US condemns Houthis for holding American, UN staff

The US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking held a press briefing following the extension of the truce in Yemen. (File/Reuters)
The US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking held a press briefing following the extension of the truce in Yemen. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 05 August 2022

US condemns Houthis for holding American, UN staff

US condemns Houthis for holding American, UN staff
  • 12 held incommunicado, says envoy Tim Lenderking
  • ‘Unconditional release would be a show of good faith’

LONDON: The US envoy to Yemen Tim Lenderking on Thursday condemned the Houthi militia for their continued detention of current and former employees of the American government and the UN.

“It’s still extremely unfortunate and we condemn the Houthi detention of 12 of our current and former US and UN staff, they are still being held incommunicado in Yemen, in Sanaa,” he told reporters during a press briefing on the renewal of the country’s truce.

“This detention, we feel, sends an extremely negative signal, we want to see a demonstration of good faith by the Houthis in releasing these individuals unconditionally,” Lenderking added.

The US said in November that the Iran-backed Houthis detained a number of Yemeni employees at the US embassy in the capital, which had been closed since 2015.

The UN said two of its staff members have been held incommunicado for more than a week by the militia.

Lenderking said aside from focusing on the truce and keeping fighting “at an all-time low” for an extended period, the US is also actively involved in supporting the UN to prevent an explosion or leakage from the Safer tanker that has been moored in the Red Sea and risks an environmental disaster.

He said they are getting close to their target of $80 million for an operation that would offload the oil from the tanker onto an adjacent vessel.

“That’s not a great deal considering what’s at stake. If there is an explosion of the Safer, we’re looking at $20 billion just for the cleanup, there will be (an) impact on international commerce, there will be destruction of vital maritime habitat, (which) will worsen the humanitarian situation in Yemen by obstructing passage into Yemen ports, it will decimate the Red Sea’s marine ecosystem,” he said.

He said Saudi Arabia conveyed a strong commitment to extend the UN-sponsored truce, which was renewed for another two months by the Yemeni parties on Tuesday.

He said both Saudi Arabia and Oman have played a critical role in the truce efforts, adding that they will be working hard to push donors to continue to fill the gaps over the coming months.

He said if the truce, which first took hold in April, continues for another two months, it would mean “six months of de-escalation and significant advances on numerous lines of effort,” and provides potential for a “durable cease-fire and an inclusive, comprehensive political process.”

“The truce offers Yemenis the longest period of calm since the war began, and it offers them real relief, and when you look at the various components of that, civilian casualties are down by about 60 percent since before the start of the truce, approximately 8,000 Yemenis have flown from Sanaa on commercial flights for the first time since 2016, five times more fuel is entering Hodeidah port per month compared to 2021.”

Lenderking said over the next two months intensified negotiations need to be held to finalize the truce agreement, and called on all sides to compromise to make progress.

He said this includes “initial Houthi action” to open the main roads to Yemen’s third largest city, Taiz, where “residents there have been living under siege-like conditions since 2015.”

“The expanded agreement would enable discussions on a comprehensive, nationwide cease-fire that can bring true, true peace and calm to Yemen, and it also paves the way for resuming a Yemeni-Yemeni political process, that ... is the only thing that can durably resolve the conflict and reverse the humanitarian crisis,” Lenderking said.

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower
Updated 9 sec ago

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower

Death and destruction: Israel’s strike on Palestine Tower
  • ‘There were screams and we heard explosions from every direction,’ survivor tells Daily Telegraph
  • 3-day bombing of Gaza last week killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and injured hundreds

LONDON: An Israeli missile strike on a block of offices and apartments in Gaza City destroyed homes and killed innocents, the Daily Telegraph reported on Wednesday.

The newspaper’s on-the-ground correspondents James Rothwell and Siham Shamalakh reported from Palestine Tower, where residents were forced to “move in darkness” following an Israeli airstrike on Friday that left death and destruction.

The reporters found “clothes, sofas and other fragments of their lives … buried under collapsed walls.”

They added: “In one room, which belonged to a family of eight, blood is smeared across a wall. The air is heavy with smoke and an acrid, chemical smell which residents suspect was left by the missiles.”

The destruction came as Israel launched its biggest attack on the Palestinian territory since May 2021. The missile strike on Friday assassinated Tayseer Al-Jabari, a commander with Islamic Jihad.

Khalil Kanoon, who lives in the tower, told the Telegraph that he and his family were sitting down for lunch when the missiles hit. He reported seven missiles slamming into the building, where he lives with his family.

“My mother, my wife and I were in the kitchen and my children were playing in the bedroom,” said Kanoon.

“I was telling my wife that it seemed Israel was about to strike Gaza, and before I finished the sentence we heard a very big explosion and the windows blew out. There were screams and we heard explosions from every direction.”

Kanoon told the Telegraph that he and his family escaped the destruction, running through shattered glass barefoot, but his mother was wounded in the hand.

He added that the residents, left homeless and with little hope of urgent rehousing, were unaware that Al-Jabari was in the tower and were not pre-warned of the attack.

The airstrike on the tower was the opening attack in a three-day bombardment that killed 44 Palestinians, including 15 children, and injured hundreds.

Israel said it had intelligence of imminent attacks so had to launch the airstrike to stop Islamic Jihad from assaulting Israeli towns near the Gaza Strip.

The ceasefire, introduced on Sunday night, has done little to calm the frayed nerves of the tower’s residents.

Kanoon told the Telegraph: “We condemn this unjustified Israeli strike with so many bombs targeting civilians on a weekend, where they were not pre-warned. We are calling for the buildings to be rebuilt so we can go back to our apartments.”

He added: “The situation is very hard, some families will have to rent (elsewhere), some are staying with relatives and some have nowhere to go. We also want psychological support.”

The Telegraph also visited Shifa hospital in Gaza City, where doctors told the reporters that they were mostly treating lower-limb wounds and head injuries.

“The healthcare system is exposed to collapse, even if there had been no aggression. Every year it is worse,” said Dr. Hani Sami Al-Haytham, chairman of Shifa’s accident and emergency department.

He added: “The ultrasound was donated by the Red Cross, but it is out of order and we have no alternative because of the repeated power cuts ... If the power keeps going off this causes malfunctions.”

The Telegraph said several children had been left with life-changing injuries, including 11-year-old Rahaf Suleiman, whose feet and arm had to be amputated.

Ghassan Abu Ramadan, a 65-year-old retired engineer who was injured in the strikes, said: “You can’t imagine the explosion. We can’t believe we survived.”

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh
Updated 13 min 58 sec ago

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

UAE urges UN to drop ‘Islamic State’ name when referring to Daesh

The UAE has called on United Nations organizations to stop using the term ‘Islamic State’ when referring to Da’esh, during the UN Security Council in New York, arguing that the extremists should not be associated with the religion. 
UAE Ambassador and Deputy Permanent Representative and Chargé d’Affaires, Mohamed Abushahab said ijn his address that organizations should not “permit Daesh and other groups to hijack a religion of tolerance and give credence to their pretences.”  
“There is nothing Islamic about terrorism,” he added. 

Abushahab’s statement came as the UN recognized that the threat posed by Daesh and its affiliates remained ‘global and evolving’. 
“Daesh and its affiliates continue to exploit conflict dynamics, governance fragilities and inequality to incite, plan and organize terrorist attacks,” said UN counter-terrorism chief Vladimir Voronkov, as he presented the Secretary-General’s fifteenth report. 
Abushahab stressed that the fight against terrorism went beyond Daesh, as the ‘fight against Al-Qaeda remains a global priority’ especially after ‘the organization enters a leadership vacuum, following the death of Ayman Al-Zawahiri.’ 
During his address, he said technology could be a “double-edged sword” that can be used to improve people’s quality of life in one respect, but misused by terrorist groups in the other. 
Abushahab said ‘emerging technologies have tremendous potential to aid in efforts to prevent counter, and address terrorism.’ 
And he said the council ‘must focus on preventing the emergence of the next generation of terrorists and extremists,’ referring to the recruitment of children at refugee camps. 
“At Al-Hol camp, more than 25,000 children are at potential risk of radicalization,” said Abushahab. “Genuine efforts must be made to give these children hope for a more peaceful and prosperous future.” 
He concluded his remarks by calling on the international community to ‘seize this opportunity and act now’ to eliminate Daesh and other terrorist groups.

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks
Updated 40 min 45 sec ago

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

Egyptian, Qatari leaders hold talks

CAIRO: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani and Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi discussed the latest regional developments, particularly the situation in the Gaza Strip, where Cairo brokered a truce that ended last week’s fighting between Israel and Islamic Jihad.

During the phone call, Sheikh Tamim and El-Sisi also discussed measures to strengthen bilateral ties.

The emir expressed his gratitude for Egypt’s efforts to strengthen regional peace and security.

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea
Updated 47 min 52 sec ago

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea

Iran navy says repelled attack on ship in Red Sea
  • Navy escort flotilla was headed by the destroyer Jamaran

TEHRAN: An Iranian naval flotilla thwarted an overnight attack on an Iranian vessel in the Red Sea, a senior commander said Wednesday.
“The escort flotilla of the naval arm of Iran’s armed forces, headed by the destroyer Jamaran... promptly deployed to the scene last night after receiving a request for help from an Iranian ship in the Red Sea, and engaged with the attacking boats,” said the navy’s deputy head of operations, Rear Admiral Mustafa Tajeddini.
“Thanks to the effective (naval) presence and after heavy exchanges, the attacking boats made off,” he told state television.
Tajeddini did not give details of the ship which was targeted or of who was suspected of mounting the attack.
In November 2021, pirates attempted to seize an Iranian oil tanker in the Gulf of Aden, ISNA news agency said at the time.
Two weeks earlier, an Iranian warship repelled an attack by pirates against two oil tankers that it was escorting in the Gulf of Aden.
Like other countries dependent on the shipping lane through the Red Sea and Suez Canal, Iran stepped up its naval presence in the Gulf of Aden after a wave of attacks by Somalia-based pirates between 2000 and 2011.
But the number of attacks has fallen sharply in recent years.

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal
Updated 10 August 2022

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal

US and Iran study text of revived nuclear deal
  • EU expects quick decision on 25-page document after Vienna talks conclude

JEDDAH: The final text of a proposed new nuclear deal with Iran has been sent to Washington and Tehran amid rising expectations that a revived agreement is imminent.

The EU said on Tuesday it expected a rapid response from the two capitals. “There is no more space for negotiations,” EU foreign policy spokesman Peter Stano said. “We have a final text. So it’s the moment for a decision, yes or no. And we expect all participants to take this decision very quickly.”

Talks concluded in Vienna on Monday aimed at reviving the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the 2015 agreement with world powers to curb Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions on Tehran. The original deal collapsed in 2018 when the US pulled out and reimposed sanctions.

Britain, China, France, Germany, Iran and Russia, as well as the US indirectly, resumed talks on the issue last week, after a months-long hiatus. The EU-coordinated negotiations began in April 2021 before coming to a standstill in March.


EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell, who coordinated the talks, said the text of a proposed new deal had been submitted to the countries involved for a political decision on whether to accept it. Iran said it was studying the 25-page document.

“What can be negotiated has been negotiated, and it’s now in a final text,” Borrell said. “However, behind every technical issue and every paragraph lies a political decision that needs to be taken in the capitals.”

Key challenges to a revived deal remain. European officials urged Iran to drop its “unrealistic demands” outside the scope of the original agreement, including those related to an International Atomic Energy Agency probe into undeclared nuclear material found in Iran.

Iran’s chief negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani has flown back to Tehran for political consultations, but the final decision will be made by Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The US said the new draft was “the best and only basis on which to reach a deal.” The State Department said: “Our position is clear: We stand ready to quickly conclude a deal on the basis of the EU’s proposals.” Thedeal’s restoration was up to Iran, it said. “They repeatedly say they are prepared for a return to mutual implementation. Let’s see if their actions match their words.”