The restoration projects that keep Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa in good repair 

A picture taken on July 12, 2016 from inside the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem old city, shows the Muslim shrine following a restoration. (AFP/File Photo)
A picture taken on July 12, 2016 from inside the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem old city, shows the Muslim shrine following a restoration. (AFP/File Photo)
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Updated 13 March 2021

The restoration projects that keep Jerusalem’s Al-Aqsa in good repair 

A picture taken on July 12, 2016 from inside the golden dome of the Dome of the Rock mosque at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound in Jerusalem old city, shows the Muslim shrine following a restoration. (AFP/File Photo)
  • Israeli attempts to stop renovations to the Dome of the Rock in January brought into focus ongoing projects in the Old City
  • Al-Aqsa compound has seen five major restoration cycles undertaken by the Hashemite Fund since 1922 at a cost of $2.1 billion

AMMAN, JORDAN: Restoration work has been underway at Jerusalem’s holy sites for almost a century now, with a total of five major initiatives funded by the Hashemite royal family of Jordan.

Ongoing projects in the Old City of Jerusalem, a UNESCO World Heritage site, were brought into focus by a flare-up in tensions in January this year when Israeli police tried to stop renovations to the Dome of the Rock Islamic shrine.

The current monarch, King Abdullah II, has continued his father and great-grandfather’s mission, establishing in 2007 the Hashemite Fund for the Restoration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock.

In December 2016, an eight-year project to renovate and preserve the mosaics of the Dome of the Rock and the Qibly Mosque concluded with the restoration of about 16 million mosaic tiles — the first such project in 500 years.

Wasfi Al-Kailani, executive director of the Hashemite Fund, told Arab News that the royal family’s funds have spent nearly JOD 1.5 billion ($2.1 billion) on these projects since 1922.

Al-Aqsa Mosque, also known as the Qibly Mosque, is situated inside the Noble Sanctuary, or Haram al-Sharif, alongside the Dome of the Rock — the iconic gold-capped mosque built on the site where Prophet Muhammad is believed to have ascended to heaven by night on a winged horse.

The Umayyad Caliph Abdel Malik ibn Marwan commissioned its construction and it was completed during the reign of his son, Al-Walid, in the year 705. The UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the three holiest sites in Islam, along with Makkah and Madinah in Saudi Arabia.

However, the Jewish people also lay claim to the same site, known to their faith as the Temple Mount. They believe the mosque is the site of the remains of two destroyed Jewish temples. As a result, to this day the compound remains both a symbolic and a literal flashpoint in the ongoing Israeli-Palestinian problem.




An engineer dry cleaning the mosaic painting after renovating some impaired pieces. (Supplied)

According to international law, the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf, which is directly affiliated with the Jordanian Ministry of Awqaf Islamic Affairs and Holy Places, is the official supervisor of Al-Aqsa Mosque and the endowments of Jerusalem. Jordan still maintains the exclusive right to supervise religious affairs in Jerusalem according to the peace agreement it signed with Israel in 1994.

The first restoration, which began in 1922 and concluded in 1952, saw the Islamic Higher Council (IHC) created to preserve Islamic deals and protect the sanctuaries of Palestine.

Under the leadership of Hajj Amin Al-Husseini, the IHC raised funds to restore the Dome of the Rock. King Abdullah I, the first ruler of Transjordan, personally supervised the restoration work, which included the retiling of ancient artworks.

During the 1948 war, the Old City of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa Mosque and the roof of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher suffered considerable damage. Immediately after the end of the war, King Abdullah I visited Al-Aqsa and launched the restoration of the Mihrab Zakariah (Niche of the Al-Aqsa).




King Abdullah II inspects the final stage of restoring typical copy of Minbar Salhahudeen designed and manufactured in Amman before installing it in Al-Aqsa Qibli Mosque in 2007. (Supplied)

The king was deeply committed to preserving the holy places throughout his reign until his assassination in Qibly Mosque on July 20, 1951.

Abdullah’s grandson, King Hussein, took on the mantle by launching a second wave of restoration efforts from 1952 to 1964 and founding the Jordanian Law of the Hashemite Restoration Committee in 1954.

Over the centuries the Dome of the Rock had lost its golden sheen and was letting in water. The lead plates adorning the dome had to be replaced with aluminum support beams and new gilded plates.

“When Caliph Abdel Malik decided to cover the mosque with gold, he appealed to Muslims to contribute their gold jewelry,” said Al-Kailani.

“Until this day, we see in the transparent offering box in Al-Aqsa Mosque both paper money and jewelry that women contribute to the restoration effort.”

THENUMBER

$2.1 bn

* Money spent by Hashemite funds for the restoration of the Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif since 1922.

Some of the most significant restoration work took place in the third cycle after Michael Dennis Rohan, an Australian Christian extremist, attempted to torch the compound’s ancient buildings on Aug. 21, 1969.

The 1,000-year-old wood and ivory carved Saladin pulpit — known as the Minbar of Salah Al-Din — was destroyed in the fire. The pulpit had been brought from Aleppo to Jerusalem by Salah Al-Din himself after his liberation of Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187.

Its replacement, designed to resemble the original, was finally installed in 2007 at a cost of $2.115 million to the Jordanian treasury. Repairs to the fire damage are ongoing.

The fourth restoration began in the early 1990s to address weathering and other wear and tear to the Dome of the Rock. Some 1,200 copper and nickel plates, gilded with 24-carat gold, were installed, alongside new roof supports and fireproofing.




Hashemite Fund Director Dr. Wasfi Kailani and engineer Ra’ef Najem join Awqaf Council members in celebrating the finishing of the 2008-2016 important phase of renovating the mosaic in the Dome of the Rock, July 2016. (Supplied)

“His Majesty the late King Hussein sold his house in Britain for £8.5 million, which he donated to renovate the golden dome with 24-carat golden covering,” said Al-Kailani. The restoration brought back the dome’s glittering splendor.

Even so, in recent years the leak in the roof of the Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall had become unbearable. Every time it rained, the wet ceiling would drip onto the heads of Muslim worshippers as they prayed in Bab Al-Rahmeh on the periphery of the Al-Aqsa compound.

Israeli police were repeatedly blocking attempts to repair the roof of the small building, tucked just inside the closed Golden Gate, despite regular appeals by the Jerusalem Islamic Waqf.

Then, on Jan. 22, a Palestinian man, wearing a keffiyeh over his face to conceal his identity from Israeli surveillance cameras, climbed onto the roof of Bab Al-Rahmeh prayer hall and repaired the leak. The Israeli police responded with a ban on restoration work and an embargo on all goods and materials coming into the compound.

Bassam Al-Hallaq, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque’s Hashemite Restoration Department, was outraged by the move, telling Jordan TV’s Eye on Jerusalem program: “I have worked for 40 years and this is the first time that our work has been interrupted.”




An Israeli policewoman stands guard at an entrance of the al-Aqsa compound, leading to the Dome of the Rock mosque in the Old City of Jerusalem on October 18, 2020, amid the novel coronavirus pandemic crisis. (AFP/File Photo)

Azzam Khatib, the director-general of the Jordanian Jerusalem Waqf and Al-Aqsa Mosque Affairs Directorate, refused to take the embargo lying down. The Waqf Council met and issued a statement condemning the Israeli action.

Omar Kiswani, director of Al-Aqsa Mosque, said that repairing and restoring the entire compound is the right of the Islamic Waqf and that Israeli authorities have no right to interfere.

Khatib also informed Ghassan Majali, Jordan’s ambassador to Israel, and Mohammad Khalaileh, the minister of Waqf in Amman, leading to a strong statement of protest from Jordan’s foreign ministry.

The combined pressure campaign worked. Four days after the ban was imposed, the Israeli authorities rescinded the order, allowing restoration work to continue.

“We were able to return to our regular work and bring in all the needed equipment and items needed,” Al-Hallaq said.

“The challenge of restoration has always been how to safeguard the authentic character of every historic segment of Al-Aqsa,” said Al-Kailani of the Hashemite Fund.




A Palestinian woman walks as snow falls at the Dome of the Rock Mosque in Jerusalem's al-Aqsa mosque compound, on February 17, 2021. (AFP/File Photo)

For his part, Al-Hallaq says many of the restoration projects have faced obstruction by Israeli authorities — and more hurdles are expected in future. In addition to the ban on renovations at Bab Al-Rahmeh, Israel has also prevented any attempts to light up the top of the Dome of the Rock.

“Even before the controversy over the repair of the Bab Al-Rahmeh, Israel had banned some of the work, such as the lighting of the golden dome and the fire extinguishing system inside Al-Aqsa Mosque,” he said.

“We have noticed that the current lighting of the Dome of the Rock doesn’t reach the top areas. We have the money and the plans to erect a lighting system that will allow the illumination of the entire Dome of the Rock, but Israel bans the erection of any towers that are needed to light the dome.”

Al-Hallaq says overcoming these obstacles is an important part of the historic and religious duty of Muslims to defend their holy places.

“When you work as an engineer or artisan here, you are always working at risk from Israel,” he said. “But despite all this, while we suffer from these interventions, we are steadfast and insistent on continuing the restoration efforts.”

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Twitter: @daoudkuttab


Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says
Updated 32 min 14 sec ago

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says

Turkey to expel US envoy and nine others, Erdogan says
  • Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey's NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan's 19 years in power
  • In a joint statement on Oct. 18, ten ambassadors called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala's case, and for his "urgent release"

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday that he had told his foreign ministry to expel the ambassadors of the United States and nine other Western countries for demanding the release of philanthropist Osman Kavala.
Seven of the ambassadors represent Turkey’s NATO allies and the expulsions, if carried out, would open the deepest rift with the West in Erdogan’s 19 years in power.
Kavala, a contributor to numerous civil society groups, has been in prison for four years, charged with financing nationwide protests in 2013 and with involvement in a failed coup in 2016. He has remained in detention while his latest trial continues, and denies the charges.
In a joint statement on Oct. 18, the ambassadors of Canada, Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, Finland, New Zealand and the United States called for a just and speedy resolution to Kavala’s case, and for his “urgent release.” They were summoned by the foreign ministry, which called the statement irresponsible.
“I gave the necessary order to our foreign minister and said what must be done: These 10 ambassadors must be declared persona non grata (undesirable) at once. You will sort it out immediately,” Erdogan said in a speech in the northwestern city of Eskisehir.
“They will know and understand Turkey. The day they do not know and understand Turkey, they will leave,” he said to cheers from the crowd.
The US, and French embassies and the White House and US State Department did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Erdogan has said previously that he plans to meet US President Joe Biden at summit of the Group of 20 (G20) major economies in Rome next weekend.
Norway said its embassy had not received any notification from Turkish authorities.
“Our ambassador has not done anything that warrants an expulsion,” said the ministry’s chief spokesperson, Trude Maaseide, adding that Turkey was well aware of Norway’s views.
“We will continue to call on Turkey to comply with democratic standards and the rule of law to which the country committed itself under the European Human Rights Convention,” Maaseide said.
Kavala was acquitted last year of charges related to the 2013 protests, but the ruling was overturned this year and combined with charges related to the coup attempt.
Rights groups say his case is emblematic of a crackdown on dissent under Erdogan.
Six of the countries involved are EU members, including Germany and France. European Parliament President David Sassoli tweeted: “The expulsion of ten ambassadors is a sign of the authoritarian drift of the Turkish government. We will not be intimidated. Freedom for Osman Kavala.”
Danish Foreign Minister Jeppe Kofod said his ministry had not received any official notification, but was in contact with its friends and allies.
“We will continue to guard our common values and principles, as also expressed in the joint declaration,” he said in a statement.
A source at the German Foreign Ministry also said the 10 countries were consulting with one another.
Kavala said on Friday https://www.reuters.com/world/middle-east/philanthropist-kavala-says-no-possibility-fair-trial-turkey-2021-10-22 he would no longer attend his trial as a fair hearing was impossible after recent comments by Erdogan.
Erdogan was quoted on Thursday as saying the ambassadors in question would not release “bandits, murderers and terrorists” in their own countries.
The European Court of Human Rights called for Kavala’s immediate release two years ago, saying there was no reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense, and finding that his detention had been intended to silence him.
It issued a similar ruling this year in the case of Selahattin Demirtas, former head of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), who has been held in jail for nearly five years.
The Council of Europe, which oversees the implementation of ECHR decisions, has said it will begin infringement proceedings against Turkey if Kavala is not released.
The next hearing in Kavala’s trial is on Nov. 26.


Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag
Updated 23 October 2021

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag

Palestinian rights groups see muzzle in Israel’s terror tag
  • Activists said the decision amounts to an attempt to silence groups that have documented Israel's harsh treatment of Palestinians over the years
  • The terrorism label would allow Israel to raid the groups’ offices, seize assets, arrest employees and criminalize funding and expressions of support

RAMALLAH, West Bank: Activists called on the international community Saturday to help reverse Israel’s unprecedented designation of six Palestinian human rights groups as terrorist organizations, a label that effectively outlaws them.
They said the decision amounts to an attempt to silence groups that have documented Israel’s harsh treatment of Palestinians over the years. Some of the groups have close ties with rights organizations in Israel and abroad.
Israel claims the targeted groups were a front for a small PLO faction with a violent history, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.
Israel’s terror label for the six groups, including some that receive European funding, appears to have caught the United States and Europe off-guard. Israel later insisted some Biden administration officials were notified ahead of time.
The move against the rights groups comes at a time when efforts to negotiate the terms of a Palestinian state alongside Israel are hopelessly bogged down. For years, the US and Europe have been engaged in politically less costly conflict management, rather than pushing for a solution, while Israeli settlements on occupied lands sought for a Palestinian state have continued to expand.
Amid the paralysis, Europe, in particular, has invested in strengthening Palestinian civil society, an effort now seemingly being challenged by Israel’s decision to outlaw well-known rights groups.
The terrorism label would allow Israel to raid the groups’ offices, seize assets, arrest employees and criminalize funding and expressions of support.
Rights groups in Israel and abroad have expressed outrage over the “terror” label.
Palestinian activists said they are counting on international pressure to get the decision reversed.
“We hope that the International community will put enough pressure on Israel so that it will back down,” Ubai Aboudi, head of the Bisan Center for Research and Development, one of the targeted groups, said Saturday. Aboudi said he was previously charged by Israel with being a PFLP member, but denied ever belonging to the group.
Sahar Francis, the director of the prisoners rights group Addameer, told a news conference that she was grateful for the international statements of support, and that “we expect this campaign and pressure to continue in order for it to be fruitful.” Addameer is also one of the targeted groups.
Shawan Jabarin, who heads the veteran rights group Al-Haq, said Israel’s designation came as a surprise and that the groups had not been given a heads-up. Two of the six groups said they would not be forced underground despite the uncertainty of their new status,
An Israeli defense official alleged in a statement Saturday that the six groups “operate as an organized network” under the leadership of the PFLP. The statement claimed the groups serve as a lifeline for the PFLP through fund-raising, money laundering and recruiting activists.
It also named several members of the rights groups who were later arrested as alleged members of the PFLP military wing. The small PLO faction has a political party and a military wing that has carried out attacks that killed Israelis.
The PFLP is considered a terrorist organization by Israel and Western countries.
The six groups have denied the allegations and have denounced Israel’s terrorism designation as a blatant attempt to squash reporting on rights abuses in the occupied territories, mainly by Israel, but also by the increasingly authoritarian Palestinian autonomy government.
The UN Human Rights Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory said Saturday that the reasons cited by Israel’s defense minister were “vague or irrelevant,” and denounced his decision as the latest move in a “long stigmatizing campaign” against the organizations.
The European Union delegation to the Palestinian territories acknowledged financing activities by some of the rights groups. It said past allegations of the misuse of EU funds by partners “have not been substantiated” but that it takes the matter seriously and is looking into it.
“EU funding to Palestinian civil society organizations is an important element of our support for the two-state solution,” it said Friday.
The United States, Israel’s closest ally, said it had not been given advance warning about the decision and would seek more information. US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Friday that “we believe respect for human rights, fundamental freedoms, and a strong civil society are critically important to responsible and responsive governance.”
The other four groups targeted by Israel include Defense for Children International-Palestine, the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committees and the Union of Agricultural Work Committees. The majority of the organizations target human rights violations by Israel as well as the Palestinian Authority, both of which routinely detain Palestinian activists.


Lebanese president returns electoral law to parliament

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2021

Lebanese president returns electoral law to parliament

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered. (Reuters)
  • Aoun justifies opposition to law by citing ‘natural and climatic factors’ that often occur in March and could prevent voting
  • Bassil may benefit from these developments and reap rewards elsewhere, says analyst

BEIRUT: Lebanese President Michel Aoun has sent a law amending legislative election rules back to parliament for reconsideration, the presidency said in a statement.

Aoun did not sign the law, to which parliament introduced some amendments. He has requested that these amendments be reconsidered.

Aoun’s objection comes after the Free Patriotic Movement bloc raised its opposition to holding elections in March instead of May because it “narrows its margins of action.”

During the legislative session of Oct. 19, the bloc also objected to proposals to change the expatriate voting formula by canceling the six allocated seats and allowing expatriates to vote for the electoral lists.

The FPM sought to allocate these six seats in the electoral law, provided that voting for these representatives would take place in the 2022 elections.

Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called on the parliamentary committees to convene next Tuesday to discuss Aoun’s response to the electoral law.

Observers described these developments as a sign of a political struggle for the presidency.

The parliament to be elected in March is expected to pick the new president after Aoun’s term ends in October.

In the decree in which he requested a review of the amendments, Aoun said that “shortening the constitutional deadline for the elections could prevent voters from being able to exercise their electoral right due to the natural and climatic factors that often prevail in March, making it impossible for voters to reach their polling stations, not to mention the cost of transportation and the inability to supply polling stations with electricity.”

He added: “This could also prevent voters residing outside Lebanon from exercising their political right preserved in the current electoral law by voting for their representatives in the electoral district designated for non-residents.”

The president said that the amendments to the law deprive the right to vote from 10,685 citizens, who would reach the age of 21 between Feb. 1 and March 30, 2022.

Zeina Helou, an elections expert, told Arab News: “Aoun is trying to pull strings in order to later accuse the other political parties of preventing him from carrying out the reforms he wanted.”

She added: “Aoun and his political team prefer to gain more time to conduct the elections rather than move the date up.

“Freezing the voter lists will deprive new voters who would soon turn 21 from the right to vote, and this may be a reason to appeal before the Constitutional Council.”

Helou added that “the FPM fears that Christian voters who live in Greater Beirut will not go to the polling stations in their remote villages and towns in Akkar, in the north, the south, and Baalbek-Hermel, either because of the high prices of gasoline or because of the stormy weather in the mountains in March, and insists on Mega polling centers.”

She noted that “this process requires a lot of time to be arranged, but I doubt that the rest of the political parties want these polling stations in the places where voters live because they lose the ability to control their voters and know who they voted for.”

Helou pointed out: “The Shiite duo, Hezbollah and the Amal movement — unlike Aoun and his political team — do not fear the upcoming elections. Hezbollah does not derive its legitimacy from the elections but from its weapons and power.

“Hezbollah is able to obstruct any parliamentary session, just as it is currently obstructing holding cabinet sessions until Tarek Bitar, the judge leading the investigation into the Beirut port blast, is removed. The second Hezbollah feels threatened, it will turn the tables.”

Justifications for disrupting the elections in March may already be in motion, regardless of constitutional reasons that may or may not be taken into account.

Helou told Arab News that FPM head MP Gebran Bassil — who has always wanted to become president — may benefit from the current developments and reap rewards elsewhere.

Although the political parties believe it is still too early to discuss what the upcoming parliamentary elections will bear, Helou said that in 2018, the elections were held amid understanding and settlements between the political parties in power, while in 2022 they will be marked by tug-of-war and alliances.

“The same parties could be re-elected and regain their seats in parliament, and we may see a low voter turnout for lack of convincing alternatives.”

Next Tuesday, parliament is expected to either approve Aoun’s request, which requires the votes of 61 MPs, or appeal it before the Constitutional Council.

Parliament could also introduce some amendments to the law, which requires the votes of half of the quorum plus one; if the quorum is 65 MPs, the law would need 33 votes.


Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’
Updated 23 October 2021

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’

Sudan pro-civilian rule faction warns of ‘creeping coup’
  • Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles
  • Since August 2019, the country has been led by civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule

KHARTOUM: A Sudanese faction calling for a transfer of power to civilian rule warned Saturday of a “creeping coup,” during a press conference that an unidentified mob attack sought to prevent.
Sudan has been undergoing a precarious transition marred by political divisions and power struggles since the April 2019 ouster of president Omar Al-Bashir.
Since August 2019, the country has been led by civilian-military administration tasked with overseeing the transition to full civilian rule.
The main civilian bloc — the Forces for Freedom and Change (FFC) — which led anti-Bashir protests, has splintered into two opposing factions.
“The crisis at hand is engineered — and is in the shape of a creeping coup,” mainstream FFC leader Yasser Arman, said in a press conference in the capital Khartoum.
“We renew our confidence in the government, Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, and reforming transitional institutions — but without dictations or imposition,” Arman added.
The press conference at the official SUNA news agency premises was delayed when an unidentified mob tried to stop it going ahead.
The FFC’s mainstream faction backs a transition to civilian rule, but supporters of the breakaway faction have ratcheted up calls for “military rule.”
On Thursday, tens of thousands of protesters rallied across Sudan to counter a week-long encampment supporting pro-military rule in central Khartoum.
Critics have charged that the rival sit-in has been orchestrated by senior figures in the security forces, Bashir sympathizers and other “counter-revolutionaries.”
Tensions between the two sides have long simmered, but divisions ratcheted up after a failed coup on September 21.
Hamdok has previously described the splits as the “worst and most dangerous crisis” facing the transition.
On Saturday, Hamdok denied rumors he had agreed to a cabinet reshuffle, calling them “not accurate.”
The premier also “emphasised that he does not monopolize the right to decide the fate of transitional institutions.”
SUNA reported that Jeffrey Feltman, US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa, is expected in Khartoum for meetings.


Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province

Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province
Updated 23 October 2021

Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province

Arab coalition destroys four explosive-laden boats in Yemeni province
  • Houthis target international ships in Red Sea, says official
  • Coalition’s air raids on Houthi targets in Hodeidah came days after it destroyed similar locations in Sanaa

AL-MUKALLA: The Arab coalition on Saturday said it had destroyed four explosive-laden Houthi boats in Yemen’s western province of Hodeidah.

A coalition statement said warplanes targeted Al-Jabanah coastal base, east of Hodeidah city, where the vessels had been prepared to attack international ships sailing through the Red Sea.

“The coalition efforts have contributed to protecting shipping lanes and international trade in the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and south of (the) Red Sea,” it said.

The coalition’s air raids on Houthi targets in Hodeidah came days after it destroyed similar locations in Sanaa, where explosive-laden drones and ballistic missiles had been prepared to attack locations in Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

The coalition recently vowed to launch heavier aerial bombardments in Yemen if the Houthis did not stop attacking civilians inside and outside Yemen.

A pro-government officer from Hodeidah said on Saturday that Al-Jabanah had three military sites and was known to Yemeni military officials as a place for making explosive-laden boats and drones.

“The Houthis usually target international ships in the Red Sea from Al-Jabanah since it is the closest area in Hodeidah to international waters,” the officer, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to brief reporters, told Arab News.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government has accused the Houthis of breaching the Stockholm Agreement by turning coastal areas in Hodeidah under their control into bases for launching attacks against the administration, the coalition, and international maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

The airstrikes in Hodeidah are the first to have taken place in the last few months as most of the coalition’s efforts are focused on supporting government troops battling the militia in the central province of Marib.

Dozens of Houthi fighters and government troops were killed in fighting outside Marib city as the militia pressed ahead with its offensive to capture it along with its gas and oil fields.

Residents and local officials said on Saturday that fierce clashes had erupted in Jabal Murad after hundreds of Houthis attacked troops and allied tribesmen in a bid to make fresh territorial gains that would put them closer to their target.