Yemeni authorities issue fresh plea for rescue of civilians in Houthi-besieged district

Yemeni authorities issue fresh plea for rescue of civilians in Houthi-besieged district
Analysts believe the Houthis may punish anyone who resisted the militia’s offensive on Marib. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 12 October 2021

Yemeni authorities issue fresh plea for rescue of civilians in Houthi-besieged district

Yemeni authorities issue fresh plea for rescue of civilians in Houthi-besieged district

AL-MUKALLA: Local authorities in the central Yemeni province of Marib have issued a fresh appeal to international aid organizations and rights groups to rescue thousands of civilians trapped inside the Houthi-besieged district of Al-Abedia.
In a statement seen by Arab News, they warned that more than 35,000 people who lived in Al-Abedia could die of starvation as the Houthis tightened their grip on the district and “hysterically” bombarded residential areas and civilian facilities to force local fighters to surrender.
“We are appealing to the UN Security Council and the UN special envoy for Yemen to carry out their legal and ethical duties and take urgent action to meet the basic needs of the besieged in Al-Abedia in order to prevent a looming humanitarian catastrophe,” local authorities said.
The siege has been ongoing for more than 20 days after local tribesmen and government forces fought to prevent the Houthis from seizing control of the district.
Local aid workers told Arab News that the Houthis had blocked the distribution of humanitarian assistance to residents and even prevented the wounded and elderly from leaving the district.
The appeal came as fighting intensified between locals defending the district and the Iran-backed militia, local media reported on Monday.
Arab coalition warplanes have carried out dozens of air raids in support of the besieged people, targeting Houthi gatherings and military equipment. 
Coalition spokesman Gen. Turki Al-Maliki said on Sunday that 118 airstrikes had killed 400 Houthis, destroyed 15 vehicles, and obstructed Houthi attempts to seize control of the district during the past 96 hours.
People with family members in Al-Abedia said they had lost contact with their relatives, with the situation deteriorating due to heavy Houthi shelling and shortages of drugs, food and fuel.  
“The situation is very bad due to the suffocating siege and the Houthi attacks from all directions in an attempt to bring the district to its knees,” one person, who preferred not to be named, told Arab News.
One analyst believed the Houthis were trying to send a message to other cities and tribes that they would be harshly punished if they resisted the militia’s offensive on the central city of Marib.  
“Al-Abedia has no military significance for the Houthis, but they want to suppress and humiliate the people of Al-Abedia and the people of Marib,” Mohammed Al-Salehi, the editor of news website Marib Press, told Arab News on Monday. 
He said that at least 70 people who had been wounded during fighting were trapped in the district and could die soon due to the siege.
“No aid organization has stepped in to rescue the wounded as if this humanitarian disaster does not concern them,” Al-Salehi added.
Yemeni human rights activists and officials called on their government and military commanders to step up their attacks on the Houthis to break the Al-Abedia siege.
“It is the duty of every free Yemeni and the state’s political, military and social figures to work on breaking the unjust siege on it and stop the brutal Houthi aggression against its residents,” Mohammed Al-Omada, head of the Yemeni Network for Rights and Freedoms, tweeted.


Iran holds nationwide air force drill, latest armed exercise

Iran holds nationwide air force drill, latest armed exercise
Updated 57 min 20 sec ago

Iran holds nationwide air force drill, latest armed exercise

Iran holds nationwide air force drill, latest armed exercise
  • Iran’s annual air force drill comes a week after its held a two-day annual air defense drill in the country’s sprawling central desert

TEHRAN: Iran on Thursday kicked off an annual air force drill across the country, a week after holding another massive exercise in air defense, state TV reported.
The report said bombers, jet fighters, and attack and surveillance drones will participate in the drill, using heavy weapons including laser-guided missiles.
It said all Iranian military air bases will participate in the maneuver. Reportedly, Iran has 12 air bases. The report did not say how long the drill will last.
It came a week after Iran held a two-day annual air defense drill in the country’s sprawling central desert, with both the army and the paramilitary Revolutionary Guard taking part.
Iran regularly holds such drills and says they assess the troops’ combat readiness and demonstrate the nation’s military capabilities.
The region remains on edge over Iran’s escalating nuclear program. Talks in Vienna to revive Tehran’s now-tattered 2015 accord with world powers have stalled since June, with no date set for their resumption.
The 2015 nuclear deal saw Tehran drastically limit its enrichment of uranium in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. In 2018, then-President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord, raising tensions across the wider Middle East and sparking a series of attacks and incidents.


Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain
Updated 21 October 2021

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain

Israel reports subvariant of Delta coronavirus strain
  • An 11-year-old boy arriving from Europe was the carrier
  • The variant was discovered as Israel considers loosening restrictions on tourism

JERUSALEM: Israel has confirmed a case of a sub-variant of the Delta strain of the coronavirus previously reported in some European countries, the health ministry said.
“The variant AY 4.2. that has been discovered in a number of countries in Europe has been identified in Israel,” a ministry statement said late Tuesday.
An 11-year-old boy arriving from Europe was the carrier, the ministry said, adding that the case was identified at Ben Gurion airport in Tel Aviv. The boy was quarantined and no further contacts have been discovered, the ministry said.
The AY 4.2. variant has turned up several times in the United Kingdom.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett held an emergency meeting on Wednesday with health ministry officials and announced that Israel would take measures “to preserve the positive results of the fight against the virus,” a statement from his office said.
Bennett requested that an epidemiological investigation into the new variant be bolstered, and urged liaison with other countries where the sub-variant has been detected.
Changes to entry requirements for visitors would also be considered.
Francois Balloux, professor of computational systems biology at University College London, has said that the subvariant is rare and does not appear to pose the same risk of significantly increased transmission as other strains.
The variant was discovered as Israel considers loosening restrictions on tourism following a drop in cases.
An earlier plan to reopen the borders foundered amid a rise in cases driven by the Delta strain.
In late August and early September, new cases topped 11,000 a day.
Authorities launched an aggressive campaign to inoculate citizens with a third, booster shot of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, which drove down infections.


US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack
Updated 21 October 2021

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack

US outpost in Syria targeted in suspected drone attack

WASHINGTON: A US outpost in southern Syria was attacked on Wednesday, but there were no reports of any American casualties from the blast, US officials told Reuters.
The officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said it was too early to say who was responsible for the attack.
One of the officials said it was believed to have been a drone attack.
The garrison, known as Tanf, is located in a strategic area near Syria’s Tanf border crossing with Iraq and Jordan.
The garrison was first set up when Islamic State fighters controlled eastern Syria bordering Iraq but since the militants were driven out, it is seen as part of the larger US strategy to contain Iran’s military reach in the region.
Tanf is the only position with a significant US military presence in Syria outside the Kurdish-controlled north.
While it is not common for attacks on the US troops at the outpost, Iranian-backed forces have frequently attacked American troops with drones and rockets in eastern Syria and Iraq


Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province
Updated 20 October 2021

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province
  • Army troops and allied tribesmen trying to regain three strategic areas Iran-backed Houthis captured in the past month

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s army troops and allied tribesmen on Wednesday launched counterattacks in the southern province of Shabwa with the aim of liberating three strategic areas that the Iran-backed Houthis captured during the past couple of weeks.
Local officials said hundreds of Yemeni troops attacked Houthis in the district of Bayhan and managed to recapture a military base along with a large swathe of land in the district after killing and capturing dozens of rebels.
Rashad Al-Mekhlafi, a military official at Yemen’s Armed Forces Guidance Department, told Arab News on Wednesday that military units from Shabwa’s capital Attaq, Abyan province, along with security forces also took part in the offensive in Shabwa.
“This is a well-prepared military offensive,” Al-Mekhlafi said. “There are great advances for the government forces.”
After months of relentless attacks on government forces, the Houthis have recently managed to seize control of three areas in Shabwa and the besieged Abedia district in the province of Marib. The advancement put them closer to oil and gas fields and Marib city, the main goal of their continuing offensive in the province.
In Marib, dozens of combatants were killed in fierce fighting between government forces and the Houthis outside the city of Marib as the Arab coalition intensified airstrikes in the province.
Al-Mekhlafi said that at least three Houthi field leaders were killed in fighting with government forces or in the coalition’s airstrikes. Several army officers and tribesmen were also killed in the fighting.
The focus of Wednesday’s fighting was on the Juba and Hareb districts, south of Marib city, where government forces pushed to expel the Houthis from areas they controlled during their latest incursions.
Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik pledged full support to army troops and tribesmen who have fought off relentless Houthi attacks in Marib. He also urged international aid organizations to help displaced people and civilians who come under Houthi missiles, drones, and ground strikes in Marib province.
The official Yemen News Agency (SABA) reported that the prime minister called the governor of Marib, Sultan Al-Arada, to express the government’s support with Marib’s authorities in their battles against Houthis. He also praised their handling of the desperate humanitarian situation in the city of Marib, which hosts more than 2 million internally displaced people.
Abdul Malik accused the Houthis of committing genocides in Abedia and other areas in the province. The Yemeni prime minister vowed to throw full weight behind government forces in order to win the “existential” battle in Marib.
Thousands of combatants and civilians have been killed in Marib province since early this year when the Houthis resumed a major military offensive to control Marib city, the government’s last stronghold in the northern half of the country.


UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia
Updated 21 October 2021

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia

UN Security Council condemns Houthi violations in Yemen, Saudi Arabia
  • Saudi envoy to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi welcomes the Security Council statement, says it constitutes a strong condemnation of the Houthis

LONDON: The UN Security Council on Wednesday condemned the threat posed by the Iran-backed Houthi militia to navigation in the Red Sea and its increasing attacks on commercial ships off the coast of Yemen.
The Security Council called on the Houthis to reduce their military escalation in Marib, lift its blockade on nearby Abedia, and for an immediate nationwide cease-fire.
The Houthi militia has stepped up its offensive to take control of the strategic city of Marib in recent weeks, following a lull in September.
The UN Security Council also condemned the Houthis’ recruitment and exploitation of children in the conflict, some of whom are subjected to sexual abuse
The top UN body also expressed its concern about the faltering peace efforts in Yemen and called on all parties to constructively implement the Riyadh Agreement.
It said it welcomes and supports the Saudi initiative to end the war in Yemen and expressed its full support for the efforts of UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg, calling on all parties to cooperate with him without preconditions.
The Security Council also condemned the Houthis’ attempts to target Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia using explosive-laden drones.
Member countries also implicitly warned the Houthi militia against using Hodeidah port for military purposes, and renewed its warning of the risk posed by the lack of maintenance of a floating oil tanker moored in the Red Sea. They reminded the Houthis of their responsibility for the Safer tanker.
The Security Council stressed its full commitment to the unity, sovereignty and independence of Yemen, and emphasized the need to respect the arms embargo on Yemen.
It also expressed its support for the return of the Yemeni government to the interim capital, Aden, while also condemning an assassination attempt on the governor of Aden and the Yemeni minister of agriculture on Oct. 10.
Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the UN Abdallah Al-Mouallimi welcomed the Security Council statement and said it constitutes a strong condemnation of the Houthi militia, Al Arabiya reported.
He also welcomed the statement on Abha airport and said he hoped that the UN envoy to Yemen has benefited from the council’s statement.