Air Force official says US to maintain presence in Mideast

Air Force official says US to maintain presence in Mideast
Lt. Gen. Greg Guillot, US Air Forces Central Command commander. (Courtesy: @USAFCENT)
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Updated 13 November 2021

Air Force official says US to maintain presence in Mideast

Air Force official says US to maintain presence in Mideast

DUBAI: The top US Air Force general in the Mideast said Saturday that American airmen would continue to be stationed in the region even as military planners consider competition with China and Russia as Washington’s next major challenge.
Speaking to journalists ahead of the Dubai Airshow, Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot acknowledged that presence “could adjust” after the US withdrawal from Afghanistan in August. The US Air Force operates a major base in nearby Qatar, which oversaw operations in Afghanistan, as well as Iraq and Syria.
“But I don’t see any scenario where the United States does not have an important role,” Guillot said.
Guillot’s comments come as tensions remain high between Iran and the US after years of confrontations following then-President Donald Trump’s decision to unilaterally withdraw America from Tehran’s nuclear deal with world powers. Israel meanwhile is suspected of launching a series of attacks targeting Iran’s atomic program.
As talks over the deal remain stalled, Iran elected a hard-line protege of the country’s supreme leader as president and has itself seized vessels at sea and is suspected of launching drone attacks.
Guillot several times declined to directly attribute recent drone attacks in the region to Iran, though he acknowledged the rising number of such assaults in the region.
“The collaborative defense of multiple countries, you know, in the region is going to be our key to detecting those and staying one step ahead of the threat as it evolves,” he said after appearing at the Dubai International Air Chiefs’ Conference.
Russia is expected to display its Sukhoi Su-75 Checkmate fighter jet at the Dubai Airshow this week. It’s a direct competitor to the American F-35 fighter, which the United Arab Emirates has been trying to buy since diplomatically recognizing Israel last year. That sale has slowed under President Joe Biden’s administration.
Asked about the Checkmate, Guillot said he hoped that US allies and partners would use equipment that would be “interoperable” with the American military. He said buying the Russia fighter “absolutely” would affect that.
During his presentation, Guillot displayed a graphic that included the Israeli flag among others in the region. The American military now considers Israel as falling under US Central Command due to the recent recognition deals. Bahrain and the UAE just conducted a joint drill with the US Navy and Israel in the Red Sea.
Guillot said air drills with Israel and those nations could happen as well.


Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
Updated 26 January 2022

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat

Yemeni army pushes into Marib province as Houthis retreat
  • “We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” a military official said
  • This week, government forces seized control of most of Hareb district, inflicting major military blow to the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthis were killed on Wednesday in the central province of Marib as government troops rolled into a new area in Abedia district for the first time in months, adding to the latest military gains in the province, a local military official told Arab News from Marib.

A day after seizing control of strategic mountainous locations in neighboring Hareb, Yemen’s army and the Giants Brigades seized control of Al-Jafara in the district of Abedia, south of Marib, and besieged Um Resh military base in Juba district, also south of Marib, after heavy fighting with the Houthis who are coming under attack from government troops and intense airstrikes from the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.

“We are now pushing deeper into Juba and Abedia districts,” the military official who spoke on condition of anonymity said.

Local media reports said that warplanes from the Coalition intensified airstrikes on Houthi targets in Abedia district, apparently to prepare the ground for government troops to advance into the strategic district.

This week, government forces seized control of most of the district of Hareb, including the town of Hareb, inflicting a major military blow to the Houthis who have suffered heavy defeats in Marib since the start of the year.

Military officials say that seizing control of Abedia and Juba would effectively mean protecting the central city of Marib from Houthi attacks from the south and it would also allow government troops to advance into the neighboring Al-Bayda province.

Last year, the Houthis besieged thousands of people in Abedia district and heavily shelled residential areas with missiles, mortar fire and explosive-rigged drones to force local army units and tribal fighters to surrender.

The Houthi siege had pushed thousands of people to the verge of mass famine and sparked local and international condemnation.

The coalition’s deployment of hundreds of fighters from the Giants Brigades from the country’s west coast to the central province of Marib late last year helped government troops to reverse Houthi military gains south of Marib and in Shabwa province.

On Wednesday, the Coalition said it killed more than 160 Houthis in 31 airstrikes in Marib, Al-Bayda and Taiz.

The Coalition’s announcement about the latest Houthi casualties came less than a day after its warplanes carried out intensive airstrikes against military targets in Houthi-controlled Sanaa, sparking thunderous explosions.

Residents reported seeing flames of fire and smoke billowing from military bases north, west and east of Sanaa on Tuesday night.

Videos circulated on social media showed missiles fired by the coalition’s warplanes exploding inside mountain military bases.

The Coalition has accused the Houthis of storing and assembling ballistic missiles and explosive-rigged drones that targeted Saudi Arabia inside military bases in Sanaa.


Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi
Updated 26 January 2022

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

Egyptian president to discuss regional peace on official visit to Abu Dhabi

DUBAI: Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi arrived Wednesday on a state visit to Abu Dhabi  where he was welcomed by United Arab Emirates Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed.

The Egyptian president later attended a meeting Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed, UAE Vice President Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid and Bahrain King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa. 

Upon arrival, the Egyptian presidency said the president’s visit aims to bolster ties between the UAE and Egypt.

It also said the Sisi reiterated Egypt’s condemnation of the Houthis militant attacks against the UAE.

Al-Sisi intended to “[consult] and [coordinate] on the latest regional developments, in light of what the current stage requires of concerted efforts to protect Arab national security and to counter attempts to destabilize the security and stability of Arab countries,” a statement from Egypt’s presidency read.


UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

UAE records marks 2,369 new coronavirus cases over past 24 hours

DUBAI: The UAE health ministry announced Wednesday 2,369 new coronavirus cases over the past 24 hours, marking a reduction in daily infection rates. 

The new figures bring the total number of recorded cases in the UAE to 833,201.

The ministry briefing also announced four deaths due to COVID-19 complications, bringing the total number of deaths in the country to 2,228.
An additional 1,201 individuals had fully recovered from COVID-19, bringing the total number of recoveries to 771,624.


UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 
Updated 26 January 2022

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 

UAE drone ban violators face massive fine 
  • Violators will also face jail terms of six months to five years in addition to the fine

DUBAI: The UAE will issue fines of no less than $27,225 to those who violate the recently introduced ban on flying drones in the country. 

According to the country’s public prosecution, violators will also face jail terms of six months to five years in addition to the fine. 

The UAE Public Prosecution made the announcement on Twitter. 

The country’s Ministry of Interior (MoI) had previously announced on Saturday through its official Twitter account that it has stopped “all flying operations for owners and enthusiasts of drones.”

The decision, which was made in coordination with the General Civil Aviation Authority (GCAA), aims to ensure the safety of both people and properties from “bad practices.” 

“The decision came after the misuse spotted recently, not limiting the practice of these sports to the areas identified in the user permits and trespassing into areas where these types of activities are prohibited,” wrote the ministry in its announcement. 

The statement added that those requiring the use of drones or other flying objects for work, commercial, filming or advertising purposes must obtain a permit in order to carry out their work.


Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help

Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help
Updated 26 January 2022

Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help

Kurds advance on jihadists in besieged Syria jail, appeal for help
  • A tense stand-off has gripped the prison, with Kurdish forces and their Daesh rivals facing either a bloodbath or talks to end the fighting

HASAKAH, Syria: Kurdish forces advanced Wednesday inside a Syrian prison where Daesh group fighters have been holed up with minors for six days, amid pleas for international assistance to contain a jihadist resurgence.
More than 100 jihadists of the Daesh group last week attacked Ghwayran prison in the northeast Syrian city of Hasakah, held by a semi-autonomous Kurdish administration.
The brazen assault on the Kurdish-run facility involved a double suicide bombing and saw the jihadists free fellow Daesh members, seize weapons and take over a series of jail blocks.
It is considered the most sophisticated attack carried out by the group since it was territorially defeated in Syria nearly three years ago.
On Wednesday, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and allied fighters “carried out search operations inside prison blocks” and in areas surrounding the facility, where intermittent clashes had broken out overnight, said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
US-backed Kurdish forces were “advancing slowly” inside the jail where jihadists were still holed up, said the Britain-based monitor.
Fighting in and around the prison since Thursday has killed 181 people, including 124 Daesh jihadists, 50 Kurdish fighters and seven civilians, according to the Observatory.
With operations inside the facility underway, fears were raised over the fate of minors detained at Ghwayran, which held more than 700 boys among 3,500 Daesh suspects prior to the attack.
“They say they fear they’ll be shot down if they try to come out. They are begging for food, water, medicine,” said Human Rights Watch researcher Letta Tayler, adding she had made contact with three inmates including one minor trapped inside the jail.
They are calling for the United Nations “or other international organization to negotiate their safe exit,” Tayler said.
A tense stand-off has gripped the prison, with Kurdish forces and their Daesh rivals facing either a bloodbath or talks to end the fighting.
“The most likely way this ends is with the total defeat of the Daesh fighters at the prison,” said Nicholas Heras, an analyst at the Newlines Institute.
“But the nightmare scenario for the SDF and the US-led coalition is a drawn out standoff that kills hundreds, including many children prisoners.”
Kurdish forces since Monday have freed 32 prison staff, some of whom appeared in video footage that Daesh had shared on social media after launching the attack, the Observatory says.
Around 1,000 men, including rebelling inmates and Daesh jihadists, have so far surrendered to Kurdish forces, the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces said Wednesday.
Observatory head Rami Abdel Rahman said that a Syrian Daesh jihadist was negotiating with Kurdish forces to end the mutiny and secure medical care for wounded jihadists.
Farhad Shami of the SDF media office said the SDF had made calls for Daesh to surrender, but he refused to refer to them as formal negotiations.
Ghwayran is the prison with the largest number of suspected Daesh members in Syria, the Observatory says.
Kurdish authorities say more than 50 nationalities are represented in a number of Kurdish-run prisons, where over 12,000 Daesh suspects are being held.
The Kurdish administration has long warned it does not have the capacity to hold, let alone put on trial, the thousands of Daesh fighters captured in years of operations.
“This issue is an international problem,” Abdulkarim Omar, the administration’s top foreign policy official, told AFP on Wednesday.
“We cannot face it alone.”
He called on the international community to “support the autonomous administration to improve security and humanitarian conditions for inmates in detention centers and for those in overcrowded camps.”
The proto-state declared by Daesh in 2014 once straddled large parts of Iraq and Syria.
After five years of military operations conducted by local and international forces, its last rump was eventually flushed out on the banks of the Euphrates in eastern Syria in March 2019.