Yemenis demand end to Houthi siege of Taiz as part of peace plans

Yemenis demand end to Houthi siege of Taiz as part of peace plans
Resistance fighters hold a position during clashes with Houthi militia, Taiz, Yemen, March 11, 2016. (AFP)
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Updated 16 June 2021

Yemenis demand end to Houthi siege of Taiz as part of peace plans

Yemenis demand end to Houthi siege of Taiz as part of peace plans
  • Residents of the besieged southern Yemeni city of Taiz and human rights activists said, the Houthis should stop their military operations and continued shelling of the city
  • Yemeni activist Abdullah Al-Sharabe: Ending the siege of Taiz unconditionally is the demand of all Yemenis, and no one opposes this human desire except the Houthis

ALEXANDRIA: Yemen human rights activists, politicians, journalists, and residents of Taiz have demanded that government and international mediators include the lifting of the city’s siege by Iran-backed Houthis in any peace initiative to end the war in the country.

Fearing being shut out of the current UN-brokered peace initiative that largely focused on Sanaa, residents of the besieged southern Yemeni city and human rights activists said the Houthis should stop their military operations and continued shelling of the city’s densely populated districts under any deal to bring the conflict to a close.

In a tweet as part of an online campaign to focus world attention on the Taiz siege, Yemeni activist Abdullah Al-Sharabe said: “Ending the siege of Taiz unconditionally is the demand of all Yemenis, and no one opposes this human desire except the Houthi criminals who imposed the siege.”

According to Yemeni and UN officials, and Western diplomats, the UN-brokered peace initiative calls for an immediate nationwide ceasefire, the reopening of Sanaa airport, the lifting of restrictions on Hodeidah port, and the resumption of peace talks between the Yemeni government and the Houthis.

But Taiz residents claim too much focus has been placed on easing restrictions in Houthi-controlled areas without including the Houthi siege as one of the peace conditions.

However, UN Yemen envoy spokeswoman, Ismini Palla, told Arab News that the Houthis would lift their siege of Taiz at the same time as the warring factions put into place a ceasefire.

“The proposed nationwide ceasefire in that plan aims not only to halt all forms of fighting but also result in the opening of main roads connecting the country from north to south, including Taiz, for the free movement of civilians, commercial goods, and humanitarian aid,” she said.

The Yemeni government said it would not agree to any peace plan that did not include lifting the siege of Taiz and removing Houthi checkpoints from Yemeni cities.

“Opening roads, ensuring freedom of movement for citizens, and lifting the siege on cities, especially the city of Taiz, are among the basic issues that the government puts at the forefront of its priorities,” the Yemeni Foreign Ministry said.

Facing stiff resistance from army troops and resistance fighters in the city, the Houthis have imposed a siege on Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, since early 2015, in the process disrupting the distribution of vital humanitarian and medical assistance to thousands of hungry residents and turning a deaf ear to international calls to lift the blockade.

At the same time, the group has reportedly deployed snipers near its checkpoints to shoot any residents trying to enter or leave government-controlled areas of the city.

Speaking to Arab News from Taiz, Aqmar, a housewife, said people had been forced to use dangerous and unpaved roads to get food and medicines into the city and that the Houthi siege had pushed up transportation fares and exacerbated the suffering of the people.

“We travel only when there is an extreme necessity as bus fares are between 10,000 Yemeni rials ($40) and 15,000 rials per passenger,” she added.

She pointed out that over the years the siege had gone on, the Houthis had clamped down on freedoms of movement and that her sick grandmother who lived in a rural area outside of Taiz had died while on her way to the city to receive medical treatment.

Local rights groups claim Houthi shelling of the city has killed and wounded thousands of civilians over the past six years. Taiz Human Rights Center has put the civilian death toll from Houthi missile and artillery strikes at 1,462, including 443 children and 180 women, with 8,996 people left wounded.


Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
Updated 01 August 2021

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia

Rescuers pull 394 migrants from dangerously overcrowded boat off Tunisia
  • It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants
  • Migrant boat departures have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved

ABOARD SEA-WATCH 3, Mediterranean: Two humanitarian rescue ships pulled 394 migrants from a dangerously overcrowded wooden boat in the Mediterranean overnight on Sunday in an operation lasting about six hours, a Reuters witness said.

The German and French NGO ships Sea-Watch 3 and Ocean Viking rescued the migrants in Tunisian waters 68 km (42 miles) from the North African coast, near oil facilities and other ships.

Sea-Watch 3, which assumed command of the operation, took 141 of the survivors while Ocean Viking took the rest. The yacht Nadir, from the German NGO ResQ Ship, later gave support.

It was not clear if there were any deaths or injuries among the migrants who were in the wooden boat, which was crammed with migrants on deck and inside the hull.

The craft was taking in water and its engine was not working, the Reuters witness said.

Migrant boat departures from Libya and Tunisia to Italy and other parts of Europe have increased in recent months as weather conditions have improved.

According to the UN-affiliated International Organization for Migration, more than 1,100 people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East have perished this year in the Mediterranean.

Many of the migrants in this latest rescue were seen jumping off the boat and trying to swim to Sea-Watch 3, the Reuters witness said.

The migrants were mainly men from Morocco, Bangladesh, Egypt and Syria.


Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas
Updated 01 August 2021

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

Haniyeh re-elected as chief of Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

GAZA: Ismail Haniyeh has been re-elected as chief of the Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, which controls Gaza, two Palestinian officials told Reuters on Sunday.
Haniyeh has led Hamas since 2017.


Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says
Updated 01 August 2021

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says

Majority of Turkey wildfires under control, official says
  • Five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were ‘under control’
  • A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean

ISTANBUL: More than 100 wildfires have been brought under control in Turkey, according to officials Sunday.
The Minister of Forestry and Agriculture, Bekir Pakdemirli, tweeted that five fires were continuing in the tourist destinations of Antalya and Mugla, while 107 fires were “under control.”
The fires in Antalya were continuing in Manavgat and Gundogmus districts. In Mugla, they continued in the tourist destination of Marmaris, as well as Koycegiz and Milas.
Police water cannons, usually used to control riots, assisted helicopters and fire trucks in Mugla to fight a fire. Blazes were still visible in footage taken early Sunday.

Panic-struck tourists were evacuated Saturday from some hotels in Mugla’s popular district of Bodrum as a fire rolled down the hill toward the seashore. Pakdemirli said the fires in Bodrum have been controlled.
Pakdemirli’s list showed fires began in 32 provinces from Wednesday onward. Six people have died.
While Turkish authorities are investigating whether the fires may have started as an act of “sabotage” by outlawed Kurdish militants, experts mostly point to the climate crisis, as seen by the drastic increases in temperatures along with accidents caused by people.
A heat wave across southern Europe, fed by hot air from Africa, has led to wildfires across the Mediterranean, including in Italy and Greece.
Temperatures in Greece and nearby countries in southeast Europe are expected to climb to 42 degrees Celsius (more than 107 Fahrenheit) Monday in many cities and towns.


Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful
Updated 01 August 2021

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful

Outgoing Iran president says government not always truthful
  • President Hassan Rouhani insisted he and his officials did their best
  • Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal

DUBAI: Iran’s outgoing president on Sunday acknowledged his nation at times “did not tell part of the truth” to its people during his eight-year tenure, as he prepares to leave office with his signature nuclear deal with world powers in tatters and tensions high with the West.

President Hassan Rouhani’s comments, aired on state television, come as officials in his government have appeared rudderless in recent months amid a series of crises ranging from the coronavirus pandemic to parching droughts fueling public protests.

After appearing just days earlier to be lectured by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei about their failures in the nuclear negotiations, Rouhani’s remarks appeared aimed at acknowledging the problems his government faced in its waning hours. President-elect Ebrahim Raisi, a protégé of Khamenei, will be inaugurated Thursday.

“What we told people was not contrary to reality, but we did not tell part of the truth to people,” Rouhani said at his last Cabinet meeting as president. “Because I did not find it useful and I was afraid it would harm national unity.”

He did not elaborate on what he meant by his remarks. However, during his tenure, Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard mistakenly shot down a commercial airliner and killed 176 people onboard in January 2020, which the government refused for days to acknowledge until Western nations went public with their suspicions.

Rouhani, a relative moderate within Iran’s theocracy, insisted he and his officials did their best.

“If we have a defect, we apologize to the people and ask them for forgiveness and mercy,” Rouhani said.

He pointed to the country’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw Iran agree to limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. However, that deal now sits in tatters after then-President

Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in May 2018.

Rouhani blamed many of Iran’s current problems on Trump’s decision, which saw the value of the Islamic Republic’s rial currency crash. The president said that while Iran had plans to upgrade its armed forces after the expiration of a UN arms embargo in October 2020, it couldn’t due to its financial woes.

“We did not have the money to buy due to sanctions and not selling oil, but the contract is completely ready,” he said.


Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet
Updated 01 August 2021

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

Syria’s Assad asks PM Hussein Arnous to form new cabinet

AMMAN: Syrian President Bashar al Assad has again tasked Prime Minister Hussein Arnous with forming a new government after he became a caretaker premier following polls last year that extended Assad's presidency.
Assad designated Arnous as prime minister last August to replace Imad Khamis as Syria grappled with a major economic crisis and a plunging currency.