Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport

Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport
The tower at Sanaa airport, Sanaa, Yemen, Sept. 8, 2020. (Reuters)
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Updated 24 November 2021

Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport

Houthis condemned for military activities at Sanaa airport
  • Loyalist forces remove landmines from recently liberated areas in Hodeidah and Taiz provinces
  • Militia ‘using government offices, civil facilities, houses, mosques and markets for terrorist activities’

AL-MUKALLA: The government of Yemen on Tuesday criticized the Iran-backed Houthis for turning Sanaa airport into a military site for storing and testing weapons.

Yemen’s Information Minister Muammar Al-Eryani said that the Houthis imperil the lives of thousands of Sanaa residents by turning civilian facilities, including Sanaa airport, into military areas for storing and assembling missiles, explosives-rigged drones and ammunition.

He tweeted that Houthi militia had used government offices, civil facilities, airports, ports, houses, mosques and markets for military purposes, in flagrant violation of international laws that criminalize using of civilians as shields and endanger their lives.

The Yemeni minister was reacting to a video released by the Arab coalition on Monday that shows officers in civilian clothes testing an air defense system at Sanaa airport, using a departing UN plane as a target.

He called on the international community and the UN and US envoys to condemn the Houthis’ activities that “endanger the lives of United Nations crews and relief organizations, which amount to war crimes.”

The Houthi official media quoted a rebel official who admitted testing weapons at a military base next to Sanaa airport.

Large explosions rocked the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, early on Tuesday morning after the Arab coalition warplanes struck two military sites controlled by the Houthis.

The coalition said in a statement on Tuesday that the warplanes hit “legitimate” targets, including ballistic missile silos.

The US repeated its demands to the Houthis on Monday to release Yemeni workers abducted from its embassy in Sanaa and the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and to stop harassing their families.

“The United States condemns the Houthis’ detention and mistreatment of dozens of Yemeni citizens and their family members simply because they have worked for the United States in Sanaa,” the US Embassy in Yemen said on Twitter.

Early this month, the Houthis stormed the US Embassy in Sanaa, looting property and abducting two dozen local employees.

Meanwhile, fighting between the coalition-backed forces and the Houthis subsided on Tuesday along the country’s western provinces as loyalists secured and removed landmines from recently liberated areas in Hodeidah and Taiz provinces.

The Yemeni forces have pushed the Houthis out of many areas since the beginning of their new offensive on Friday.


Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March
Updated 27 min 4 sec ago

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March

Moderna exec says company could have Omicron booster ready in March
NEW YORK: Moderna Inc. could have a COVID-19 booster shot targeting the Omicron variant tested and ready to file for US authorization as soon as March, the company’s president said on Wednesday.
Moderna President Stephen Hoge said he believes booster shots carrying genes specifically targeting mutations in the newly-discovered Omicron variant would be the quickest way to address any anticipated reductions in vaccine efficacy it may cause.
“We’ve already started that program,” he told Reuters.
The company is also working on a multi-valent vaccine that would include up to four different coronavirus variants including Omicron.
That could take several more months, he said.
The United States identified its first COVID-19 case caused by the Omicron variant in California, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Wednesday.
Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” by the World Health Organization, is being studied to see if it is more contagious or causes more severe illness than other variants, and if it can evade current vaccines.
Given prior guidance from the US Food and Drug Administration, which has required mid-stage clinical testing, Hoge said the process could take three or four months.
“The Omicron-specific boosters, just realistically, are not before March and maybe more in the second quarter,” Hoge said, unless the FDA changes its guidance for what data would be needed for authorization.
Moderna would be able to manufacture the vaccine as it was conducting the testing, Hoge said, to have it ready to roll out as soon as possible.
He said the FDA is currently assessing the threat to vaccine protection posed by the Omicron variant. The agency could provide a faster timeline, akin to the way it approves vaccines for influenza, by approving changes in the flu strains, which would shorten the three- to four-month timeline.
In the United States, licensed flu vaccines can be updated each season by substituting in new strains of the virus that are believed to be most likely to cause illness in the upcoming flu season, without the need for large, randomized clinical trials.
Based on the pattern of mutations seen in the Omicron variant, which include mutations that have already been shown to reduce the efficacy of its vaccine in lab studies, Hoge said, “we expect there will be an impact.”
It is not clear yet how big of a drop in efficacy the Omicron variant will cause for current vaccines, but it could be significant, Hoge surmised.
“The mutations that had previously led to the biggest drops in efficacy were seen in Delta and Beta. And all of those mutations have shown up in Omicron,” Hoge said.
“And so the question here is, are we going to see a Delta-like performance? Are we going to see a Beta-like performance? Or are we going to see some cross multiple of the two? I think it’s that last scenario that has people most concerned,” he said.
Hoge said the company is testing to see whether fully vaccinated recipients of Moderna’s vaccine are protected against the variant, as well as those who received the 50-microgram and 100-microgram booster doses of the shot.
“I still believe that the existing vaccines will be able to at least slow down, if not completely stop, the Omicron variant,” he said.

KSrelief sends 40 tons of liquid oxygen to Tunisia

KSrelief sends 40 tons of liquid oxygen to Tunisia
Updated 22 min 9 sec ago

KSrelief sends 40 tons of liquid oxygen to Tunisia

KSrelief sends 40 tons of liquid oxygen to Tunisia
  • Tunisian Health Minister Ali Mrabet noted that this assistance comes at a critical time when the world is preparing for a new health crisis with the spread of the omicron variant of the virus
  • Saudi Ambassador to Tunisia Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al-Saqr said that the assistance embodies the deep-rooted fraternal ties that exist between the two countries

TUNIS: Following a directive from King Salman, KSrelief has sent a shipment of medical aid to Tunisia, including 40 tons of liquid oxygen, part of an eventual supply of 200 tons, to assist the Tunisian medical sector in combating the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Tunisian Health Minister Ali Mrabet and Saudi Ambassador to Tunisia Dr. Abdul Aziz bin Ali Al-Saqr were among those officials present to receive the aid.

The Tunisian health minister expressed his appreciation and gratitude for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia’s medical assistance.

Mrabet noted that this assistance comes at a critical time when the world is preparing for a new health crisis with the spread of the omicron variant of the virus.

For his part, Al-Saqr said that the assistance embodies the deep-rooted fraternal ties that exist between the two countries.


Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures

Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures
Updated 01 December 2021

Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures

Lebanon reintroduces some COVID-19 prevention measures
  • Mandatory vaccinations for all civil servants and workers in the health, education, tourism and public transport sectors

BEIRUT: Lebanon will impose a night-time curfew starting Dec. 17 on non-vaccinated people for three weeks.
And full vaccination will be made mandatory for all workers in several sectors due to concerns over the spread of coronavirus, the COVID-19 committee said on Wednesday.
Vaccination will be mandatory for all civil servants and workers in the health, education, tourism and public transport sectors as of Jan. 10, the committee said.
A new coronavirus variant found in South Africa and detected in several countries was determined as a variant of concern by the World Health Organization last week and has led to strengthening COVID-19-related restrictions around the world.


Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip
Updated 01 December 2021

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip

Migrants land on Greece’s Lesbos before Pope Francis trip
  • The Somalis, Syrians and Palestinians will be tested for Covid-19 and quarantine after landing near the camp that Pope Francis will visit on Sunday
  • Pope Francis visited Lesbos in 2016 and brought back aboard his plane three Syrian Muslim families whose houses had been bombed

MYTILENE, Greece: Twenty-nine asylum seekers landed Wednesday on the Greek island of Lesbos, four days before Pope Francis was to make a symbolic visit to the migration hotspot emblematic of Europe’s long-running refugee crisis.
The Somalis, Syrians and Palestinians will be tested for Covid-19 and quarantine after landing near the camp that Francis will visit on Sunday, said the camp’s deputy director Dimitris Vafeas.
Greece was at the center of Europe’s 2015 migrant crisis peak as its Aegean islands were the first destination for mainly Middle Eastern migrants entering the European Union from Turkey.
Lesbos once harbored the Moria refugee camp, which was Europe’s largest until it burned down last year.
Francis will visit the new Mavrovouni camp, which replaced the Moria camp.
A large security presence involving 900 police officers is being readied on the island.
The head of the Catholic Church, who has long defended migrants’ rights and denounced the “hostility” of European governments, visited Lesbos in 2016 and brought back aboard his plane three Syrian Muslim families whose houses had been bombed.
According to the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 3,653 people have arrived on Greece’s islands so far this year.
In November, only 196 migrants applied for asylum on the islands, a decrease the Greek government welcomed.
But NGOs, the UNHCR and journalistic investigations attribute the decrease to the Greek government illegally forcing migrants back to Turkish waters and preventing them from applying for asylum.
Athens denies the allegations.


Saudi authorities seize massive drug haul hidden in cardamom container

Saudi authorities seize massive drug haul hidden in cardamom container
Updated 01 December 2021

Saudi authorities seize massive drug haul hidden in cardamom container

Saudi authorities seize massive drug haul hidden in cardamom container
  • GDNC seize over 30 million pills after investigation into a criminal network

RIYADH: Saudi anti-narcotics authorities thwarted an attempt to smuggle more than 30 million amphetamine pills into the Kingdom.

Maj. Mohammad Al-Nujaidi, spokesperson for the General Directorate of Narcotics Control, said that proactive investigation into the criminal network’s activities, which attempt to tamper with the security of the Kingdom and its youths, has thwarted an attempt to smuggle 30.3 million amphetamine pills hidden inside a cardamom container at Riyadh Dry Port.

The successful operation was launched in coordination with the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority, where the recipients of the shipment — two Saudis and two Syrians — were arrested.

Al-Nujaidi said that the preliminary legal measures have been taken against them and they have been referred to the public prosecution.

Recently, the Zakat, Tax and Customs Authority at Al-Haditha port also foiled eight attempts to smuggle more than 4.4 million Captagon pills into the Kingdom.

The GDNC called on members of the public to help its mission and protect society by contacting the designated number for security reports (1910), email ([email protected]) or by using the international number (00966114208417).

Whistleblowers can report smuggling and customs violations through these channels in strict confidentiality, and will receive a financial reward if their information is correct.