Abducted Yemeni model in Houthi prison threatens hunger strike

Abducted Yemeni model in Houthi prison threatens hunger strike
Entesar Al-Hammadi. (Social media)
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Updated 18 April 2021

Abducted Yemeni model in Houthi prison threatens hunger strike

Abducted Yemeni model in Houthi prison threatens hunger strike
  • The organizations said that the Houthis are still holding hundreds of people inside small, insanitary and overcrowded cells in the military prison in Sanaa

AL-MUKALLA: Abducted Yemeni model Entesar Al-Hammadi has threatened to launch a hunger strike as the Houthis refuse to release her or allow local prosecutors to question her, the model's lawyer told Arab News on Sunday.

Khaled Mohammed Al-Kamal said that the Houthi-controlled Central Prison, where the model has been held since Feb. 20, has rejected a request to transfer the model to the court for investigation.

“My client has threatened to go on hunger strike if she is not released. She has also complained about [verbal] abuses by her [female] captors,” Al-Kamal said, adding that the Central Prison officials gave no convincing reasons for not transferring the model to the court.

“The prison has rejected three demands to transfer my client to the court. I believe that they refused to release her due to the huge media coverage of the case,” the lawyer said.

The 20-year-old model and actress was on her way to a film set when a Houthi checkpoint stopped her vehicle and abducted her and two friends.

“There are no clear charges brought against my client,” he said.

The abduction has triggered outrage on social media as activists renewed demands for designating the Houthis a terrorist organization for their crimes against Yemenis.

The Mothers of Abductees Association, an umbrella organization for thousands of female relatives of war prisoners, strongly condemned the abduction, saying that the Houthis prevented the model’s relatives and lawyer from visiting her.

In a statement, the organization demanded the international community and right groups to pressure the Houthis to stop abusing women and release all abductees.

“The Houthi group is fully responsible for the lives of Entesar and all kidnapped women in its prisons,” the organization said.

Several prisoners have launched a hunger strike in Houthi-held Sanaa to force the Houthis to release them, complaining about prison treatment and the refusal of their captors to set them free, two right groups said.

SAM, the organization for rights and liberties, and the Mothers of Abductees Association said in a joint statement on Saturday that several prisoners who were abducted by the Houthis in 2015, were transferred from the military prison to an unknown location after they launched a hunger strike, and they cautioned that their captors might torture them to force them to end their strike.

The organizations said that the Houthis are still holding hundreds of people inside small, insanitary and overcrowded cells in the military prison in Sanaa.

In March, hundreds of African migrants were killed or wounded when the Houthis caused a fire inside their overcrowded detention center in Sanaa in aa attempt to suppress a riot.

The rebels later used force to disperse a protest by survivors of the fire who demanded justice and compensation, and then deported them to government-controlled areas in southern Yemen.


China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy
Updated 17 May 2021

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy

China urges US to play constructive role in Gaza diplomacy
  • ‘We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position’
  • China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause
BEIJING: China on Monday renewed calls for the US to play a constructive role in ending the conflict in Gaza and stop blocking efforts at the United Nations to demand an end to the bloodshed.
Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China, as rotating head of the Security Council, has urged a cease-fire and the provision of humanitarian assistance, among other proposals, but that obstruction by “one country” has prevented the council from speaking with one voice.
“We call on the United States to assume its due responsibility and take an impartial position to support the council and play its due role in cooling down the situation and rebuilding trust for a political solution,” Zhao said at a daily briefing.
China “strongly condemns” violence against civilians and calls for an end to air strikes, ground attacks, rocket fire and “other actions that aggravate the situation,” Zhao said.
Israel should “exercise restraint, effectively comply with the relevant United Nations resolutions, stop demolishing Palestinian people’s houses, stop expelling Palestinian people and stop expanding its settlement program, stop threats of violence and provocations against Muslims, and maintain and respect the historical status quo of Jerusalem as a religious holy site,” Zhao said.
Calls have grown for the Biden administration to take a more active stance on the Israeli-Palestinian violence. Thus far, the United States, Israel’s closest ally, has blocked efforts by China, Norway and Tunisia to get the Security Council to issue a statement, including a call for a cessation of hostilities.
China has long portrayed itself as a strong supporter of the Palestinian cause, while building closer political, economic and military links with Israel.

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah
Updated 17 May 2021

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

Yemeni minister condemns Houthi attack on market south of Hodeidah

DUBAI: Yemen's information minister Moammar al- Eryani has said he condemns in the strongest terms a Houthi attack on a crowded market in Al-Durayhimi district, south of Hodeidah province.   
Eryani said the attack on a market filled with hundreds of civilians by an “Iranian-made” drone killed one person and wounded five others. 
He told the Yemeni News Agency (SABA) that the attack was an extension of a series of crimes and violations committed by the Houthi militia against civilians in liberated areas of Hodeidah.
Eryani also called on the UN envoy and the United Nations mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement, to condemn the attack and to consider it a war crime.


Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week
Updated 17 May 2021

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week

Gaza pummelled by fresh Israeli strikes, more than 200 dead in a week
  • Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave
  • The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, local authorities said

GAZA CITY: Israeli air strikes hammered the Gaza Strip pre-dawn Monday, after a week of violence between the Jewish state and Islamist militants left more than 200 people dead as international calls for de-escalation went unheeded.
Overnight Sunday to Monday, Israel launched dozens of strikes in the space of a few minutes across the crowded coastal Palestinian enclave controlled by Islamist group Hamas, according to AFP journalists at the scene.
The strikes caused widespread power cuts and damaged hundreds of buildings, local authorities said. No casualties were immediately reported.
West Gaza resident Mad Abed Rabbo, 39, expressed “horror and fear” at the intensity of the onslaught.
“There have never been strikes of this magnitude,” he said.
In a statement just before 2:00 am (2300 GMT Sunday), the Israeli army said its fighter jets were “striking terror targets in the Gaza Strip.”
Gazan Mani Qazaat said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “should realize we’re civilians, not fighters.”
“I felt like I was dying.”
The renewed strikes come a day after 42 Palestinians in Gaza — including at least eight children and two doctors, according to the health ministry — were killed in the worst daily death toll in the enclave since the bombardments began.
In total, 197 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza, including at least 58 children, and more than 1,200 wounded since Israel launched its air campaign against Hamas on May 10 after the group fired rockets. The heaviest exchange of fire in years was sparked by unrest in Jerusalem.
In Israel, 10 people, including one child, have been killed and 282 wounded by rocket fire launched by armed groups in Gaza.
Israel’s army said about 3,000 rockets had been fired since last Monday from Gaza toward Israel — the highest rate ever recorded — but added the Iron Dome anti-missile system had intercepted over 1,000.
Netanyahu said in a televised address Sunday that Israel’s “campaign against the terrorist organizations is continuing with full force” and would “take time” to finish.
The Israeli army said it had targeted the infrastructure of Hamas and armed group Islamic Jihad, including a vast tunnel system, weapons factories and storage sites.
Israeli air strikes also hit the home of Yahya Sinwar, head of Hamas’s political wing in Gaza, the army said, releasing footage of plumes of smoke and intense damage, but without saying if he was killed.
Balls of flame and a cloud of debris shot into the sky Saturday afternoon as Israel’s air force flattened a building housing Al Jazeera and AP news agency, after giving journalists an hour to evacuate.
Netanyahu on Sunday said the building also hosted a Palestinian “terrorist” intelligence office.
“It is a perfectly legitimate target,” he said.
The violence between Hamas and Israel is the worst since 2014, when Israel launched a military operation on the Gaza Strip with the stated aim of ending rocket fire and destroying tunnels used for smuggling.
The war left 2,251 dead on the Palestinian side, mostly civilians, and 74 on the Israeli side, mostly soldiers.
Opening the first session of the UN Security Council on the renewed violence on Sunday, Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the fighting “utterly appalling.”
“It must stop immediately,” he said.
But the UN talks, already delayed by Israel’s ally the United States, resulted in little action, with Washington opposing a resolution.
President Joe Biden’s administration says it is working behind the scenes and that a Security Council statement could backfire.
Israel is also trying to contain inter-communal violence between Jews and Arab-Israelis, as well as deadly clashes in the occupied West Bank, where 19 Palestinians have been killed since Monday, according to a toll from Palestinian authorities.
Major clashes broke out at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound — one of Islam’s holiest sites — on May 7 following a crackdown against protests over planned expulsions of Palestinians in the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of Israeli-annexed east Jerusalem.
Sheikh Jarrah has been at the heart of the flareup, seeing weeks of clashes between Palestinians and Israeli security forces.
On Sunday, a car-ramming attack in Sheikh Jarrah wounded seven police officers, police said, adding that the attacker had been killed.
Police also said “a number of suspects” had been arrested during clashes in another east Jerusalem neighborhood overnight Sunday to Monday.
Guterres warned the fighting could have far-reaching consequences if not stopped immediately.
“It has the potential to unleash an uncontainable security and humanitarian crisis and to further foster extremism, not only in the occupied Palestinian territory and Israel, but in the region as a whole.”


Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause
Updated 17 May 2021

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause

Lebanese demonstrations voice backing for Palestinian cause
  • Public figures say Beirut must not let itself be used as Iran’s pawn in fight against Israel

BEIRUT: Demonstrations in solidarity with the Palestinians were held for the third day at the southern Lebanon border on Sunday as political and civil figures continued to call for Lebanon not to be involved in the developments in the region.

The Israeli soldiers across the border in the town of Abbasiya have been on high alert during the demonstrations and removed Palestinian flags that were raised on the barbed wire in the village of Adaisseh village on Saturday. The Lebanese army also remained on alert on the Lebanese side, conducting patrols along the border.

A number of Lebanese Future Movement supporters went to the border town of Marwahin to declare their solidarity with the Palestinians. MP Walid Al-Baarini said they had the support of the prime minister-designate, Saad Hariri.

A Lebanese youth was shot dead by Israeli soldiers as a group of young men stormed the barbed wire fence on Friday, carrying the flags of Palestine and Hezbollah. Rockets were fired from Lebanese territory toward Israeli settlements on Thursday night, but no party claimed responsibility for the incident.

Former MP Marwan Hamadeh said on Sunday: “It shows that Hezbollah is not in a hurry to abandon its cards, and Lebanon has become hostage to a decision that comes from Tehran.”

In his Sunday sermon, the Maronite Patriarch Bechara Al-Rahi called on “the authorities in Lebanon to control the southern Lebanese border and prevent the use of Lebanese lands as a missile launch pad.”

Al-Rahi said: “Be careful not to have some people involved directly or through auxiliary parties in what is happening, as this would expose Lebanon to new wars. These uncontrolled conflicts have cost all the Lebanese people enough. The Lebanese people are not ready to destroy their country again more than it has already been destroyed. There are peaceful ways to show solidarity with the Palestinian people without getting involved on a military level. Lebanon is committed to supporting the rights of the Palestinian people.”

He said that “what is happening between Israel and the steadfast Palestinian people is a dangerous qualitative shift in the course of the struggle over land and identity.

“We call on Israel to seriously and explicitly acknowledge that there are rights for the Palestinian people and that it is impossible for it to live in peace without accepting a viable Palestinian state. There is no peace without justice, and no justice without rights.”

Hamas official Ali Baraka said in a statement on Sunday that Hamas “does not need to launch rockets from southern Lebanon.”

“We call on everyone to stand with us, but we do not ask anyone to open fronts and expose their country to danger,” he added.


Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout

Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout
Updated 17 May 2021

Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout

Iran press voices concern over presidential poll turnout
  • Reformist media is particularly worried, arguing that a low turnout would favor the conservative camp

TEHRAN: Iranian newspapers voiced concern on Sunday about the potential turnout for next month’s presidential poll, a day after candidate registration ended with several heavyweights joining the race.

The reformist press was particularly worried, arguing that a low turnout would favor the conservative camp as in legislative elections last year.

According to the election committee, close to 600 hopefuls including 40 women have registered for the June 18 vote to elect a successor to moderate President Hassan Rouhani, who is constitutionally barred from running for a third consecutive term.

But only a handful will be allowed to run after vetting by the Guardian Council, a conservative-dominated, unelected body in charge of overseeing elections.

According to the reformist Shargh daily, “various polls” show that “more than half” of eligible voters are expected to stay away.

The election is already widely viewed as a likely showdown between conservative Ali Larijani, a former parliament speaker, and ultraconservative judiciary chief Ebrahim Raisi.

A record 57 percent of Iranian voters stayed away from the February 2020 legislative elections.

This was attributed to the disqualification of thousands of candidates, many of them reformists and moderates, as well as voter disappointment with the economy and Rouhani’s performance.

Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers was expected to rejuvenate Iran’s economy by lifting punishing sanctions.

But those hopes were dashed three years later as the US pulled out and unilaterally reimposed sanctions, leaving much of Rouhani’s second term tainted by a battered economy and unfulfilled promises.

The government-run Iran daily called for authorities to “guarantee the presence of candidates from (different) political orientations” to promote a “formidable turnout.”

It warned that Guardian Council disqualifications run a risk of fueling public “frustration” when the country needs a high “level of turnout.”

The ultraconservative daily Javan called the election “more important” than previous polls due to the economic and social crises and the ongoing talks between Iran and world powers to revive the 2015 nuclear deal.

It also called for a big turnout to show “strong support for the system.”

But the reformist publication Etemad, quoting analysts, voiced “concern” about the level voter confidence at a time of “economic suffering and political discontent.”