HRW urges Houthis to end ‘repeated indiscriminate attacks’ on civilians

HRW urges Houthis to end ‘repeated indiscriminate attacks’ on civilians
The Houthi campaign to seize Marib has been ongoing since February 2020 but intensified earlier this year. (AFP)
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Updated 25 November 2021

HRW urges Houthis to end ‘repeated indiscriminate attacks’ on civilians

HRW urges Houthis to end ‘repeated indiscriminate attacks’ on civilians
  • Iran-backed group slammed for ‘dismal human rights record’
  • Human Rights Watch warns of new wave of displacements caused by Houthi shelling in Marib

LONDON: Human Rights Watch has warned of a new wave of civilian displacements caused by indiscriminate Houthi shelling in Marib, Yemen.

HRW called on the Iran-backed group to “immediately” end the shelling, which it said is part of a wider campaign by the Houthis to seize the Marib governorate from the internationally recognized government.

“Civilians and displaced people in Marib have been caught in the crosshairs for nearly two years, some suffering severe deprivation,” said Afrah Nasser, Yemen researcher at HRW.

“The Houthis’ repeated indiscriminate attacks on civilian areas and blocking humanitarian aid have become a shameful pattern and add to the group’s dismal human rights record.”

The Houthi campaign to seize Marib has been ongoing since February 2020 but intensified earlier this year.

The UN estimates that at least 93,000 civilians have been forced to flee the immediate area around Marib city because of fighting.

HRW said: “Witnesses say that Houthi forces besieged 35,000 inhabitants of al-Abdiyah district for at least three weeks in October, blocking civilians from leaving or entering and denying entry to food, fuel, and other commodities.”

Aid workers reported that civilians who fled the district at the end of October for Marib city described a three-week siege by Houthi forces in which civilians were trapped and essential commodities were blocked from entering.

According to the aid workers, residents said there were no fighters or military equipment there, but Houthi forces seized them to compel people to join them.

Those civilians, HRW said, were “malnourished, sick, and penniless, and that some women were in desperate need of reproductive health services.”

According to HRW, the Mothers of Abductees Association — formed in 2017 by Yemeni women whose relatives were arrested and often forcibly disappeared — said Houthi forces also detained 47 people, including children. Their relatives have heard nothing about them since their arrest.

Nasser said: “With winter setting in, newly displaced people desperately need an immediate comprehensive response by aid agencies. Houthi forces need to immediately end their indiscriminate attacks and allow humanitarian access to civilians across Marib.”


UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots
Updated 22 sec ago

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots

UAE health authorities urge residents to receive COVID-19 booster shots
  • 100 percent of all eligible residents have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine
  • UAE’s health sector said the authorities were monitoring all information related to the new omicron variant

The UAE announced on Sunday that booster shots for the Pfizer-BioNTech and Sputnik COVID-19 vaccines have been approved for all adults aged 18 and above. 

According to UAE health sector spokesman Farida Al Hosani, people in the country can and should take the additional shot six months after their second dose of the vaccine. 

The announcement, made during the latest government media briefing, replaces a previous directive which allowed only some at-risk residents to receive the booster jabs. 

Al Hosani also highlighted that 100 percent of all eligible residents have received their first dose of the coronavirus vaccine. She clarified that this does not mean that everyone is vaccinated since the country’s population keeps changing, many students are still waiting to receive their shots and certain individuals cannot receive the vaccine for medical reasons. 

The official spokesperson of the UAE’s health sector said the authorities were monitoring all information related to the new omicron variant, and will take appropriate action when necessary.

This comes after the World Health Organization (WHO) said there were major genetic mutations that may affect the characteristics of the COVID-19 virus, allowing it to spread at a faster pace than previous mutations. 

Much the world, including the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Brazil, Canada, the European Union, Iran and the US, have implemented travel restrictions and suspended flights to and from several southern African countries in response to warnings over the transmissibility of omicron. 

Meanwhile, Israel and Japan barred all new foreign arrivals by shutting their borders completely.

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UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons
Updated 29 November 2021

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

UK, Israel to work together to stop Iran gaining nuclear weapons

Britain and Israel will “work night and day” in preventing Iran from becoming a nuclear power, the foreign ministers of the two countries wrote in a joint article.
“The clock is ticking, which heightens the need for close cooperation with our partners and friends to thwart Tehran’s ambitions,” the UK’s Liz Truss and her Israeli counterpart Yair Lapid wrote in the Telegraph newspaper on Sunday.
Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said earlier in the day that his country was “very worried” that world powers will remove sanctions on Iran in exchange for insufficient caps on its nuclear program, as negotiators convene in Vienna on Monday in a last-ditch effort to salvage a nuclear deal.
Meanwhile, Israel and Britain will sign a 10-year agreement on Monday to work closely on areas such as cybersecurity, technology, trade and defense, according to the Telegraph.
The foreign ministers added in the article that Israel will officially become Britain’s “tier one” cyber partner, in a bid to improve its cyber defenses as countries around the world face increased threats.


Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
Updated 29 November 2021

Iranian riot police patrol city’s dry river after water protests

In this file photo taken on November 19, 2021, Iranians gather during a protest to voice their anger after their province's lifeblood river dried up due to drought and diversion, in the central city of Isfahan. (AFP)
  • Demonstrators blame authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province

TEHRAN: Iranian riot police on Sunday patrolled a dried-out riverbed in the central city of Isfahan where protests against a water shortage led to violent clashes two days earlier.

Drought and water diversions have been blamed for drying up the Zayandeh-Rood waterway that runs from the Zagros mountains and through the city known for its iconic river bridges.
Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.
Calm has returned and it held on Sunday, a local photographer said by phone from Isfahan, the country’s third-largest city 340 km south of Tehran.
“In the morning, the city was calm and traffic was normal,” the photographer said.
“I saw riot police patrolling the riverbed between the historic bridges, but their numbers were lower than on Saturday.”
The protesters blame the authorities for diverting water to neighboring Yazd province, which is also desperately short of water.
Authorities Saturday announced 67 arrests of the “main perpetrators and troublemakers” in the rally that had drawn “2,000 to 3,000 rioters.”
The arrests were made by the police, intelligence services and the Revolutionary Guards.

BACKGROUND

Water protests since Nov. 9 have drawn at times thousands of demonstrators to the city, where a large rally on Friday escalated into clashes in which 67 people were arrested.

Police had on Friday fired tear gas at the protesters, who threw stones, smashed the windows of an ambulance and set a police motorbike ablaze, according to the Fars news agency.
Nourodin Soltanian, a spokesman for Isfahan University Hospital, said a number of protesters were wounded, including “two in serious condition.”
Isfahan police chief Mohammed-Reza Mirheidari called the protesters “opportunists and counter-revolutionaries,” and the ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan accused “mercenary thugs” of being behind the “riots.”
US State Department spokesman Ned Price said Washington was “deeply concerned about the violent crackdown against peaceful protesters.”
He added on Twitter that “the people of Iran have a right to voice their frustrations and hold their government accountable.”
The Kayhan daily meanwhile also linked Friday’s protests to the scheduled resumption of nuclear talks on Monday in Vienna between Iran and a group of major powers.
Friday’s events “testify to the infiltration of a US fifth column, in the run-up to the Vienna talks, to provoke a riot and push for (new) US sanctions” against Iran, it said.
The Zayandeh-Rood river that runs through Isfahan has been dry since 2000, except for a few brief periods.
Iran has endured repeated droughts over the past decade, but also regular floods, a phenomenon that can intensify when torrential rains fall on sun-baked earth.
Scientists say climate change amplifies droughts and that their intensity and frequency in turn threaten food security.


Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
Updated 28 November 2021

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground

Low expectations on nuclear talks as Iran creates facts on the ground
  • Diplomats: Tehran simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how

PARIS: World powers and Iran return to Vienna on Monday in a last ditch effort to salvage the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, but few expect a breakthrough as Tehran’s atomic activities rumble on in an apparent bid to gain leverage against the West.
The US will also send a delegation, headed by Washington’s Special Envoy for Iran Rob Malley, to participate in the talks indirectly.
Israel worries Iran will secure sanctions relief in renewed nuclear negotiations with world powers, but will not sufficiently roll back projects with bomb making potential, Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said.
“Israel is very worried about the readiness to remove the sanctions and to allow a flow of billions (of dollars) to Iran in exchange for unsatisfactory restrictions in the nuclear realm,” Bennett told his Cabinet in televised remarks.
“This is the message that we are relaying in every manner, whether to the Americans or to the other countries negotiating with Iran.”
Few expect a breakthrough in the talks as Iran’s uranium enrichment activities have escalated in an apparent bid to gain leverage.
Diplomats say time is running low to resurrect the JCPOA, known as the Iran nuclear deal, which former US President Donald Trump abandoned in 2018, angering Iran and dismaying the other world powers involved.
Six rounds of indirect talks were held between April and June.
The latest round begins after a hiatus triggered by the election of new Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi.
Tehran’s negotiating team has set out demands that US and European diplomats consider unrealistic.
Two European diplomats said it seemed Iran was simply playing for time to accumulate more material and know-how.
Western diplomats say they will head to Monday’s talks on the premise that they resume where they left off in June, and have warned that if Iran continues with its maximalist positions and fails to restore its cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency, then they will review their options.
Iran’s top negotiator and foreign minister both repeated on Friday that the full lifting of sanctions would be the only thing on the table in Vienna.
“If this is the position that Iran continues to hold on Monday, then I don’t see a negotiated solution,” said one European diplomat.
Iran has pressed ahead with its uranium enrichment program and the IAEA says its inspectors have been treated roughly and refused access to re-install monitoring cameras at a site it deems essential to reviving the deal.
“They are doing enough technically so they can change their basic relationship with the West to be able to have a more equal dialogue in the future,” said a Western diplomat involved in the talks.
Several diplomats said Iran was now between four to six weeks away from the “breakout time” it needs to amass enough fissile material for a single nuclear weapon, although they cautioned it was still about two years from being able to weaponize it.
Should the talks collapse, the likelihood is the US and its allies will initially confront Iran at the IAEA next month by calling for an emergency meeting.


Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
Updated 28 November 2021

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds

Egypt authorizes Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for 12 to 15 year-olds
  • Prime minister directs government to take all precautionary measures against new COVID-19 variant Omicron

CAIRO: Egypt authorized on Sunday Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 12-15, the cabinet said in a statement.
The step effectively lowers the minimum age of eligibility to receive the two-shot vaccine in Egypt, which was 15 years old previously.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly directed the government to take all precautionary measures against the new COVID-19 variant Omicron, noting the decision to halt all direct flights with South Africa.
His comments came during a meeting of a medical group to combat coronavirus, the state news agency (MENA) reported. 
Khaled Abdel Ghaffar, higher education and acting health minister, reviewed a report on the current local and international epidemical situation and the developments of the new variant, adding that the report confirmed there are no Omicron cases detected in Egypt till now.
He said that about 45.2 million vaccine doses had been administered, with 15.6 million people having received both doses.
On Friday, Egypt suspended direct flights to and from South Africa due to concerns about a new variant of the COVID-19 virus.
(With Reuters)