After liberating Shabwa province, government forces seize control of new areas in Marib 

After liberating Shabwa province, government forces seize control of new areas in Marib 
Yemen’s government troops on Tuesday pushed into the Houthi-controlled areas south of the central city of Marib for the first time in months. (File/AFP)
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Updated 11 January 2022

After liberating Shabwa province, government forces seize control of new areas in Marib 

After liberating Shabwa province, government forces seize control of new areas in Marib 
  • The government’s Giants Brigade seized control of a large swathe of land in the district of Hareb, Marib
  • Coalition warplanes have intensified strikes over past 10 days, targeting Houthi-controlled cities, including Sanaa

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government troops on Tuesday pushed into the Houthi-controlled areas south of the central city of Marib for the first time in months, local officials and media reports said. 

The government’s Giants Brigade, backed by the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen, seized control of a large swathe of land in the district of Hareb in Marib province, less than a day after achieving full control of the oil-rich province of Shabwa, the Giants Brigades said in a brief statement. 

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

The terrorist militia’s gains paved the way for them to reach the closest point to the city of Marib, the main target of their deadly offensive in Marib province.

But the government forces have taken the offensive to the battlefields since the beginning of this month after the coalition redeployed several military brigades from the country’s west coast to the southern province of Shabwa. 

If the government forces kept pushing deeper into Marib, they would have cut vital arteries for the Houthis south of Marib and finally alleviate the rebels’ military attacks.

On Monday, the governor of Shabwa, Awadh bin Al-Wazer, announced the full liberation of the province after expelling the Houthis from Ain district, the militia’s last pocket of land. 

“We thank His Excellency the President of the Republic and the brothers in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the UAE for all the generous support and efforts made to achieve this victory, and (we thank) the heroes of the Giants Brigades, the Army and the sons of Shabwa,” the governor said on Twitter. 

The Giants Brigades had previously pushed the Houthis from Bayhan and Ouselan districts in Shabwa and later rolled into the Houthi territory in Al-Bayda. 

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 intensive airstrikes have paved the way for government troops to advance in Shabwa, Marib and Al-Bayda, Yemeni officials said. 

On Tuesday, the coalition announced it had killed more than 350 Houthis and destroyed 39 of their military vehicles during the last wave of airstrikes in Marib and Shabwa province in the past 24 hours. 

The official news agency SABA reported that Yemen’s President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and senior officials called the governor of Shabwa and the commander of the Giants Brigades Abdul Rahman Al-Mahrami to congratulate them. 

Citing battlefield successes by the Giants Brigades, Mohammed Al-Jaber, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to Yemen, tweeted that the Yemenis would be able to end the Houthi coup and restore the state and peace to their country when they come 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,” the Saudi ambassador said. 

Yemen’s experts and officials believe that successful operations alone would lead to an end to the war, as they would force the Houthis into accepting peace efforts and de-escalating. 

“Any military action that forces the Houthis to retreat will eventually lead to de-escalation. The Houthis will not stop expanding until they are stopped,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, told Arab News.

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

In the western province of Hodeidah, the UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement called upon the Houthis to give them access to the main ports in Hodeidah to make sure that they are used for military purposes. 

“The United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement notes with great concern the allegations of the militarization of the Hodeidah Ports. UNMHA has requested as part of its mandate to undertake an inspection and stands ready to address concerns pertaining to any militarization of the ports,” the UN mission said in a statement. 

The UN request came days after the coalition accused the Houthis of turning the main ports in Hodeidah into entry points and military sites for bringing in and storing ballistic missiles from Iran.


Palestinians say teen killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

Palestinians say teen killed by Israeli fire in West Bank
Updated 7 sec ago

Palestinians say teen killed by Israeli fire in West Bank

Palestinians say teen killed by Israeli fire in West Bank
JERUSALEM: The Palestinian Health Ministry said Israeli forces shot and killed a teenager during an operation in a town near Bethlehem in the occupied West Bank.
The ministry identified the slain teen Zaid Ghunaim, 15. It said he was wounded by Israeli gunfire in the neck and back and doctors failed to save his life.
The death raises to five the number of Palestinian teenagers killed during Israeli military operations in the West Bank in a month. Israeli-Palestinian violence has intensified in recent weeks with near-daily arrest raids in Palestinian-administered areas of the West Bank and tensions around a Jerusalem holy site sacred to both Muslims and Jews.
The official Palestinian news agency, Wafa, cited witnesses as saying Ghunaim came upon the soldiers in Al-Khader and tried to ran away but the troops fired at him. Online videos purportedly of the aftermath of the shooting show bloodstains near a white car parked in a passageway.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military, which has stepped up its operations in the West Bank in response to a series of deadly attacks inside Israel.
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh said Israeli forces “deliberately” shot at Ghunaim with the intention to kill him.
On Sunday, Israeli ultranationalists plan to march through the main Muslim thoroughfare of the Old City of Jerusalem. The compound houses Al-Aqsa Mosque, the third holiest site in Islam. The hilltop site is also the holiest for Jews, who refer to it as the Temple Mount.
The march is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. Israel subsequently annexed the area in a step that is not internationally recognized. The Palestinians claim east Jerusalem as the capital of a future state.

Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’

Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’
Updated 27 May 2022

Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’

Iran says forces seize two Greek tankers, Athens protests ‘piracy’
  • Iran’s Revolutionary Guard accused the tankers of unspecified violations
  • Greece’s Foreign Ministry said Iranian authorities ‘violently took over’ the two ships in an ‘act of piracy’

DUBAI/ATHENS: Iranian forces seized two Greek tankers in the Gulf on Friday, Iranian state media reported, shortly after Tehran warned it would take “punitive action” against Athens over the confiscation of Iranian oil by the US from a tanker held off the Greek coast.
“The Revolutionary Guards Navy today seized two Greek tankers for violations in Gulf waters,” said a Guards statement, quoted by the state news agency IRNA.
It gave no further details or say what the alleged violations were.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry said it made a strong demarche to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Arabian Gulf.
“These actions are tantamount to acts of piracy,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, warning Greek citizens to avoid traveling to Iran.
The ministry called for the immediate release of the vessels and their crews, and said these acts would have “particularly negative consequences” in bilateral relations and in Iran’s relations with the European Union, of which Greece is a member.
The ministry’s statement said that earlier Friday, an Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon in international waters some 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran.
“Armed men then took the crew captive,” it said, adding that two Greek nationals were among the crew.
“A similar incident has been reported on another Greek-flagged vessel, that was carrying seven Greek citizens, close to the coast of Iran,” the ministry said.
It added that one of the vessels was the Delta Poseidon, while a spokeswoman at the Athens-based company Polembros identified the second tanker as the Prudent Warrior.
A Greek official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss details of the attack with a journalist, identified the second ship as the Prudent Warrior. Its owner, Polembros Shipping in Greece, earlier said the company was “cooperating with the authorities and making every possible effort to address the situation effectively.”
The ministry said nine Greeks were among the crews of both vessels, but did not give a number of other sailors on board.
A US defense official, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said it appeared the two ships had come close to — but not in — Iranian territorial waters Friday before drifting off into Iranian waters. The ships also had turned off their tracking devices, another red flag, the official said. However, neither had issued a mayday or a call for help, the official said.
Iran had threatened to take “punitive action” earlier Friday over Athens being involved in the US seizure of an Iranian oil tanker in Greek waters.
Iran’s Nour News website, close to its security services, made the threat just as shipping news site Lloyd’s List said it believed two Greek tankers had been seized in the Arabian Gulf. Quoting anonymous industry sources, Lloyd’s reported that the two ships had been boarded after Iranian military helicopters approached them on Friday afternoon. It said both tankers had just been loaded with Iraqi crude oil.
Greek authorities last month impounded the Iranian-flagged Pegas, with 19 Russian crew members on board, near the coast of the southern island of Evia due to EU sanctions.
Washington later confiscated the Iranian oil cargo held onboard and plans to send it to the United States on another vessel, Reuters reported on Thursday.
The Pegas was later released because of confusion about the sanctions over its owners.
The Pegas was among five vessels designated by Washington on Feb. 22 — two days before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine — for sanctions against Promsvyazbank, a bank viewed as critical to Russia’s defense sector.
It was unclear whether the cargo was impounded because it was Iranian oil or due to the sanctions on the tanker over its Russian links. Iran and Russia face separate US sanctions.
Also on Friday, Iran summoned an envoy of Switzerland, which represents US interests in Tehran, to protest against the Pegas oil seizure, the Iranian foreign ministry said.
“The Islamic Republic expressed its deep concern over the US government’s continued violation of international laws and international maritime conventions,” state media quoted the foreign ministry as saying.
A spokesperson for the US Department of Justice declined to comment on the oil seizure.
IRNA quoted Iran’s Ports and Maritime Organization as saying the tanker had sought refuge along the Greek coast after experiencing technical problems and poor weather. It called the seizure of its cargo was “a clear example of piracy.”
The US on Wednesday imposed sanctions on what it described as a Russian-backed oil smuggling and money laundering network for Iran’s Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force.
In 2019, Iran seized a British tanker near the Strait of Hormuz for alleged marine violations two weeks after British forces detained an Iranian tanker near Gibraltar, accusing it of shipping oil to Syria in violation of European Union sanctions. Both vessels were later released.
(With Reuters, AP and AFP)


US sanctions Iran’s Quds Force, Hezbollah

US sanctions Iran’s Quds Force, Hezbollah
Updated 27 May 2022

US sanctions Iran’s Quds Force, Hezbollah

US sanctions Iran’s Quds Force, Hezbollah
  • The US would continue to strictly enforce sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade
  • Ruwan Al-Rejoleh, a MENA expert and consultant based in Washington, called the sanctions an “important step”

DUBAI: The US has designated a network run by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force an “international oil smuggling and money laundering network.”
A US Treasury Department report on Wednesday said that officials had facilitated the sale of hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Iranian oil for both the IRGC-QF and Hezbollah.
It acted as a critical element of Iran’s oil revenue generation, and supported proxy militant groups that continued to “perpetuate conflict and suffering throughout the region.”
The department’s undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, Brian Nelson, said the US would continue to strictly enforce sanctions on Iran’s illicit oil trade.
He added that similar sanctions could apply to anyone purchasing oil from Iran.
Ruwan Al-Rejoleh, a MENA expert and consultant based in Washington, called the sanctions an “important step.”
“Assisted by Hezbollah, this oil network has been allowed to operate freely for too long. This is an important step, but the administration must keep pushing Hezbollah and its allies to the margins,” she said. “Hezbollah, who control the Lebanese Energy Ministry, recently took advantage of Lebanon’s energy problems to secure preferential access to the Lebanese market for their masters in Tehran.”
She said Sonatrach, a state-owned Algerian company, had been responsible for sending fuel oil to Lebanon and that its exit had “exacerbated the country’s already crippling” energy problems.
Ghada Aoun, Mount Lebanon’s state prosecutor, launched politically motivated proceedings against Sonatrach, which caused the Algerians to leave, she added.
“Hezbollah used this chaos to secure access for Iran to Beirut’s energy market.”


Italian pharma giant opens Mideast HQ in Dubai

Italian pharma giant opens Mideast HQ in Dubai
Updated 27 May 2022

Italian pharma giant opens Mideast HQ in Dubai

Italian pharma giant opens Mideast HQ in Dubai
  • Move is part of Menarini’s planned regional expansion
  • CEO: ‘We are looking forward to serve many more patients in the Middle East’

LONDON: Italian pharmaceutical giant Menarini has opened its Middle East headquarters in Dubai’s Science Park.

Specializing in pharma research and production, consumer healthcare, oncology and diagnostics, the move is part of the group’s planned expansion into the Middle East and Africa.

“It is a historical moment for us as we open our regional offices in Dubai to significantly grow our presence and portfolio in the Middle East,” said CEO Elcin Barker Ergun.

“As a 135-year-old family-owned company, we are looking forward to serve many more patients in the Middle East in the coming years with our unwavering commitment to quality.”

Among those in attendance at the opening ceremony was Amin Hussain Al-Amiri, assistant undersecretary of public health policy and licensing in the UAE.

Also in attendance were Italian Ambassador Nicola Lener, Menarini’s General Manager Luca Lastrucci, and its regional head Basel Thaher.

Ali Al-Sayed, director of the pharmaceutical services department at the Dubai Health Authority, said: “A defining objective of Dubai 2030 is to be a global hub for knowledge-based, sustainable and innovation focused businesses.

“As a company with longstanding roots based in medical research, Menarini will be a strong contributor to this visionary strategy.”

He added: “Together, we share Dubai’s overarching healthcare vision of positioning Dubai as the leading destination for healthcare knowledge, education and training.”


Iran protesters seek justice as building collapse toll rises

Iran protesters seek justice as building collapse toll rises
More than four days after the tower block’s collapse, rescue teams were recovering bodies from under slabs of cement. (AFP)
Updated 27 May 2022

Iran protesters seek justice as building collapse toll rises

Iran protesters seek justice as building collapse toll rises
  • A large section of the 10-story Metropol building crumbled on Monday, causing one of Iran’s deadliest such disasters in years
  • More than four days after the tower block’s collapse, rescue teams were still recovering bodies from under slabs of cement

TEHRAN: Hundreds of people took to the streets in southwestern Iran demanding justice after a tower block collapse killed 24 people, news outlets in the Islamic republic said on Friday.
A large section of the 10-story Metropol building that was under construction in the city of Abadan, in Khuzestan province, crumbled on Monday, causing one of Iran’s deadliest such disasters in years.


Images published by Fars news agency showed hundreds of residents marching along Abadan’s streets on Thursday night, mourning those who lost their lives by banging on traditional drums and hitting cymbals.
Some shouted “Death to incompetent officials” and hailed the “Martyrs of Metropol,” Fars said.
People also took to the streets of Khorramshahr city, in the same province, expressing their sympathy with the families of those who died and calling for “a decisive and serious” trial of those responsible, it added.
Similar protests were held on Wednesday night in Abadan, state TV had reported.
More than four days after the tower block’s collapse, rescue teams were still recovering bodies from under slabs of cement.

A video posted on Tasnim news agency’s website on Friday showed rescuers carrying a gurney with a body wrapped in a black bag.
Abadan governor Ehsan Abbaspour, cited by ISNA news agency, said the number of people killed in the disaster stood at 24, up from 19 previously.
Officials said 37 people were also injured, although most have since been discharged from hospital.
It remains unknown how many people may still be trapped under the rubble.

More than four days after the tower block’s collapse, rescue teams were recovering bodies from under slabs of cement. (AFP)
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had called for perpetrators to be prosecuted and punished, in a statement posted on his official website on Thursday.
The provincial judiciary said at least 10 people were arrested following the incident, including the mayor and two former mayors, accused of being “responsible” for the collapse, the Judiciary’s Mizan Online website reported.
An investigation has been opened into the cause of the disaster in Abadan, a city of 230,000 people, 660 kilometers (410 miles) southwest of Tehran.
First Vice President Mohammad Mokhber visited Abadan on Friday to “investigate the dimensions of the building collapse incident,” according to ISNA.
In a previous major disaster in Iran, 22 people, including 16 firefighters, died in a blaze that engulfed the capital’s 15-story Plasco shopping center in January 2017.