Yemen government says Houthis not taking peace efforts seriously

Yemeni fighters leave after clashes with Houthi rebels on the Kassara front line near Marib, Yemen, June 20, 2021. (AP)
Yemeni fighters leave after clashes with Houthi rebels on the Kassara front line near Marib, Yemen, June 20, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 13 July 2021

Yemen government says Houthis not taking peace efforts seriously

Yemeni fighters leave after clashes with Houthi rebels on the Kassara front line near Marib, Yemen, June 20, 2021. (AP)
  • Fighting continues to rage between government troops and the rebels on key battlefields in Marib and Al-Bayda
  • Houthis vow to stop deadly offensive on Marib only after Arab coalition halts airstrikes, lifts blockade

ALEXANDRIA: Yemen’s government on Tuesday blamed the Iran-backed Houthis for disrupting peace efforts to end the war and renewed calls to the international community to mount more pressure on the rebels to stop their bloody military operations across the country.

The government’s accusation against the Houthis comes as fighting raged between Yemen troops and the rebels on key battlefields in Marib and Al-Bayda.

Ahmed Obeid bin Daghar, Yemen’s Shoura Council head, in Riyadh, told Marion Lalisse, deputy head of mission of the EU delegation to Yemen, that the Houthis have never taken peace ideas seriously. In addition, Daghar said that the Yemeni government had accepted the Saudi peace initiative and is willing to comply with all efforts to end the war.

“The shortest way to achieve a just and comprehensive peace is to oblige the Houthis to respect the basic references of a solution that achieves the interest of the people and respects their will,” he said, according to Yemen’s official news agency SABA.

Peace efforts to end the war have reached a deadlock after the Houthis refused to put an end to hostilities that displaced thousands of people and aggravated the humanitarian crisis.

Shuttling between Sanaa, Muscat, Riyadh, and Tehran, the former UN Yemen envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths, the US special envoy for Yemen, Tim Lenderking, and Omani mediators failed to convince the Houthis to accept a peace plan. The UN-brokered plan demanded warring factions to achieve an immediate ceasefire, the reopening of the Sanaa airport, easing restrictions on Hodeidah ports, and later engaging in direct talks.

The Houthis said they would stop their deadly offensive on Marib only after the Arab coalition halts airstrikes against their forces and lifts its “blockade” on Sanaa airport and Hodeidah seaport.

In March, Saudi Arabia proposed a peace initiative that included the same elements as in the current UN peace initiative.

In the same sense, Swedish special envoy for Yemen, Peter Semneby, visited Iran on Tuesday where he discussed peace initiatives to end the war in Yemen.

Fars news agency, in Iran, reported that the envoy met with the Iranian foreign minister's assistant for special political affairs, Ali Asqar Khaji, and discussed alleviating the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, peace efforts to end the war, and addressing the risk of the floating FSO Safer tanker.

Safer has been moored in the Red Sea, north of Hodeidah, since it fell into Houthi hands in 2015. Carrying more than 1 million barrels of oil, the vessel’s situation is deteriorating as a possible spill would be an ecological disaster much worse than that of the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska in 1989.

In February, Griffiths visited Iran for the first time as part of his diplomatic efforts to mobilize support for the UN-brokered peace initiative.

Experts believe that international mediators have sought to demand Iran use its leverage on the Yemeni rebels to pressure them to stop fighting.

Meanwhile, on the ground, dozens of Houthis were killed on Tuesday and Monday in the central province of Marib as government troops pushed back several Houthis assaults in key contested areas.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry said on Tuesday that army troops and tribesmen drove back a Houthi attack in Al-Kasara, west of Marib, as warplanes from the Arab coalition carried out several attacks in Marib province, targeting Houthi military reinforcements and locations.

In Jabal Murad, south of Marib, three airstrikes destroyed a command room and heavy weapons for the Houthis, local media said.

The latest escalation in fighting in Yemen began in February when the Houthis renewed a major offensive to seize control of Marib city, the Yemeni government’s last stronghold in the northern part of the country.


Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
Updated 22 sec ago

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan

Motegi hails UAE’s role in evacuating Japanese nationals from Afghanistan
  • Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai
  • Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai

TOKYO: Japanese Foreign Minister MOTEGI Toshimitsu said he appreciated the United Arab Emirates’ support provided during the evacuation of staff members at the Embassy of Japan in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan.

According to a statement released by Japan’s Foreign Ministry, the UAE’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan and Motegi had a telephone conversation on Friday. Japan’s FM stated that the Asian country highly praised the crucial role the UAE has taken with regards to Afghanistan, such as temporarily accepting evacuees and providing humanitarian support.

In addition, Motegi said he hopes for the success of Expo 2020 Dubai, which will take place on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of the UAE, and will be the first International Registered Exhibition to be held in the Middle East region. 

The two ministers confirmed that they will continue to further promote cooperation in a variety of fields towards the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and the UAE in 2022. 

Motegi and Al Nahyan exchanged views on global issues such as climate change and agreed to continue close coordination, according to the statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.


Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured
Updated 19 September 2021

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured

Last 2 of 6 Palestinian inmates who escaped maximum-security Israeli prison recaptured
  • The two were captured during an Israeli army raid in their hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank
  • The six tunneled out of their cell on Sept. 6, exposing security flaws from the vaunted "Israeli Guantanamo"

JERUSALEM: The last two of six Palestinian prisoners who escaped a maximum-security Israeli prison two weeks ago were rearrested early Sunday, the Israeli military said.
The two were captured during an Israeli army raid in their hometown of Jenin in the occupied West Bank, closing an intense, embarrassing pursuit that exposed security flaws after the six tunneled out of their cell on Sept. 6.
Palestinian media reported that clashes erupted in Jenin when Israeli troops entered the city, but a spokesperson for Israeli police said the two escapees, Munadil Nafayat and Iham Kamamji, were arrested without resistance from a house where they had taken refuge and were taken for questioning.
Fouad Kamamji, Iham’s father, told The Associated Press that his son had called him when the Israeli troops surrounded the house and said he will surrender “in order not to endanger the house owners.”
The escapes set off a massive pursuit operation that captured the first four inmates in two separate operations in northern Israel. All six inmates come from Jenin.
Five of the prisoners are from the Islamic Jihad militant group, with four of them serving life sentences, and the sixth is a member of the secular Fatah group of President Mahmoud Abbas.
For the Palestinians, the prisoners who dug the tunnel for months and escaped were “heroes.” For Israel, they were “terrorists” who took part or planned attacks that targeted the Israeli military and civilians.


Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran’s fuel shipments violate Lebanon’s sovereignty: PM

Lebanon's Prime Minister-Designate Najib Mikati. (Reuters)
  • The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria

BEIRUT: Lebanese Prime Minister Najib Mikati said Iranian fuel shipments imported by the Hezbollah movement constitute a breach of Lebanon’s sovereignty, according to comments published by his office.
“The violation of Lebanon’s sovereignty makes me sad,” Mikati told CNN in an interview, his office said in a posting on Twitter.
He added: “But I’m not concerned that sanctions can be imposed” on Lebanon “because the operation was carried out without the involvement of the Lebanese government.”
The Tehran-aligned group on Thursday began bringing tanker trucks carrying fuel from Iran, a move it says should ease a crippling energy crisis in Lebanon.
A tanker ship carried the fuel to Syria and from there it crossed into Lebanon. Both Syria and Iran are under US sanctions.
Meanwhile, authorities have seized 20 tons of ammonium nitrate — the same chemical behind a deadly explosion last year at Beirut’s port — in the eastern Bekaa Valley, state media said.
Ammonium nitrate is an odorless crystalline substance commonly used as a fertilizer that has been the cause of numerous industrial explosions over the decades.
The National News Agency said security forces raided a fertilizer warehouse in the eastern Bekaa Valley, considered a hub for smuggling operations between Lebanon and Syria.
Authorities seized 20 tons of the dangerous chemical stored inside a truck parked at the warehouse, the NNA said, adding the material was transported to a “safe place.”
Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi called on security forces to conduct a sweep of the area. He said: “We must do our best to move these materials to a safer place away from exposure to heat and sun” to avoid a “catastrophe.”
The company that owns the ammonium nitrate said that the fertilizer was intended for agricultural use.


Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
Updated 19 September 2021

Iran leader reasserts ban on sports with Israel

A handout picture provided by the office of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei shows him during a meeting in the Iranian capital Tehran. (AFP file photo)
  • Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined”

TEHRAN: Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Saturday reasserted the Islamic republic’s longstanding ban on competitive sport with Israelis, and promised support for athletes disciplined by international bodies for respecting it.
Iran does not recognize Israel and its athletes usually refrain from facing Israeli opponents, whether by forfeiting the match or by simply not participating.
“Any Iranian athlete worthy of the name cannot shake hands with a representative of the criminal regime in order to win a medal,” Khamenei told a reception for Iran’s medallists from the Tokyo 2020 Games.
“The illegitimate, bloodthirsty ... Zionist regime tries to win legitimacy by taking part in international sporting events attended by the world arrogance (Washington and the West), and our athletes cannot just stand idly by,” he added, in comments posted on his official website.

BACKGROUND

In Tokyo, Iran won seven Olympic medals, three of them gold, as well as 24 Paralympic medals.

Khamenei instructed “the sports and foreign ministries, as well as the judiciary, to deploy their legal resources to support athletes from this and other Muslim countries, like the Algerian who was recently disciplined.”
He was referring to Algerian judoka Fethi Nourine, who withdrew from the Tokyo Games after the draw set him on course for a possible matchup against an Israeli opponent, prompting his suspension from international competition.


North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
Updated 19 September 2021

North Africa COVID-19 cases plummet after summer spike

A woman walks past members of the Tunisian military standing guard during a protest against President Kais Saied in the capital Tunis on September 18, 2021. (AFP)
  • Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million

TUNIS: Weeks after a spike in coronavirus cases overwhelmed intensive care units across North Africa with severe oxygen shortages sparking public anger, case numbers are sharply declining.
Images of intensive care units overwhelmed with COVID-19 patients in July sparked outrage in Tunisia, which has suffered the region’s highest number of deaths per head from the virus, with around 24,500 in a population of 11.7 million.
Authorities responded to the surge with a strict early evening curfew and travel restrictions. Neighboring Libya closed its border with Tunisia. Those measures have now been eased.
“There’s the effect of mass vaccination of the population,” said Hechmi Louzir, director of the Pasteur Institute in Tunis, who is a member of the country’s scientific committee on the pandemic.
More than a quarter of Tunisians are now fully inoculated.
Morocco has seen 13,800 COVID-19 deaths in its population of around 36 million. The kingdom is ahead of its Maghreb neighbors in inoculations, with 46.7 percent fully vaccinated.
Health Ministry official Abdelkrim Meziane Bellefquih said this week that infections were down for a fifth straight week. But in comments carried by the official MAP news agency, he warned that “high rates of critical cases and deaths continue to be recorded.”
With an official toll of 5,650 deaths, Algeria announced a target in September to vaccinate 70 percent of its 43.9 million population by the end of the year.
But AFP figures show that this week, barely 13 percent of the population had received a first vaccine jab, with fewer than 10 percent fully vaccinated.
The country’s caseload peaked in the last week of July with over 10,000 infections, but has since plummeted. While the first week of August saw 268 deaths, the last seven days saw 132.