Coalition announces operation to liberate Yemen on all fronts after winning battle for Shabwa

Saudi-backed Yemeni pro-government forces take position in Bayahn governorate on January 10, 2022 after taking over Yemen's northern oil province of Shabwa. (Photo by AFP)
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Saudi-backed Yemeni pro-government forces take position in Bayahn governorate on January 10, 2022 after taking over Yemen's northern oil province of Shabwa. (Photo by AFP)
Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki and the governor of Shabwa attend a press conference in the newly-liberated province on Tuesday. (Screenshot)
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Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki and the governor of Shabwa attend a press conference in the newly-liberated province on Tuesday. (Screenshot)
Charred Houthi armored vehicles are seen in the district of Bayan in Shabwa province following air strikes by pro-government coalition forces on jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by AFP)
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Charred Houthi armored vehicles are seen in the district of Bayan in Shabwa province following air strikes by pro-government coalition forces on jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by AFP)
Saudi-backed Yemeni pro-government forces take position in Bayahn governorate on January 10, 2022 after taking over Yemen's northern oil province of Shabwa. (Photo by AFP)
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Saudi-backed Yemeni pro-government forces take position in Bayahn governorate on January 10, 2022 after taking over Yemen's northern oil province of Shabwa. (Photo by AFP)
A Yemen pro-government fighter is seen on the ready as his unit seize control of the northern oil province of Shabwa from Iran-backed Houthi rebels. (Photo by AFPTV / AFP)
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A Yemen pro-government fighter is seen on the ready as his unit seize control of the northern oil province of Shabwa from Iran-backed Houthi rebels. (Photo by AFPTV / AFP)
A grab from an AFPTV video shows Yemen pro-government fighters deploying in a key town in the northern oil province of Shabwa on January 10, 2022. (Photo by AFPTV / AFP)
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A grab from an AFPTV video shows Yemen pro-government fighters deploying in a key town in the northern oil province of Shabwa on January 10, 2022. (Photo by AFPTV / AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2022

Coalition announces operation to liberate Yemen on all fronts after winning battle for Shabwa

Coalition announces operation to liberate Yemen on all fronts after winning battle for Shabwa
  • Yemeni government forces surge into into Houthi-controlled areas south of Marib for the first time in months
  • Coalition spokesman said the operation to liberate Yemen aimed to establish safety and prosperity

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni government troops drove into Houthi-controlled areas south of the central city of Marib on Tuesday for the first time in months, a day after fully recapturing the strategic province of Shabwa from the Iran-backed militia.

In the wake of the victory in Shabwa, the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen launched a new military operation to liberate the whole country from the Houthis.

On a visit to Shabwa, coalition spokesman Gen. Turki Al-Maliki said the operation aimed to “purify Yemen” and establish safety, security, prosperity, and growth. 

“Yemen deserves a lot in all areas,” Al-Maliki said in a joint press conference with the province’s governor, Awadh bin Al-Wazer.




Charred Houthi armored vehicles are seen in the district of Bayan in Shabwa province following air strikes by pro-government coalition forces on jan. 10, 2022. (Photo by AFP)

Fighters from the loyalist Giants Brigades seized control of substantial territory on Tuesday in the district of Hareb in Marib province.

The Houthis had seized control of Hareb, Al-Abedia and parts of Juba districts in September last year after making rapid progress in the neighboring provinces of Al-Bayda and Shabwa.

But government forces have taken the offensive on the battlefield since the beginning of this month after the coalition redeployed several military brigades from the west coast to Shabwa.

Governor Awadh bin Al-Wazer declared Shabwa fully liberated on Monday after the Houthis were driven out of Ain district, their last pocket of land. He thanked “the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE for all the generous support and efforts made to achieve this victory.”

HIGHLIGHT

Government forces have taken the offensive on the battlefield since the beginning of this month after the coalition redeployed several military brigades from the west coast to Shabwa.

Coalition warplanes have intensified strikes over the past 10 days, targeting Houthi-controlled cities, including Sanaa, and the militia’s reinforcements across the country. The airstrikes have paved the way for government troops to advance in Shabwa, Marib and Al-Bayda.

Mohammed Al-Jaber, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, said Yemenis could end the Houthi coup and restore the state and peace to their country when they came together.

“The consensus and the unification of the ranks of the Yemeni forces would lead to the restoration of the state, peace and constructive dialogue on all issues,” he said.

Experts believe more coalition military success will force the Houthis into accepting peace efforts, and end the war.




A grab from an AFPTV video shows Yemen pro-government fighters deploying in a key town in the northern oil province of Shabwa on January 10, 2022. (Photo by AFPTV / AFP) 

“Any military action that forces the Houthis to retreat will eventually lead to de-escalation,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, told Arab News.

She called for the unification of Yemeni forces under one command to launch coordinated attacks on the Houthis. “Without a consistent military offensive in which all frontlines are coordinated, we will continue in this vicious cycle,” she said.

“Shabwa cannot be safe if Marib is not safe and Marib is not safe if Al-Jawf and Al-Bayda are not liberated.”

Earlier on Tuesday, the coalition announced that more than 350 Houthis had been killed in various operations in Yemen.

In oil-rich Marib province, more than 120 Houthi fighters were killed and 14 military vehicles destroyed in operations over the last 24 hours.

The coalition also carried out strikes in the southern province of Shabwa which resulted in the deaths of over 230 Houthis and the destruction of 25 military vehicles.

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Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’

Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’
Updated 19 May 2022

Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’

Amnesty demands FIFA pay $440m to Qatar’s ‘abused migrant workers’
  • FIFA should earmark at least $440 million to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup

LONDON: Rights group Amnesty International on Thursday urged football’s governing body FIFA pay compensation equal to the total 2022 World Cup prize money for migrant workers “abused” in host nation Qatar.
The call, backed by other rights organizations and fan groups, follows allegations that FIFA was slow to safeguard against the exploitation of workers who flooded into the tiny Gulf state to build infrastructure in the years leading up to the tournament that starts November 21.
“FIFA should earmark at least $440 million to provide remedy for the hundreds of thousands of migrant workers who have suffered human rights abuses in Qatar during preparations for the 2022 World Cup,” Amnesty said in a statement accompanying a report.
The London-based group urged FIFA president Gianni Infantino “to work with Qatar to establish a comprehensive remediation program.”
It alleged that a “litany of abuses” had taken place since 2010, the year FIFA awarded the 2022 tournament to Qatar “without requiring any improvement in labor protections.”
“Given the history of human rights abuses in the country, FIFA knew — or should have known — the obvious risks to workers when it awarded the tournament to Qatar,” said Agnes Callamard, Amnesty’s secretary general.
Amnesty said some abuses persist and described $440 million as the “minimum necessary” to cover compensation claims and to ensure remedial initiatives are expanded for the future.
The sum is roughly the total prize money for this year’s World Cup. Amnesty’s call was backed in an open letter to Infantino also signed by nine other organizations, including Migrant Rights and Football Supporters Europe.
When asked for comment, FIFA said it was “assessing the program proposed by Amnesty” for Qatar, highlighting that it “involves a wide range of non-FIFA World Cup-specific public infrastructure built since 2010.”
Qatar’s World Cup organizers said they have “worked tirelessly” with international groups for the rights of workers on stadiums and other tournament projects. Much of the criticism has however been directed at construction outside the official tournament where hundreds of workers are said to have died in the past decade.
“Significant improvements have been made across accommodation standards, health and safety regulations, grievance mechanisms, health care provision, and reimbursements of illegal recruitment fees to workers,” said a spokesperson for the organizers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy.
“This tournament is, and will continue to be a powerful catalyst for delivering a sustainable human and social legacy ahead of, during, and beyond the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.”
Workers’ claims range from unpaid salaries, “illegal” and “extortionate” recruitment fees averaging $1,300 to secure jobs, and compensation for injuries and deaths.
Amnesty welcomed initiatives by FIFA and Qatar, including improvements made on World Cup construction sites and labor legislation reforms introduced since 2014.
Qatar in 2017 introduced a minimum wage, cut the hours that can be worked in extreme heat, and ended part of a system which forced migrant workers to seek employers’ permission to change jobs or even leave the country.
Workers can go to labor tribunals and more government inspectors have been appointed.
Foreign workers, mainly from South Asia, make up more than two million of Qatar’s 2.8 million population.
But Amnesty said only about 48,000 workers have so far been green-lighted to claw back recruitment fees.
It said the requested $440 million represents only a “small fraction” of the $6 billion in revenues FIFA is expected to make over the next four years, much of it from the World Cup.


Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce

Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce
Updated 18 May 2022

Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce

Second flight lands at Sanaa airport as Yemen parties pressured to extend truce
  • The first commercial flight since 2016 took off from Sanaa airport on Monday after the Yemeni government allowed passengers with passports issued by the Houthis to leave the country

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: A second commercial flight carrying dozens of passengers landed at the Houthi-held Sanaa airport on Wednesday as international mediators and world powers continue to pressure Yemen’s warring parties to extend the two-month truce.

The plane took off from Amman in the morning and landed at Sanaa airport at 2 p.m., further boosting hopes of the resumption of flights to other destinations, and the strengthening of the ceasefire.

Hans Grundberg, the UN’s Yemen envoy who had helped to negotiate the peace pact, announced the departure of the second flight from Jordan’s capital.

“A second commercial flight took off from Amman to Sanaa carrying Yemeni passengers at 10:30 a.m. today, as per the terms of the truce agreement and is scheduled to return back from Sanaa to Amman with Yemeni passengers at 4 p.m.,” Grundberg tweeted.

The first commercial flight since 2016 took off from Sanaa airport on Monday after the Yemeni government allowed passengers with passports issued by the Houthis to leave the country.

The resumption of the flights from Sanaa is one of several terms of the truce that came into effect on April 2. Under the agreement, the Yemeni parties would stop fighting on all fronts, allow fuel ships to enter Hodeidah seaports, and work with the UN to open roads in Taiz and other provinces.

At the same time, the UN envoy said on Wednesday that he resumed his meetings with Yemeni economists, politicians and security figures in Amman to produce ideas for his peace plan.

“The UN envoy for #Yemen resumes today his consultations to identify economic, political & security priorities for the multi-track process. Today he meets with a diverse group of Yemeni public figures, experts & civil society actors,” his office tweeted.

In his remarks to the press after his closed briefing to the UN Security Council on Tuesday, Grundberg said that he discussed extending the pact with various Yemeni parties. “Yemenis can’t afford to go back to the pre-truce state of perpetual military escalation and political stalemate. I continue to engage the parties to overcome outstanding challenges and to ensure the extension of the truce,” he said, adding that the Houthis have not nominated their representatives for a meeting with the Yemeni government that would discuss ending their siege on Taiz.

Tim Lenderking, the US’ envoy to Yemen, also urged the warring factions to uphold and extend the truce, and to jointly work on opening roads in Taiz.

“We hope the resumption of flights to & from Sanaa brings relief to Yemenis. We must ensure the freedom of movement of people & goods, incl opening roads to Taiz. We call on the parties to adhere to & extend the @UN truce,” Lenderking tweeted.

In the besieged Taiz, residents have intensified their campaigns on the ground and on social media to draw attention to their daily suffering.

“This siege has turned the city of Taiz into a large prison and caused a real human tragedy. They opened Sanaa airport and ports and ignored Taiz’s suffering from the siege,” Ahmed Al-Qaidhy, an activist from the area, told Arab News.


Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections

Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections
Updated 18 May 2022

Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections

Hamas-backed bloc wins West Bank student elections
  • The Hamas-backed bloc with 5,060 votes won 28 seats, while the Fatah-supported bloc with 3,379 votes bagged just 18 seats

RAMALLAH: The Islamic bloc affiliated with Hamas won the student council elections at Birzeit University in the West Bank on Wednesday, defeating their Fatah rivals in the tightly contested vote.

The Hamas-backed bloc with 5,060 votes won 28 seats, while the Fatah-supported bloc with 3,379 votes bagged just 18 seats.

Five blocs contested 51 seats, while the voter turnout was 78.1 percent. 

Students witnessed an intense debate between representatives of the rival blocs the previous day, with both parties’ policies and programs coming in for criticism.

The Islamic bloc has led the student council in recent years.

Their Fatah-backed rivals say they are paying the price for the mistakes of the Palestinian Authority in terms of corruption, nepotism and security coordination with Israel, and losing elections frequently.

A day before the vote, seven senior student members of the Islamic bloc were arrested by an Israeli undercover unit, which generated sympathy for the group and translated into votes, experts told Arab News.

Ghassan Al-Khatib, vice president of the university, said that the student council vote is an indicator of Palestinian public opinion and political balances in Palestinian society “because of the credibility, integrity and democracy at the Birzeit elections.”

Mohammed Daraghmeh, a senior Palestinian writer, told Arab News that Birzeit students are not influenced by employment interests or work, so the electoral process takes place “in a democratic atmosphere and with great integrity.”

He added: “If Hamas wins, the street is supportive and biased toward it. If Fatah wins, this means that the street is with it.”

Daraghmeh said that both Fatah and Hamas make great efforts to win the students’ backing.

The election “helps Hamas strengthen its political discourse, and show that Palestinian public opinion in the West Bank supports its path and political line,” he said.

Meanwhile, Fatah “wants to defend the legitimacy of the Palestinian political system in light of its inability to organize Palestinian general elections.”

Birzeit elections are held every two years, with about 15,000 students voting for 51 seats. There was no vote in 2021 owing to the coronavirus pandemic.

The secretariat of the administrative body of the council consists of 13 members.

Birzeit was established in 1973 as a public university, and is the only West Bank academic institution that allows Hamas to practice its activities and politics without interference from Israel or the PA.

A number of prominent Palestinian leaders have graduated from the university, which offers 36 bachelor’s degree programs and 13 master’s programs, and employs 500 teachers.

Students from the West Bank and a few hundred Palestinians living in Israel study there.

Basem Naim, a prominent Hamas leader in the Gaza Strip, told Arab News that the political group views the student vote as “an essential indicator” because it highlights the direction of future generations.

“The Birzeit University elections constitute an essential platform for Hamas because most Palestinian leaders are university graduates. Therefore, their strength today indicates the type of future leaders of the Palestinian people in all sectors and fields,” he said.


Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority
Updated 18 May 2022

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority

Hezbollah chief Nasrallah acknowledges loss of Lebanon parliamentary majority
  • The elections saw gains by anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces party and more than a dozen reform-minded newcomers, as well as a smattering of independents
  • The results mark a blow for Hezbollah, though Nasrallah declared the results “a very big victory”

BEIRUT: The leader of Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah acknowledged his party and its allies had lost their parliamentary majority in elections but said no single group had taken it, in his first televised speech since Sunday’s elections.
“Unlike the situation in parliament in 2018, no political group can claim a majority,” he said.
Hezbollah and its allies scored 62 seats during Sunday polls, according to a Reuters tally, losing a majority they secured in 2018, when they and their allies won 71 seats.
Hezbollah and its ally Amal held on to all of parliament’s Shiite seats. But some of its oldest allies, including Sunni, Druze and Christian politicians, lost theirs.
The elections saw gains by the anti-Hezbollah Lebanese Forces party and more than a dozen reform-minded newcomers, as well as a smattering of independents.
The results mark a blow for Hezbollah, though Nasrallah declared the results “a very big victory.”
Nasrallah called for “cooperation” between political groups including newcomers, saying the alternative would be “chaos and vacuum.”
The results have left parliament split into several camps, none of which have a majority, raising the prospect of political paralysis and tensions that could delay badly needed reforms to steer Lebanon out of its economic collapse.


Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder
Updated 18 May 2022

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder

Egypt hands down death sentence for priest’s murder
  • The defendant was found guilty of voluntary homicide
  • A court-ordered psychological assessment found him "responsible for his actions"

CAIRO: An Egyptian court on Wednesday sentenced to death a man accused of the murder last month of a Coptic priest in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, judicial sources said.
The Alexandria court’s ruling is subject to approval by the mufti of the republic.
The sources said the defendant was found guilty of voluntary homicide after a court-ordered psychological assessment found him “responsible for his actions.”
Father Arsanios Wadid died of his wounds in hospital after being stabbed on April 7 on Alexandria’s seafront promenade as he accompanied a group of young parishioners.
The assailant was grabbed by passers-by and handed over to police, who detained him in a psychiatric hospital because of doubts over his mental health.
Coptic Christians, the largest non-Muslim religious minority in the Middle East, make up roughly 10 to 15 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Sunni Muslim population of more than 100 million.
The community has long complained of discrimination and underrepresentation.
In February, however, Egypt for the first time swore in a Coptic judge to head its constitutional court.
Copts were targeted in a series of sectarian attacks after the military in 2013 deposed Islamist president Muhammad Mursi. Such attacks focused largely on remote villages in southern Egypt.