US Navy commander visits largest base in Egypt

The visit was the first major naval activity at the base since its inception. (Photo/Twitter)
The visit was the first major naval activity at the base since its inception. (Photo/Twitter)
Short Url
Updated 15 August 2021

US Navy commander visits largest base in Egypt

The visit was the first major naval activity at the base since its inception. (Photo/Twitter)
  • The meeting coincided with the visit of US warship USS Monterey to the base — a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, and one of the oldest and largest US navy units

CAIRO: The commander of the US Naval Forces Central Command, Lt. Gen. Charles Cooper, visited the Egyptian Berenice Military Base alongside Washington’s Ambassador to Egypt Jonathan Cohen.

The site is the largest air and naval base in both the Middle East and the Red Sea region, located east of Aswan near the country’s southern border.

The US delegation inspected Berenice’s facilities for use by both the Egyptian Navy and units belonging to allied nations, and praised its geographic location, close to sea transportation lines, said Egyptian military spokesman Col. Gharib Abdel Hafez Gharib.

Lt. Gen. Ahmed Khaled, commander of the Egyptian Navy, received Lt. Gen. Cooper and Ambassador Cohen at the base “within the well-established strategic relations between Egypt and the US,” the spokesman added.

The meeting coincided with the visit of US warship USS Monterey to the base — a Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser, and one of the oldest and largest US navy units. The visit was the first major naval activity at the base since its inception.


Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff

Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff
Updated 10 sec ago

Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff

Lebanese bank staff want security beefed up after hostage standoff
  • Employees are holding banks responsible for angry customers’ occasionally criminal behavior
  • Family scared for daughter’s life ask her to quit banking job or work remotely

BEIRUT: Bank staff in Lebanon have called for extra security measures after a man took hostages and threatened to blow up a branch in Bekaa Valley this week.
Lebanese security forces arrested Abdullah Al-Saii on Tuesday after the incident at the Bank of Beirut and Arab Countries branch in Jeb Jannine as he attempted to withdraw $50,000 of his own money.
Armed with a gun, a grenade and bottles of benzene when he stormed into the bank, Al-Saii said the bank staff had rejected his requests to withdraw his money on previous occasions, blaming it on the economic crisis in the country.
Al-Saii held more than 10 of the bank’s staff and customers hostage for several hours, demanding he be allowed to withdraw the money. He said he would blow up the branch if his demands were not met. The building was cordoned off and the standoff was resolved following negotiations.
The incident has triggered fear among banking staff in Lebanon, who have called for beefed-up safety.
Lebanese bank clerk Hana Saleem was asked by her parents to quit her banking job or work remotely following the incident.
“After bank staff and clients were taken hostage at a bank in Bekaa Valley, my folks felt scared for my life, so they’ve begged me to quit,” she told Arab News.
Another bank employee, Dalia Hassan, believes the BBAC incident is just one in a litany of similar situations, which have put banking employees’ lives at risk.
“Since the financial crisis started over two years ago, banks have been subject to numerous attacks by armed clients, bulldozers and even angry customers carrying Molotov bombs,” she said, confirming that she feels scared whenever an agitated client yells inside her workplace.
“Whenever an angry client shouts, my co-workers and I hide under our desks or inside washrooms fearing the client might be armed and shoot at us,” said Hassan, who confirmed that the Hamra branch where she works has only employed two private security guards.
Extra policemen and security guards must be stationed inside and outside banks for “protection and safety,” she added.
Wael Imad, a branch manager, told Arab News that when banks cannot fulfill a request for a withdrawal from a customer, it is the staff and not management who are at the forefront facing angry clients.
He blamed the banks for the often reckless actions carried out by irate clients and said: “Banks are responsible when clients resort to illegal methods in, what I believe to be, a rightful bid to access their deposits.”
He said banks are supposed to protect their staff who feel unsafe in their work environments.
“Last year, I was beaten by a group of angry clients. Police arrived late to our branch before the assailants were held off,” recalled Imad.


Lebanon’s PM to meet Kuwaiti foreign minister in Beirut

Lebanon’s PM to meet Kuwaiti foreign minister in Beirut
Updated 22 January 2022

Lebanon’s PM to meet Kuwaiti foreign minister in Beirut

Lebanon’s PM to meet Kuwaiti foreign minister in Beirut
  • In October, Kuwait, along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, expelled Lebanese diplomats following a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen

Lebanon’s Prime Minister Najib Mikati will meet Kuwait’s Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah on Saturday in Beirut, Mikati’s office said in a statement.
In October, Kuwait, along with Saudi Arabia and Bahrain, expelled Lebanese diplomats and recalled their own envoys following a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi-led military intervention in Yemen.


US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report

US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report
Updated 22 January 2022

US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report

US bombing run over Syrian dam risked tens of thousands of deaths: Report
  • Special forces used ‘emergency’ protocol to launch strike, ignoring Pentagon warning
  • Attack shocked US Air Force personnel, military planners: New York Times

LONDON: A covert US task force came close to decimating a major area in Syria by bombing a dam that the Pentagon had put on a “no-strike list,” a new report claims.

In 2017, the American unit bombed the Tabqa dam on the Euphrates in eastern Syria, upstream of Raqqa, where Daesh fighters were occupying the control towers.

When the attack was originally reported, the US and the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces claimed that limited munitions were used to seize the location, with the head of the anti-Daesh coalition describing rumors that it was bombed as “crazy reporting.”

But new analysis by the New York Times, which has uncovered and reviewed a slurry of bombing incidents from the war against Daesh, claimed that three 2,000-lb bombs were deployed.

The attack risked tens of thousands of lives, destroying the dam’s machinery and requiring emergency intervention to prevent the reservoir from flooding. The dam was only saved due to a “bunker-buster” bomb failing to explode.

On March 26, 2017, as the SDF closed in on Raqqa, the US launched the strike with support from its Kurdish allies on the ground, with whom it had established a close relationship for calling in high-powered attacks.

The SDF called for a B-52 — the long-range strategic bomber that has been in continual service since the 1950s — as the fighting party was being blocked from advancing by Daesh fighters further ahead up the reservoir.

Spotting the Islamists in fortified positions in the control towers, a bombing run was requested.

Task Force 9 — the US Special Operations force working alongside the SDF on the Raqqa advance — was warned that the dam should not be bombed when it asked the Pentagon’s Defence Intelligence Agency to determine which munitions could be used.

But the unit ignored this advice, using an emergency protocol that allowed it to call in airstrikes beyond the ordinary chain of command during sudden life-threatening moments, such as the battle with Daesh at the reservoir.

However, crew logs from the B-52 flight that undertook the bombing run said it had been required for “terrain denial,” with no reference to lives being at risk from Daesh fighters.

The bombing run was devastating. Fifty feet of water quickly rose as the machinery was bust, with dams on the Euphrates in Turkey further upstream rushing to slow the flow.

A one-day ceasefire was called to allow a group of 16 engineers from all sides of the conflict to lift the floodgates and prevent further damage.

Three of those engineers were killed after they had successfully used a crane to lift the gates, bombed by a drone while driving home.

The dam strike reportedly shocked US Air Force personnel and military planners. Scott Murray, a retired USAF colonel, was quoted by the NYT as saying: “Using a 2,000 lb bomb against a restricted target like a dam is extremely difficult and should have never been done on the fly. Worst case, those munitions could have absolutely caused the dam to fail.”

The Pentagon defended the strike, saying it had targeted the dam’s control towers, not its structure.

“Analysis had confirmed that strikes on the towers attached to the dam were not considered likely to cause structural damage to the Tabqa dam itself,” said Bill Urban, a US Central Command spokesman, adding that the dam had not collapsed. “That analysis has proved accurate.”


More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack

More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack
Updated 22 January 2022

More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack

More than 70 dead in fighting after Syria jail attack
  • Daesh launched the attack on Thursday night against the prison housing some 3,500 suspected members of the militant group

BEIRUT: Fighting raged for a third day Saturday between the Daesh group and Kurdish forces in Syria after Daesh attacked a prison housing militants, in violence that has claimed over 70 lives, a monitor said.
The assault on the Ghwayran prison in the northern city of Hasakah is one of Daesh’s most significant since its “caliphate” was declared defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.
“At least 28 members of the Kurdish security forces, five civilians and 45 members of Daesh have been killed” in the violence, said Rami Abdel Rahman, head of the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
Daesh launched the attack on Thursday night against the prison housing some 3,500 suspected members of the militant group, including some of its leaders, said the Observatory.
Hundreds of militant inmates had since been detained and around 10 were believed to have escaped, said the Observatory, a Britain-based monitor that relies on sources inside war-torn Syria for its information.
“The exceptional situation continues in and around the prison,” said Farhad Shami, spokesman for the Kurdish-dominated Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).
The fighting on Saturday morning was taking place north of the prison, he added.
The militant group said in a statement released by its Amaq news agency that its attack on the jail aimed to “free the prisoners.”
Daesh has carried out regular attacks against Kurdish and government targets in Syria since the rump of its once-sprawling proto-state was overrun on the banks of the Euphrates in March 2019.
Most of their guerrilla attacks have been against military targets and oil installations in remote areas, but the Hasakah prison break could mark a new phase in the group’s resurgence.
The Kurdish authorities have long warned they do not have the capacity to hold, let alone put on trial, the thousands of Daesh fighters captured in years of operations.
According to Kurdish authorities, more than 50 nationalities are represented in a number of Kurdish-run prisons, where more than 12,000 Daesh suspects are now held.
The war in Syria broke out in 2011 and has since killed close to half a million people and spurred the largest conflict-induced displacement since World War II.


Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections
Updated 22 January 2022

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections

Oman issues new COVID-19 measures due to spike in infections
  • Government units and other public entities will limit their workplace capacities to 50 percent
  • The Sultanate suspended Friday prayers but allowed mosques to remain open at a 50 percent capacity

DUBAI: Oman has updated its coronavirus precautionary measures effective for two weeks starting on Jan. 23 due to a sharp spike in COVID-19 infections.
Government units and other public entities will limit their workplace capacities to 50 percent, state news agency ONA reported.
The government has further suspended all conferences and exhibitions. Congregational activities have also been halted and organizers have been advised to hold them without audiences. Participants and organizers would now also be required to show proof of COVID-19 vaccination.
The Sultanate further suspended Friday prayers but allowed mosques to remain open at a 50 percent capacity.
The country’s Supreme Committee has called on all public establishments to stick to the measures set for their businesses, including operating at a capacity of 50 percent, requiring proofs of vaccination for customers, observing physical distancing and wearing of face masks.
Oman shifted to distance learning for all schools earlier this month for four weeks as a precaution against the spread of the omicron variant of the coronavirus.