UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work

UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work
FSO Safer, the tanker holding 1.1 million barrels of crude oil in the Red Sea off Yemen. (File/AFP)
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Updated 14 June 2022

UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work

UN launches online campaign to bridge funding gap for Safer salvage work
  • Crowdfunding effort to make the oil tanker safe and prevent a catastrophic spill in the Red Sea
  • Saudi Arabia earlier pledged $10 million for the operation

NEW YORK: The UN on Monday launched a social media campaign to raise money to bridge the gap in funding for a salvage operation to prevent a potentially devastating oil spill in the Red Sea from the decaying tanker FSO Safer.

The vessel, which contains 48 million gallons of oil, has been moored off the west cost of Yemen since the start of the war in the country seven years ago.

It has had little or no maintenance during that time and its condition has deteriorated, raising growing fears that a disaster is imminent that could cause the world’s fifth-largest oil spill from a tanker.

The UN is seeking $144 million in donations to fund the operation to make it safe, $80 million of which will be used to transfer the oil to another vessel.

“Following Saudi Arabia’s announcement of a $10 million pledge on June 12 and the US announcement that it is working toward a $10 million contribution, we now have three-quarters of the $80 million required to start the emergency phase of the operation,” said UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric.

David Gressly, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, announced the fundraiser in a message posted to his Twitter account. He said the goal is to raise $5 million by June 30 so that work on the vessel can begin in July.

The Safer, a floating storage and offloading terminal, is anchored close to the Yemeni port of Hodeidah.

The rusting vessel’s hull, equipment and systems have deteriorated so badly that there are growing fears it could spring a leak, catch fire or even explode, potentially causing an environmental disaster four times worse than the Exxon Valdez spill off the coast of Alaska in 1989, which remains the world’s worst in terms of damage to the environment.

Since 2019, the UN has been calling on the Houthis to allow a team of experts to access the ship, assess its condition and conduct emergency repairs, warning that a leak would destroy the livelihoods of many Yemenis, damage marine life and disrupt deliveries of aid.

It could also disrupt commercial shipping in the Red Sea, which is one of the world’s busiest waterways and accounts for 10 percent of global trade.

Other countries along its coast could also be affected, including Saudi Arabia, Djibouti and Eritrea. In November last year, the Houthis agreed to grant access to the ship.

Early this month, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the permanent US representative to the UN, said: “We know what the consequences are, we know the danger that is there and we have encouraged others to contribute to the funding of this effort.

“But let’s be clear the problem with the Safer is the Houthis, who have not allowed even the UN or others (to access the ship and inspect it).”

She said the ultimate responsibility rests with the militia because: “We can get all the money in the world and if they don’t allow access then we’re still in the same place where we started. So it is a two-pronged effort to get this done.”

Asked by Arab News whether or not he feels confident the Houthis will stand by their agreement to allow UN experts to board the vessel, Dujarric said: “In Yemen, as everywhere else around the world, we take things one day at a time.

“But our understanding is that, yes, we will have the access to the ship, which is critical for us in order to avoid what we fear would be an ecological disaster.”

Meanwhile, Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, said he is expecting an imminent response from the Houthis to a proposal for the phased reopening of key roads in Taiz and other governorates.

“The UN proposal takes into consideration various concerns expressed by both sides during discussions that started in the Jordanian capital, Amman, last month,” said Dujarric.

Taiz governorate has been under siege since 2015, when the Houthis closed main routes and surrounded the city center, largely cutting it off from the rest of the country. The siege continues despite the recent extension of a truce between the militia and government forces.

“As with all elements of the truce, the opening of roads is a measure to alleviate the suffering of Yemenis, as well as to bring about some sense of normalization and facilitate freedom of movement for Yemeni civilians,” said Grundberg.


Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirms Gaza truce with Israel: Statement

Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirms Gaza truce with Israel: Statement
Updated 24 sec ago

Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirms Gaza truce with Israel: Statement

Palestinian Islamic Jihad confirms Gaza truce with Israel: Statement

GAZA: Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza said Sunday they had agreed to a Cairo-brokered cease-fire to end three days of intense conflict with Israel that has left at least 41 Palestinians dead.
“A short while ago the wording of the Egyptian truce agreement was reached, which contains Egypt’s commitment to work toward the release of two prisoners, (Bassem) Al-Saadi and (Khalil) Awawdeh,” senior Islamic Jihad member Mohammad Al-Hindi said in a statement.
Saadi, a senior figure in Islamic Jihad’s political wing, was recently arrested in the occupied West Bank, while militant Awawdeh is also in Israeli detention.


Continued Israeli targeting of Al-Aqsa and holy sites sparks condemnation

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
Updated 26 min 28 sec ago

Continued Israeli targeting of Al-Aqsa and holy sites sparks condemnation

Smoke billows from a building struck during an Israeli air strike in Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on August 7, 2022. (AFP)
  • Settlers prostrate themselves in mosque's courtyards

RAMALLAH: Tensions rose in the West Bank and East Jerusalem on Sunday after more than 2,000 settlers stormed Al-Aqsa Mosque amid tight Israeli police protection throughout the Old City and at the gates leading to the mosque.

Hundreds of settlers will participate in the incursion to revive the so-called “destruction of the temple.”

They had gathered since Saturday evening in the Old City and its surroundings before reaching the Western Wall/Al-Buraq, ahead of their overnight preparation for the incursions, with the participation of far-right Knesset member Itamar Ben Gvir.

At dawn on Sunday, Israeli police stopped people under 50 from entering Al-Aqsa to prevent them from confronting the settlers. An arrest campaign was launched on Saturday night, with at least six young men targeted.

The settlers began storming the courtyards of Al-Aqsa in successive groups, with the first group of 50 provided by extremist Yehuda Glick.

Israeli police deployed members of its special units in the courtyards to provide guards for the intruders, keep Palestinians away from the path of the incursions, and prevent their movement during the tours.

Settlers raised the Israeli flag while storming the courtyards.

They organized dancing and singing sessions near the Al-Silsila Gate from the outside. There were also tours and prayers at all the gates of Al-Aqsa from the outside.

Several settlers prostrated themselves in the courtyards of Al-Aqsa, as Muslim worshippers confronted the intruders and their provocations.

A statement from the Islamic Awqaf, which is affiliated with Jordan and in charge of Al-Aqsa, was signed by other Islamic commissions in Jerusalem and obtained by Arab News.

It said: “In an attempt to change the religious, legal, and historical status of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque/Al-Haram Al-Sharif, the occupation authorities and their police and intelligence forces turned this morning, Sunday, the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque into a military barracks to secure the storming of groups of Jewish extremists to the premises of the blessed Al-Aqsa Mosque, after their calls to mobilize large numbers to storm the mosque in remembrance of the so-called ‘Destruction of the Temple.’”

According to the Islamic Awqaf, about 2,176 Jewish extremists stormed the courtyards under the protection of the Israeli police and intelligence forces who secured their tours, dances, singing, and laying down as part of their rituals in an apparent provocation to the feelings of Muslims, in return for emptying the mosque of worshippers, pursuing several young men and women, forcibly expelling them outside the mosque, arresting a number of them, and preventing the entry of a large number of worshippers.

The Palestinian Foreign Ministry said it held the Israeli government fully and directly responsible for its ongoing aggression against Christian and Islamic holy sites, the foremost of which was Al-Aqsa, and for its repercussions and dangers on the conflict and the entire region.

 


Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 
Updated 13 min 49 sec ago

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 

Thousands of war-displaced people in Yemen’s Marib hit by heavy flooding 
  • Last week, rainstorms, floods and landslides killed at least 16 people and displaced many others across the country

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s government on Sunday appealed for emergency humanitarian assistance for thousands of internally displaced people who were affected by torrential rains and flash floods that hit the central city of Marib.

Flash floods triggered by heavy rains coupled with strong winds battered dozens of camps, mud houses and huts that host thousands of people in different areas, killing one person and displacing thousands.

The Yemeni government’s Executive Unit for IDP Camps said in a statement seen by Arab News that the rains, floods and winds have completely destroyed the shelters and houses of 5,287 families and partially ruined the property of 11,448 others, urging local and international relief organizations and donors to urgently send aid in the form of shelter, food and medication to the affected people.

“We call on all humanitarian partners to provide urgent aid to the affected families, especially shelter and food,” the government body said, calling for permanent and disaster-resilient buildings to replace tents and mud houses.

The city of Marib had become a safe haven for more than 2 million Yemenis who fled fighting and political, religious and social oppression by the Iran-backed Houthis since the beginning of the war.

Local aid workers said that the affected people were transferred to schools and other public facilities and hotels, while many others went to live with relatives in the city of Marib.

Mohammed Al-Soaidi, an aid worker with the Executive Unit for IDP Camps, told Arab News that the rains and winds “uprooted” the camps and huts of the displaced people, and one person died while trying to rescue trapped children and women.

“People are in need of shelter and food. Tents that cannot protect people from harsh weather or rains must be replaced,” Al-Soaidi said.

Last week, rainstorms, floods and landslides killed at least 16 people and displaced many others across the country, mainly in the northern province of Hajjah.

Local social media accounts said on Sunday that hundreds of people are still trapped in mountainous villages in Hajjah and are in desperate need of humanitarian assistance after floods and rockslides blocked or washed away many roads. 

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization predicted in its Agrometeorological Early Warning Bulletin on Sunday that heavy rains and flooding would continue hitting many areas in Yemen and are expected to affect nearly 20,000 people in Mahwit, Taiz, Saada, Hodeidah, Raymah, Lahj, Hadramout and Shabwah.

“Forecasts for the period 01 – 20 August indicate sustained heavy rainfall threatening the already battered parts of Yemen, causing further displacement and loss of livelihoods,” the FAO said. 


Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis
Updated 07 August 2022

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis

Gaza hospital services at risk amid power plant crisis
  • Airstrike kills second senior Islamic Jihad commander; 31 Palestinians, including 6 children and 4 women, dead

GAZA CITY: The Palestinian Ministry of Health has warned that its hospital services would stop within 48 hours if operations at the power plant in Gaza were not restored.

The power station has stopped working since noon on Saturday, as fuel supplies ceased with the closure of Kerem Shalom last week.

During its continuous raids since Friday, Israeli forces have killed at least 31 Palestinians, including six children and four women, and wounded more than 270 others.

Medhat Abbas, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health, said that services would be suspended if around-the-clock electricity was not restored within two days.

“The Ministry of Health needs half a million liters of fuel per month to be able to operate the private generators,” Abbas said. 

He fears a real disaster soon, as fuel is currently unavailable.

Gaza City Mayor Yahya Al-Sarraj said that municipal services were also being negatively impacted due to the lack of electricity.

“As a result of the power plant shutdown, municipal services will be minimal or even stopped. It will minimize the supply of domestic water, the consumption of which increases especially during July and August,” Al-Sarraj said.

“Raw sewage will drain into the sea because the plants are not functioning at full capacity,” he added. 

The power supply has been reduced to four hours a day, and the resulting situation will affect water distribution as well as sewage treatment plants, Abbas said.

Efforts to reach a ceasefire continued with Egyptian and UN mediation.

Local and Arab media quoted Egyptian sources as saying that they were making efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement and to restore calm to the Gaza Strip.

But Israeli warplanes continued to bomb various targets in the Gaza Strip for the third day in a row.

The Al-Quds Brigades, the military wing of the Islamic Jihad, fired dozens of missiles toward Israeli cities.

Missiles were also directed toward Jerusalem for the first time since the start of the latest fighting round. Israel’s assassination of Khaled Mansour, the Al-Quds Brigade commander in Rafah, was a new blow to the Islamic Jihad in Gaza in the wake of the killing of Taysir Al-Jabari, another Islamic Jihad commander.

The Military Council of the Islamic Jihad in Gaza consists of 10 members under the leadership of Akram Al-Ajouri, whom Israel tried to assassinate in Beirut previously.

Abu Hamza, a spokesman for the Al-Quds Brigades, said in a press statement: “What has emerged from our missile capabilities, which today are draining our foolish enemy, is a small part of what we have prepared.”

He asked the Palestinian people in the West Bank to get involved in the resistance. 

“We call on all the resistance fighters and free people in the West Bank and occupied lands to engage in this epic, and let it be a massive intifada that establishes the demise of our enemy.”

Ismail Haniyeh, head of the Hamas political bureau, said in a statement: “Around the clock, we are making all required efforts to protect our people and stop the aggression.”


UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador

UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador
Updated 07 August 2022

UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador

UN Security Council will meet to discuss Israeli attack on Gaza: Palestine’s UN Ambassador
  • Mansour emphasized Security Council’s responsibility to condemn and halt Israeli aggression and provide international protection for the Palestinian people.

NEW YORK: Palestine’s UN ambassador has said that the UN Security Council will hold a meeting on Monday to discuss the Israeli brutal aggression on the Gaza Strip, the Palestine News and Info Agency (WAFA) reported.

Ambassador Riyad Mansour emphasized that the Security Council is responsible for maintaining international peace and security, as well as responding to the imperatives of condemning and halting Israeli aggression and providing international protection for the Palestinian people.

UN Humanitarian Coordinator Lynn Hastings issued a statement on Saturday expressing her deep concern about the situation, which has killed at least 31 Palestinians and injured more than 253.

“The humanitarian situation in Gaza is already dire and can only worsen with this most recent escalation” she said.

“The continued operation of basic service facilities such as hospitals, schools, warehouses, and designated shelters for internally displaced persons is essential and now at risk,” she cautioned.

An electricity company spokesman said that Gaza’s sole power plant shut down on Saturday after running out of fuel five days after Israel closed its goods crossing with the Palestinian enclave, AFP reported.

Hastings added that the movement and access of humanitarian personnel, critical medical cases and essential goods, such as food and fuel, into Gaza must not be hampered in order to meet humanitarian needs.

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas is also scheduled to deliver an important speech before the UN General Assembly in New York on Sept. 23, WAFA reported.

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