash said the attack on the airport was an attack on the “prospects for peace and stability in Yemen.”


UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots
Updated 22 sec ago

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots
  • 100 percent of all eligible residents have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine
  • UAE’s health sector said the authorities were monitoring all information related to the new omicron variant

The UAE announced on Sunday that booster shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for all adults aged 18 and above. 

According to UAE health sector spokesman Farida Al Hosani, people in the country can and should take the additional shot six months after their second dose of the vaccine. 

The announcement, made during the latest government media briefing, replaces a previous directive which allowed only some at-risk residents to receive the booster jabs. 

Al Hosani also highlighted that 100 percent of all eligible residents have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. She clarified that this does not mean that everyone is vaccinated since the country’s population keeps changing, many students are still waiting to receive their shots and certain individuals cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons. 

The official spokesperson of the UAE’s health sector said the authorities were monitoring all information related to the new omicron variant, and will take appropriate action when necessary.

This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) said there were major genetic mutations that may affect the characteristics of the COVID-19 virus, allowing it to spread at a faster pace than previous mutations. 

Much the world, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran and the US, have implemented travel restrictions and suspended flights to and from several southern African countries in response to warnings over the transmissibility of omicron. 

Meanwhile, Israel and Japan barred all new foreign arrivals by shutting their borders completely.

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UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons
Updated 29 November 2021

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

Britain and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear program, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Israel and Britain will sign a 10-year agreement on Monday to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defense, according to the Telegraph.
The foreign ministers added in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber partner, in a bid to improve its cyber defenses as countries around the world face increased threats.


Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2021

Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
  • Demonstrators blame authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province

TEHRAN: Iranian riot police on Sunday patrolled a dried-out riverbed in the central city of Isfahan where protests against a water shortage led to violent clashes two days earlier.

Drought and water diversions have been blamed for drying up the Zayandeh-Rood waterway that runs from the Zagros mountains and through the city known for its iconic river bridges.
Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.
Calm has returned and it held on Sunday, a local photographer said by phone from Isfahan, the country’s third-largest city 340 km south of Tehran.
“In the morning, the city was calm and traffic was normal,” the photographer said.
“I saw riot police patrolling the riverbed between the historic bridges, but their numbers were lower than on Saturday.”
The protesters blame the authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province, which is also desperately short of water.
Authorities Saturday announced 67 arrests of the “main perpetrators and troublemakers” in the rally that had drawn “2,000 to 3,000 rioters.”
The arrests were made by the police, intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards.

BACKGROUND

Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.

Police had on Friday fired tear gas at the protesters, who threw stones, smashed the windows of an ambulance and set a police motorbike ablaze, according to the Fars news agency.
Nourodin Soltanian, a spokesman for Isfahan University Hospital, said a number of protesters were wounded, including “two in serious condition.”
Isfahan police chief Mohammed-Reza Mirheidari called the protesters “opportunists and counter-revolutionaries,” and the ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan accused “mercenary thugs” of being behind the “riots.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters.”
He added on Twitter that “the people of Iran have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.”
The Kayhan daily meanwhile also linked Friday’s protests to the scheduled resumption of nuclear talks on Monday in Vienna between Iran and a group of major powers.
Friday’s events “testify to the infiltration of a US fifth column, in the run-up to the Vienna talks, to provoke a riot and push for (new) US sanctions” against Iran, it said.
The Zayandeh-Rood river that runs through Isfahan has been dry since 2000, except for a few brief periods.
Iran has endured repeated droughts over the past decade, but also regular floods, a phenomenon that can intensify when torrential rains fall on sun-baked earth.
Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts and that their intensity and frequency in turn threaten food security.


Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
Updated 28 November 2021

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
  • Diplomats: Tehran simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how

PARIS: World powers and Iran return to Vienna on Monday in a last ditch effort to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but few expect a breakthrough as Tehran’s atomic activities rumble on in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
The US will also send a delegation, headed by Washington’s Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, to participate in the talks indirectly.
Israel worries Iran will secure sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers, but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb making potential, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his Cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the JCPOA, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June.
The latest round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Tehran’s negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic.
Two European diplomats said it seemed Iran was simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how.
Western diplomats say they will head to Monday’s talks on the premise that they resume where they left off in June, and have warned that if Iran continues with its maximalist positions and fails to restore its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, then they will review their options.
Iran’s top negotiator and foreign minister both repeated on Friday that the full lifting of sanctions would be the only thing on the table in Vienna.
“If this is the position that Iran continues to hold on Monday, then I don’t see a negotiated solution,” said one European diplomat.
Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the IAEA says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to re-install monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.
“They are doing enough technically so they can change their basic relationship with the West to be able to have a more equal dialogue in the future,” said a Western diplomat involved in the talks.
Several diplomats said Iran was now between four to six weeks away from the “breakout time” it needs to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, although they cautioned it was still about two years from being able to weaponize it.
Should the talks collapse, the likelihood is the US and its allies will initially confront Iran at the IAEA next month by calling for an emergency meeting.


Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
Updated 28 November 2021

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
  • Prime minister directs government to take all precautionary measures against new COVID-19 variant Omicron

CAIRO: Egypt authorized on Sunday Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15, the cabinet said in a statement.
The step effectively lowers the minimum age of eligibility to receive the two-shot vaccine in Egypt, which was 15 years old previously.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly directed the government to take all precautionary measures against the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, noting the decision to halt all direct flights with South Africa.
His comments came during a meeting of a medical group to combat coronavirus, the state news agency (MENA) reported. 
Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, higher education and acting health minister, reviewed a report on the current local and international epidemical situation and the developments of the new variant, adding that the report confirmed there are no Omicron cases detected in Egypt till now.
He said that about 45.2 million vaccine doses had been administered, with 15.6 million people having received both doses.
On Friday, Egypt suspended direct flights to and from South Africa due to concerns about a new variant of the COVID-19 virus.
(With Reuters)