Arab coalition warplanes hit Houthi military sites in southern Yemen

The city of Taiz has been the scene of the fiercest battles between the Yemeni government troops and the Houthis since early 2015. (Reuters/File Photo)
The city of Taiz has been the scene of the fiercest battles between the Yemeni government troops and the Houthis since early 2015. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 09 September 2021

Arab coalition warplanes hit Houthi military sites in southern Yemen

The city of Taiz has been the scene of the fiercest battles between the Yemeni government troops and the Houthis since early 2015. (Reuters/File Photo)
  • Videos on social media show balls of fire and smoke billowing from the targeted locations in Taiz
  • The city of Taiz has been the scene of the fiercest battles between the Yemeni government troops and the Houthis since early 2015

AL-MUKALLA: Arab coalition warplanes on Wednesday targeted several military locations belonging to the Iran-backed Houthis in the southern Yemeni city of Taiz, residents and government officials said.

Large explosions rocked the densely populated city of Taiz from 1 a.m. to 4 a.m. on Wednesday after missiles fired by the coalition’s warplanes struck the city’s airport, an air defense military base, missile and ammunition silos and other locations controlled by the Houthis on the eastern edges of the city.

Videos on social media show balls of fire and smoke billowing from the targeted locations.

“Based on initial intelligence reports from the ground, the precise airstrikes destroyed large ammunition and missile stores, artillery emplacements, rocket launchers and a command and control room for the Houthis,” Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemen army officer in Taiz, told Arab News by telephone.

He added that the airstrikes on Houthi-controlled military locations in Taiz were the largest in years.

The infrequent airstrikes by the coalition’s warplanes in Taiz over the past couple of years have allowed the Houthis to turn areas under their control in Taiz into launch pads for ballistic missiles and explosive-laden drones that targeted Saudi Arabia and government-controlled areas in Yemen, Al-Baher said.

In March 2021, the UN experts found out that some of the missiles that targeted Aden airport on Dec. 30, 2020, shortly after the formation of the new government, were fired by the Houthis from Taiz airport, one of the targets of Wednesday’s airstrikes.

Officials believe that explosive–rigged drones and missiles that killed dozens of Yemeni soldiers at Al-Anad base in Lahj last month were also fired from Houthi-controlled military sites in Taiz.

Al-Baher said the latest round of air raids would impede the Houthis’ ability to launch more deadly strikes from Taiz.

The city of Taiz has been the scene of the fiercest battles between the Yemeni government troops and the Houthis since early 2015.

From their locations on the edges of the city, the Houthis have laid a siege to the city and shelled the centre to weaken the government forces defending the city.

Dozens of combatants have been killed in fierce clashes on several fronts outside the central city of Marib, local military officials said on Wednesday.

Fighting broke out in Al-Mashjah, Al-Kasara, Serwah and Rahabah after the Houthis attacked government troops in another desperate attempt to break through the defenses.

Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, said that battles are becoming more aggressive as the Houthis have intensified attacks on government forces despite suffering heavy losses.

He said that the Yemeni army troops and allied tribesmen, backed by the coalition’s air support, managed to repulse Houthi attacks.

“The Houthis are determined to win the battle for Marib before the new UN envoy to Yemen puts forward his plan for ending the war,” Al-Mekhlafi said.

The Houthis, he said, have dispatched their elite military figures, who have been trained by Iran’s Revolutionary Guards during the past two decades, to Marib to make a military breakthrough that could enable them to seize control of the city, the last government bastion in the north.

The UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg, who took charge on Sunday, began meeting diplomats and officials ahead of his first briefing to the UN Security Council on Friday.

“We discussed opportunities to move the Yemeni #peace process forward and the need for a more inclusive approach. Norway stands ready to support the new special envoy,” Mona Juul, Norway’s ambassador and permanent representative at the UN, said on Twitter on Wednesday after meeting the new envoy.


France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’

France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’
Updated 03 December 2021

France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’

France’s Macron says hoping for progress on Lebanon ‘within next hours’

PARIS: French President Emmanuel Macron said on Friday he hoped there would be progress on the Lebanon crisis in the next hours.
“We will do all we can to re-engage the Gulf regions for the benefit of Lebanon... I hope the coming hours will allow us to make progress.” Macron said during a visit to the United Arab Emirates.
Lebanon is facing a diplomatic crisis with Gulf states, spurred by a minister’s critical comments about the Saudi Arabia-led intervention in Yemen that prompted Riyadh, Bahrain and Kuwait to expel Lebanon’s top diplomats and recall their own envoys. The UAE withdrew its envoys.


US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts

US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
Updated 03 December 2021

US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts

US critics of Israel face challenges in redrawn Congress districts
  • Planned changes to district boundaries could affect nine members of Congress who have a record of voicing support on Palestinian issues

CHICAGO: Nine members of Congress who have been vocal critics of Israel’s policies towards the Palestinians could face tougher re-election campaigns as a result of their districts being redrawn, an analysis by Arab News shows.

Every 10 years, the dominant political parties in many states re-draw district boundaries based on demographic data provided by the US Census, which does not count Arab and Muslim Americans as a separate category.

Where population shifts have led to proposed boundary changes, incumbents may be forced to stand in new districts. That’s the challenge facing Illinois representative Marie Newman, who won election in 2020 in the 3rd Congressional District, which has the largest concentration of Palestinian American voters.

Newman has chosen to face-off with Sean Casten, who is very strong on climate change, in the new 6th District rather than stand against Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who is one of only two Hispanic congress members in Illinois, in the 4th District. Casten is a strong supporter of Israel and silent on Israeli violence against Palestinians, while Garcia has often joined Newman to support pro-Palestinian legislation, including voting against a bill giving Israel $1 billion for its Iron Dome defense system last September.

“Rep. Newman was supportive of the push to create a second congressional district of Latino influence and understood that doing so would mean the need to shift boundary lines of existing CDs in the Chicagoland area,” Newman campaign spokesperson Ben Hardin said.

Describing the challenges as “inevitable,” Hardin said: “Representative Newman is grateful … to have the support of so many people here in Chicago’s southwest side and in the south and west suburbs, including a strong coalition of supporters from the Arab and Muslim American community.”

The new Illinois district map was approved by Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker, one of Israel’s strongest advocates, in November. Pritzker aroused anger among Arab Americans after refusing to apologize for disparaging remarks he made in a 1998 congressional race in which he accused a rival of accepting money from a Muslim group that Pritzker asserted supported terrorists.

“There is no doubt that the Illinois Democrats are seeking to undermine Newman, who has been a vocal supporter of Palestinian, Arab and Muslim rights,” said Hassan Nijem, the president of the American Arab Chamber of Commerce.

“She and Chuy Garcia are the only Illinois Democrats to defend Palestinian rights and recognize our growing community.”

The Illinois primary has been delayed from March until June 28, 2022, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In addition to Newman and Garcia, seven other members of Congress who voted against the Iron Dome money could be affected by district changes.

They include Cori Bush of Missouri; André Carson of Indiana; Raúl Grijalva of Arizona; Ilhan Omar of Minnesota; Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts; Rashida Tlaib of Michigan; and Thomas Massie of Kentucky, a Republican Congressman who consistently votes against all foreign aid regardless of the recipient.

Tlaib, Pressley and Omar are members of the “Squad,” a group of progressive Democrats that includes New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Instead of voting against the Iron Dome funding, however, AOC voted “present” not taking a position.

In Michigan, which is holding its primary on Aug. 2 next year, mapmakers are proposing to re-draw Tlaib’s 13th district, increasing the number of African American voters. That could be important even though Tlaib defeated several African American candidates when she first ran and won office in the predominantly African American district in 2018.

Tlaib may be forced into a new district against pro-Arab Democrat Debbie Dingell. However, she could survive as the Michigan process puts remapping in the hands of an independent commission rather than partisan politicians. The final Michigan remap might not be completed until late January.

Also in Michigan, proposed changes would pit Jewish Democratic Congressman Andy Levin, who has been an outspoken supporter of the two-state solution for Palestine and Israel, against Brenda Lawrence.

Minnesota congressional remapping plans have targeted Omar and another pro-Palestinian Congresswoman, Betty McCollum, although maps in those districts have not been finalized.


Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities

Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities
Updated 03 December 2021

Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities

Israeli agents convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities
  • They posed as Iranian dissidents and smuggled bombs into the Natanz facility disguised as food
  • Israel had pledged to never allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons

LONDON: Agents from the Mossad convinced Iranian scientists to blow up their own nuclear facilities by “posing as dissidents” and smuggling explosives disguised as food into facilities, according to reports.

According to The Jewish Chronicle, Israeli agents convinced up to 10 scientists to destroy the Natanz nuclear facility, wiping out 90 percent of its centrifuges – crucial for research into nuclear weapons.

They are said to have smuggled some explosives into the plant in food lorries, while others were dropped in via drones and picked up by scientists – who they convinced to use against the nuclear sites by posing as Iranian dissidents.

The attack on the facility is just one of a long line of Israeli sabotages of Iranian nuclear facilities, a strategy that they have engaged in more as Iranian nuclear research has progressed.

The Natanz facility, a critical nuclear research site, has been hit by at least three attacks linked to the Israeli secret service, the Mossad.

In another incident, agents used a quadcopter drone to fire missiles at the Iran Centrifuge Technology Company in an attempt to disrupt its research.

In recent years, following the US withdrawal from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, Iran has increased its atomic energy research, including enriching growing quantities of uranium above the levels required for civilian nuclear activity such as energy production.

In April Iran said that it would start enriching uranium up to 60 percent after the attack on its Natanz plant which it blamed on Israel – that is closing in on the 90 to 95 percent enrichment required for nuclear weapons.

This week – much to the ire of Israel – Iran and the US returned to the negotiating table to try to find a deal to curb Iran’s nuclear activity in exchange for relief from crushing economic sanctions imposed on the country by the US and its allies.

But on Thursday, Israeli officials called on the US directly to cease those negotiations.

In a phone call with US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett called for “concrete measures” to be taken against Iran.

He said that Tehran was carrying out “nuclear blackmail” as a negotiation tactic and that “this must be met with an immediate cessation of negotiations and by concrete steps taken by the major powers,” according to a statement released by his office.

The Israeli leader also expressed his concern about a new report from the UN, issued during the US-Iran talks in Vienna, which showed that Iran had “started the process of enriching uranium to the level of 20 percent purity with advanced centrifuges at its Fordo underground facility.”

Israel, the only nuclear-armed state in the Middle East, has pledged never to allow Iran to obtain nuclear weapons.


Lebanon information minister resigns

Lebanon information minister resigns
Updated 53 min 38 sec ago

Lebanon information minister resigns

Lebanon information minister resigns

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Information Minister George Kordahi has officialy submitted his resignation on Friday to “give Lebanon a chance.”
“I will resign this afternoon,” Kordahi earlier told AFP. “I do not want to cling to this position, if it can be useful, I want to give Lebanon a chance.”
An official at the presidency confirmed to AFP that President Michel Aoun had received a call from Kordahi confirming he would submit his resignation.


UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour

UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour
Updated 03 December 2021

UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour

UAE, France sign $18 billion deal for 80 Rafale jets as Macron starts Gulf tour
  • Macron arrived in the early hours of Friday for a brief Gulf tour where he will also visit Qatar

DUBAI: French President Emmanuel Macron met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed on Friday at the start of a two-day Gulf tour that saw France sell the UAE 80 French-made Rafale warplanes for $18.08 billion (€16 billion). 
France’s Defense Minister said the deal was France’s largest-ever weapons contract for export while the Minister for the Armed Forces hailed the deal as "historic."

There was no immediate confirmation of the deal from Emirati officials. Macron was greeted at the leadership pavilion at Dubai’s Expo site for talks with Sheikh Mohammed.
“I don’t want to reveal the Christmas present” before the meeting, UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash told journalists in the build-up to the talks in Dubai.
Macron arrived in the early hours of Friday for a brief Gulf tour where he will also visit Qatar, host of next year’s World Cup, before traveling to Saudi Arabia on Saturday.
The UAE, which celebrated its 50th anniversary on Thursday, is expected to order dozens of Rafale jets to replace its Mirage 2000 aircraft acquired in the late 1990s.
The Emirates is the fifth biggest customer for the French defense industry with $5.31 billion (€4.7 billion) from 2011-2020, according to a parliamentary report.
Macron is accompanied by a large delegation in Dubai including Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian, Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire and Defense Minister Florence Parly.