Coalition in Yemen welcomes UN decision to inspect Hodeidah

Update Coalition spokesman Brig. Gen. Turki Al-Maliki speaks at a press conference in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. (File/SPA)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Coalition in Yemen welcomes UN decision to inspect Hodeidah

Coalition in Yemen welcomes UN decision to inspect Hodeidah
  • UN has launched a probe into the Houthi's use of Hodeidah port as military base

RIYADH: The Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen on Wednesday welcomed the UN’s move to inspect the ports of Hodeidah to ensure that they are not used militarily, Saudi state TV reported.
On Tuesday, the UN Mission to Support the Hodeida Agreement demanded the inspection of the three ports in Hodeidah, saying it “stands ready to address concerns pertaining to any militarization of the ports.”
Hodeidah port is a landing station for foreign fighters and ballistic missiles, the coalition said, adding the UN must ensure that foreign fighters do not flow in and that weapons do not reach the Red Sea port city.
UNMHA had expressed “great concern” over claims Hodeidah was being used for military purposes, and demanded access for an inspection, adding that the port was a vital aid route for the impoverished country.
The UN envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, told the Security Council on Wednesday: “The accusations of the militarization of the ports of Hodeidah are worrying and the threats of attacking them are equally disturbing given that these ports are a lifeline for many Yemenis.”
The UN Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement was “closely monitoring the situation in the ports and has requested as part of its mandate to undertake an inspection,” Grundberg said.
The envoy also expressed concern about the Houthis’ seizure of the UAE-flagged medical supply ship Rwabee and their detention of UN staff in Sanaa and Marib. “The UN should have immediate access to these staff and be provided with official information pertaining to the arrests,” he said.
India’s ambassador to the UN, T. S. Tirumurti, said the country was “deeply concerned for the well-being” of seven Indian nationals among the crew of the Rwabee.
He demanded their immediate release, and said the Houthis were responsible for their safety until then. The US ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, also called on the Houthis to release the vessel and crew unharmed.
Grundberg also condemned Houthi attacks on Saudi Arabia that had led to “civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.”

The coalition has said that the Houthis’ use of the port made Hodeidah a legitimate military target.
“We will act operationally for self-defense and for military necessity when the militarization of the ports continues,” the coalition said
Later on Wednesday, the coalition said it has destroyed a helicopter that was transported by the Iran-backed Houthi militia from Sanaa airport to the southern Marib front.
The coalition said it is monitoring the transfer of weapons to the frontlines, and that the Houthis must stop any such attempts.

(With AP and AFP)


Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis

Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis
Updated 9 sec ago

Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis

Al-Azhar’s grand imam to attend Bahrain forum alongside Pope Francis

CAIRO: Sheikh Ahmed Al-Tayyeb, grand imam of Egypt’s Al-Azhar Al-Sharif, will participate from Nov. 3-4 alongside Pope Francis in the Bahrain Forum for Dialogue: East and West for Human Coexistence.

Sheikh Ahmed, the seniormost cleric at Al-Azhar and chairman of the Muslim Council of Elders, will travel to Bahrain on Nov. 3 following an invitation from Bahrain’s King Hamad bin Isa Al-Khalifa.

Over 200 religious figures from around the world representing all religions and sects will attend the forum.

Sheikh Ahmed and the pope last met in Kazakhstan earlier this month where they attended the 7th Congress of Leaders of World and Traditional Religions.

In April 2016, Sheikh Ahmed received King Hamad at Al-Azhar, where the king thanked Egypt’s highest seat of learning for supporting Bahrain’s unity and stability.

During his meeting with King Hamad, Sheikh Ahmed said that Bahrain was and will remain a melting pot of cultures and ideas.

At the invitation of King Hamad, Pope Francis will travel to Bahrain in November, which is home to the largest Catholic church on the Arabian Peninsula.

According to Vatican News, Pope Francis, 85, will be the first pope to visit the predominantly Muslim nation in the Arabian Gulf.


Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce

Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce
Updated 18 min 34 sec ago

Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce

Houthi attacks in Taiz kill 15 civilians, wound 69 during truce
  • Taiz residents say militia snipers, landmines, and siege exacerbate city’s humanitarian crisis

AL-MUKAALLA, YemenAn international rights group has said that 15 Yemeni civilians have been killed and 69 others wounded by Houthi fire and landmines in the city of Taiz since the UN-brokered truce began on April 2.

In a 30-page report titled “The Fragile Truce,” the Geneva-based SAM organization stated that Houthi snipers, as well as thousands of landmines and explosives-rigged drones fired by the Houthis at densely populated areas in Taiz, have killed 15 civilians, including seven children and eight women, and injured 69, including 28 children and eight women.

There have been 90 violations of the truce by the Houthis in the last six months.

They have targeted residential areas with heavy weapons, maintained a blockade of the city, and mobilized troops along the city’s outskirts, the organization said.

The UN-brokered truce, which is set to expire next week, has resulted in a significant reduction in fighting across the country, the resumption of commercial flights from Sanaa airport, and the entry of dozens of fuel ships into Hodeidah port.

Residents in Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, which has been under Houthi siege since early 2015, complained that the truce had made no difference to their lives because the Houthis had not lifted the siege or stopped their attacks.

The Houthis have also refused several proposals and failed to attend a meeting with the Yemeni government to discuss road opening arrangements.

The militia has insisted on opening a small, unpaved road instead of the Yemeni government’s preferred main route leading into and out of the city.

Residents told SAM that Houthi snipers, landmines, and the siege have exacerbated the city’s humanitarian crisis and prevented them from reaching relatives, schools, or farms, accusing the Houthis of deliberately gunning down unarmed civilians.

Fatima Ibrahim said that her son, a shepherd, was shot by a Houthi sniper while grazing sheep in the open in Taiz.

When the mother and other residents rushed to save him, Houthi snipers pointed guns at them, forcing them to carry him to a nearby hospital on a motorbike.

“Houthi snipers do not differentiate between people. They regularly prey on women, children, the elderly, and even animals. Where is the cease-fire? We only see killing,” the mother said.

SAM demanded that more pressure be put on the Houthis to stop attacking residents in Taiz and called for the deployment of foreign peacekeepers to save civilians from Houthi attacks.

“The international community should take the truce in Yemen seriously by forming a monitoring committee overseen by neutral countries.

“The siege of Taiz must be lifted immediately, and the Houthi group must stop all attacks on civilians,” the organization said.

In a blow to peace efforts, the militia’s leaders reaffirmed their opposition to extending the ceasefire or the most recent version of the UN envoy’s proposal on Taiz and salary payment.

The militia’s Supreme Political Council president, Mahdi Al-Mushat, told UN Yemen Envoy Hans Grundberg, who is visiting Sanaa, that the movement would not extend the truce until the Yemeni government paid public servants in areas under their control.

The Yemeni government refuses to pay salaries and has demanded that the Houthis pay public servants from the sales of fuel ships passing through Hodeidah port.

In an attempt to break the impasse, the UN envoy proposed that the Houthis pay salaries from fuel sales based on 2014 payroll, with any shortfall covered by the Yemeni government.


Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 

Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 
Updated 22 min 32 sec ago

Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 

Survey: Turks worry about immigration and terror, skeptical of US 
  • NATO must trust Ankara’s geopolitical policies, analyst tells Arab News
  • Only 38% back American role in European security: Transatlantic Trends

ANKARA: The Turkish people’s three top security challenges are immigration, terrorism and inter-state war, while Western countries are mostly concerned about climate change and Russia, the latest Transatlantic Trends report, published by the German Marshall Fund of the US on Thursday, revealed.

The 2022 edition of the survey was conducted in 14 countries between June and July 2022. The 11 European countries are France, Germany, Italy, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden and Turkey. The other nations are the US, UK and Canada.

Turkey is also the country that desires the least US involvement in the defense and security of Europe. Compared to 88 percent of Poles, 86 percent of Lithuanians and 85 percent of Portuguese, only 38 percent of Turks back the US role in European security.

The traditional skepticism regarding the US remains among Turks. While a clear majority of respondents in Europe approve of US President Joe Biden’s handling of international affairs, the approval is highest in Poland and lowest in Turkey.

In the same vein, Turkey is the only country with a large majority (67 percent) with negative views of US influence.

“The perceived security threats of the Turkish population differ significantly from those of their NATO allies,” Nils Lange, research fellow at Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Turkey, told Arab News.

“It is important that European partners continue to support Turkey on migration, especially in tense times, and that NATO allies support and listen to Turkey in the fight against terror,” said Lange.

The survey in Turkey was conducted with 1,063 people face-to-face and 500 online between May and July, with the financial support of the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung's Turkey branch.

The biggest declines in terms of being considered a reliable partner were detected for Poland, Turkey, the US and Spain. Turkey is still considered the least reliable partner on average, with 27 percent in 2022, compared to 23 percent in 2021.

The countries with the least positive views of Turkey’s reliability are Sweden (11 percent), Germany (17 percent), France (18 percent), and the Netherlands (19 percent).

In Turkey, perceptions about the US’ reliability have also plummeted from 23 percent in 2021 to 17 percent this year.

GMF Ankara Office Director Ozgür Unluhisarcikli thinks that this is the single most important finding of the survey.

“Alliances are built on shared interests and values but thrive on mutual trust. The mutual distrust between the Turkish public and publics of Turkey’s allies highlights the main problem (of) Turkey’s relations with allies,” he told Arab News.

As the Turkish population’s trust in other countries has continued to decline, Lange said the countries on which Turks have less trust surprisingly included Germany, which traditionally enjoys a relatively high level of trust in Turkey by comparison.

“However, on the other side, the German population seems to have very little confidence in Turkey,” he said.

“Considering the fact that the Turkish population however sees Germany as the most influential country in Europe, the German government must take a closer look at the relations with Turkey. They must also decide how Turkey’s future relationship with Europe should be shaped.”

According to Lange, the relatively well-meaning attitude of the Turkish population toward Germany and the negative perception of Turkey and its government among the German population form a stark contrast that must be addressed through greater education.

“It is a fact that the average German knows too little about Turkey and its people,” he added.

About 3 million people of Turkish origin currently live in Germany, which began hosting guest workers from Turkey in 1961.

Sweden is perceived as the most reliable partner across all countries surveyed (71 percent), with the exception of Turkey, with 33 percent.

Last year, Turkish respondents considered Sweden as the second-most reliable country after Germany.

“While we often focus on how policy may be impacted by public opinion, Sweden’s being demoted from the second-most reliable partner to the least reliable partner in just (a) year shows how public opinion is impacted by domestic and foreign policies,” Unluhisarcikli said.

Although there is overwhelming support in Europe (73 percent) for Finnish and Swedish membership of NATO, only 36 percent of Turks are in favor, while almost one third of respondents strongly disagree with this membership.

In late June, Turkey reached a deal to support the two Nordic countries’ bids to join NATO after an intense diplomatic deadlock on the grounds that they had failed to react positively to Ankara’s extradition requests.

In Turkey, a significant number (58 percent) say the EU is important to their country’s security, with younger respondents considering the EU as important for national security.

But a majority of respondents in all countries, except Turkey, see the EU’s influence in global affairs as positive. A total of 53 percent of Turks consider the EU’s global influence as negative.

Similarly, Turks are also against the Russian and Chinese influences in global affairs, as they consider it as negative by 66 percent and 68 percent respectively. In managing their country’s relations with China and Russia, 56 percent of Turkish respondents also prefer pursuing an independent approach.

Lange thinks that these results show that the Turkish government’s desire for a more autonomous foreign policy is gaining ground in society.

Turkish respondents are less interested in working through NATO (18 percent, compared to 27 percent on average among non-EU countries), and 13 percent want to work with the EU (against the average of 16 percent among non-EU countries).

According to Unluhisarcikli, these statistics reflect the unilateralist tendencies in Turkish society mainly stemming from distrust toward allies.

Globally, the share of respondents considering NATO’s role in the security of their country as important is 78 percent, an increase of 11 points from 2021, while in Turkey it is 65 percent, a decrease in 4 points from last year.

Within the transatlantic community, the respondents consider Germany the most influential country in Europe, followed by France, the UK, Italy, Spain and Turkey.

A majority of respondents in Turkey want their country to address global challenges by working only with democracies.

However, the share of Turks saying the democracy in their country is in a good state decreased from 35 percent to 21 percent in a year, while almost half of them say democracy is in danger, an increase of 7 points from last year.

Regarding the reactions to the war in Ukraine, Turks took a balanced stance, with only 42 percent favoring the prosecution of Russia for war crimes (average of 74 percent), with 43 percent supporting stronger economic sanctions on Russia (average of 71 percent).

Similarly, only 34 percent of Turks approve the NATO membership offer to Ukraine (average of 58 percent), while 46 percent back the increase of military supplies and equipment to Ukraine (average of 66 percent), and 45 percent favor the establishment of a no-fly zone over Ukraine for Russian aircraft (average of 64 percent).

“The majority of Turks are against sanctioning Russia because they believe that such a course of action would also hurt the Turkish economy,” Unluhisarcikli said.

“The fact that Turkey itself has been the subject of sanctions or threat of sanctions by the US and European countries during the last years cannot be ignored either. Unilateralist tendencies also prevent the Turkish public from automatically supporting transatlantic initiatives,” he added.

Transatlantic Trends is a project co-led by the GMF and the Bertelsmann Foundation (North America).


Bloodied and terrified Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression

Bloodied and terrified Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
Updated 14 min 49 sec ago

Bloodied and terrified Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression

Bloodied and terrified Iraqi schoolchildren embody the human cost of Iranian aggression
  • ivilians died when Iran launched a massive aerial assault on northern Iraq on Wednesday 
  • Analysts say strikes were intended to divert attention from protests roiling the Islamic Republic

IRBIL, Iraqi Kurdistan: The photo of a blood-stained Kurdish girl, whose school in Iraq’s northern Kurdistan region was attacked on Wednesday by Iranian drones and missiles, has put a human face on the mounting cost of Tehran’s indiscriminate assault on the semi-autonomous region.

Clips posted by journalists showed terrified Kurdish school children being escorted to safety and sheltering on hillsides near the town of Koya, which analysts described as an intolerable act of aggression aimed at diverting international attention away from the ongoing protests roiling the Islamic Republic.

 

 

Mobile phone footage shared with local news channels shows primary school children screaming in response to nearby explosions as panicked parents and teachers try to usher them away.

On Wednesday, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched several Fateh 360 ballistic missiles, a new missile Iran only test-fired for the first time earlier in September, and Shahed 136 suicide drones, the same recently deployed by Russia in the Ukraine war, at targets throughout the Kurdistan region of neighboring Iraq.

The purported targets were the headquarters of Iranian Kurdish dissident groups. At least 14 people are reported to have been killed and 58 injured, including women and children.

Opinion

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Kurdish dissident groups targeted in the strikes include the Kurdistan Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI), the Kurdistan Freedom Party, and Komala. According to local reports, Rozhhalat primary school in Koya, which is situated close to the KDPI’s main base in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, was also hit in what experts believe was a deliberate attack. 

“It appears that Iran acted upon geospatial intelligence for the strikes, but it remains to be known how precise such intelligence was,” Ceng Sagnic, head of analysis at TAM-C Solutions, a multinational geopolitical intelligence and consultancy firm, told Arab News.

“It is fairly unlikely that targeted locations were randomly selected for strikes since they occurred in areas with high KDPI activity, which may suggest that a school was selected on purpose.”

He added: “Iran had previously targeted civilian-populated areas of the Iraqi Kurdistan region, in attempts to pressure both the local population and the KRG (Kurdistan Regional Government) against Iranian Kurdish dissident groups.”

Osamah Golpy, a Kurdish journalist who was in Koya on Wednesday, said most of the previous attacks Iran carried out against dissident bases in Iraqi Kurdistan were “almost always done at night.”

“This time Iran chose to attack in the daytime since it wanted media coverage, as if to send a message,” he told Arab News. “Iran wanted to show it can carry out attacks against the Peshmerga (the KRG’s armed forces) and civilians to terrorize the (Iranian Kurdish) dissident groups and send a message to the Iraqi Kurdistan region, including the population.”

The attacks coincided with anti-regime protests across Iran following the death of 22-year-old Iranian Kurdish woman Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s morality police, who had detained her on the grounds that she was wearing her mandatory hijab improperly.

 

 

The Iranian strikes on Iraq’s Kurdistan Region were broadcast live on Iranian television throughout the day. Golpy believes this was an intentional move on Tehran’s part to “set the agenda.”

“There is less coverage of the protests and more coverage of Iranian attacks inside Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said. “My understanding is that it was intentional and it was timed to send these messages to various stakeholders, including the Kurdistan Region and the Iranian Kurdish dissident groups.”

Sagnic of TAM-C Solutions also suspects the attacks by the IRGC are designed to deflect attention from the ongoing domestic protests. “Iran’s widespread cross-border strikes overlapping with the largest anti-regime protest movement do not seem to be a mere coincidence,” he said.

Handout picture provided by the Iranian Army office on August 25, 2022 shows the launch of a military UAV during a drill at an undisclosed location in Iran. (AFP)

“Iran has particularly been using cross-border attacks in Iraqi Kurdistan as a diversionary tool for public opinion during times of crises, with most of these attacks being portrayed as retaliation against the US and Israel.”

Sagnic believes that a “similar but expanded campaign” was likely the reason for the latest strikes, which he added is “underscored by a failed attempt to target US military facilities in (the Iraqi Kurdish capital) Irbil.”

He added: “In my opinion, Iran may have attempted to change the course of the public debate domestically by pointing to an outside ‘enemy’ said to be supported by the West. Tehran’s claims that the current public unrest is fueled by the US complements this theory.”

A partial view shows the aftermath of Iranian cross-border attacks in Zargwez, where exiled Iranian Kurdish parties maintain offices, around 15 km from Sulaimaniyah, Iraq on Sept.  28, 2022. (AFP)

Sagnic does not believe that Iran launched the cross-border assault as a preemptive move to deter or prevent Iranian Kurdish groups from actively intervening in Iran’s western Kurdish-majority region.

“I think attacks in Koya have more to do with the image that Iran wants to portray with regard to the purported foreign enemy and the involvement of dissidents rather than preventing further intervention by Kurdish groups stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan,” he said.

 

 

Although Sagnic does not believe Wednesday’s attacks are unprecedented, he says the timing was “rather interesting” and suggested it may “show a certain level of panic within the regime establishment.”

“In my understanding, Tehran’s main goal was to claim to its own public that the unrest is rooted outside Iran, hence required cross-border retaliations,” he said.

“Indeed there remains a strong probability that Iran may attempt to advance the policy of linking the current unrest to extraterritorial actors, and conduct continued cross-border attacks to condition the public opinion. Therefore more attacks in the Kurdistan Region, especially in Irbil where the closest large-scale Western military and diplomatic presence to Iran is located.”

Kurdish journalist Golpy concurs, saying that the timing of the attacks on a neighboring country appears to be more than a mere coincidence while mass protests are taking place within Iran’s own borders.

“Almost every time when there are protests, the regime tries to contain and somehow address the issue within the country,” said Golpy. “Of course they have always blamed external stakeholders such as Israel and the US, but they never take action against the alleged external actors.

“But this time, I think for the first time, Iran tried to address the issue outside of its borders by attacking these Kurdish dissident groups, which, in my understanding, is a sign of weakness.”

 


US calls on Israel to investigate death of Palestinian boy

US calls on Israel to investigate death of Palestinian boy
Updated 29 September 2022

US calls on Israel to investigate death of Palestinian boy

US calls on Israel to investigate death of Palestinian boy
  • Relatives said Rayan Suleiman had no previous health problems and accused the army of scaring the child to death
  • The incident added to the rising tensions in the West Bank, where Israeli troops have been conducting daily arrest raids

JERUSALEM: The US State Department is calling on Israel to open a “thorough” investigation into the mysterious death of a 7-year-old Palestinian boy who collapsed and died on Thursday, shortly after Israeli soldiers came to his home in the occupied West Bank.
Relatives said Rayan Suleiman had no previous health problems and accused the army of scaring the child to death. The army called the death a tragedy and said its soldiers were not to blame.
The incident added to the rising tensions in the West Bank, where Israeli troops have been conducting daily arrest raids that have frequently escalated into deadly violence in recent months.
Earlier in the day, young Palestinian village boys were seen throwing stones at cars driving on a highway near the Israeli settlement of Tekoa, which lies close to the Palestinian city of Bethlehem. Later, relatives said that soldiers banged on the door and wanted to arrest Rian’s older brothers for alleged stone throwing.
Mohammed Suleiman, a 22-year-old cousin, said Rayan was shrieking in fear at sight of the soldiers and his parents shouted, “come here,” to calm him down. He said after the soldiers left, the boy collapsed. He said Rayan had been healthy.
The boy’s father, Yasser Suleiman, said Rayan tried to run away when the soldiers said they wanted to arrest his brothers and was briefly chased by the soldiers. He said Rayan was vomiting blood in the car after collapsing and was pronounced dead at the hospital.
“He was martyred from the fear of them,” the father told Palestine TV.
Lt. Col. Richard Hecht, a military spokesman, said a senior officer on the scene went to the house after spotting one of the stone throwers on a balcony and told the father to make the children stop throwing stones at motorists. He said the officer spoke in a “very calm manner” and left.
“There was no violence, no entry into the house,” Hecht said.
In Washington, the State Department’s deputy spokesman, Vedant Patel, said the United States was “heartbroken to learn of the death of an innocent Palestinian child.”
“We support a thorough and immediate investigation into the circumstances surrounding the child’s death,” Patel said.
Hecht said the investigation was continuing.
Palestinians and human rights groups say the army is incapable of investigating wrongdoing by its forces and that soldiers are rarely held accountable.
Palestinian social media were awash with photos of Rayan superimposed over the golden Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, with Palestinians declaring him a “martyr” and condemning Israel for his death. The official Palestinian news agency Wafa headlined its report “the death of a child while being chased,” in effect blaming Israel for the death.
The boy was scheduled to be buried on Friday, when Palestinian demonstrators often clash with Israeli soldiers.
The funeral comes at a time of rising violence in the West Bank.
On Wednesday, four Palestinians were killed and 44 wounded during an Israeli military raid in the northern West Bank town of Jenin. It was the deadliest episode since Israel launched its crackdown earlier this year.
Israel has been conducting nightly arrest raids, primarily in the northern West Bank, since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks in Israel last spring. Dozens of Palestinians have been killed, making this the deadliest year in the occupied territory since 2015.
Most of the dead have been wanted militants who opened fire, or youths who threw firebombs or stones at soldiers entering their neighborhoods. But several civilians who were not involved in any violence have also died.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Middle East war. The Palestinians seek the territory, now home to about 500,000 Israeli settlers, as the heartland of a future independent state.