Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province

Yemen counters Houthi attacks in Shabwa province
In Marib, dozens of combatants were killed in fierce fighting. (Reuters)
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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.


US threatens escalation with Iran in nuclear row

US threatens escalation with Iran in nuclear row
Updated 7 sec ago

US threatens escalation with Iran in nuclear row

US threatens escalation with Iran in nuclear row
  • Extraordinary session of IAEA may pass resolution against Tehran

VIENNA: The US has threatened to confront Iran at the International Atomic Energy Agency next month if it does not cooperate more with the watchdog — an escalation that could undermine talks on reviving a 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action with Iran.
Tehran is locked in several standoffs with the IAEA, whose 35-nation board of governors is holding a quarterly meeting this week.
Former US President Donald Trump pulled Washington out of the JCPOA, otherwise known as the Iran nuclear deal, that lifted sanctions on Tehran in return for restrictions on its atomic activities.
Trump reimposed debilitating sanctions, after which Tehran expanded its nuclear work and reduced cooperation with the IAEA.
Iran is currently denying the agency access to re-install surveillance cameras at a workshop at the TESA Karaj complex. 
The IAEA also wants answers on the origin of uranium particles found at apparently old but undeclared sites, and says Iran continues to subject its inspectors to “excessively invasive physical searches.”
In a statement, it said: “If Iran’s non-cooperation is not immediately remedied ... the board will have no choice but to reconvene in extraordinary session before the end of this year in order to address the crisis.”
It added it was referring “especially” to re-installing IAEA cameras at the Karaj site, which makes parts for advanced centrifuges for enriching uranium.
That workshop was struck by apparent sabotage in June, which Iran says was an attack by Israel. Israel has not commented on the incident.
One of four IAEA cameras installed there was destroyed and its footage is missing. Iran removed all the cameras after the incident.
IAEA Director General Rafael Grossi said on Wednesday that he did not know if the workshop was operating again, and that time was running out to reach an agreement, adding no progress had been made on several other disputes.
An extraordinary board meeting would most likely be aimed at passing a resolution against Iran, a diplomatic escalation likely to antagonize Tehran.
That could jeopardize indirect talks between Iran and the US on reviving the JCPOA, due to resume on Monday. 
Iran wants the lifting of all sanctions in a verifiable process, its Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian said on Friday.


UN envoy: Sudan’s new deal saved the country from civil war

UN envoy: Sudan’s new deal saved the country from civil war
Updated 9 min 22 sec ago

UN envoy: Sudan’s new deal saved the country from civil war

UN envoy: Sudan’s new deal saved the country from civil war
  • Volker Perthes: “But it is better than not having an agreement and continuing on a path where the military in the end will be the sole ruler.”
  • The deal, signed on Sunday, was seen as the biggest concession made by the country’s top military leader

CAIRO: The deal struck in Sudan to reinstate the prime minister following a military coup is imperfect but has saved the country from sliding into civil strife, the UN envoy to Sudan said on Friday.
Volker Perthes was speaking of the agreement between Sudan’s military leaders and Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok, who was deposed and put under house arrest following the coup last month that stirred an international outcry.
The military takeover threatened to thwart the process of democratic transition that the country had embarked on since the ouster of longtime autocrat Omar Bashir.
The deal, signed on Sunday, was seen as the biggest concession made by the country’s top military leader, Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, since the coup.
However, the country’s pro-democracy groups have dismissed it as illegitimate and accused Hamdok of allowing himself to serve as a fig leaf for continued military rule.
“The agreement of course is not perfect,” Perthes said.
“But it is better than not having an agreement and continuing on a path where the military in the end will be the sole ruler.”
Both signatories felt compelled to make “bitter concessions” in order to spare the country the risk of more violence, chaos and international isolation, he added.
“It would not have been possible to exclude a scenario which would have brought Sudan to something close to what we have seen in Yemen, Libya or Syria,” Perthes said. He spoke to the AP via videoconference from Khartoum.
Sudan has been struggling with its transition to a democratic government since the military overthrow of Bashir in 2019, following a mass uprising against three decades of his rule.
The deal that Hamdok signed with the military envisions an independent Cabinet of technocrats led by the prime minister until new elections are held.
The government will still remain under military oversight, although Hamdok claims he will have the power to appoint ministers.
The deal also stipulates that all political detainees arrested following the Oct. 25 coup be released. So far, several ministers and politicians have been freed. The number of those still in detention remains unknown.
“We have a situation now where we at least have an important step toward the restoration of the constitutional order,” said Perthes.
Since the takeover, protesters have repeatedly taken to the streets in some of the largest demonstrations in recent years.
Sudanese security forces have cracked down on the rallies and have killed more than 40 protesters so far, according to activist groups.
Further measures need to taken to prove the viability of the deal, said Perthes, including the release of all detainees, the cessation of the use of violence against protesters and Hamdok’s full freedom to choose his Cabinet members.
On Thursday, thousands rallied in Khartoum and in several Sudanese provinces to demand a fully civilian government and protest the deal.
Activists had circulated videos on social media showing tear gas canisters being fired at protesters.
However, the Sudanese police said that protesters had thrown Molotov cocktails and hurled stones at two police stations in the capital of Khartoum, and its twin city of Omdurman, wounding more than 30 policemen. In a statement released late Thursday, authorities said they arrested 15 people.


Iraq sends extra planes to Belarus to repatriate migrants

Iraq sends extra planes to Belarus to repatriate migrants
Updated 18 min 45 sec ago

Iraq sends extra planes to Belarus to repatriate migrants

Iraq sends extra planes to Belarus to repatriate migrants

BAGHDAD: Iraq is sending more planes to Belarus to repatriate more than 800 migrants stuck on the border with Poland, adding to around 1,000 already collected since operations started, authorities said on Friday.
Hundreds of Iraqis, most of them Kurds, have been flown back since repatriation flights began on Nov. 18 from the ex-Soviet state.
Thousands of migrants have been camped on the border there for weeks hoping to enter the EU, often in bitter conditions — with those returning to Iraq showing injuries from the freezing cold.
Another flight on Friday will bring 431 people, followed by a flight on Saturday to collect 430 more, Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Al-Sahaf said.
Most of the thousands of Iraqis stranded on the border say they have spent their savings, sold valuables and even taken loans to escape economic hardship in Iraq and start a new life in the EU.
The West accuses Belarus of bringing in would-be migrants — mostly from the Middle East — under the false pretense they would be to cross into EU members Poland and Lithuania.
Belarus has denied the claim and criticized the EU for not taking in the migrants.
Aid groups say at least 11 migrants have died on the two sides of the border since the crisis began in the summer, and have criticized the Polish government over its policy of pushing migrants back.
Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko told migrants on the border with Poland on Friday that he would not try to stop them from reaching the EU, urging Germany to take them in.
In footage released by state media, Lukashenko was shown visiting a center near the Polish border hosting hundreds of migrants who traveled to Belarus in the hopes of reaching Europe.
Lukashenko was shown walking among and talking to the migrants in the center, then addressing them outside from a podium in a campaign-style speech.
Dressed in winter coats as they stood in the cold, the migrants appeared confused, though there were scatterings of applause.
“If anybody wants to go West — that is your right. We will not try to catch you, beat you, and hold you behind barbed wire,” Lukashenko said.
“We will work with you to achieve your dream.”
With many of the migrants hoping to reach Germany, Lukashenko said he was asking the German people to welcome them.
“Please take these people in. This number is not very big. They want to live in Germany — 2,000 people is not a big problem for Germany,” he said.
In recent months thousands of migrants from the Middle East have traveled to Belarus in the hopes of getting across the border into EU member Poland.


Tunisia rescues 487 migrants in crowded boat off its coast

Tunisia rescues 487 migrants in crowded boat off its coast
Updated 26 min 9 sec ago

Tunisia rescues 487 migrants in crowded boat off its coast

Tunisia rescues 487 migrants in crowded boat off its coast

TUNIS, Tunisia: Tunisia’s defense ministry said 487 migrants, including 93 children, were rescued Friday off the North African country’s coast as they tried to cross the Mediterranean Sea to Europe in an overloaded boat.
The ministry said in a statement that the vessel had left from neighboring Libya carrying migrants from Africa, Asia and the Middle East.
The rescue operation was led by a Tunisian patrol boat and ships from the country’s navy and national guard near the island of Kerkennah, off the city of Sfax.
Amid the migrants were 162 Egyptians, 104 Bangladeshis, 81 Syrians, 78 Moroccans and others from Pakistan, the Palestinian territories and several African sub-Saharan countries, the ministry statement said.
This year alone, United Nations officials estimate that 1,600 people have died or gone missing in the Mediterranean, the main gateway to Europe for migrants trying to enter the continent with the help of human smugglers.
The busiest and deadliest migrant route to Europe is the central Mediterranean, where people travel in crowded boats from Libya and Tunisia — and in some cases all the way from Turkey — toward Italy. About 60,000 people have arrived in Italy by sea this year, and some 1,200 have died or disappeared on the journey, according to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees.


Russia’s role essential in bringing peace to Yemen: UN envoy

The UN Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg met in Moscow with Deputy FM Vasilievich and Deputy FM and Special Presidential Representative for MEA Bogdanov. (Twitter: @OSE_Yemen)
The UN Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg met in Moscow with Deputy FM Vasilievich and Deputy FM and Special Presidential Representative for MEA Bogdanov. (Twitter: @OSE_Yemen)
Updated 26 min 54 sec ago

Russia’s role essential in bringing peace to Yemen: UN envoy

The UN Envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg met in Moscow with Deputy FM Vasilievich and Deputy FM and Special Presidential Representative for MEA Bogdanov. (Twitter: @OSE_Yemen)
  • Hans Grundberg concluded a visit to Moscow, his first outside the Mideast since he became special envoy
  • He reiterated his concerns over the Houthis’ escalating offensive in Marib and Yemen’s west coast

NEW YORK: Russia’s longstanding relations with multiple actors in the Yemeni war, and Moscow’s support for UN efforts to resolve it, are important in bringing about a peaceful settlement, said UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg.

The Swedish diplomat’s statement came as he concluded his visit to the Russian capital, the first such visit for the recently appointed envoy outside the Middle East.

He thanked Russia for “its sustained support to the UN’s peacemaking efforts in Yemen and highlighted his appreciation for the joint efforts of the permanent members of the UN Security Council on the Yemeni file,” the statement said.

In Moscow, Grundberg met with Russian deputy foreign ministers Vershinin Sergey Vasilievich, and Mikhail Bogdanov, who is also special presidential representative for the Middle East and Africa.

They all reiterated the need for a “comprehensive and inclusive political settlement of the conflict in Yemen,” the statement said.

Grundberg again expressed concerns over the Houthis’ escalating offensive in Marib and Yemen’s west coast.

“We are facing a potential military escalation that will only increase the suffering of civilians. Increased international efforts are essential to convince all sides of the need to settle disagreements at the negotiation table,” he said.

According to the UN, at least 55,000 civilians have been displaced from Marib since February, when the Houthis launched an offensive to seize the city.