Houthis besiege thousands of civilians in Marib’s Al-Abedia

Special Houthis besiege thousands of civilians in Marib’s Al-Abedia
A ballistic missile hit the city of Marib, destroying the house of the governor of Marib, Sultan Al-Arada. (AFP/File)
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Updated 27 September 2021

Houthis besiege thousands of civilians in Marib’s Al-Abedia

Houthis besiege thousands of civilians in Marib’s Al-Abedia
  • Local government officials told Arab News that the Houthis besieged Al-Abedia area, south of Marib province

AL-MUKALLA: The Iran-backed Houthis have laid siege to thousands of civilians inside a government-controlled area in the central province of Marib.
Intensifying fighting for the energy-rich city of Marib has killed dozens of combatants during the past 24 hours.
Local government officials told Arab News on Monday that the Houthis besieged Al-Abedia area, south of Marib province, after their forces scored a string of territorial gains following a rapid assault on government troops, preventing people, including the sick, from leaving or entering the area.
“We have not been able to deliver humanitarian assistance to the 5,106 besieged families and children as the militias blocked roads and prevented them from even leaving for medical treatment,” Khaled Al-Shajani, the head of Marib’s office of the internationally recognized government’s Executive Unit for IDPs Camps, told Arab News by telephone.
He urged international organizations and powerful countries to pressure the Houthis to lift their siege and stop military operations to allow civilians to leave their homes.
The government official said that more than 1,043 families had also left homes in Hareb district, southeastern Marib, and sheltered in the city of Marib since earlier this month. This was adding more pressure to the large displacement camps in Marib that host more than 2 million people, he said.
Local military officials and media reports said on Monday that heavy fighting broke out between the Houthis and government troops in Al-Mashjah, Al-Kasarah, Hareb, Jabal Murad and Serwah as the Houthis escalated ground attacks and artillery fire on government troops defending the city of Marib.
Dozens of combatants, most of them Houthis, have been killed in the fighting or in airstrikes by Arab coalition warplanes.
“There are martyrs from the national army, but the Houthi deaths are much bigger,” a military official, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Arab News, noting that hundreds of Houthis have been killed since the weekend.
Yemeni officials say that they cannot put a number on Houthi deaths as most of the rebels are killed by the coalition’s warplanes behind the frontline or even before taking part in the fighting. The latest round of fierce fighting in Marib began in February when the Houthis renewed a major military offensive to seize control of the government’s last bastion in the densely populated northern half of the country.
The local authority in the northern province of Hajjah said that the death toll from the Houthi missile strike on a flame-lighting ceremony in Medi town on Saturday had risen to 12 people, including three military and security officials. The Houthis fired a ballistic missile on Saturday night at a gathering of government officials and civilians marking the 59th anniversary of the Sept. 26 revolution.
Another ballistic missile hit the city of Marib, destroying the house of the governor of Marib, Sultan Al-Arada.
The increase in fighting in Marib comes as government-controlled areas continue to record a high number of coronavirus infections.
The Aden-based national coronavirus committee on Monday announced 54 new cases, nine deaths and 42 recoveries in government-controlled areas, bringing the total number of cases to 8,988, including 1,703 deaths and 5,570 recoveries.


Diplomatic activity intensifies ahead of Biden’s Mideast visit

US President Joe Biden. (AP)
US President Joe Biden. (AP)
Updated 28 June 2022

Diplomatic activity intensifies ahead of Biden’s Mideast visit

US President Joe Biden. (AP)
  • The new moves came after King Abdullah of Jordan backed the idea of a NATO-style defense alliance for the Middle East, and before Biden visits Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia from July 13 to 16

JEDDAH: Four Arab states, the US and Israel agreed on Monday to forge closer ties and hold annual foreign ministers’ meetings amid a flurry of diplomatic activity before US President Joe Biden’s first visit to the Middle East.
The UAE, Egypt, Morocco and Bahrain took part in Monday’s six-country talks in Manama, following a summit in the Negev desert in March. The aim is to drive closer cooperation in areas including security, clean energy, and food and water security.
A joint statement also expressed the group’s support for a negotiated settlement to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Foreign ministers from the six countries are expected to meet annually and there will be further talks this year.

FASTFACT

Foreign ministers from the six countries are expected to meet annually and there will be further talks this year.

“We’re trying to build a new regional framework ... and tangible initiatives that can put flesh on the bones of the Negev forum,” US State Department official Yael Lempert said. “It’s a very holistic approach, toward trying to advance this goal of building a new architecture that really has meaningful results.”
The new moves came after King Abdullah of Jordan backed the idea of a NATO-style defense alliance for the Middle East, and before Biden visits Israel, the occupied West Bank and Saudi Arabia from July 13 to 16.
Among a series of official visits in the past week, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman went to Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, Iraq’s prime minister was in Saudi Arabia and Iran, and Qatar’s emir visited Cairo for the first time in seven years.

 


‘I want my son back’: Moroccan’s father pleads with Putin

Taher Saadoun, father of Moroccan Brahim Saadoun who was sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court in Ukraine, speaks in Rabat
Taher Saadoun, father of Moroccan Brahim Saadoun who was sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court in Ukraine, speaks in Rabat
Updated 28 June 2022

‘I want my son back’: Moroccan’s father pleads with Putin

Taher Saadoun, father of Moroccan Brahim Saadoun who was sentenced to death by a pro-Russian court in Ukraine, speaks in Rabat
  • The proceedings were denounced by the West as a sham and a violation of the rules of war, but the sentence was supported by Russian officials

RABAT, Morocco: The father of a Moroccan man facing execution after being captured by Russia-backed separatists in Ukraine appealed Monday to Russian President Vladimir Putin to intervene, “as a father,” to spare his son from the firing squad.
“I want my son back, just like any father would,” Taher Saadoun told reporters in the Moroccan capital, Rabat.
Saadoun also called on Morocco’s government to pursue negotiations on behalf of his 21-year-old son, Brahim, who was sentenced June 9 to the death penalty alongside two Britons, Aiden Aslin and Shaun Pinner. They are the first foreign fighters sentenced by Ukraine’s Russian-backed rebels.
A court in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic convicted all three of terrorism and trying to overturn constitutional order. They were given a month to appeal, and could be executed as soon as early July if they don’t.

Two British citizens Aiden Aslin, left, and Shaun Pinner, right, and Moroccan Saaudun Brahim, center, sit behind bars in a courtroom in Donetsk, in the territory which is under the Government of the Donetsk People's Republic control, eastern Ukraine, Thursday, June 9, 2022. (AP)

The proceedings were denounced by the West as a sham and a violation of the rules of war, but the sentence was supported by Russian officials.
While the court claimed Saadoun was a mercenary, his father insisted that he was enlisted in Ukraine’s regular army and that when he was captured, he was wearing an official Ukrainian army uniform and carrying a weapon with serial numbers belonging to the Ukrainian government.
The Donetsk republic’s self-styled “foreign minister,” Nataliya Nikonorova, told Russian state TV on Monday that none of the three condemned men have filed yet for pardons.
The father said his son’s local lawyer will submit the appeal when things calm down a bit, without providing a date. A lawyer for Aslin said the Briton is pessimistic about his prospects and that British authorities have not contacted the DPR about an appeal.
Saadoun’s father said he wrote to Putin and the leader of the Donetsk Republic, and pleaded for intervention on his son’s behalf.
“I’m appealing to Russian President Putin to step in as a father, by using NGOs and humanitarian organizations” to seek dialogue, Taher Saadoun said. “Russia is accountable because it supports the Donetsk Republic.”
Brahim Saadoun’s mother visited the Russian Embassy in Rabat, “which welcomed us warmly and gave us the case summary,” Taher Saadoun said. The father said he had “faith” in the Donetsk court and that he was “grateful” to Russia for sparing his son’s life when he was captured.
The father, a retired member of Morocco’s Royal Gendarmerie, said he hasn’t heard from anyone from the Moroccan government about his son’s situation, but they ought to get in touch “because I pay taxes and I am military man who carried weapons to defend my country.”
“I call on the prime minister of Morocco to step in and engage in dialogue through all formal and informal channels,” he said.
The Moroccan foreign ministry said in a statement earlier this month that Saadoun obtained Ukrainian citizenship and enlisted in the Ukrainian army “of his own free will,” and is imprisoned by “an entity which is recognized neither by the United Nations nor by Morocco.” It has not commented on eventual efforts for his release.
The family is seeking to provide Brahim Saadoun with its own lawyer, and to visit him in prison. They haven’t spoken to him since his arrest.
“I am ready to board the first flight to see him and bring him home,” his father said.
Born in the city of Meknes, Brahim Saadoun read a lot and did well in school, and attended flying and skydiving clubs, his father said. In addition to Arabic, he studied English and French, and started Russian at age 12, notably watching cartoons and news channels like Russia Today, according to his father.
The family hoped for him to pursue space and aviation sciences in Russia after high school, but chose Ukraine over Russia because it was more affordable.
Brahim moved to Ukraine in 2019, picked up Ukrainian and started studying at the Institute of Aeronautics and Space Sciences in Kyiv the next year.
While there, he used to have regular communication with his sister in Finland and his family in Morocco, his father said. He noted shifts in Brahim’s behavior in 2020, after he began purchasing military garb. Brahim stopped video chatting with his family in 2021, apparently to “hide these changes,” his father said.
The family learned of his arrest by pro-Russian forces after a brief pause in communications.
The father said he felt a little relieved when his son was apprehended by pro-Russian forces: “At least I knew where he was,” and that he was alive.
In the first video taken after his arrest, the father said Brahim appeared to be in good health, but expressed concern that in a later video it seemed like he was getting less sleep and had lost weight.


Tunisia’s former premier Jebali released from custody: lawyer

Hamadi Jebali. (AFP file photo)
Hamadi Jebali. (AFP file photo)
Updated 28 June 2022

Tunisia’s former premier Jebali released from custody: lawyer

Hamadi Jebali. (AFP file photo)
  • President Kais Saied in July last year sacked the government and suspended the Ennahdha-dominated parliament in a move opponents have called a coup in the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings

TUNIS: Tunisia’s former prime minister and senior official of the Islamist-inspired Ennahdha party, Hamadi Jebali, was released on Monday, four days after he was arrested, one of his lawyers said.
A judge ordered Jebali’s release but he remains under investigation for suspected “money laundering,” the lawyer, Samir Dilou, told AFP.
He will have to appear on July 20 before an investigating judge of the anti-terrorist unit of Tunis, Dilou added.
On hunger strike since his arrest, Jebali was hospitalized Saturday while remaining in custody, said his lawyers.
Jebali was arrested Thursday in Sousse, a coastal city south of the capital Tunis, on charges of money laundering in connection with transfers of foreign funds to a charity in Tunisia, according to the interior ministry.
He denies the charges and has said the arrest was part of a campaign of settling political scores.
For more than a month, Jebali, who served as prime minister from 2011 to 2013, has been under investigation over the activities of his boiler factory in the Sousse region.
President Kais Saied in July last year sacked the government and suspended the Ennahdha-dominated parliament in a move opponents have called a coup in the only democracy to emerge from the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings.
He later dissolved the assembly, extended his powers over the judiciary and moved to change the constitution.
Saied is under intense criticism from the opposition for excluding it from a national dialogue on a new constitution that he plans to put to a referendum one year on, on July 25.
The opposition, including Ennahdha and human rights groups, accuse him of seeking to adopt a text tailored to his needs.
Jebali, a solar engineer and former journalist, was sentenced to 16 years behind bars under long-time dictator Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who was toppled in the 2011 revolution.
He served a large part of his sentence in an isolation cell before being pardoned in 2006.


After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?
Updated 28 June 2022

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?
  • Incidents in three different Arab countries in the space of a week show urgency of treating ‘femicide’ as a global issue 
  • Victims of gender-based violence rarely report crimes against them or seek help, and perpetrators are rarely punished

JEDDAH: Last week, Nayera Ashraf, a student at Mansoura University in Egypt, was beaten and stabbed in broad daylight as bystanders looked on in horror. She died later that day. The attacker was restrained and arrested. His motive for such a dreadful crime? The refusal of a marriage proposal.

Alexis Gabe, 24, went missing in January this year. It is thought that she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in Antioch, California. In June, Vanessa Virgioni, 29, was murdered in her home in Brampton, Canada. In October 2018, 46-year-old Gayle Potter died after she was hit by a car in the driveway of her home in Traralgon, Victoria, Australia. Iman Ersheid, 18, was gunned down this month on a university campus in Amman, Jordan.

Such stories of attacks on women by former partners or men they have rejected are too common for comfort. A disappearance in Breitungen, Germany; a stabbing in Delhi, India; another in Sharjah in the UAE; a shooting in the US state of Oklahoma; a death by drowning in Townsville, Australia. In some cases, the victims are discovered immediately, in others it can take years. The remains of some are never found.

It is difficult to determine precisely how many women are attacked because they rejected the advances of a man. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, categorizes such killings as “femicide,” a term used to describe the murder of women, usually by men. A common denominator in many cases is that the woman was the object of unrequited affection from a partner, former partner, or a man whose advances were rebuked.

The Arab world was rocked by reports of three murders of women in this past week alone. Ashraf’s killer claimed that his victim “used me to achieve things and when she did, she dumped me.”

During a court hearing, he told prosecutors: “I also wanted to kill her, if I had the chance” because she had refused his romantic advances and rejected a marriage proposal.

Ersheid’s killer committed suicide as police urged him to surrender. (Screengrab)

In Jordan, authorities tracked down Ersheid’s killer to a town north of Zarqa. As they urged him to surrender, he fatally shot himself. The case in Sharjah involved a husband who stabbed his wife 16 times over a dispute. CCTV footage from a parking lot at the woman’s residence showed the killer attacking the woman in her car. He was later found on a beach and arrested.

But such cases are hardly unique to countries such as Egypt, Jordan or the UAE, or to the wider Middle East. Yet some media outlets, such as Monte Carlo Doualiya, formerly known as RMC Moyen-Orient, a French public radio service, have wrongly described them as a uniquely “Arab problem.”

Ibrahim Al-Zibin, a professor of sociology at Imam Mohammed ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, told Arab News that it is a global problem that is not specific to any single region or society. Studies have shown gender-based crimes, especially those against women, are more common in conservative and lower-income communities, he added.

“Violence against women disproportionately affects low and lower-middle-income countries and regions,” he said. “That’s not to say that violence doesn’t occur in other social classes but financially burdened individuals are most likely to be driven towards violence of any kind, and there’s an associated mental-health issue when it comes to committing a murder.”

In what UN Women describes as the “shadow pandemic,” studies have shown that rates of violence against women have increased in recent decades, and that there was a significant rise in cases of domestic violence following the start of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

UN Women reports that an estimated 736 million women worldwide, which is 30 percent of all women age 15 or older, have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, sexual violence by a non-partner, or both, at least once in their lives.

Many cases of gender-based violence go unreported, with less than 40 percent of women reporting such crimes or seeking help of any sort, UN Women said in 2021. Assaults and murders considered “crimes of passion,” or as a result of rejection, often make the news as a result of initial citizen reports on social media that attract the attention of authorities.

Social media offers unprecedented opportunities to raise awareness about violence against women and girls, which in many instances historically has gone unpunished. However, advances in technology have made online reporting more accessible to the average person.

Nayera Ashraf, a student at Mansoura University in Egypt, was beaten and stabbed in broad daylight. (Supplied)

Calculating exact figures for crimes of femicide can be challenging and so accurate counts or reliable estimates for the global prevalence of its various forms are difficult to come by. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 47,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member in 2020.

But attempts to understand the psyche and motives of the men who carry out such crimes raise a number of questions. Are those who kill women just “ordinary people” who suddenly and unexpectedly fly into murderous rages, or are the killings premeditated and planned?

“There is an underlying cause that drives one to premeditated murder; it’s not spontaneous,” said Al-Zibin. Each murder has unique characteristics, he added; in many instances, killers believe they have found the right circumstances to act but, in reality, a mental illness might be driving their actions.

“Violence does not always, or immediately, lead a woman to her death but the consequences of these acts are equally debilitating; the physical, psychological and social effects of violence vary and most murderers will find a way to use that to their advantage,” he added.

“Triggers vary in nature. In some cases they are non-existent but to a criminal, it’s real. The threat of violence manifests itself in various ways in women's lives. Retribution for rejection is a common enough threat.”

Social taboos and shame can lead women to tolerate and even accept as unavoidable aggression by a male, a situation Al-Zibin said can be a recipe for disaster, and so greater social awareness of the issue is needed to change attitudes.

Many cases of gender-based violence go unreported to police. (Supplied)

“Women, get used to the idea that they have to prepare themselves, that they have to respond ‘appropriately’ to men’s advances,” he said. “But in truth, women need to be more aware of a man’s aggressive behavior — no matter the relationship — and protect themselves through reporting it to a family member or law enforcement, which is the best option. It’s one way of fixing the problem.

“There’s no shame in a woman falling victim to an abusive partner, a drug user, a stalker or someone who holds a grudge against her. It’s not something to be ashamed of; the taboo needs to be ignored. There are laws to protect women but more needs to be done to fix this global issue, starting with local governments and authorities.”

Al-Zibin believes that if a woman attempts to deal with a man’s aggressive behavior on her own by defending herself, it can lead to an escalation in the harassment, which might ultimately lead to murder. Moreover, he said, protective measures need to be put in place to protect women from individuals who suffer from mental health issues.

No matter how strong or confident she might be, Al-Zibin said, the actions of a woman who tries to protect herself can be misinterpreted by the individual who is pursuing her and fuel their spite or hate.

“Involuntary manslaughter is rare in crimes (involving) rejection; they’re likely to be very detailed and, more often than not, the criminal succeeds.”


Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest

Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest
Updated 27 June 2022

Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest

Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest
  • Some farmers are harvesting grain early for fear of losing all their 2022 production to fires

TUNIS: A heatwave and fires are badly damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest, leading the farmers union to forecast that output will fall well short of government hopes.

Loss of grain production comes as the North African country struggles with food importation costs driven higher by the war in Ukraine.

Agriculture Minister Mhamoud Elyess Hamza this month forecast the 2022 grain harvest would reach 1.8 million tons, up 10 percent on last year’s.

But farmers union official Mohamed Rejaibia, pointing to fires that began raging over much of the country last month, said that was no longer possible.

“The grain harvest will not be more than 1.4 million tons,” said Rejaibia, a member of the union’s executive office. “Some of it will be lost to fires and some perhaps during collection.”

The union and experts say the crop also is suffering direct damage from high temperatures, which have already reached 47 Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) this summer and are forecast to go as high as 49 Celsius. Moreover, the heatwave could hinder agricultural workers in collecting the harvest.

Tunisia has been counting on a big crop to reduce grain imports amid a national financial crisis that is exacerbated by the war. Higher prices of imported food and energy will cost the budget $1.7 billion this year, says the government, which subsidises such supplies.

The country has aimed for self-sufficiency this year in production of durum wheat, the main grain that it produces.

Some farmers are harvesting grain early, accepting smaller crops for fear of losing all their 2022 production to fires.

“Usually we begin the harvest season in July, but this year we started on June 18,” said farmer Abderraouf Arfaoui in Krib, a northern town. “We are afraid of fires. We must watch our land day and night.”

“We must harvest without waiting, even if that reduces the quantity and quality of the wheat, and when we finish the harvest we must watch our haystacks, too.”

President Kais Saied said this month that the grain crop this year would be a target for criminal gangs, which particularly planned to steal product of good quality.

Protecting the crop was a matter of national security, he said.