Yemeni troops push to liberate Houthi-controlled Hareb

Yemeni troops push to liberate Houthi-controlled Hareb
The gains made by Yemeni government forces south of Marib have alleviated the military pressure on troops outside the strategic city who have been under attack from Houthis since early last year. (File/AFP)
Short Url
Updated 13 January 2022

Yemeni troops push to liberate Houthi-controlled Hareb

Yemeni troops push to liberate Houthi-controlled Hareb
  • Town will be ‘seized back soon,’ army spokesperson says
  • 2 people killed while defusing landmines in Hodeidah, clearance program says

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy fighting broke out on Thursday outside the Houthi-held town of Hareb in Yemen’s central province of Marib as government troops sought to seize control of the strategic area, military officials said.

Building on their latest military gains in neighboring Shabwa province, troops from Yemen’s army and the Giants Brigades rolled into Hareb district, south of Marib, on Tuesday, as the Iran-backed Houthis retreated to the district’s center.

Abdu Abdullah Majili, a Yemeni army spokesperson, told Arab News that government troops engaged in heavy fighting with the Houthis on the edges of Hareb town as some pockets of fighters refused to surrender or retreat.

“Hareb will be seized back from the Houthi militia soon,” he said.

Yemeni army commanders and officials said government forces took the initiative in the fighting in Marib after the redeployment of Giants Brigades troops and due to intensive and more precise airstrikes by Arab coalition warplanes.

The coalition said in a statement on Thursday that it killed more than 340 Houthis and destroyed 31 of their vehicles in Marib and Shabwa during 53 airstrikes over the past 24 hours. The strikes also destroyed a military helicopter that bombed government troops in Marib.

Hareb’s fall would be another blow to the Houthis who have suffered heavy setbacks since the beginning of the year when the Giants Brigades mounted an offensive in Shabwa.

The gains made by government forces south of Marib have alleviated the military pressure on troops outside the strategic city who have been under attack from Houthi rebels since early last year.

On Monday, the Houthis’ military spokesperson, Yahya Saree, claimed that their forces pushed back government troop attacks in Shabwa and Marib.

Meanwhile, the Saudi Project for Landmine Clearance (Masam) said on Thursday that two of its Yemeni experts were killed while defusing landmines planted by the Houthis in the Hays district of Hodeidah.

The Saudi-funded program said the head of Team 27, Ali Hadi, and another member of the same team, Sha’afel Abdullah, were killed while “carrying out their humanitarian duty."

Several Yemeni civilians have been killed this year after driving over landmines in liberated areas of Marib and Shabwa. The deaths prompted officials to urge people to avoid using unpaved roads until the mines have been cleared.

Masam believes the Houthis have planted more than 1 million landmines since the start of the war.


Iran rights defender sentenced to 8 years jail

Narges Mohammadi, vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was detained on Nov. 16, 2021 in Karaj, Iran. (AFP)
Narges Mohammadi, vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was detained on Nov. 16, 2021 in Karaj, Iran. (AFP)
Updated 20 sec ago

Iran rights defender sentenced to 8 years jail

Narges Mohammadi, vice president of the Centre for Human Rights Defenders in Iran, was detained on Nov. 16, 2021 in Karaj, Iran. (AFP)
  • Mohammedi, who has long campaigned against the use of the death penalty in Iran, had before her latest arrest been working with families seeking justice for loved ones who they say were killed by security forces in the 2019 protests

PARIS: An Iranian court has sentenced leading human rights campaigner Narges Mohammedi to eight years in prison and over 70 lashes, her husband announced on Sunday, following her sudden arrest in November last year.
Her husband Taghi Rahmani, who is based in France, wrote on Twitter that the sentence was handed out after a hearing that lasted only five minutes.
The details of both the verdict and the case against her remain unclear.
A colleague of Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner Shirin Ebadi, who now lives outside Iran, Mohammedi has been repeatedly jailed by the Iranian authorities over the last years.
She was released from prison in October 2020 but then suddenly arrested in November 2021 in Karaj outside Tehran while attending a memorial for a man killed during nationwide protests in November 2019.
Amnesty International at the time condemned Mohammedi’s arrest as “arbitrary” and described her as a “prisoner of conscience targeted solely for her peaceful human rights activities.”

BACKGROUND

A colleague of Nobel Peace Prize-winning campaigner Shirin Ebadi, who now lives outside Iran, Narges Mohammedi has been repeatedly jailed by the Iranian authorities over the last years.

Mohammedi, who has long campaigned against the use of the death penalty in Iran, had before her latest arrest been working with families seeking justice for loved ones who they say were killed by security forces in the 2019 protests.
Even while out of prison, she had in May 2021 been handed a sentence of 80 lashes and 30 months in jail on charges of “propaganda” against Iran’s Islamic system.
Activists have decried what they see as increased repression in Iran over the last months, including the jailing of campaigners and greater use of the death penalty.
Prominent detainees have also died in prison, such as the well-known poet Baktash Abtin.
Another top rights defender serving a lengthy sentence in Iran is prize-winning lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh who defended women arrested for protesting against the requirement for Iranian women to wear the hijab.
While she is currently believed to be out of jail on medical leave, supporters fear she is at risk of being imminently returned to prison.


Kuwait FM: Lebanon ‘should not be platform for aggression’

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah gestures as he speaks after meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon January 22, 2022. (REUTERS)
Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah gestures as he speaks after meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon January 22, 2022. (REUTERS)
Updated 23 January 2022

Kuwait FM: Lebanon ‘should not be platform for aggression’

Kuwait's Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammad Al-Sabah gestures as he speaks after meeting with Lebanon's Prime Minister Najib Mikati in Beirut, Lebanon January 22, 2022. (REUTERS)
  • Minister outlines 3 key messages to Lebanese officials in Beirut visit
  • Supporters of former PM Saad Hariri demand he runs in upcoming election

BEIRUT: Lebanon is a “place of hope” and “should not be a platform for aggression,” visiting Kuwait Foreign Minister Sheikh Ahmad Nasser Al-Mohammed Al-Sabah said on Sunday in Beirut.

On the second day of his visit to the capital, the minister renewed a commitment during separate meetings with Lebanese officials to a “Kuwaiti, Gulf, Arab and international message for Lebanon to not be a platform for any aggression, and for all borders to be controlled by the state.”

The minister met on Sunday with President Michel Aoun, Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri and Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi.

After his talks with the Kuwaiti minister, Aoun stressed Lebanon’s “firm keenness to preserve the best relations with the Arab countries.”

The Kuwaiti minister held talks with Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Saturday night.

He also met Foreign Minister Abdullah Bou Habib, who is expected to visit Kuwait on Saturday.

Kuwait currently chairs the ministerial council of the Arab League.

Al-Sabah said that the visit was among various international efforts aimed at rebuilding confidence between Lebanon and the international arena.

The Kuwaiti minister’s statements had three central themes.

The first was a message of “sympathy, solidarity, synergy and love for the brotherly Lebanese people.”

Secondly, Al-Sabah urged Lebanese officials to adopt a position of neutrality and ensure that the country “will not be a platform for any aggression, while refraining from interfering in the internal affairs of Arab countries in general, and the Gulf in particular.”

His third message stressed a regional desire “to see a stable, secure and strong Lebanon by implementing international and Arab resolutions.”

Al-Sabah said that Lebanon “will review the messages I have conveyed to the Lebanese officials and ... we will soon receive a response.”

Lebanon’s ties with Gulf states plunged into a new crisis in October after comments by former Lebanese information minister George Kordahi criticizing the conflict in Yemen.

Kuwait was one of several members of the Gulf Cooperation Council, including Saudi Arabia, that responded to Kordahi’s remarks by expelling the Lebanese ambassador and recalling its envoy to Beirut.

Aoun said in a tweet on Sunday that Lebanon was keen on maintaining “the best relations” with the Gulf states and that the Kuwaiti proposals would be discussed before an appropriate position was announced.

Some linked Al-Sabah’s visit to the return of former Prime Minister Saad Hariri to Lebanon, but the Kuwaiti minister denied such a link.

He stressed: “The visit has nothing to do with internal Lebanese affairs. We do not interfere in Lebanese affairs.”

Hariri will announce on Monday his final decision on whether or not he will run in upcoming parliamentary elections.

His media office said that the former premier will deliver a speech at 4 p.m. on Monday from his residence.

For the second day in a row, hundreds of Hariri supporters flocked outside his home in the capital, demanding that he run in the election.

Addressing his supporters, Hariri said: “I have listened to you today and I want you to listen to me tomorrow.

“I assure you that my blood is yours, and this house’s doors will always be open to receive you all.”

He told journalists: “Sometimes one has to take a step back in order to move forward.”

Supporters carried pictures of Hariri along with the Lebanese and Future Movement flags, chanting slogans in support of the former prime minister.

They calling on Hariri to rescind his decision to refrain from running for elections, asking him not to abandon his supporters.

“Hariri and the Future Movement are among the country’s main political symbols, and we will not accept their abandonment,” one supporter said.

His decision is expected to have profound repercussions on the electoral process and Lebanese politics at large.

In his Sunday sermon, Maronite Patriarch Bechara Boutros Al-Rahi reiterated the importance of Lebanon’s neutrality.

“However, it’s unfortunate that this concept is completely absent from the speeches of officials and Lebanon thus remains hostage to regional axes,” Al-Rahi added.

During his joint press conference on Sunday with the Lebanese interior minister, Al-Sabah said: “We discussed the issue of drug smuggling from Lebanon, and we appreciate what Lebanon is doing."

He added: “We demanded mechanisms to ensure that shipments do not reach Kuwait and the rest of the region, and that Lebanese authorities should do this to restore confidence.

“There is a general desire for all Lebanese borders and outlets to be controlled by the state and for Lebanon to become more secure and stable.”

Mawlawi, Lebanon’s interior minister, said: “I reiterate the position of Lebanon and the Interior Ministry that rejects any verbal abuse of Kuwait. We discussed all issues related to border control and drug smuggling.”

A government source told Arab News: “The messages that Al-Sabah conveyed are the outcome of contact between France, Saudi Arabia and Kuwait, and they go in line with the principles contained in the Mikati government’s ministerial statement.”

The source added: “These messages will be discussed, and the Lebanese foreign minister will deliver Lebanon’s response during his visit to Kuwait.”

The source also commented on the possibility of Hezbollah ignoring these principles — as it has repeatedly done by insulting Gulf countries.

They said that the Lebanese government’s position “is the only one that matters, because it represents all of Lebanon.”

The government position is based on the ministerial statement that stresses Lebanon’s neutrality and insists on friendly relations with Arab and Gulf countries, the source added.

 


Standoff near Syrian prison holding Daesh militants continues

Standoff near Syrian prison holding Daesh militants continues
Updated 23 January 2022

Standoff near Syrian prison holding Daesh militants continues

Standoff near Syrian prison holding Daesh militants continues
  • The Kurdish-led forces, with assistance from the US-led coalition have contained the threat, the coalition said
  • Militants remain holed up in a wing of the prison, from where they have been firing at Kurdish forces

BEIRUT: Clashes between US-backed Syrian Kurdish fighters and militants continued for a fourth day Sunday near a prison in northeastern Syria that houses thousands of members of Daesh, the Kurdish force said.
The standoff follows a bold assault by the extremists that breached the premises of Gweiran Prison, allowed an unknown number of militants to escape and killed dozens of US-backed fighters who guard the facility.
The Kurdish-led forces, with assistance from the US-led coalition in the form of surveillance, intelligence and airstrikes, have contained the threat, the coalition said in a statement Sunday.
Several dozen militants remain holed up in one wing of the prison, to the north and in adjacent buildings, from where they have been firing at the Kurdish forces.
A spokesman for the Kurdish forces, Farhad Shami, said the militants have used hundreds of minors held in the same facility as human shields, preventing a final assault.
More than 3,000 suspected Daesh militants are believed to be held in Gweiran, the largest facility in Syria housing militants from the group, including over 600 under the age of 18.
“While it is militarily defeated, Daesh remains an existential threat to the region,” said Commander of the Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve Maj. Gen. John W. Brennan. “Due to its severely degraded capability, Daesh’s future survival is dependent on its ability to refill its ranks through poorly-conceived attempts” like the Gweiran prison attack.
The coalition said it was analyzing the situation to determine if the group is still planning other such attacks in Syria and Iraq.
In their attack, the militants had attempted to destroy a new, more secure facility under construction next to the Gweiran prison, and have seized arms from prison guards before murdering them, the coalition added.
The Kurdish forces said militants on Sunday staged a new attack on the prison, also known as Al-Sinaa prison, in an attempt to break the security cordon and support inmates still in control of parts of the prison.
In a statement, the Kurdish-led force known as the Syrian Democratic Forces, said the attack on the northern section of the prison in the city of Hassakeh was repelled and the militants were chased into a nearby residential area.
Another SDF spokesman Siamand Ali said Daesh fighters arriving from outside the city also tried to attack the prison and were repelled.
A resident near the prison said warplanes from the US-led coalition flew over the prison earlier Sunday, breaking the sound barrier. The resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of retribution, said the US-backed Kurdish forces were heard calling on Daesh militants in the prison and in surrounding buildings to turn themselves in. A war monitor, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, said helicopters threw fliers over the city, urging residents to report suspicious activities.
The militants have taken cover in residential areas surrounding the prison, including in Zuhour neighborhood which was cordoned off by security forces. Hundreds of civilians fled the area for safety. Ali said between 150 and 200 militants are believed currently holed up in the northern wing of the prison and adjacent residential area.
The attack launched Thursday was the biggest by Daesh militants since the fall of the group’s “caliphate” in 2019. Its demise came after Daesh lost its last territory in Syria in following a yearslong military campaign backed by the US-led coalition in Iraq and Syria.
The terrorist group claimed responsibility for the prison break on its Aamaq news service Friday, describing it as ongoing.
In an ambitious attack, more than 100 militants armed with heavy machine guns and vehicles rigged with explosives attacked the facility aiming to free their comrades. A car bomb was detonated nearby at a petroleum warehouse, creating a diversion and leaving fire and smoke in the air for two days.
A video posted by the militants late Saturday showed vehicles ramming through what appears to be the walls of the prison, creating large holes. Dozens of men were seen walking in the facility in the dark, seemingly escaping the prison. The Kurdish-led forces said Friday they have so far arrested over 100 inmates who escaped but the total number of fugitives remains unclear.
Freeing convicts and imprisoned comrades has been a main tactic of the group. During their 2014 surge that overwhelmed territory in Iraq and Syria, Daesh carried out multiple prison breaks.
In another video posted on Daesh’s news service, the militants showed two dozen prison staff, some in military uniforms, taken hostage, including some who appeared bruised and beaten. One militant read out a statement to the camera and another stood guard with what seemed to be either a saw or a machete. Both militants were masked.
The Kurdish forces said late Saturday the men were probably among the prison kitchen staff with whom they lost contact since the assault began late Thursday.
Ali said about 100 militants attacked the prison but it is not clear how many militants from sleeper cells and fugitives are taking part in the ongoing operation.
In its version of the attack, Daesh quoted one of its militants in a statement posted late Saturday on its news service who said the attack began with two foreign suicide bombers who detonated two trucks at the gate of the prison and along its walls, causing major damage and casualties. Then militants fanned out, first heading to the prison towers and the petroleum warehouse. A second group attacked a Kurdish post nearby while two other groups clashed with nearby patrols and cut supply lines to undermine the prison defenses.
The assault coincided with riots inside the prison, where militants seized weapons and held guards and prison staff hostage, the militant group said, claiming that it freed more than 800 militants, some of whom are taking part in the ongoing operation.


Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey

Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey
Updated 23 January 2022

Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey

Alarming xenophobic trend on the rise in Turkey
  • ‘Hate speech’ by public figures from different political parties criticized by migration expert
  • Lack of international protection for refugees creates a precarious situation for them, migration expert tells Arab News

ANKARA: Amid alarming reports about assassinations of Syrian refugees in Turkey, the trend of violence and the security of foreigners has become a source of concern in the country, where refugees were once welcomed with open arms.
 
The country’s economic woes, with high rates of unemployment and decreased purchasing power due to inflation, have pushed many to blame foreigners.
 
The frequent use of anti-refugee rhetoric by politicians has fanned the flames of racism. A Turkish court recently overturned controversial plans by the mayor of the northwestern city of Bolu, Tanju Ozcan, to increase water bills by tenfold for foreigners, as well as charging 100,000 lira ($7,435) for civil marriage ceremonies for foreigners in Turkey.
 
“They overstayed their welcome. If I had the power, I would use municipal officials to throw them out by force,” Ozcan said. “I know people will talk about human rights and they will call me fascist. I simply do not care.”
 
Anti-immigrant sentiment has hardened, exacerbated by an influx of Afghans after the Taliban takeover of their country in August 2021.
 
Last week, Nail Al-Naif, a 19-year-old Syrian refugee, was killed in Istanbul by a group of men when sleeping in his room. Eight people, including five Turkish nationals and three Afghans, were arrested.
 
Another young Syrian was stabbed walking in a park in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir last week, just a couple of days after a mob attacked a shopping mall frequented by Syrians in Istanbul, allegedly after a Syrian refugee refused to give a cigarette to a Turkish man.
 
In November, three young Syrian workers were burned to death in the western city of Izmir after a fire broke out at their apartment when they were sleeping.

Police detained a Turkish man, who admitted that he caused the fire motivated by xenophobia.
 
Muge Dalkiran, an expert on migration issues and a junior fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna, said refugees have been scapegoated in Turkey due to ongoing competition over economic resources, concerns over ethnic or religious balances, and security-related worries.
 
“The tension has also escalated as a result of misinformation in the media, xenophobic discourses and hate speech by public figures from different political parties that represent large and diverse groups in the Turkish society,” she told Arab News.
 
Dalkiran said that negative attitudes, hate speech, and xenophobia against migrant and refugee groups exist in many countries, but in Turkey a major problem is impunity.
 
“Due to the lack of (a) clear legal definition of xenophobia and racial discrimination, as well as the lack of the enforcement of law, this leads to the impunity for crimes motivated by racist and xenophobic attitudes.

“In addition to this, the lack of international protection of refugees also creates a precarious situation for them,” she said.
 
As Turkey has put a geographical limitation on the 1951 UN Refugee Convention, it cannot grant its main refugee groups, like Syrians, Afghans and Iraqis, refugee status.
 
“Many times, because of the fear of detention or deportation, migrant and refugee groups in Turkey cannot even access official complaint mechanisms when they face violent acts,” Dalkiran said.
 
The number of Syrian refugees under temporary protection in Turkey is 3.7 million people, most of them living in Istanbul as well as the southeastern province of Gaziantep.
 
Over 2.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey are under the age of 30. Overall, the country is home to about 5.3 million foreigners in total.
 
Metin Corabatir, president of the Research Center on Asylum and Migration in Ankara, said there are many examples of xenophobia that go unreported.
 
“Syrian refugees in Ankara cannot send their children to school for fear that they could be subject to physical violence or hate speech” he told Arab News.

“They cannot guarantee their own security and children pay it back with their declining enrolment rates,” he added.
 
In August 2021, tensions rose in Ankara’s Altindag district, where the Syrian population is concentrated in the capital.

After a knife fight between locals and Syrians, several workplaces and houses of Syrians were targeted.
 
“(Turkish) house owners in Altindag district reportedly began to decline to rent their houses to Syrians,” Corabatir said.

“The municipality abruptly stopped the coal and food assistance to the Syrians in the city without giving any excuse. Opposition politicians began pledging to send Syrians back to their home country,” he added.

“As the date of parliamentary elections is nearing, refugees and foreigners in general have been used for domestic consumption,” said Corabatir.
 
Advocacy groups also underline the alarming trend of hate speech in the country against foreigners more generally. Recently, a taxi driver in Istanbul beat a French woman after he overcharged her and her husband.
 
“We cannot send these refugees back to Syria, which is still unsafe,” Corabatir said. “Several international right groups, like Amnesty International, announced that those who returned home were subjected to torture, disappearance and detention.”
 
In January, a video was posted on social media of a Turkish man in Istanbul breaking the doors and windows of a house he owned because, after he raised the rent of his Syrian tenants by 150 percent and they refused to pay, he wanted to evict them.
 
Dalkiran emphasized the need for adopting a coherent and integrated approach by political parties and their leaders, the media, academia and civil society for the refugee-related issues.
 
“Rather than populist discourses to secure the electoral gains, a human rights-based approach should be prioritized,” she said.

“This needs to be accompanied by social awareness raising efforts to combat against racism and xenophobia together with the migrant and refugee rights.”


Coalition in Yemen prepares military operation in Al-Jouf

Coalition in Yemen prepares military operation in Al-Jouf
Updated 37 min 49 sec ago

Coalition in Yemen prepares military operation in Al-Jouf

Coalition in Yemen prepares military operation in Al-Jouf
  • Coalition kills 90 Houthi militants in 17 airstrikes on Marib and Al-Bayda in last 24 hours
  • Yemen’s defense ministry promises retreating Houthi fighters safety amid reports of militia executing them

RIYADH: The Coalition to Support Legitimacy in Yemen said it is preparing a military operation in Al-Jouf, in response to a threat.
“We are monitoring hostile militia activity using drones launched from the Yemeni governorate of Al-Jawf,” Saudi state TV reported on Sunday, citing the coalition.
“We will take operational measures in accordance with international and humanitarian law to protect civilians,” the coalition added.

Later on Sunday, Yemen’s defense ministry said it had received “shocking” information about the Houthi militia executing its fighters who had withdrawn from combat and refused to fight.

“We have given directions to our units to receive the retreating Houthi fighters,” the ministry said.

It promised safety and good treatment to withdrawing Houthi fighters “in accordance with international legitimacy, norms, and laws.”

“Those who have withdrawn are guests whom we will receive, and we will provide them with all help, support, and assistance to return to their areas when they wish,” the ministry said.