Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing

A supporter reacts as he holds a poster of Christian Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea during a protest against his summoning for a hearing by army intelligence, in Maarab, Lebanon October 27, 2021. (Reuters)
A supporter reacts as he holds a poster of Christian Lebanese Forces party leader Samir Geagea during a protest against his summoning for a hearing by army intelligence, in Maarab, Lebanon October 27, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 28 October 2021

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing

Supporters prevent Lebanese Forces leader Geagea from attending hearing

BEIRUT: Supporters of the Christian Lebanese Forces party on Wednesday blocked roads to leader Samir Geagea’s residence as he failed to turn up for a hearing at army intelligence over fatal clashes in Beirut.
Geagea was summoned to the hearing, scheduled for 9 a.m. local time on Wednesday, amid claims by the Iran-backed Hezbollah and its ally the Amal Movement that Lebanese Forces (LF) supporters shot dead seven of their followers in clashes on Oct. 14.
Geagea has denied the claims and said he is being unfairly targetted for his support of a probe by Judge Tarek Bitar into the August 2020 Beirut port explosion that Hezbollah opposes.
“We won’t let anyone, not Hezbollah nor Iran nor Syria or anyone try to subjugate us,” LF protester Fadi told Reuters.
“We are here today in 2021 sacrificing for Samir Geagea just like he sacrified for us in 1994 so Lebanon could remain and we could remain,” Fadi, who did not give his last name, said.
Geagea, a former warlord, was imprisoned after Lebanon’s 1975-90 civil war and released in 2005 following the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon after three decades of occupation.


Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant

Updated 10 sec ago

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant

Kuwait detects first case of omicron variant
KUWAIT: Kuwait has detected its first case of the omicron variant of the coronavirus, state news agency KUNA reported on Wednesday.
The variant was detected in a European traveler who arrived to Kuwait from an African country where the variant had been detected, KUNA reported, citing a health ministry spokesman.
Speaking to KUNA, Dr. Abdullah Al-Sanad said the traveler had received both dosages of the COVID-19 vaccine previously and now he is under institutional quarantine, according to the health protocol.
He added that the ministry has taken necessary precautions since several nations announced discovering the new variant.
Currently, the pandemic situation in Kuwait is stable, according to Al-Sanad, however, citizens and residents have been advised to take the booster shot to help the ministry curb the spread.
Studies have shown that current vaccines are effective against omicron, he stressed.
On Wednesday, health authorities recorded 18 recoveries, one death and 33 new coronavirus infections, bringing the cases to a total of 413,588 in Kuwait.

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel
Updated 8 min 33 sec ago

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel

Jordanian politicians stage walk out over ‘energy-for-water’ deal with Israel
  • The two countries and the UAE signed a declaration of intent on Nov. 22 to explore the feasibility of a the joint project

AMMAN: MPs in Jordan walked out of a parliamentary session on Wednesday in protest against the presence of the minister who signed a controversial “energy-for-water” agreement with Israel and the UAE.

Amid angry scenes, veteran MP Saleh Al-Armouti threatened to walk out if the minister remained. Without mentioning the minister by name, Al-Armouti said: “Someone who signed a deal with the Zionist enemy, either he leaves the hall or I leave. I don’t allow his presence (in the chamber).”

When speaker Abdulkarim Al-Dughmi accused Al-Armouti of violating parliamentary rules, the latter walked out of the session and was joined by a majority of MPs, which meant that there was no longer a quorum in the House. A majority of the remaining lawmakers voted in favor of a proposal to hold a special session to discuss the energy agreement.

The declaration of intent to explore the feasibility of a joint energy-for-water project was signed at Expo 2020 Dubai on Nov. 22 by Jordan’s Minister of Water and Irrigation Mohammad Al-Najjar, the UAE’s Minister of Climate Change and Environment Mariam Al-Mheiri, and Israel’s Energy Minister Karine Elharrar.

At the time, the Jordanian government said the declaration was “neither a technical nor legal agreement” and only means that the three nations will begin to carry out feasibility studies early next year for the megaproject. It added that resource-poor Jordan would receive 200 million cubic meters of water a year under the proposed project.

In the past two weeks, hundreds of Jordanians have marched in Amman in protest against the agreement, demanding the resignation of the government over the “shameful deals” with Israel.

Water and Irrigation Ministry spokesperson Omar Salameh previously pointed out that Jordan obtains 35 million cubic meters of water annually from Israel under the 1994 Wadi Araba Peace Treaty between the two countries, and another 10 million cubic meters as a result of a deal in 2010. In October, Jordan signed an agreement with Israel to purchase an additional 50 million cubic meters of water.

A few days before water-far-energy agreement was signed, US news website Axios reported that a massive solar-energy farm will be built in the Jordanian desert as part of a project to generate clean energy that would be sold to Israel in return for desalinated water. Axios said the solar facility would be built by Masdar, the renewable-energy company owned by the Emirati government.

The plans reportedly call for the solar farm to be operational by 2026 and supply 2 percent of Israel’s energy requirements by 2030, with Israel paying $180 million a year that would be divided between the Jordanian government and the Emirati company.


Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis

Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis
Updated 26 min 57 sec ago

Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis

Yemen calls for punishing Iran for military supplies to Houthis
  • The Arab coalition and the Yemeni government have long accused Iran of sending military and financial assistance to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: The Yemeni Army battling the Houthis across the country has demanded that the UN Security Council and the UN special envoy to Yemen name and shame the Iranian regime for continuing to send military supplies to the Houthis, responsible for killing thousands of Yemenis and undermining peace and stability. 

Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News on Wednesday that the Houthis are using advanced weapons from Iran to kill Yemenis and attack targets in neighboring Saudi Arabia and renewed the call to impose sanctions on Iran for fueling violence in Yemen. 

“Yemen is in need of humanitarian assistance, not weapons,” Majili said, commenting on the latest and largest-ever seizure of Iranian weapons bound for the Houthis in Yemen. 

On Tuesday, the US Justice Department announced intercepting two large caches of Iranian weapons, including 171 surface-to-air missiles and eight anti-tank missiles, heading to the Houthis in Yemen on two vessels in the Arabian Sea. 

The Arab coalition and the Yemeni government have long accused Iran of sending military and financial assistance to the Houthis, fueling their deadly military operations in Yemen and Saudi Arabia. 

Meanwhile, the US pledged support to the Yemeni government and the new administration of the Aden-based Central Bank of Yemen in delivering economic policies to rescue the devaluating rial and address aggravating economic problems. 

During a meeting with the new governor of the central bank Ahmed bin Ahmed Ghaleb on Wednesday, Cathy Westley, chargé d’affaires at the US Embassy in Yemen, said Washington would help him and his economic team to put into place vital reforms to rescue the economy. 

“CDA Westley pledged US support for comprehensive economic reforms to benefit the Yemeni people in her meeting with CBY Gov. Ahmed Ghaleb. They also discussed the need for continued strong international cooperation and financial assistance to help shore up Yemen’s economy,” the US Embassy in Yemen said in a brief statement. 

US Special Envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking repeated the same pledges of support to the Yemeni government during a virtual meeting with Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed on Tuesday. 

“The US strongly supports the prime minister office’s efforts to reform the Yemeni economy,” Lenderking’s office said. 

Similarly, the EU welcomed the restructuring of the central bank board and demanded the new leaders work on fixing the severe economic meltdown in the country and fighting corruption. 

“The EU welcomes the appointment of a new governor, deputy governor and the board of the central bank of Yemen, as part of urgently needed economic and monetary reforms. It is essential to stabilize the currency, establish and implement a budget and fight corruption throughout #Yemen,” the EU Mission in Yemen said on Twitter.

The international support to the Yemeni government comes as the Yemeni rial on Wednesday stabilized at 1255 against the dollar for the first time in two weeks, recovering from a historic record of 1700 against the dollar. 

On the ground, dozens of Houthis were killed in fierce fighting on Tuesday and Wednesday morning in contested areas south of Marib, a local military official told Arab News. 

Waves of Houthi fighters attacked government troops on Tuesday night in the Juba district in a desperate attempt to break through defenses and seize control of new areas that would put them closer to the city of Marib.

The consecutive attacks triggered heavy fighting with government troops who managed to push back the Houthis after killing dozens, and the fighting subsided early on Wednesday. 

“The Houthis have carried out human wave attacks in a bid to make a breakthrough. They suffered heavy losses. The attacks sparked intense airstrikes from Arab coalition warplanes,” the official said. 

On Tuesday, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg expressed alarm over the escalating military operations across Yemen and called upon warring factions in the country to end hostilities and comply with UN efforts to reach a peace agreement. 

“Military options won’t result in sustainable solutions. The parties have a responsibility to prioritize the needs of civilians & cooperate with #UN efforts to revive a political process aimed at reaching a just, negotiated settlement to comprehensively end the conflict in #Yemen,” Grundberg said in a statement on Twitter.


Iraqi migrant girl, 4, goes missing along Polish-Belarus border

Iraqi migrant girl, 4, goes missing along Polish-Belarus border
Updated 08 December 2021

Iraqi migrant girl, 4, goes missing along Polish-Belarus border

Iraqi migrant girl, 4, goes missing along Polish-Belarus border
  • Poland has sealed off the region along its frontier with Belarus to outsiders as it has sought to keep out thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa
  • Humanitarian groups reported that the Iraqi girl was separated from her parents after they breached the border into Poland on Monday

WARSAW: A four-year-old Iraqi migrant girl went missing in an icy forest after being separated from her parents in a scuffle with Polish border guards, humanitarian groups said as they pressed for access to the border region to help find the child.
Poland has sealed off the region along its frontier with Belarus to outsiders as it has sought to keep out thousands of people from the Middle East and Africa who traveled to Belarus in the hope of crossing into European Union territory.
The EU accuses Belarus of flying them into the country and then pushing them to cross into Poland and — to a lesser extent — Lithuania and Latvia in retaliation for sanctions imposed on Minsk over human rights abuses.
Humanitarian groups reported on Wednesday that the Iraqi girl, called Eileen, was separated from her parents after they breached the border into Poland on Monday night.
They said the parents handed their daughter to another adult migrant when Polish border guards approached and pushed them back into Belarus, and the girl was last seen with the person accompanying her near the Polish frontier village of Nowy Dwor.
“This girl is probably either already dead or will die very soon. The most dramatic thing is that if it was a Polish child, the whole country would be looking for her,” Kasia Kosciesza from the Families without Borders charity group said.
“The search should have started as soon as they knew of the situation...Chances are diminishing, night is setting in again and temperatures will start falling, so if we want to rescue her, it needs to happen immediately.”
Border Guard spokeswoman Anna Michalska said servicemen started searching for the girl as soon as they received information she was missing around midday on Tuesday.
“Extra patrols were directed to the area where the girl was supposed to be. We also searched from the air using helicopters, but we found no one,” Michalska said.
Campaigners said the authorities’ efforts were inadequate.
Under new rules introduced after a state of emergency in the migrant crisis expired last week, activists who are not resident in the border area cannot enter to help with any search.
International organizations have accused Poland’s right-wing nationalist government of breaching humanitarian standards in forcing some migrants back into Belarus, a charge Warsaw denies.


Iraq takes back 100 Daesh fighters from Syria Kurdish forces

Iraq takes back 100 Daesh fighters from Syria Kurdish forces
Updated 08 December 2021

Iraq takes back 100 Daesh fighters from Syria Kurdish forces

Iraq takes back 100 Daesh fighters from Syria Kurdish forces
  • “This morning we collected 100 terrorists” held by the Syrian Democratic Forces, General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari told AFP
  • The SDF alliance has led the anti-Daesh fight with the support of a coalition led by Washington

BAGHDAD: Iraqi authorities Wednesday repatriated 100 Iraqi fighters from the Daesh group who were being held by Kurdish forces in northeast Syria, a senior Iraqi security official said.
“This morning we collected 100 terrorists” held by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance of Kurdish and Arab fighters in Syria, General Abdul Amir Al-Shammari told AFP.
The militants “have been handed over to the intelligence services for questioning,” said Shammari, deputy commander of Joint Operations which coordinates between Iraqi security forces and the international anti-militant coalition.
The SDF alliance has led the anti-Daesh fight with the support of a coalition led by Washington.
It previously handed over about 100 Iraqi Daesh fighters to Baghdad in February and again in September, according to Iraqi security sources.
The Syrian Kurdish administration, which controls large swathes of northeast Syria, has at times been reluctant to communicate on issues related to Daesh fighters or their families held by Kurdish forces in prisons or camps in Syria.
In 2019, the SDF had handed over about 900 Iraqis to Baghdad, most of them captured while trying to flee the last remaining Daesh strongholds in Syria, according to Iraqi judicial sources.
Daesh, after occupying vast territories in Syria and Iraq from 2014 to 2017, suffered one setback after another.
In late 2017, Iraq announced “victory” after driving the Daesh from all urban areas. By March 2019, the Daesh had lost all its strongholds in Syria.
Some 1,600 Iraqis suspected of having fought for Daesh are still being held by the SDF, according to a UN report.
Thousands of civilians are also being held in internally displaced people’s camps such as Al-Hol, which houses more than 60,000 people, half of whom are Iraqis.
Iraq has already prosecuted thousands of its nationals for membership in the Daesh, a crime punishable by death under an anti-terrorism law.
Hundreds have been sentenced to death, but few executions have been carried out as the prison administration has to obtain a presidential order to put them to death.