Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods

Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods
Syrian refugee tents in Bar Elias town are inundated with floodwaters, Bekaa valley, Lebanon, January 7, 2019. (Reuters)
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Updated 12 May 2021

Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods

Syrian landmines wash into Lebanon due to floods
  • Multiple accidents have been recorded this year along the northern border, a Lebanese military source told Arab News
  • Authorities urge citizens to avoid suspicious areas, stay on paved roads, and do not approach or tamper with any suspicious object 

BEIRUT: As authorities continue to find and extract landmines left behind from the Lebanese Civil War, a new wave of explosives has entered the country’s border due to a natural disaster.  

The Lebanese Armed Forces on Wednesday said landmines planted along the Lebanese-Syrian border have washed into Lebanese territories due to winter flooding. 

“Landmines planted on the Lebanese-Syrian borders are a result of the Syrian conflict,” a Lebanese military source told Arab News.

“As these mines drifted into Lebanese territories, it has become harder for the Lebanese army to clear them. Multiple accidents have been recorded this year, which has injured many who were not familiar with the nature of the foreign objects they found.”

The source said a majority of accidents occurred in the northern border region due to the flooding and soil erosion caused by the winter floods. All injuries were on Lebanese soil.

The army command issued a statement, which warned “ammunition comes in different shapes and sizes and may be camouflaged in different ways and dispersed randomly.”

Areas that are potentially contaminated with landmines are not marked with signs or barbed wire to warn people yet. The army command has urged citizens to avoid suspicious areas, stay on paved roads, and not to approach or tamper with any object or unexploded ordnance.

The Lebanese Mine Action Center (LMAC), which is part of the Lebanese Armed Forces, has been carrying out the Lebanese National Mine Action Program with support from the UN Development Program to cover shortfalls.

The LMAC aims to secure a safe country where civilians can walk and move freely without the threat of landmines by the year 2025. The center’s mission focuses on areas in south Lebanon, which is the most contaminated area with landmines and suspicious objects.

“The closer we get to a minefield in the remote areas of south Lebanon, the more red-painted stones we see,” United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) Officer Captain Yang Dong from China said.

“The red stones remind us of safe and unsafe areas. They remind us not to step around. If there are red stones nearby, it is dangerous and there could be some mines there.”

In January 2020, the UNIFIL’s scope of work increased with the signing of a new agreement with the LMAC while the country marked International Day for Mine Awareness and Assistance in Mine Action on April 4.

Over the past five years, the UNIFIL’s demining efforts have cleared nearly 5 million square meters of mine-infested land in south Lebanon. It has also destroyed more than 43,500 landmines, bombs, and unexploded ordnances.

The threat of landmines is real and spreading awareness is vital for the Lebanese people.

Since 1975, landmines and unexploded materials left behind from the Lebanese Civil War have led to 3,847 deaths and injuries. The most casualties were recorded in 2006 when 209 people were killed or injured, including 40 children under the age of 12.


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 15 sec ago

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)


At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf
Updated 28 November 2021

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf

At least 200 Houthis killed in fighting, airstrikes in Marib, Jouf
  • The Arab coalition on Sunday announced that it had killed 110 Houthis in 15 airstrikes that destroyed nine Houthi military targets in Marib and Jouf during the past 24 hours

AL-MUKALLA: At least 200 Houthis were killed in heavy fighting with government forces and in airstrikes by Arab coalition warplanes during the past 24 hours in the Yemeni provinces of Marib and Jouf, as the militia pushed into Marib to seize control of strategic terrain, coalition and local military figures said on Sunday. 

One official told Arab News that at least 100 Houthis were killed when the militia launched a string of attacks on government forces in Thana, west of Marib city, on Saturday, in a bid to break the government’s lines and reach Al-Balaq Al-Qibili Mountain to high ground over parts of the city.

“All waves of the Houthis failed to advance or capture an inch in Thana. Many Houthis were killed when our forces and the (Arab) coalition’s warplanes wiped out those waves,” the official said, adding that most of the Houthi fatalities were caused by “precise” airstrikes. 

The Houthis have recently focused attacks on areas west of Marib after failing to make territorial gains in Juba, Um Raesh and Al-Amud, south of Marib.

In September, the Houthis pushed into districts such as Abedia, Rahabah and Hareb after making rapid gains in neighboring Al-Bayda province.

The Houthis once again were drawn into a military stalemate in Juba after facing stiff resistance from army troops and local tribes. Hundreds were killed in heavy fighting during the past week, and the militia was forced into decreasing attacks due to high losses, the official said. 

The Arab coalition on Sunday announced that it had killed 110 Houthis in 15 airstrikes that destroyed nine Houthi military targets in Marib and Jouf during the past 24 hours.

The coalition has intensified raids against the Houthis across Yemen, hitting ballistic missile depots, drone workshops and ammunition stores in Sanaa and dozens of military vehicles and fighters heading to various battlefields.

Based on the coalition’s daily updates on its airstrikes, hundreds of Houthis have been killed and dozens of vehicles destroyed in Marib and other flashpoints in Yemen this month.

The heavy aerial bombardments of Houthi targets have shored up government troops on the ground, allowing them to repulse Houthi attacks and make territorial gains.


Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources

Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources
Updated 28 November 2021

Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources

Sudan’s Burhan dismisses senior intelligence officers: Sources
  • The decision by Al-Burhan comes a week after he struck a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok
  • He also mets with EU envoy for the Horn of Africa to discuss transitional process, elections

KHARTOUM: Sudan’s military leader has overhauled top intelligence positions, dismissing at least eight general intelligence officers and replacing the head of military intelligence, two official sources told Reuters on Sunday.
The decision by Sovereign Council head Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan comes a week after he struck a deal to reinstate Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who had been placed under house arrest in an Oct. 25 coup.
Of the officers dismissed, five were in senior positions and had been in place since before the 2019 overthrow of long-ruling autocrat Omar Al-Bashir, the sources said. On Saturday, official sources said Al-Burhan had replaced the head of the general intelligence service.
It was not immediately clear what impact the decisions could have on the balance of power following Hamdok’s return. Hamdok replaced the country’s top two police officials on Saturday, following deadly violence against anti-military protesters in recent weeks.
Meanwhile, Al-Burhan held talks with EU envoy for the Horn of Africa Annette Weber to discuss the need to complete the structures of the transitional authority, including the formation of the transitional legislative council, especially those related to the election process.
During the meeting, Al-Burhan “pledged to protect the transitional period until free and fair elections are held,” and stressed his support for the government that will be formed by Hamdok to perform its national tasks, satae news agency SUNA reported.
Weber affirmed the EU’s continued support for the political transition process in Sudan in order to hold the elections, especially in the logistical and technical aspects. She said “Sudan is an important country for the security of the region and the Red Sea.”
Before the coup, the military had been sharing power with civilian groups that took part in an uprising against Bashir. Many within those groups have opposed the deal between Al-Burhan and Hamdok, saying they want the army to exit politics.
One condition of the deal was that political prisoners arrested since the coup should be freed. Some have been released but others remain in detention.
The US, Britain and Norway, which lead Western foreign policy on Sudan, called for the release of all those imprisoned for their political beliefs across Sudan.
“These are necessary steps to rebuild trust and return Sudan to the path of freedom and democracy,” they said in a statement.
(With Reuters)