Jordan’s king calls for stepping up efforts on Palestinian two-state solution in UAE during Gulf tour

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (WAM)
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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (WAM)
Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (WAM)
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Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (WAM)
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Updated 24 November 2021

Jordan’s king calls for stepping up efforts on Palestinian two-state solution in UAE during Gulf tour

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed receives Jordan’s King Abdullah II. (WAM)

LONDON: Jordan’s King Abdullah II emphasized the need to step up efforts to reach a just and comprehensive peace on the basis of the two-state solution in the Palestinian issue.
His comments came during a meeting with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed at Al-Shati Palace in the UAE capital.
Sheikh Mohammed affirmed the depth of relations between the UAE and Jordan at all levels during the meeting.
The two sides “reviewed various aspects of bilateral relations and ways to develop and push them forward during the coming period,” state news agency WAM reported.

They also exchanged views on regional and international developments, especially the situation in the Middle East.
Discussing developments in Syria, King Abdullah reiterated his country’s support for efforts to safeguard Syrian sovereignty, stability, territorial integrity, and the unity of its people, Petra news agency said.
The two sides affirmed the need for continuous coordination and consultation on ways to strengthen development partnerships and provide solutions to ongoing problems and challenges faced by the region.
King Abdullah left the UAE later on Tuesday. He was in Bahrain a day earlier where he met with the kingdom’s rulers. 


At an illegally built West Bank outpost, Israeli settlers flaunt their power

At an illegally built West Bank outpost, Israeli settlers flaunt their power
Updated 7 sec ago

At an illegally built West Bank outpost, Israeli settlers flaunt their power

At an illegally built West Bank outpost, Israeli settlers flaunt their power
  • Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is a former settler leader and is opposed to Palestinian statehood

BURQA, West Bank: The Jewish settlement of Homesh, built on privately owned Palestinian land deep inside the occupied West Bank, was dismantled in 2005 and cannot be rebuilt. At least, that’s what Israeli law says.

But when a group of settlers drove up to the site last week, they were waved through army checkpoints that were closed to Palestinian vehicles and arrived at a cluster of tents on the windy hilltop. There, dozens of settlers were studying in a makeshift yeshiva, or religious school.

Empty wine bottles and bags of trash stood out for collection, the remains of a holiday feast attended by hundreds of settlers the night before and documented on social media.

The settlers’ ability to maintain a presence at Homesh, guarded by a detachment of Israeli soldiers, is a vivid display of the power of the settler movement nearly 55 years after Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war.

Their strength has also been on display in a wave of attacks against Palestinians and Israeli peace activists in recent months, many in plain view of Israeli soldiers, who appear unable or unwilling to stop them, despite Israeli officials’ promises to maintain law and order. The worst of the violence has been linked to hard-line settler outposts like Homesh.

That Israeli authorities have not cleared Homesh — which under Israeli law is blatantly illegal — makes it nearly impossible to imagine the removal of any of Israel’s 130 officially authorized settlements as part of any future peace deal. Nearly 500,000 settlers now live in those settlements, as well as dozens of unauthorized outposts like Homesh.

BACKGROUND

The settlers’ ability to maintain a presence at Homesh, guarded by a detachment of Israeli soldiers, is a vivid display of the power of the settler movement nearly 55 years after Israel captured the West Bank.

The Palestinians view the settlements as the main obstacle to any two-state solution to the century-old conflict, and most countries view them as a violation of international law. But in an increasingly hawkish Israel, the settlers enjoy wide support.

“We are privileged, thank God, to live here and study Torah, and we shall continue to do so with God’s help,” said Rabbi Menachem Ben Shachar, a teacher at the yeshiva.

“The people of Israel need to hold onto Homesh, to study Torah here and in every other place in the Land of Israel,” he said, using a biblical term for what is today Israel and the West Bank.

Israel dismantled the settlement in 2005 as part of its withdrawal from the Gaza Strip, and the law prohibits Israeli citizens from entering the area. Israel’s Supreme Court has acknowledged that the land belongs to Palestinians from the nearby village of Burqa.

But the settlers have repeatedly returned, setting up tents and other structures on the foundations of former homes, now overgrown with weeds.

The army has demolished the structures on several occasions, but more often tolerates their presence.

The Jan. 16 party was just the latest in a series of marches, political rallies and other gatherings held at the site over the years, some attended by Israeli lawmakers.

The Israeli military said in a statement that it did not approve the event and took steps to prevent civilians from reaching the area, including setting up checkpoints.

The settlers appear to have walked around them. The military refused to discuss the larger issues around Homesh, and a government spokeswoman refused to comment.

The killing of a yeshiva student by a Palestinian gunman near the outpost last month has become a rallying cry for the settlers, who say evacuating Homesh now would amount to appeasing terrorism. But the survival of the outpost after 16 years is rooted in a deeper shift in Israel that makes it nearly impossible to rein in even the settlers’ most brazen activities.

Israel’s parliament is dominated by parties that support the settlers. The current government, a fragile coalition reliant on factions from across the political spectrum, knows that any major confrontation with the settlers could spell its demise. Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is a former settler leader and is opposed to Palestinian statehood.

The consequences are felt by Palestinians in Burqa and surrounding villages.


UAE resumes entry for travellers from 12 African countries

UAE resumes entry for travellers from 12 African countries
Updated 24 sec ago

UAE resumes entry for travellers from 12 African countries

UAE resumes entry for travellers from 12 African countries
  • The decisions come into force at 2:30 p.m. local time on Saturday

RIYADH: The UAE announced on Wednesday that it is resuming all inbound flights for national and international carriers and transit passengers from 12 African countries, state news agency WAM reported.
The General Civil Aviation Authority and the National Emergency Crisis and Disasters Emergency Management Authority said the travel ban has been lifted for passengers coming from Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Nigeria, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
The authorities said that the entry measures for travelers coming in from Uganda, Ghana and Rwanda have also been updated, and the decisions come into force at 2:30 p.m. local time on Saturday.
All arrivals coming from these countries are required to present a negative PCR test obtained within 48 hours of their departure, take a Rapid Test at the departure airport, and another PCR test upon arrival, while adhering to all relevant precautionary and preventive COVID-19 measures.
Those suffering COVID-19 symptoms are advised not to travel, the authorities said.


Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe

Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe
Updated 26 January 2022

Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe

Aoun condemns fresh attack on UN forces in Lebanon, announces probe
  • Hezbollah is striking troops to show rejection of Kuwaiti initiative, claim analysts
  • Anonymous source with Hezbollah links rejects this analysis, tells Arab News attack was due to water tank breakage by Ghanaian troops 

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun has condemned “any attack that targets the UN Interim Force in Lebanon,” after UNIFIL troops were injured during violence on Tuesday. 

In a meeting on Wednesday, Aoun informed Joanna Wronecka, the UN’s special coordinator in Lebanon, that the government had launched a probe into the attack west of the southern village of Ramyeh. He pledged to establish who was responsible. 

UNIFIL spokesperson Andrea Tenenti said on Tuesday night that a number of peacekeepers on a routine patrol were attacked after their cars were intercepted. The incident left one soldier wounded.

He said that “the attackers sabotaged two vehicles and stole a number of items,” adding that “the Lebanese armed forces were present at the scene and managed to defuse the situation.”

Tenenti stressed that “the peacekeepers weren’t in private properties but on a public road they usually take.” 

They were doing their job, executing decision No. 1701, and maintaining stability in south Lebanon, he said.

Tenenti warned in a statement that “the attacks on the men and women who serve the cause of peace are considered crimes pursuant to the Lebanese and international laws.”

He called on the Lebanese authorities to “investigate this incident and prosecute those responsible for it.”

The UNIFIL patrols have been the target of two other attacks recently. Troops were targeted in the border village of Chakra at the end of last year and in Bint Jbeil village earlier this month.

The area where these attacks took place is considered critical to Hezbollah as it is adjacent to the border, where several important Israeli military positions are found on the other side.

The latest attack on the UNIFIL patrol occurred while Lebanese officials discussed messages conveyed by Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmed Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah, in the name of Kuwait, the Arab and Gulf family and the international community, to Lebanon at the end of last week.

The minister sent a message of “sympathy, solidarity, synergy and love for the brotherly Lebanese people,” urging Lebanese officials to adopt a position of neutrality and ensure that the country “will not be a platform for any aggression, while refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries in general, and the Gulf in particular.”

Al-Sabah reaffirmed a regional desire “to see a stable, secure and strong Lebanon by implementing international and Arab resolutions.”

Kuwait is expecting to receive a response through the Lebanese Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib next Saturday during his visit to Kuwait. 

While Hezbollah has not reacted to the Kuwaiti initiative, some political observers saw the attack on the UNIFIL patrol as an indirect display of Hezbollah’s objection. 

However, a source who works as a link between the UNIFIL, the villagers and Hezbollah, told Arab News: “The attack that took place has nothing to do with any political or security messages.”

He said: “The patrol that was attacked is affiliated to the Ghanaian force participating in the UNIFIL.

“It appeared that while it was using a public road, one of its cars hit, intentionally or unintentionally, a water tank belonging to a farmer who used it to water his plants.

“The patrol didn’t stop but instead kept going without probably noticing that it had hit the tank. The tank owner, joined by a number of villagers who usually stand by each other in the village, followed the patrol and attacked it. This is what happened.”

The source, who requested anonymity, said the previous two attacks were different. “One of them happened because some UNIFIL soldiers were taking pictures in internal alleyways, whereas the other one took place because they entered some private properties and this is not allowed as per decision no. 1701.”

The source added that “this attack doesn’t align with any of Hezbollah’s positions regarding the Kuwaiti initiative.

“If Hezbollah wanted to object to the Kuwaiti initiative that targets in its essence the management of the country, attacking the Ghanaian force is not going to be the response.”

This development coincided with the announcement by Israeli Minister of Energy Yuval Steinitz that “border negotiations with Lebanon on US-mediated maritime demarcation, hosted by the UNIFIL in its headquarters in Naqoura, will resume next week.”

Lebanon has been waiting since the end of last year for the return of the US mediator Amos Hochstein to the region with fresh proposals to resume talks over maritime borders demarcation between Lebanon and Israel.

UN Secretary-General António Guterres announced during his visit to Lebanon at the end of last year that “the nations are ready to sponsor these negotiations.”

Meanwhile, Lebanon signed deals on Wednesday to purchase electricity from Jordan via Syria to help the country deal with its crippling energy crisis.

The electricity will be transmitted through Syria. The deals are expected to bring Lebanon up to 250 MW of electricity a day within two months, enough for about two hours of power a day.

The World Bank is expected to finance the deals, with negotiations underway.

Lebanon’s Energy Minister Walid Fayyad said he expects financing negotiations to conclude within two months.


US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken
Updated 26 January 2022

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken

US appreciates Kuwait’s support for mutual return to compliance with Iran nuclear deal: Blinken
  • Blinken said the JCPOA is the “most effective way to ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon”
  • Sheikh Ahmad thanked US commitment to the stability and security of Kuwait and the region

LONDON: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the US appreciates Kuwait’s support for a mutual return to compliance with the Iran nuclear deal.

Speaking at a joint conference during Kuwaiti Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah’s visit to the US, Blinken said they discussed Iran, and that the JCPOA is the “most effective way to ensure that Iran cannot develop a nuclear weapon.”

“We are very grateful for Kuwait’s close coordination through venues like the GCC Iran working group where we have stood together against Iran’s destabilising actions in the region,” the secretary of state said. 

Blinken thanked Kuwait for helping to “significantly reduce the threat that Daesh poses to international security even as we remain very vigilant about the ongoing threat.”

He also said that the Gulf country stood by the US during the evacuation of Afghanistan in August 2021 as people fled Taliban rule.

Kuwait helped the US evacuate thousands of people from Afghanistan including US citizens, foreign nationals and Afghans, Blinken said.

“Because of Kuwait’s help, thousands of people reached safety and Afghan families have been able to start new lives around the world.“This was a signal of Kuwait’s generosity and its commitment to humanitarianism and international stability.”

“We see that in the leadership role that Kuwait plays in institutions like the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab League,” he added. 

Sheikh Ahmad thanked US commitment to the stability and security of Kuwait and the region.

 “The US and Kuwait are solid partners, great friends and we appreciate this historically strong partnership, the minister said. 

“We are partners in combating terrorism after 9/11 and we were partners as well in the liberation of Iraq, he said. He added that Kuwait also provided safe transitory corridors for people feeling Taliban rule in the country.


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.