Houthis shell besieged Taiz amid intensifying international efforts to renew truce

Special Houthis shell besieged Taiz amid intensifying international efforts to renew truce
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The Houthis have imposed a choking siege that has pushed thousands of people in Taiz into famine. (AFP file photo)
Special Houthis shell besieged Taiz amid intensifying international efforts to renew truce
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Taiz, Yemen, from Al-Qahira Castle. (Wikimedia Commons)
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Updated 01 June 2022

Houthis shell besieged Taiz amid intensifying international efforts to renew truce

Houthis shell besieged Taiz amid intensifying international efforts to renew truce
  • Several explosions, caused by Houthi artillery, rocked the eastern parts of Taiz
  • The attack is the latest in a series of violations of the UN-brokered truce

AL-MUKALLA: Several artillery shells fired by the Houthis hit the city of Taiz in Yemen on Tuesday, as international mediators, envoys and aid organizations intensified their efforts to convince the two sides to renew a UN-brokered truce.

Residents and officials in Taiz said several explosions, caused by Houthi artillery, rocked eastern parts of the city. The attack is the latest in a series of violations of the UN-brokered truce, according to Yemeni officials.

Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military officer in Taiz, told Arab News that a Houthi sniper targeted a civilian in the same eastern area of the city, as the militia’s tanks and other heavy artillery pounded residential areas.

“The Houthi heavy fire and sniper attacks have not stopped during the truce,” he said, adding that the militia recently deployed more snipers and created new military posts. “People did not go to mosques during last Friday’s prayers out of fear of being hit by Houthi snipers.”

The Houthis have been in control of the outskirts of Taiz for seven years and have imposed a choking siege that has pushed thousands of people into famine.

As part of the truce, discussions between the Yemeni government and the Houthis in Amman about the opening of roads in Taiz have so far failed to produce any results. A new round of talks between the two sides will take place on Wednesday, a member of the Yemeni government delegation told Arab News.

Al-Baher said people in Taiz are not supportive of a renewal of the truce because it has failed to result in the lifting of the siege.

“We did not benefit from the truce. The Houthi shelling, mobilization of forces and military operations have not ceased during the truce,” he said.

During the past seven days, people in Taiz have intensified their protests and campaigns to draw attention to the effects of the siege and put pressure on the Yemeni negotiators in Amman to end it.

The two-month truce, which came into effect on April 2, led to a significant reduction in fighting and fatalities, the resumption of commercial flights from Sanaa, and at least 12 ships carrying fuel have been able to enter Hodeidah.

The latest Houthi mortar attack on Taiz came as the UN envoy for Yemen, Hans Grundberg, Western diplomats and aid organizations stepped up the pressure on the Yemeni government and the Houthis to renew the truce.

On Tuesday, dozens of international organizations wrote a joint letter to the two sides, urging them to extend the truce in June to avoid more civilian casualties.

“We, the undersigned agencies, urge you to extend the truce agreement, build further on the gains you have made possible over the past two months, and work toward peace for the people of Yemen,” they said in the letter.

It added that the truce has had positive humanitarian effects, including a reduction in casualties by 50 percent. It has also addressed fuel shortages and allowed patients to travel to receive medical attention outside the country.

“The gift of a better life for the people of Yemen is in your hands. Don’t let June be the month where fighting resumes, public services fail and more innocent lives are lost,” the letter said.

A group of European ambassadors to Yemen arrived in the port city of Aden and met government officials to express their support for the Presidential Leadership Council and call for an end to the siege of Taiz, said Ahmed Awadh bin Mubarak, Yemen’s foreign minister.

In Muscat, meanwhile, Grundberg discussed with the chief negotiator for the Houthis, Mohammed Abdul Salam, and Omani officials the possibility of opening roads in Taiz, renewing the truce and working to achieve a peace settlement to end the war, according to the UN envoy’s office.

He discussed the same topics with Rashad Al-Alimi, the head of the Presidential Leadership Council, and his government in Aden on Monday. Grundberg noted that renewing the truce is “critical to solidify benefits delivered so far and provide space to move toward a political settlement.”

Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the permanent US representative to the UN, said that her country had been encouraged early on by efforts to move the truce forward and come up with “confidence-building measures that would allow for humanitarian assistance to move to the people of Yemen.”

But now the negotiations seem “troublesome to us,” she told reporters in New York. However, she noted that the “talks haven’t ended yet and we encourage the parties on both sides to continue those efforts and find a peaceful way to provide the needed humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen.”

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres called Al-Alimi to discuss the implementation of the truce, as well as the latest security developments in the war-ravaged country. During the conversation the UN chief stressed the need to extend and “fully implement all the elements of the renewable, two-month nationwide truce.”

He also underscored the “critical role of the truce in addressing some of the most immediate humanitarian and economic needs to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people, including facilitating the freedom of movement of people and goods to, from and across Yemen,” according to Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the secretary-general.

- Additional reporting by Ephrem Kossaify in New York

 


Imprisoned Palestinian-French human rights lawyer begins hunger strike

Imprisoned Palestinian-French human rights lawyer begins hunger strike
Updated 28 September 2022

Imprisoned Palestinian-French human rights lawyer begins hunger strike

Imprisoned Palestinian-French human rights lawyer begins hunger strike
  • Salah Hamouri is protesting against his detention, which is based on evidence he is not allowed to see and has been extended until at least December
  • Israeli authorities transferred Hamouri to a maximum-security prison in July after he wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for help

LONDON: Palestinian-French human rights lawyer Salah Hamouri, who has been imprisoned without charge by Israeli authorities for six months, has gone on hunger strike in protest.

Hamouri was arrested on March 7 at his home in East Jerusalem. No charges have been filed against him but his detention order has been extended until at least early December based on undisclosed evidence, The Guardian reported.

A member of the #JusticeforSalah campaign told the newspaper that negotiations with Israeli authorities on Wednesday for the lawyer’s release were unsuccessful.

Hamouri, along with 29 other detainees in Israeli prisons, reportedly began an indefinite hunger strike on Sunday to protest against administrative detention. This is an Israeli practice, commonly used against Palestinians who are subject to the military justice system rather than civil justice, under which suspects can be detained for renewable six-month terms without charge or any access to the evidence against them, on the grounds that they might break the law in future in released.

Israeli authorities say the practice is necessary to prevent terrorist attacks and protect sensitive intelligence sources. However, human rights campaigners argue that Israeli authorities use it excessively and it violates the right of suspects to due process

Israel is currently holding 743 administrative detainees, the highest number since 2008, according to Israeli human rights group HaMoked.

In July, 37-year-old Hamouri was transferred to a maximum-security prison called Hadarim, where he was placed in a tiny isolation cell. It came after he wrote a letter to French President Emmanuel Macron asking for the help of the French government, according to #JusticeforSalah.

His wife, French national Elsa Lefort, and their two children, who live in France, have been prevented from visiting or even speaking to Hamouri on the telephone since his arrest.

Hamouri has been imprisoned by Israel a number of times, including a seven-year sentence between 2005 and 2011 for his alleged role in an assassination plot against a chief rabbi.

While he maintained his innocence throughout three years of pretrial detention, he eventually accepted a plea bargain to avoid a 14-year jail sentence or deportation to France, which would have probably have resulted in him losing his Israeli-issued right to residency in Jerusalem.

In 2016, Lefort, who was pregnant at the time, was deported after arriving at Tel Aviv’s airport and barred from entering Israel for 10 years.

Hammouri’s Jerusalem residency rights were revoked in October 2021. The reason given was a “breach of allegiance” to the Israeli state, based on undisclosed evidence. This was a legal first, according to the Guardian. The residency case is due to be heard again in February next year.

“Salah has never stopped being vocal about the occupation. He is always speaking at events in France and tours, talking about the conditions of political prisoners and other violations,” a spokesperson for #JusticeforSalah told the Guardian.

“Treating him like this is a way to try and silence him, to break him, and send a message to other human rights defenders.”

In recent years, several Palestinians have gone on long-term hunger strikes to protest against their administrative detention. In most cases, Israel eventually released them after their health deteriorated significantly.

The most recent high-profile Palestinian hunger striker was Khalil Awawdeh, who was at risk of dying and suffered neurological damage as a result of a near-six-month hunger strike. He ended his protest in August after Israel agreed to release him when his current administrative detention order expires.
 


Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day
Updated 28 September 2022

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day

Dubai Metaverse Assembly at Museum of the Future draws 20,000 on opening day
  • Metaverse will shape new digital future for humanity, says Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, Dubai crown prince
  • Over 500 professionals and 40 organizations specialized in metaverse and digital tech taking part in the event

DUBAI: Hundreds of global experts and policymakers, and leading global organizations specialized in metaverse and digital technologies attended the first day of the inaugural Dubai Metaverse Assembly on Wednesday.
Present at the inauguration, Sheikh Hamdan bin Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum, the crown prince of Dubai and chairman of the Dubai Executive Council, said the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity, the Emirates News Agency (WAM) reported.
The two-day Dubai Metaverse Assembly is being organized by the Dubai Future Foundation.
Over 500 professionals and more than 40 leading organizations specialized in metaverse and digital technologies are taking part in the event.
WAM said that more 20,000 people attended on Wednesday, using both virtual platforms and metaverse technologies.
Sheikh Hamdan said Dubai is emerging as a major contributor to shaping a new global vision for advanced technology and a pioneer in adopting next-generation digital innovation.
“We are constantly working to foster the development of technological tools and applications to raise the community’s quality of life. In the coming years, the metaverse will shape a new digital future for humanity and Dubai will consolidate its status as a testbed for innovation in this emerging technology.”
Dubai will always welcome innovators and experts to explore and design the future of the metaverse and explore its potential, he said.
“Through the Dubai Metaverse Assembly, we aim to provide a global platform for the metaverse community to discuss new opportunities emerging from this new technology and promote knowledge-sharing and partnerships between entrepreneurs and innovators. We also look forward to discussing how the metaverse can generate solutions for some of the world’s most critical challenges,” Sheikh Hamdan said.
Sheikh Hamdan, who is also DFF’s chairman of the board of trustees, met with officials from around the globe and visited activations installed by the event’s partners to showcase experiences from the metaverse.
Meanwhile the UAE’s Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence, Digital Economy and Teleworking Applications, Omar bin Sultan Al-Olama, delivered a speech in which he outlined the goals of the Dubai Metaverse Strategy and the key initiatives to strengthen Dubai’s position in the digital sector.
“Over the next 50 years, we will work to turn challenges into opportunities and build a digital, knowledge-driven economy. With world-class infrastructure, talent and bold leadership, Dubai can become the beating heart of the metaverse economy and an epicenter for its growing community,” Al-Olama said.
The event hosts more than 25 sessions and workshops at the Museum of the Future and AREA 2071, DFF’s innovation ecosystem, located at the Emirates Towers.
 


Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
Updated 28 September 2022

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president

Lebanese MPs bicker as deadline nears to elect new president
  • Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office
  • Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s parliament speaker has called a Thursday session to elect a new president, despite a political deadlock caused by a splintered chamber failing to agree on a candidate.
Nabih Berri’s announcement comes weeks before Michel Aoun is due to leave office, and as rival parliamentary blocs refuse to nominate or even discuss who should replace him.
Lebanon’s Parliament of 128 MPs contains two main blocs after elections earlier this year: The Hezbollah-aligned March 8 Alliance with 60 MPs, and their opponents, the March 14 Alliance with 38.
Parliament also contains 30 independents and reformists, meaning no bloc enjoys an absolute majority. As a result, a new president must have cross-bench support.
Ali Darwich, a former MP, said the announcement by Berri, whose Amal Movement is part of March 8, is intended “to hold everyone accountable.”
He said: “We hope that the session leads to the election of a president, but tomorrow’s scene will reveal that an agreement on the new president’s identity has yet to be reached.”
Consultations among parliamentary blocs have intensified since Berri’s announcement, with sources suggesting that many have agreed to attend the session.
Melhem Khalaf, a member of the 13-member Forces for Change opposition bloc, said Berri had “fulfilled his constitutional duty by urging deputies to carry out their responsibilities and avoid a presidential vacuum,” and “as reformists, we will be the first to attend.”
His alliance has however not nominated a candidate. Instead, it has issued a set of standards for Aoun’s replacement: “Lebanese-made, a savior chosen from outside the corrupted system that contributed to the destruction of the country.”
Under the constitution, which divides power between the country’s religions, any Maronite Lebanese can run for the presidency.
The most prominent candidates are usually the leaders of Christian parties, such as former deputy Suleiman Franjieh, the leader of the Marada Movement and an ally of the Syrian regime; Gibran Bassil, head of the Free Patriotic Movement and an ally of Hezbollah; and the head of the Lebanese Forces Party, Samir Geagea. However, none enjoy majority support in parliament.
The names that were reported on Wednesday to have received some support include Lebanon’s ambassador to the Vatican since 2018, Farid Elias Al-Khazen; former MP Salah Hanin; Michel Moawad, the son of former President Rene Moawad; and independent Neamat Ifram, an MP and businessman formerly of the Free Patriotic Movement.
Other tips for candidacy include Damianos Kattar and Jihad Azour, both former finance ministers; banker Samir Assaf; and Ziad Baroud and Marwan Charbel, both former interior ministers.
The Lebanese president is elected by secret ballot. Candidates must gain a two-thirds majority of the 128 MPs in the first round of voting to be elected outright.
A candidate with a simple majority of 65 votes can be declared the winner if further rounds are required.


PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
Updated 28 September 2022

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey

PKK blamed for deadly police guesthouse attack in Turkey
  • One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin
  • A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident

ANKARA: Turkey has blamed the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) for a deadly attack on a police guesthouse in the country’s southern coastal Mersin province.
One policeman was killed and another injured in the attack reportedly carried out by two women who opened fire with long-barreled weapons and detonated bombs late on Monday.
Another bomb, found in a bag near the guesthouse, was defused.
One of the assailants has been identified as Dilsah Ercan, codenamed Zozan Tolan, who joined the PKK in 2013 in Mersin, the Turkish Interior Ministry said.
A judicial investigation has been launched and 22 people are being held for questioning in connection with the incident.
The PKK, listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the US, and the EU, launched a bloody terror campaign against the Turkish state in 1984, which has since claimed 40,000 lives.
The UK Foreign Office has advised British citizens in Turkey not to go to areas within 10 kilometers of the Syrian border.
Monday’s attack coincided with domestic debates taking place in Turkey in the run-up to next year’s election marathon.
Erol Bural, a retired colonel and head of the Ankara-based Research Center for Combating Terrorism and Radicalization (TERAM), told Arab News that the Mersin attack was a message to Ankara from the PKK that it was still active in Turkish towns.
He said: “Terrorism is an instrument to exert political violence. The PKK wanted to show that it is still alive in Turkey to launch terror attacks against specific targets.”
Bural noted that the PKK had not carried out an urban attack on such a scale for some time due to the effectiveness of Turkey’s increased anti-terror, and intelligence-gathering measures.
“This attack was carried out by the urban team of the PKK by people who were familiar with the district and who seem to have been specifically trained for such urban operations. They knew very well that the police guesthouse could not have been protected as strongly as a police station. Therefore, they picked that target,” he added.
Bural pointed out that the PKK may also have used the attack as a signal to discourage Turkey from conducting any potential operations in Syria.
“Another underlying reason for this attack might also be revenge following Turkey’s cross-border operations in northern Iraq against the PKK hideouts,” he said.
Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar announced on Monday that around 400 PKK members in northern Iraq had been “neutralized” — surrendered, killed, or captured — since the start of a cross-border operation in April.
On Sept. 23, the Turkish National Intelligence Organization (MIT) captured a PKK member against whom a red notice had been issued, and on Wednesday it apprehended another group member, Sabah Ogur. The same day, Akar said the guesthouse attack had been plotted in Syria and added that, “necessary action will be taken against the perpetrators when the time is ripe.”
Meanwhile, in Turkey’s anti-Daesh operation, 16 Daesh suspects were caught in Istanbul and eight in Mersin.
Think tank TERAM closely follows counter-terror operations in Turkey, and Bural said: “Each month, about 1,000 terrorists from different groups are caught in Turkey, and some of them are detained. Therefore, Turkey’s counter-terror operations will continue following this attack with the same vigor.”


Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
Updated 28 September 2022

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid

Israeli forces kill 4 Palestinians in Jenin raid
  • Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks
  • Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion

RAMALLAH: Four Palestinians were killed and dozens injured, some seriously, during an Israeli military raid early on Wednesday in the Jenin refugee camp in in the occupied West Bank.

Israeli forces said they shot dead two Palestinians suspected of involvement in recent gun attacks. Two more were killed and 44 injured as residents protested against the incursion.

Video footage showed plumes of smoke billowing from a house in the camp, apparently after an explosion. In the streets, men sheltered behind cars as heavy gunfire could be heard.

President Mahmoud Abbas’ Fatah party said one of the men killed in the clashes was Ahmed Alawneh, a 24-year-old intelligence officer.

The party added that the incursion was a “dangerous escalation.” It called for demonstrations to honor the “heroic martyrs” and “unify the battlefields against the Israeli occupation that is trying to single out and isolate Jenin.”

Thousands later participated in the funeral of the four dead amid chants calling for revenge.

Maj. Gen. Akram Rajoub, Jenin’s governor, told Arab News that the Israeli army used excessive force and intended to kill.

He said the two wanted men died in the yard of a house that had been surrounded by Israeli soldiers, despite possessing no weapons and showing no resistance.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, the Palestinian prime minister, called for the men’s killers to be prosecuted by the International Criminal Court. Mosques announced mourning and a general strike in Jenin and Nablus.

Ninety Palestinians have been killed by the Israeli army in the West Bank since the beginning of this year.

The Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine said the killings showed that “this occupation, which practices terrorism in all its forms against our Palestinian people,” understands only force.

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, spokesman for the Palestinian presidency, said the “dangerous Israeli escalation” would not give legitimacy, security or stability to Israel.

He added that Israel is an international pariah and that the US, its principle ally, has lost credibility with its continued calls for calm while Palestinian lives, land and holy sites are being destroyed.

“The occupation still insists on crossing all red lines, whether in Jerusalem, Jenin, Nablus or the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories,” he said.

Hazem Qassem, a Hamas spokesman, said the “terrorism of the occupation” would not break Jenin’s determination, and “the fall of the martyrs becomes fuel for the resistance.”

He added that the battle against Israel will continue until it is expelled from all Palestinian land.

Israel accused Hamas of stoking tensions in the West Bank, claiming that an explosive device was detonated when its soldiers tried to arrest the wanted men in Jenin and that both died in an exchange of fire.

Hamas was also accused by Israel of stoking Palestinian resistance at the Al-Aqsa compound in East Jerusalem, which has been stormed by Jewish settlers for three consecutive days.