International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN

Image grab from Houthi video showing ballistic missiles, made in Yemen, in July 2019. (AFP file photo)
Image grab from Houthi video showing ballistic missiles, made in Yemen, in July 2019. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 20 January 2022

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN

International apathy has emboldened Yemen’s Houthis, Saudi envoy tells UN
  • Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek also reaffirmed Kingdom’s support for people of Lebanon and urged authorities there to end ‘terrorist Hezbollah’s control of state’
  • He also pledged his country’s continuing support and commitment to the Palestinian cause, and to comprehensive and lasting peace in the Middle East

NEW YORK: The failure of the international community to take decisive action to address the terrorist activities of the Houthis in Yemen has emboldened the Iran-backed militia to attack the Yemeni people and threaten peace and security in the region and beyond, Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN said on Wednesday.

Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek told the Security Council that the Kingdom reserves the right to “take any necessary measure in line with international law” to respond to Houthi aggression. It came two days after a deadly attack on neighboring Abu Dhabi by the militia.

The envoy said authorities in the UAE have the full support of the Kingdom “as they address any threat to their stability and security,” and called on the international community “to confront the terrorist Houthi militias.”

The ministerial-level meeting was convened by Norway, which holds the presidency of the Security Council this month, to discuss the situation in the Middle East, including the Palestinian question.




Saudi Arabia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN Mohammed Abdulaziz Alateek. (SPA)

Alateek said that Tehran provides support to the Houthis “day after day” and added: “These terrorist militias continue to disregard the aspirations of the Yemeni people and to threaten regional and international peace and security.

“A case in point is their violation and threats to international navigation and their use of civilian facilities and Yemeni ports to undermine regional security and attack civilians in Saudi Arabia and the UAE.”

On Monday this week, three people were killed and six injured by a drone strike on a key oil facility in the Emirati capital, and a separate fire was sparked at Abu Dhabi’s international airport. The Houthis claimed responsibility for the attacks, which immediately drew condemnation worldwide.

Last Friday the Security Council unanimously condemned another hostile Houthi act, the seizure on Jan. 3 of the UAE-flagged ship Rwabee in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen and the detention of its crew.

In a statement drafted by the UK, council members demanded the immediate release of the vessel and those on board, and urged the Houthis to guarantee the safety and well-being of the crew.

Civilian targets in Saudi Arabia have also repeatedly come under attack from Houthi-launched drone and missile strikes.

Highlighting the Saudi peace initiative to end the conflict in Yemen, Alateek called on the international community and the Security Council to “take all necessary measures against these terrorist militias that obstruct peace and any attempt to reach a political solution sponsored by the UN in line with resolution 2216, the Gulf Initiative and the outcome of the National Dialogue.”

Turning to the crisis in Lebanon, Alateek reaffirmed Saudi Arabia’s support for the people of the country and urged Lebanese authorities to prioritize “their people, to meet their aspirations for security, stability and well-being, and to end terrorist Hezbollah’s control of the state.”

Regarding the Palestinian question, Alateek said Riyadh remains committed to ending the occupation, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state with Jerusalem as its capital, and ensuring Palestinian refugees can return home.

“We stress that comprehensive and lasting peace in the middle East is a strategic choice to end one of the most protracted conflicts in our modern history, based on the two-state solution and international terms of reference, as well as the Arab peace initiative of 2022,” he said.

“All these initiatives call for the establishment of the Palestinian state along the borders of June 4, 1967, with Jerusalem as its capital, the return of refugees, and an end to the Israeli occupation of all Arab territories, including the Syrian Golan and Lebanese territories.”

Alateek accused Israel of continuing “to violate international laws and norms in the Occupied Palestinian Territories, committing the most heinous forms of injustice and aggression against the Palestinian people.”

He called on the Security Council and the wider international community to assume their responsibilities toward Palestinians by “ensuring justice,

achieving the aspirations of the Palestinian people to establish their own independent state as guaranteed in international laws, and deal firmly with the Israeli violations of international law and relevant UN resolutions.”


After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?
Updated 8 sec ago

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?

After incidents in Jordan, UAE and Egypt: Is violence against women on the rise?
  • Incidents in three different Arab countries in the space of a week show urgency of treating ‘femicide’ as a global issue 
  • Victims of gender-based violence rarely report crimes against them or seek help, and perpetrators are rarely punished

JEDDAH: Last week, Nayera Ashraf, a student at Mansoura University in Egypt, was beaten and stabbed in broad daylight as bystanders looked on in horror. She died later that day. The attacker was restrained and arrested. His motive for such a dreadful crime? The refusal of a marriage proposal.

Alexis Gabe, 24, went missing in January this year. It is thought that she was murdered by an ex-boyfriend in Antioch, California. In June, Vanessa Virgioni, 29, was murdered in her home in Brampton, Canada. In October 2018, 46-year-old Gayle Potter died after she was hit by a car in the driveway of her home in Traralgon, Victoria, Australia. Iman Ersheid, 18, was gunned down this month on a university campus in Amman, Jordan.

Such stories of attacks on women by former partners or men they have rejected are too common for comfort. A disappearance in Breitungen, Germany; a stabbing in Delhi, India; another in Sharjah in the UAE; a shooting in the US state of Oklahoma; a death by drowning in Townsville, Australia. In some cases, the victims are discovered immediately, in others it can take years. The remains of some are never found.

It is difficult to determine precisely how many women are attacked because they rejected the advances of a man. The UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women, also known as UN Women, categorizes such killings as “femicide,” a term used to describe the murder of women, usually by men. A common denominator in many cases is that the woman was the object of unrequited affection from a partner, former partner, or a man whose advances were rebuked.

The Arab world was rocked by reports of three murders of women in this past week alone. Ashraf’s killer claimed that his victim “used me to achieve things and when she did, she dumped me.”

During a court hearing, he told prosecutors: “I also wanted to kill her, if I had the chance” because she had refused his romantic advances and rejected a marriage proposal.

In Jordan, authorities tracked down Ersheid’s killer to a town north of Zarqa. As they urged him to surrender, he fatally shot himself. The case in Sharjah involved a husband who stabbed his wife 16 times over a dispute. CCTV footage from a parking lot at the woman’s residence showed the killer attacking the woman in her car. He was later found on a beach and arrested.

But such cases are hardly unique to countries such as Egypt, Jordan or the UAE, or to the wider Middle East. Yet some media outlets, such as Monte Carlo Doualiya, formerly known as RMC Moyen-Orient, a French public radio service, have wrongly described them as a uniquely “Arab problem.”

Ibrahim Al-Zibin, a professor of sociology at Imam Mohammed ibn Saud Islamic University in Riyadh, told Arab News that it is a global problem that is not specific to any single region or society. Studies have shown gender-based crimes, especially those against women, are more common in conservative and lower-income communities, he added.

“Violence against women disproportionately affects low and lower-middle-income countries and regions,” he said. “That’s not to say that violence doesn’t occur in other social classes but financially burdened individuals are most likely to be driven towards violence of any kind, and there’s an associated mental-health issue when it comes to committing a murder.”

In what UN Women describes as the “shadow pandemic,” studies have shown that rates of violence against women have increased in recent decades, and that there was a significant rise in cases of domestic violence following the start of COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020.

UN Women reports that an estimated 736 million women worldwide, which is 30 percent of all women age 15 or older, have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence by an intimate partner, sexual violence by a non-partner, or both, at least once in their lives.

Many cases of gender-based violence go unreported, with less than 40 percent of women reporting such crimes or seeking help of any sort, UN Women said in 2021. Assaults and murders considered “crimes of passion,” or as a result of rejection, often make the news as a result of initial citizen reports on social media that attract the attention of authorities.

Social media offers unprecedented opportunities to raise awareness about violence against women and girls, which in many instances historically has gone unpunished. However, advances in technology have made online reporting more accessible to the average person.

Calculating exact figures for crimes of femicide can be challenging and so accurate counts or reliable estimates for the global prevalence of its various forms are difficult to come by. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime estimates that 47,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by an intimate partner or family member in 2020.

But attempts to understand the psyche and motives of the men who carry out such crimes raise a number of questions. Are those who kill women just “ordinary people” who suddenly and unexpectedly fly into murderous rages, or are the killings premeditated and planned?

“There is an underlying cause that drives one to premeditated murder; it’s not spontaneous,” said Al-Zibin. Each murder has unique characteristics, he added; in many instances, killers believe they have found the right circumstances to act but, in reality, a mental illness might be driving their actions.

“Violence does not always, or immediately, lead a women to her death but the consequences of these acts are equally debilitating; the physical, psychological and social effects of violence vary and most murderers will find a way to use that to their advantage,” he added.

“Triggers vary in nature. In some cases they are non-existent but to a criminal, it’s real. The threat of violence manifests itself in various ways in women's lives. Retribution for rejection is a common enough threat.”

Social taboos and shame can lead women to tolerate and even accept as unavoidable aggression by a male, a situation Al-Zibin said can be a recipe for disaster, and so greater social awareness of the issue is needed to change attitudes.

“Women, get used to the idea that they have to prepare themselves, that they have to respond ‘appropriately’ to men’s advances,” he said. “But in truth, women need to be more aware of a man’s aggressive behavior — no matter the relationship — and protect themselves through reporting it to a family member or law enforcement, which is the best option. It’s one way of fixing the problem.

“There’s no shame in a woman falling victim to an abusive partner, a drug user, a stalker or someone who holds a grudge against her. It’s not something to be ashamed of; the taboo needs to be ignored. There are laws to protect women but more needs to be done to fix this global issue, starting with local governments and authorities.”

Al-Zibin believes that if a woman attempts to deal with a man’s aggressive behavior on her own by defending herself, it can lead to an escalation in the harassment, which might ultimately lead to murder. Moreover, he said, protective measures need to be put in place to protect women from individuals who suffer from mental health issues.

No matter how strong or confident she might be, Al-Zibin said, the actions of a woman who tries to protect herself can be misinterpreted by the individual who is pursuing her and fuel their spite or hate.

“Involuntary manslaughter is rare in crimes (involving) rejection; they’re likely to be very detailed and, more often than not, the criminal succeeds.”


Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest

Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest
Updated 26 min 30 sec ago

Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest

Heatwave and fires damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest
  • Some farmers are harvesting grain early for fear of losing all their 2022 production to fires

TUNIS: A heatwave and fires are badly damaging Tunisia’s grain harvest, leading the farmers union to forecast that output will fall well short of government hopes.

Loss of grain production comes as the North African country struggles with food importation costs driven higher by the war in Ukraine.

Agriculture Minister Mhamoud Elyess Hamza this month forecast the 2022 grain harvest would reach 1.8 million tons, up 10 percent on last year’s.

But farmers union official Mohamed Rejaibia, pointing to fires that began raging over much of the country last month, said that was no longer possible.

“The grain harvest will not be more than 1.4 million tons,” said Rejaibia, a member of the union’s executive office. “Some of it will be lost to fires and some perhaps during collection.”

The union and experts say the crop also is suffering direct damage from high temperatures, which have already reached 47 Celsius (117 Fahrenheit) this summer and are forecast to go as high as 49 Celsius. Moreover, the heatwave could hinder agricultural workers in collecting the harvest.

Tunisia has been counting on a big crop to reduce grain imports amid a national financial crisis that is exacerbated by the war. Higher prices of imported food and energy will cost the budget $1.7 billion this year, says the government, which subsidises such supplies.

The country has aimed for self-sufficiency this year in production of durum wheat, the main grain that it produces.

Some farmers are harvesting grain early, accepting smaller crops for fear of losing all their 2022 production to fires.

“Usually we begin the harvest season in July, but this year we started on June 18,” said farmer Abderraouf Arfaoui in Krib, a northern town. “We are afraid of fires. We must watch our land day and night.”

“We must harvest without waiting, even if that reduces the quantity and quality of the wheat, and when we finish the harvest we must watch our haystacks, too.”

President Kais Saied said this month that the grain crop this year would be a target for criminal gangs, which particularly planned to steal product of good quality.

Protecting the crop was a matter of national security, he said.


Violence at Spanish enclave sparks fear of worse to come

Violence at Spanish enclave sparks fear of worse to come
Updated 32 min 49 sec ago

Violence at Spanish enclave sparks fear of worse to come

Violence at Spanish enclave sparks fear of worse to come

NADOR, Morocco: A massive attempt by migrants to storm the barrier between Morocco and the Spanish enclave of Melilla resulted in “unprecedented violence” that killed at least 23 sub-Saharan Africans and has sparked fears of worse to come.

“It was like a war, we were holding rocks, little rocks, to fight,” said a 20-year-old Sudanese migrant at a detention center inside Melilla.

“I climbed up the fence but a Moroccan guard hit my hands. I fell unconscious on the Spanish side, where I was beaten up by Spanish forces,” said another.

They were among 2,000 migrants who on Friday stormed the heavily fortified border between the Moroccan region of Nador and the enclave of Melilla.

At least 23 migrants died and 140 police officers were wounded, according to Moroccan authorities — the heaviest toll in years of such attempts.

Many of the migrants, often from war-torn zones such as Sudan’s Darfur region, have spent months or even years under precarious, dangerous conditions in the nearby forest of Gourougou, braving beatings and arrests in multiple attempts to reach better lives in Spain.

But observers said the latest attempt was unprecedented in the level of violence.

“It’s the first time that we see this level of violence by migrants themselves against security forces,” said Omar Naji from the Nador office of the AMDH rights group.

The violence has heightened fears among Moroccans in the area.

“We’re terrorized by what happened,” said Issame Ouaaid, 24, from the border district of Barrio Chino.

“It’s the first time that we’ve seen migrants carrying iron rods to fight with the police.”

Naji linked the level of violence to a recent mending of ties between Spain and Morocco, leading to renewed cooperation against migrants and stricter enforcement.

Morocco, the only African country sharing a land border with the EU, is a key conduit for migrants fleeing war and poverty.

But the kingdom has also been accused — by Spain — of using migration flows as a tool to exert political pressure.

In May 2021, some 10,000 migrants surged across the border into Spain’s other enclave, Ceuta, as Moroccan border guards looked the other way, in what was widely seen as a punitive gesture by Rabat in a political row over the disputed territory of Western Sahara.

The two countries’ resumption of ties earlier this year after a convergence on Western Sahara has led to “an intensification of pressures” against migrants living rough in the forested hills near the border, Naji said.

Recent months have seen a fall in the numbers of migrants reaching Spanish territory, according to Madrid.

“The Moroccan authorities treat migrants very harshly, raiding their camps,” Naji said.

“There’s no doubt that this pressure has generated the unprecedented violence we’re seeing.”

Before Friday’s incident, Spanish media reported several clashes between migrants and security forces, who had chased away residents of camps and transferred some away from the border region.

For Othmane Ba, president of an association for sub-Saharan African migrants in Morocco, “the difficult conditions these migrants are facing condition them psychologically for violence.”

A majority of migrants arriving in Morocco are originally from Sudan, particularly the Darfur region where a new spike in violence has left 125 people dead and 50,000 displaced.

On their way to Morocco, many pass through Libya, notorious for rights abuses by armed groups against migrants.

Once they arrive in Morocco, many are willing to risk their lives to reach Europe.

“There are people here who have been waiting for two or three years” to get across, Naji said.

Moroccan authorities said Sunday they had foiled a plot by migrants to cross the border into Ceuta, making 59 arrests.

But, Naji said, “Morocco can’t totally close its borders and play the role of police force for Europe. That policy can only lead to more violence.”


Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government

Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government
Updated 41 min 33 sec ago

Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government

Lebanon PM holds talks in push for ‘last minute’ new government
  • If the proposed government fails to receive Aoun’s approval, then Lebanon will face fresh political gridlock

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s Prime Minister-designate Najib Mikati has held an initial round of nonbinding parliamentary consultations to discuss the formation of the country’s new government.

After the end of the consultations on June 28, Mikati is expected to submit a draft government to President Michel Aoun. The mission of the new government will be defined in a brief ministerial statement, including the urgent issues that could be accomplished in the few remaining months of Aoun’s presidency, which ends on Oct. 31.

If the proposed government fails to receive Aoun’s approval, then Lebanon will face fresh political gridlock.

That scenario could further damage the country’s ability to tackle urgent issues, “because we are running out of time and crises are succeeding one another, and are getting magnified,” one political observer said.

They warned that if Aoun blocks the proposal, “it means that the term of the new government will not exceed two months.

“If we take into consideration that drafting the ministerial statement, approving it and submitting it to the parliament for the government to gain the confidence vote, then this means that the government term will be of two months and would not be expected to resolve the crises or start the necessary 27 administrative and financial reforms determined by the International Monetary Fund.”

The Development and Liberation bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri called for “forming the government as soon as possible.”

After the bloc met Mikati, lawmaker Ali Hassan Khalil said: “We stressed the necessity of approving the financial recovery plan — which has not yet been referred to Parliament according to the constitutional procedures — while preserving the depositors’ credits in full.”

Berri’s bloc stressed the “necessity of resolving the issue of the electricity plants away from the debates that have been taking place lately, and of restructuring this sector.”

Khalil said: “We did not propose the form of the government because Mikati is aware of the current balances of power, and what concerns us is that the government be efficient.”

After meeting with Mikati, Deputy Parliament Speaker Elias Bou Saab said that he is “keen on forming the government fast in collaboration with President Aoun.”

Bou Saab, a member of the Free Patriotic Movement bloc, a Hezbollah ally, stressed the need to “form a government of political representation,” and called on the new government “to communicate with the Syrian government to resolve the crisis of Syrian refugees in Lebanon.”

The new government must repatriate Syrian refugees and revive the Kuwaiti initiative to rehabilitate Lebanon’s relations with the Gulf countries, he added.

The Lebanese Forces bloc said: “The Lebanese Forces will not participate in the new government.”

Lawmaker Georges Adwan said: “We want a government that recuperates the state’s decision and that rehabilitates Lebanon’s relations with other countries.”

Adwan called on Parliament to “elect a new president of the republic as soon as possible.”

The Democratic Gathering bloc, which represents the Progressive Socialist Party, declared that it would not feature in the new government. However, Taymur Jumblatt, president of the bloc, said: “We will help in forming it.”

President of the Hezbollah bloc, lawmaker Mohammed Raad, said: “We are not against the participation of anybody in the government, and we tender our hand to everybody.”

Before the parliamentary consultations began, Hezbollah Deputy Secretary-General Sheikh Naim Qassim called for amendments to be made to the standing caretaker government “in order not to waste time and exhaust the formation of the government with conditions and counter-conditions.”

He said: “Let anybody who wants to participate in the government to do so and cooperate, or let the prime minister-designate change some ministers in order not to fall into the trap of new names, which might take a long time.”

In Sunday’s sermon, Maronite Patriarch Mar Bechara Boutros Al-Rai said that he opposed the Christian blocs’ refusal to nominate a leader of the new government during compulsory consultations last week. He called on political parties to cooperate with Mikati “away from conditions that are not adequate for this crucial period, nor for the time available to them.”

He urged the need to “form a national government fast, and focus on preparing for the election of a rescue president to save the country, for any delay would only be explained by the desire to distract us from this constitutional duty.”

The two biggest Christian parties in Lebanon, the Lebanese Forces and the Free Patriotic Movement, did not nominate Mikati to head the new government. Political observers fear that Aoun’s party, the FPM, will try to impose strict conditions on the formation of a new government.

After meeting with Mikati, reform lawmakers declared that they will not take part in the new government. Lawmaker Halime El-Kaakour said: “We will not participate in any quota government. We demanded a small government of independents with exceptional prerogatives.”

Independent lawmaker Abdul Rahman Bizri said: “We might be heading towards a minority parliamentary government,” adding: “As independent political powers, we had remarks on the performance of the previous governments, especially the ones that were headed by Mikati.

“Had these government made achievements we would not have reached this point. We will not obstruct, and our dealing with Mikati will be based on his handling of hot issues.”

Meanwhile, employees of the Banque Du Liban declared a warning strike for one day on Tuesday in protest against legislative prosecutions and accusations by the prosecutor general of Mount Lebanon, judge Ghada Aoun, against BDL and its employees.

The BDL syndicate threatened open strikes that would paralyze Lebanon’s banking sector, unless the Supreme Judicial Council and the minister of justice intervene to put an end to the actions of the judge.


12 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

12 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port
Updated 29 min 2 sec ago

12 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port

12 dead, hundreds hospitalized after toxic gas leak at Jordan’s Aqaba port
  • Canister with 25 tons of chlorine plunges from crane
  • Workers flee for lives from deadly clouds

AMMAN: At least 12 people died and more than 250 were injured on Monday when a tank of toxic chlorine gas plunged from a crane and exploded at Aqaba port in Jordan.

Eight of the casualties were Jordanian, with the other four coming from other nations.

The force of the blast sent a truck rolling down the harborside, while clouds of yellow gas billowed overhead and dock workers ran for their lives.

Nearby areas were evacuated and residents told to close and seal doors and windows and to avoid going out.

Public Security Department spokesman Amer Sartawy said “specialists and the hazardous substances team in the civil defense” were dealing with the incident.

Prime Minister Bishr Khasawneh and Interior Minister Mazen Al-Faraya immediately headed to the scene, visited a hospital where some of the injured were being treated, and formed an investigation team into the incident.

The accident happened when a tank filled with 25 tons of chlorine gas being exported to Djibouti fell while being transported. Video footage showed showed a crane hoisting the tank from a truck, and then the tank falling on to the deck of a ship and exploding.

The injured were transported to two state hospitals, one private facility and a field hospital.

Aqaba health director Jamal Obeidat said hospitals in the area were full and could not receive more cases. “The injured people are in medium to critical condition,” he said.

Aqaba port is the Jordan’s only marine terminal and a key transit point for much of its imports and exports. Its beaches are also a major tourist attraction, and were evacuated after Monday’s incident.

Dr. Mhammed Al-Tarawneh, a chest diseases consultant, said chlorine gas was extremely toxic, and the leakcould significantly affect areas surrounding the explosion.

He said contact with this gas could cause irritation of the mucous membranes and a red skin rash. Inhaling the gas could cause pneumonia, burning in the esophagus, diarrhea, headaches, vision impairment, and loss of consciousness.

The US offered its condolences to the families of the victims of the blast. “We stand ready to support the government of Jordan as it responds to this tragedy,” US Ambassador Henry Wooster said. “I urge all US citizens in Aqaba to follow all public health guidance.”

The secretary-general of the GCC, Dr. Nayef Falah Mubarak Al-Hajraf, also expressed his condolences. “The GCC stands with the government and the Jordanian people in these difficult moments,” he said.