Houthi move to send home Iranian diplomat sparks debate in Yemen

A police trooper ahead of funerals of Houthi fighters in Sanaa on December 6, 2021. (Reuters)
A police trooper ahead of funerals of Houthi fighters in Sanaa on December 6, 2021. (Reuters)
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Updated 18 December 2021

Houthi move to send home Iranian diplomat sparks debate in Yemen

A police trooper ahead of funerals of Houthi fighters in Sanaa on December 6, 2021. (Reuters)
  • WSJ reported Houthis sent request to the Arab coalition to allow Hassan Erlo to fly back to Iran

AL-MUKALLA: A Houthi plan to send Iran’s envoy in Sanaa back to his home country has sparked a debate among Yemenis who have mostly disputed reports about a possible rift between the militia and the Iranian regime.

The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that the Houthis had sent a request to the Arab coalition, which controls Yemeni airspace, to allow Hassan Erlo to fly back to Iran.

Iran appointed Erlo as ambassador in Houthi-controlled Sanaa in Oct. 2020, a move that sparked outrage in Yemen and prompted the government to call him a “de facto ruler” of Houthi-controlled territories who commanded military operations against Yemeni forces.

Yemeni political and military analysts, politicians and rights activists ruled out the possibility of tension between the Houthis and Iran.

“Al-Houthi is an essential part of Iran's sectarian project to conquer or destroy the region,” Yassen Saeed Makkawi, an adviser to the Yemeni president, tweeted.

For more than a decade, Yemeni governments have accused the Iranian regime of supporting the Houthis with advanced weapons, politically and financially, citing interceptions of weapon shipments bound for the militia, the death of Iranian, Lebanese and Iraqi military officers during fighting in Yemen, biased media coverage of Iran-funded media establishments and Erlo’s appointment.

If there was no presence of Iran's military experts on the ground, the government and the Arab coalition would have expelled the Houthis from Sanaa and other areas under their control, experts said.

Col. Yahiya Abu Hatem, a Yemeni military analyst, said the Iranian official might have been infected with COVID-19 or wounded in airstrikes. 

He added that, with this move, Iran might try to prove that the Houthis were the sole controller of its decisions in Yemen.

“Al-Houthi is a faction of Iran's Revolutionary Guards outside the borders of Iran. What unites Al-Houthi with Iran is the rebels' dependency and absolute loyalty to Iran. Any talk of a dispute between Houthis and Iran is just nonsense,” Abu Hatem said.

Saleh Al-Baydani, a Yemeni political analyst, argued that the “sick” Iranian official was supposed to be evacuated on a flight arranged by a mediator and was canceled due to the latest airstrikes by coalition planes on Sanaa. “This faltering evacuation is purely due to medical and not political reasons.”

Other Yemenis noted that Iran had fabricated news about rifts to give recognition to the Houthis and to alleviate international pressure on the movement.

Fahed Taleb Al-Sharafi, a Yemeni journalist, said the Revolutionary Guards directly supervised the Houthis. “The story of the Houthi dispute with Erlo is an Iranian ploy with the aim of bringing recognition and easing the increasing international pressure on the Houthis.”

Other Yemenis agreed there were disputes between Iran and the Houthis that had emerged during recent months, after Iranian military plans failed to lead to the Houthi occupation of the central city of Marib.

Five months after Erlo’s arrival in Sanaa, the Houthis announced resuming a major military offensive to seize control of the city. 

They suffered thousands of losses and largely failed to achieve their goal, despite making rapid progress in Marib and Al-Bayda provinces.

Faisal Al-Majidi, an undersecretary at the Justice Ministry, said the Iranians were seeking to replace Erlo after failing to capture Marib. “This is nothing more than an Iranian stance after its failure to capture Marib,” he said.

Najeeb Ghallab, an undersecretary at the Information Ministry and a political analyst, told Arab News that less influential figures in the Houthi movement were not happy with the sweeping Iranian influence on it, mainly during the war. 

“Those people are seeking a natural relationship with Iran, not Iran’s full control of the movement,” Ghallab said.


Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN

Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN
Updated 14 sec ago

Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN

Palestinian Authority to seek full membership at UN
  • President Mahmoud Abbas to make the case for enhanced status at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23

RAMALLAH: Palestinian leaders have launched a new diplomatic drive to obtain full membership of the UN.

The campaign will culminate with a landmark speech by President Mahmoud Abbas at the UN General Assembly on Sept. 23, in which he will make the case for enhanced status.

“In the absence of a political path and hope for the Palestinians to end the occupation, they have no choice but to resort to the UN to enhance the status of Palestine as a state and the Palestinians as a people on their land under occupation,” Palestinian government spokesman Ibrahim Melhem told Arab News on Wednesday.

The UN granted Palestine non-member observer state status at a historic vote in the General Assembly in November 2012, when 138 countries voted in favor, 9 opposed it, and 41 abstained. The resolution included “the hope that the Security Council will consider positively” accepting the request for full membership. Abbas submitted this in September 2011, but it fell in the Security Council because the US threatened to use its veto.

Fatah official Sabri Saidem told Arab News that France had encouraged the Palestinians to demand full membership of the UN, and Sweden and Ireland had expressed their unconditional support for the move. He said the Palestinians would now seek more Arab and international support.

UN membership was “a long-awaited entitlement, especially with the continued Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people, the failure of US President Joe Biden’s administration to implement its vision in resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, and double standards when it comes to Palestine and Ukraine," he said.

 

 


Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital

Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital
Updated 11 August 2022

Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital

Heavy rains collapse 10 historic buildings in Yemeni capital

SANAA, Yemen: Heavy rains lashing Yemen’s capital of Sanaa, which dates back to ancient times, have in recent days collapsed 10 buildings in the Old City, the country’s Houthi rebels said Wednesday.
At least 80 other buildings have been heavily damaged in the rains and are in need of urgent repairs, said the rebels, who have controlled Sanaa since the outbreak of Yemen’s civil war more than eight years ago.
The Old City of Sanaa is a UNESCO World Heritage site, and the area believed to have been inhabited for more than 2 millennia. Its architecture is unique, with foundations and first stories built of stone, and subsequent stories out of brick — deemed to be some of the world’s first high-rises.
The buildings have red brick facades adorned with white gypsum molding in ornate patterns, drawings comparisons to gingerbread houses — a style that has come to symbolize Yemen’s capital. Many of the houses are still private homes and some are more than 500 years old.
In a statement, Abdullah Al-Kabsi, the culture minister in the Houthi administration, said the rebels are working with international organizations and seeking help in dealing with the destruction. There were no immediate reports of dead or injured from the collapses.
The houses had withstood centuries but this season’s intense rains have proved too much for the iconic structures. Bricks and wooden beams now make for massive piles of rubble in between still-standing structures.
The rains show no signs of letting up.
“I get scared when I hear the rain and pray to God because I am afraid that my house will collapse over me,” Youssef Al-Hadery, a resident of the Old City said.


Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows
Updated 10 August 2022

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows

Yemen has enough wheat for two-and-a-half months, document shows
  • Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and 45 percent of its wheat needs came from Ukraine and Russia
  • Importers are unable to store significant amounts of wheat due to infrastructure limitations at Yemeni ports

ADEN: Yemen has secured enough wheat to cover two-and-a-half months of consumption, a commerce ministry document dated Aug. 4 showed, as global disruptions and local currency instability risk deepening the war-torn country’s hunger crisis.
A review by the internationally recognized government in Aden showed 176,400 tons of wheat available — 70,400 stockpiled and 106,000 booked for August/September delivery — according to the document.
This is in addition to 32,300 tons of wheat available from the United Nations, which feeds some 13 million people a month in Yemen, the document showed.
Yemen is grappling with a dire humanitarian crisis that has left millions hungry in the seven-year conflict that divided the country and wrecked the economy. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food, and 45 percent of its wheat needs came from Ukraine and Russia.
HSA Group, one of Yemen’s largest food conglomerates, said it had booked around 250,000 tons of wheat from Romania and France, sufficient to supply the market until mid-October, and that it is looking to secure a further 110,000 tons.
“Following the announcement of the Ukraine grain deal, we are currently looking to secure Ukrainian wheat for the Yemeni market if it remains affordable and accessible,” an HSA spokesperson, who declined to be named, told Reuters.
The United Nations and Turkey brokered a deal last month to restart exports from Ukraine, cut off since Russia’s February invasion, which could ease grain shortages that have driven up global prices. So far, however, there have not been any shipments of wheat.
Yemeni importers are unable to store significant amounts of wheat due to infrastructure limitations at Yemen ports and the country’s limited storage capacity, the HSA spokesperson said, and therefore the firm books new shipments every 2-3 weeks depending on availability and global prices.
Another issue facing importers is Yemen’s foreign reserves shortage and a serious devaluation of the currency in some parts of the country, where food price inflation has soared.
The Aden-based central bank has put in place an auction mechanism to ease access to foreign currency, but no import financing mechanism is currently in place to support the market.


Order to seize Lebanon MPs’ property over port blast

Order to seize Lebanon MPs’ property over port blast
Updated 10 August 2022

Order to seize Lebanon MPs’ property over port blast

Order to seize Lebanon MPs’ property over port blast
  • The decision was issued in the context of a complaint filed by the Beirut Bar Association to question the two MPs
  • Compensation of 100 billion Lebanese pounds is being sought

BEIRUT: Judicial authorities in Lebanon Wednesday ordered the temporary seizure of the property of two deputies in the case of the deadly explosion which destroyed Beirut port two years ago.
“Judge Najah Itani has issued a temporary seizure order worth 100 billion Lebanese pounds on the property of MPs Ali Hassan Khalil and Ghazi Zeaiter,” a judicial source told AFP.
The source said the decision was issued in the context of a complaint filed by the Beirut Bar Association to question the two for having “used their rights... in an arbitrary manner by filing complaints intended to hinder the investigation.”
Compensation of 100 billion Lebanese pounds is being sought.
On Thursday, crisis-hit Lebanon marked two years since the massive port blast ripped through Beirut.
The dockside blast of haphazardly stored ammonium nitrate, one of history’s biggest non-nuclear explosions, killed more than 200 people, wounded thousands and decimated vast areas of the capital.
After the tragedy, the bar launched legal proceedings against the state on behalf of nearly 1,400 families of victims.
However, an investigation into the cause has been stalled amid political interference and no state official has yet been held accountable over the tragedy.
Khalil and Zeaiter, of Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri’s Amal party, filed a total of 20 complaints against Judge Tareq Bitar for obstructing the investigation which he himself was carrying out.
Politicians on all sides have refused to be questioned by the judge.
Officials close to the powerful Hezbollah movement have also curtailed Bitar’s work with a series of lawsuits.
His investigation has been paused since December 23.
On Thursday’s second anniversary of the blast, relatives of victims demanded an international inquiry.


Syria says Daesh leader killed in south

Syria says Daesh leader killed in south
Updated 10 August 2022

Syria says Daesh leader killed in south

Syria says Daesh leader killed in south
  • Security forces carried out a "special operation" in the Daraa area that led to the death of "the terrorist Abu Salem al-Iraqi"
  • The security source said Iraqi had been the military chief of the extremist group in the country's south

DAMASCUS: A leader of Daesh group blew himself up in southern Syria after being surrounded by government forces, state media reported on Wednesday, citing a security source.
The official SANA news agency said security forces carried out a “special operation” in the Daraa area that led to the death of “the terrorist Abu Salem Al-Iraqi.”
Iraqi “triggered his explosive belt after being surrounded and wounded,” the agency said.
The security source said Iraqi had been the military chief of the extremist group in the country’s south.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights war monitor, which has a vast network of sources on the ground, said Iraqi died on Tuesday.
It said he had been hiding out in the area since 2018, and had taken part in killings and attacks there.
Daraa province has mostly been under regime control since 2018, but rebel groups still control some areas under a truce deal agreed with Russia, an ally of Damascus.
After a meteoric rise in 2014 in Iraq and Syria that saw it conquer vast swathes of territory, Daesh saw its self-proclaimed “caliphate” collapse under a wave of offensives.
It was defeated in Iraq in 2017 and in Syria two years later, but sleeper cells of the extremist Sunni Muslim group still carry out attacks in both countries.
Syria’s war began in 2011 and has killed nearly half a million people and forced around half of the country’s pre-war population from their homes.