Iranian weapons shipments prolonging the war in Yemen, US envoy says

Iranian weapons shipments prolonging the war in Yemen, US envoy says
The US Navy seized upwards of 1,400 assault rifles and 226,000 rounds of ammunition from a vessel originating from Iran in December 2021. (US Naval Forces Central Command)
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Updated 13 January 2022

Iranian weapons shipments prolonging the war in Yemen, US envoy says

Iranian weapons shipments prolonging the war in Yemen, US envoy says
  • Smuggled arms from Iran are a flagrant violation of UN embargo, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said
  • UAE ambassador: Houthis must understand that only a political resolution to the conflict, “free of any hegemonic aspirations,” is acceptable

NEW YORK: The Houthi offensive in Marib is fueled by “the illegal flow of weapons” to the group from Iran, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador to the UN, said on Wednesday.

She told fellow members of the Security Council that “while we encourage peace, we must not be afraid to call out actions that obstruct it,” and that the escalation of violence by the Houthis “undermines the cause of peace.”

She added: “Just last month, the US Navy seized upwards of 1,400 assault rifles (and) 226,000 rounds of ammunition from a vessel originating from Iran.

“This ship was on a route historically used to illegally smuggle weapons to the Houthis. The smuggling of arms from Iran to the Houthis represents a flagrant violation of the UN’s targeted arms embargo and is yet another example of how Iran’s destabilizing activity is prolonging the war in Yemen.”

Her comments came as council members condemned the continued Houthi aggression, the resultant deaths and displacements, the militia’s attacks on targets in Saudi Arabia, and its ongoing “acts of piracy” that endanger maritime security.

In his briefing to the council on the latest developments in the conflict Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, reiterated that no long-term solution is “to be found on the battlefield,” and that the “warring parties can, should and, indeed, must talk even if they are not ready to put down their arms.”

He described the recent military escalations as being “among the worst we have seen in Yemen for years, and which are taking an increasing toll on civilian lives.”

He said the Houthis remain determined to continue their assault on Marib and that attacks on Saudi Arabia have also increased. He called on all parties involved in the conflict to “respect and uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law, which include protecting civilians and preserving the civilian character of public infrastructure.”

As he lamented what appears to be a new cycle of escalation of violence, “with predictable, devastating implications for civilians and for the immediate prospects of peace,” Grundberg also expressed concern “that battles could intensify along other fronts.”

In particular he highlighted the recent seizure by the Houthis of a UAE-registered cargo ship, and the continued detention of UN staff members in Sanaa and Marib, and called on the Houthis to grant the UN immediate access to its detained staff.

The increase in the tempo of the war has also tightened already severe restrictions on the movement of people and goods within the country, Grundberg said. The use of Hodeidah port for military purposes is “worrying,” he added, given that it is a lifeline for many Yemenis.

Despite these challenging developments on the ground, the envoy said that peace efforts continue and spoke of plans to enhance his consultations with all parties.

“Yemen’s war, like many, is littered with missed opportunities driven in part by combatants oscillating between feeling too weak to accept or too strong to settle for compromise.

“Genuine political will, responsible leadership and adherence to the interests of the entire population is needed to sustainably put Yemen on a different trajectory.”

Ramesh Rajasingham, the UN’s deputy emergency relief coordinator, told the Security Council that 15,000 people were displaced in the past month during fierce clashes in Al-Jawf, Marib and Shabwah. He said that 358 civilians were killed or injured, “a figure that is tied for the highest in three years.”

He reiterated the importance of “safe, predictable passage into and out of Yemen,” and pointed to the suspension by the Houthis in December of humanitarian flights through Sanaa airport as the kind of disruption that “risks undermining the aid operation and staff safety.” He called on the Houthis to avoid unilateral flight cancellations.

Lana Nusseibeh, the permanent representative of the UAE to the UN, said progress in Yemen will not be possible until the Houthis cease hostilities and end their repeated violations carried out against the Yemeni people.

“The Houthis must understand that the only solution is a political (one), free of any hegemonic aspirations,” she said as she condemned the group’s drone and ballistic missile attacks against targets in Saudi Arabia as a “flagrant violation of international law.”

In addition to condemning Iran for supplying weapons to the Houthis, Thomas-Greenfield, the US ambassador, told her fellow council members: “The Houthis’ pattern is punctuated by their continued engagement in violence, rape and other forms of sexual violence, arbitrary detentions (and) targeted killings, including female politicians and professionals. This is unconscionable.

“We unequivocally condemn all human rights abuses and violations, by all parties. We remain strongly committed to promoting accountability for human rights violations and abuses in Yemen.”

She added that despite repeated condemnation by the Security Council the Houthis continue to occupy the shuttered US embassy compound, and to detain and harass the Yemeni staff who work there.

“The Houthis must immediately release, unharmed, all of our Yemeni employees, vacate the former US embassy compound, return seized US property and cease their threats against our employees and their families,” Thomas-Greenfield said.

She also condemned the seizure by the Houthis of the civilian Emirati ship Rwabee and called for the immediate release of the ship and its crew.

The forgotten Arabs of Iran
A century ago, the autonomous sheikhdom of Arabistan was absorbed by force into the Persian state. Today the Arabs of Ahwaz are Iran's most persecuted minority

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Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
Updated 16 sec ago

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty

Iran protest deaths higher than state media figures: Amnesty
  • ‘The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations,’ researcher tells Independent
  • More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Mahsa Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years

LONDON: Protester death figures in Iran are being distorted by the country’s regime to cover up the use of excessive force by security services, The Independent has reported.

The country has faced almost two weeks of protests nationwide — with Kurdish regions in the west witnessing the most violent clashes — in the wake of the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini.

Amnesty International researcher Mansoureh Mills told The Independent that the real figure of protesters who have been killed is higher than numbers reported by state TV, “given the horrific level of violence being perpetrated by the security forces.”

Mills added: “The Iranian authorities have a pattern of distorting the truth to cover up their human rights violations. Following the November 2019 protests, during which security forces killed hundreds of men, women and children, the authorities consistently denied any responsibility.

“They continued to cover up the real death toll of people killed during the November 2019 protests, and publicly praised security and intelligence forces for their role in the crackdown.”

Rothna Begum, senior researcher at Human Rights Watch’s women’s rights division, told The Independent: “The true numbers of people killed are likely to be higher than what state media are reporting but even official numbers are far too high for deaths during what are largely peaceful protests.

“The authorities must refrain from excessive use of force and investigate all deaths that have taken place during the protests.”

Mills said: “We have also received reports of women’s rights defenders being arrested while protesting for women’s rights over the past week. This is something that we are investigating.”

The Iranian regime resorts to “arbitrarily arresting journalists, political activists and human rights defenders to silence any form of public dissent or reporting and criticism of the human rights violations they are committing,” Mills added.

The regime must “urgently repeal laws and regulations that impose compulsory veiling on women and girls, perpetuate violence against them and strip them of their right to dignity and bodily autonomy.

“The policing of women’s bodies and lives in Iran is not restricted to their clothing choices. However, it is the most visible and one of the most egregious forms of the wider oppression of women and it stokes violence against them on a daily basis.”

More than 1,200 protesters have been arrested since Amini’s death, with the nationwide demonstrations being Iran’s largest in almost three years.


Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting
Updated 35 min 39 sec ago

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting

Yemeni forces drive Al-Qaeda from stronghold after bitter fighting
  • Third phase of Eastern Arrows offensive has ended with STC forces capturing the Omaran valley in Abyan province
  • STC forces preparing to target Al-Qaeda’s final hiding places around the town of Al-Mahfad

AL-MUKALLA: Yemeni forces say they have driven Al-Qaeda out of a key stronghold in the south of the country, after fierce fighting in which 32 soldiers and at least 24 militants were killed.

Mohammed Al-Naqeeb, a spokesman for the pro-independence Southern Transitional Council, which commands the military operations, told Arab News that the third phase of an offensive named “Eastern Arrows” had ended after their forces captured Omaran valley in Abyan province.

He said 32 soldiers were killed and 42 wounded by Al-Qaeda counterattacks, booby traps and roadside bombs.

The militants suffered 24 dead in combat or in the bombardment of Abyan’s high, rocky highlands.

Al-Naqeeb said STC forces had recovered landmines and improvised explosive devices from captured Al-Qaeda strongholds, and were next preparing to target the group’s final hiding places around the town of Al-Mahfad.

“Al-Qaeda has taken significant hits and lost one of its key strongholds in Omaran,” Al-Naqeeb said. “Our manpower and readiness make us capable of clearing entire southern provinces. It has been eight years since we began fighting terrorism. Our forces have gained expertise in combating Al-Qaeda.”

The Yemeni military and security services launched their offensive earlier this month to drive Al-Qaeda out of Abyan and neighboring Shabwa, from where the militants have trained and planned attacks against Yemeni cities.

Al-Qaeda also kept weapons and hostages in caverns in Omaran and adjacent valleys that connect the provinces with a third, Al-Bayda, according to Yemeni military sources.

The group has already been driven out of Al-Mousinah in Shabwa and Al-Wadhae, the rocky Khaber Al-Marakesha region, Lawder and Moudia.

Al-Naqeeb said some Al-Qaeda fighters escaped to Wadi Hadramout while others found refuge in Al-Bayda, which is controlled by the Houthis, and Markha in Shabwa.

Infighting between various anti-Houthi military factions has allowed Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the most deadly branch of the group in the world, to spread throughout southern Yemen over the past seven years.

The STC joined forces with several rival groups to combat the threat after agreeing a ceasefire two years ago.


In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
Updated 27 September 2022

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines

In Syria, mounting cholera cases pose threat across frontlines
  • Cholera is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea
  • Public awareness campaigns are underway on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera

IDLIB/HASAKA, Syria: A cholera outbreak that has claimed 29 lives in Syria is posing a danger across the frontlines of the country’s 11-year-long war, stirring fears in crowded camps for the displaced who lack running water or sewage systems.
First linked to contaminated water near the Euphrates river, the outbreak has now spread across the fractured nation, with cases reported in government- and rebel-controlled regions. In all, at least 2,000 cases have been reported so far.
“How am I not supposed to catch cholera with the sewage running right next to our tent?” said Sobha Al-Jadoue, 60, who lives in a camp for displaced people in the rebel-held Idlib region. “We can no longer sleep or sit because of the smells. A few days ago the sewage spilled into my tent.”
Cholera is spread by the ingestion of contaminated food or water and can cause acute diarrhea. While most of those affected will have mild or no symptoms, cholera can kill within hours if untreated, the World Health Organization website says.
The devastation wrought by the Syrian conflict has left the country particularly vulnerable, demolishing much of the infrastructure including water pumping and treatment plants.
Climate change has worsened water shortages.
“Because of the war there has been great destruction of the health infrastructure and infrastructure in general, so if it spreads in these areas — especially in the camps — it could have a grave health impact and kill a lot of people,” said Shahem Mekki, who runs a disease monitoring center in the area.
The war has killed some 350,000 people since it spiralled out of an uprising against President Bashar Assad in 2011. The World Health Organization says 55 percent of health care facilities in the country are not functioning because of the war.
The first cholera cases were detected on Sept. 5 in Deir Ezzor province, before spreading to other areas including the cities of Raqqa and Hasaka, said Jawan Mustafa, health director in the Kurdish-run administration of northeastern Syria.
He said there were more than 4,350 suspected cases of cholera in northeastern Syria, and 100 confirmed cases. “The cases are increasing but, fortunately, slowly,” he said.
Amshah Shehade, 45, said she brought her daughter to hospital in Hasaka due to diarrhea and dizziness, and that her grandchild had suffered the same symptoms. “It was caused by contaminated tank water,” she said.
Public awareness campaigns are underway on the causes, symptoms and prevention of cholera.
Eva Hinds, chief of communication at the United Nations children’s agency, UNICEF, in Syria, said the agency and its partners had scaled up water trucking and chlorination in the cholera hot spots to ensure access to clean water.
“It’s time to act now. We are investing heavily in measures to prevent the further spread,” she said.


Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies

Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies
Updated 27 September 2022

Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies

Sudan officials warn of disease from unidentified bodies
  • Among the deceased are believed to be pro-democracy protesters
  • Reports of the backlog of bodies awaiting autopsy first emerged in May

CAIRO: Sudanese medical officials warned Monday that more than 1,500 unidentified bodies piled up in several of the country’s morgues could lead to an outbreak of disease, amid accusations the government is covering up their causes of death.
Among the deceased are believed to be pro-democracy protesters, who activists say were killed by government forces in their crackdown on demonstrations. They believe the failure to conduct proper autopsies is an attempt to conceal evidence of those killings.
Mahjoub Babaker, a forensic medicine and toxicology consultant for the country’s autopsy body, expressed concerns because of the proximity of one of the morgues to a market, saying the bodies “could spread cholera among local residents.”
At a press conference Monday, he and three other officials argued against the need to carry out independent autopsies, saying instead that there should be a mass burial of the bodies for public safety reasons. They announced a postponement of any autopsies in order to discuss matters with the deceased individuals’ families.
Reports of the backlog of bodies awaiting autopsy first emerged in May, with news videos released earlier this month showing piles of corpses kept in a building that appeared to have no refrigeration. Then, the country’s top public prosecutor authorized the mass burial of the bodies last month without an autopsy.
It came as the country faced an ongoing crackdown on anti-military protests after a military coup last year. In October, Sudan’s short-lived democratic transition was upended when the country’s leading general, Abdel-Fattah Burhan, deposed the government and locked up hundreds of officials and activists.
Pro-democracy groups and families of missing protesters have said the failure to conduct proper autopsies is an attempt to conceal evidence of the killing of hundreds of pro-democracy demonstrators by Sudanese armed forces following the 2019 popular uprising that ousted long-time ruler Omar Al-Bashir. In June 2019, the Rapid Support Forces, a powerful armed paramilitary group, opened fire on a group of sit-in protesters in Khartoum, killing more than 100 people.
The prosecutor’s decision in May has sparked several demonstrations outside the morgues from pro-democracy groups.
On Sunday, the Sudanese Doctor’s Committee, which has tracked protester deaths and injuries since the coup, held a protest outside the prosecutors’ headquarters. In a statement, the group, called for all burials to be stopped until “a team of international, independent and reliable forensic medicine is retrieved, protecting the rights of the missing and their relatives, and seeking to reach the truth and achieve justice.”


Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa

Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa
Updated 27 September 2022

Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa

Arab League, Egypt condemn repeated Israeli violations of Al-Aqsa
  • Tension increased at the compound on Monday with incursions into the area by hundreds of Jewish settlers
  • A statement from the Arab League said Israeli forces and settlers stormed Al-Aqsa and arrested several Palestinians stationed inside it

CAIRO: The Arab League and Egypt have condemned the storming of Al-Aqsa Mosque by Israeli forces and several settlers, holding the Israeli government responsible for igniting the situation.

Tension increased at the compound on Monday with incursions into the area by hundreds of Jewish settlers, under the protection of Israeli police, to mark the start of Rosh Hashanah.

Extremist Jewish groups continued calls to be allowed to enter the compound on Monday and Tuesday to celebrate the Jewish New Year.

A statement from the Arab League said Israeli forces and settlers stormed Al-Aqsa and arrested several Palestinians stationed inside it, to impose a temporal and spatial partition on the mosque, “which means changing the existing historical and legal situation.”

This continued policy on the part of the Israeli government, it said, is a “flagrant violation of international law” and a provocation for Palestinians and Muslims in general.

Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary-general of the Arab League, stressed that what happened was and “unacceptable crime,” and called on the international community to assume its responsibilities and confront the “dangerous Israeli escalation.”

He tweeted: “East Jerusalem is occupied land in accordance with international law and United Nations and Security Council resolutions, and it should not be treated as otherwise.”

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the continuation of provocative practices in the vicinity of the Islamic holy sites in Al-Haram Al-Sharif area would heighten tensions and fuel violence.

It said Egypt condemns the repeated, escalating violations of the sanctity of Al-Aqsa Mosque, “carried out by Jewish extremist elements in full view of the Israeli occupation forces.”

It stressed that restrictions on the movement of Palestinian worshipers and their performance of religious rites, and the continuous attempts to change the legal and historical status of Jerusalem, remain a violation of international law and a dangerous escalation that undermines the chances of achieving a comprehensive settlement of the Palestinian cause and the two-state solution.

Adnan Al-Husayni, head of the Palestine Liberation Organization’s Jerusalem department, blamed the Israeli government for any repercussions caused by the escalation.

Al-Husayni called on the Arab and Islamic worlds to take a serious stand in support of the Palestinian people in confronting the aggression of the Israeli occupation.