Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce

Special Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce
Fighters opposed to the Houthis gather in the Khokha region of Yemen’s western province of Hodeida, Sept. 20, 2022. (AFP)
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Updated 04 October 2022

Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce

Fighting erupts in Yemen as Houthis refuse to renew UN-brokered truce
  • PM Saeed urges international community to abandon its soft policy on Iran-backed militia
  • ‘Appeasement … does not increase the likelihood of peace,’ he says

AL-MUKALLA: Heavy fighting between government troops and Iran-backed Houthis broke out across Yemen at the weekend after the militia refused to renew a UN-brokered truce that expired on Sunday, sources said.

The fiercest battles took place outside the central city of Marib and in Al-Fakher area of Dhale province, where the Houthis barraged government forces with mortar rounds, cannonballs, tanks and drones fitted with explosives, an army official told Arab News.

Just minutes after the truce expired on Sunday night, the Houthis began shelling government soldiers with heavy weapons and drones in the area of Al-Baleq mountain, south of Marib. After that, they advanced on the ground in an effort to take control of the hilly territory that overlooks the city.

At the same time, other Houthi fighters launched attacks on government forces in Al-Kasarah, Raghwan and Mas, west of Marib.

The attacks sparked fierce fighting with loyalists, who were able to push them back.

“They have been preparing for these engagements from the beginning of the truce,” said the official, who asked to remain anonymous, adding that the Houthis incurred significant losses in the clashes and were unable to advance on the battlefield.

Heavy fighting also erupted in Al-Fakher in Dhale, where pro-independence southern troops said they had repelled Houthi attacks on their positions soon after the truce expired.

There were also sporadic exchanges of heavy machine-gun fire between government troops and the Houthis outside the besieged city of Taiz. The fighting erupted after UN Special Envoy for Yemen Hans Grundberg failed to persuade the Houthis to renew the ceasefire.

He said on Sunday that the UN-brokered truce, which went into effect on April 2 and was renewed twice, would not be renewed a third time. He thanked the Yemeni government for “positively” cooperating with his proposals to end the war.

A few hours before the announcement, Grundberg told Rashad Al-Alimi, the president of Yemen’s Presidential Leadership Council, that the Houthis had rejected his latest proposal to extend the truce.

The failure to renew it sparked outrage and criticism, primarily directed at the Houthis, as the truce has significantly reduced violence in Yemen, allowed Sanaa airport to reopen and made it possible for dozens of fuel ships to dock at Hodeidah port.

Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdul Malik Saeed condemned the Houthis for failing to renew the truce and urged the international community to abandon its soft policy toward the Houthis and take aggressive measures to punish them for sabotaging peace efforts.

“Appeasement policy (from the international community) does not increase the likelihood of peace and instead encourages the Houthis to become more obstinate,” he was quoted as saying by official media, adding that the Houthis interpreted concessions and appeals to them as signs of weakness.

“Whenever an opportunity for peace arises, the Houthi militia, backed by the Iranian regime, chooses to squander it by choosing to go to war,” Saeed said.

International aid organizations working in Yemen also expressed their dismay at the renewed fighting and its impact on civilians and humanitarian efforts in the country.

“We are deeply disappointed that the truce in #Yemen has not been restored,” the Norwegian Refugee Council said on Twitter.

“We call on parties to the conflict to reconsider, refrain from pulling the trigger and extend the arm of diplomacy as they have done for 6 months."

Fabrizio Carboni, the International Committee of the Red Cross’ Near and Middle East director, also appealed for an end to the fighting, saying the truce had allowed Yemenis to live in peace.

“We regret that an agreement was not reached to extend a nationwide ceasefire in #Yemen. Over the past 6 months, the truce had given millions of people respite from fighting,” he tweeted on Monday.

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Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime

Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime
Updated 10 sec ago

Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime

Sister of Iran’s supreme leader denounces ‘tyranny’ of regime
  • Khamenei condemned her brother in letter posted on Twitter by exiled son
  • Her daughter was arrested in November after criticizing regime in YouTube video

LONDON: Badri Hosseini Khamenei, the sister of Iran’s supreme leader, said on Wednesday that she soon hopes to see the overthrow of her brother’s “tyranny,” adding that he “has brought nothing but suffering and oppression” to his people. 

Khamenei’s family have been fierce critics of the Islamic regime since 1979, after the revolution deposed the last shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.  

Khamenei and her husband, Ali Tehrani, regularly spoke out against the government while in exile in Iraq during the 1980s, The Times reported. Upon their return to Iran in 1995, her husband, who died in October, was imprisoned for 10 years.

According to The Times, Khamenei has since refrained from publicly denouncing the regime while living in Iran.

However, she is now openly condemning the authorities’ violent crackdown on the nationwide protests.

In a damning letter posted on Twitter by her France-based son Mahmoud Moradkhani, Khamenei wrote: “I think it is appropriate now to declare that I oppose my brother’s actions and I express my sympathy with all mothers mourning the crimes of the Islamic Republic regime.

“I am sorry that due to physical ailments I cannot participate in protest movements as I should. But in heart and soul, I am with the people of Iran.

“Our family’s opposition and struggle against this criminal system began a few months after the revolution.

“The crimes of this system, the suppression of any dissenting voice, the imprisonment of the most educated and the most caring youth of this land, the most severe punishments, and the large-scale executions began from the very beginning.”

Khamenei’s daughter Farideh Moradkhani was arrested for the third time last month after calling on all foreign governments to stop supporting Tehran.

The activist described her uncle’s regime on Nov. 25 as “murderous and child-killing” in a video posted on Youtube.

Addressing this, Khamenei added: “When they arrest my daughter with violence, it is clear that they apply thousands of times more violence to other oppressed boys and girls who are subjected to inhumane cruelty.”

Khamenei also said that her brother was not listening to the “voice of the people in Iran,” but was instead taking note of “mercenaries and money-grubbers.”

She called on Revolutionary Guards to lay down their arms and join the people “before it is too late.”


Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies

Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies
Updated 07 December 2022

Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies

Rifts appear between Lebanon’s two political allies
  • Free Patriotic Movement hints at parting with Hezbollah, accusing it of attacking president’s position

BEIRUT: The Free Patriotic Movement’s anger over caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati convening a Cabinet session on Monday led to a shakeup in the relationship between the party and its ally, Hezbollah.

FPM head Gebran Bassil, in a press conference on Tuesday, expressed anger over “expanded decentralization, even without laws.”

Hezbollah and the Amal Movement provided political cover for Mikati to convene a Cabinet session to approve the process of securing medicines for dialysis and cancer patients, which Mikati deems an absolute necessity.

The FPM refuses to hold any Cabinet session in light of the presidential vacuum in order to prevent Mikati from exercising the powers of the Christian president, especially since the movement believes the caretaker government has no right to play this role.

As the country experiences a devastating economic crisis, eight attempts by Lebanon’s divided parliament to elect a president have failed after the term of President Micael Aoun ended over a month ago.

Aoun’s son-in-law Bassil has indirectly presented himself as a presidential candidate, given that his parliamentary bloc is the largest Christian bloc and has the right to nominate the future president.

Bassil rejects the candidacy of former Minister Suleiman Frangieh for the post, who is supported by Hezbollah and Amal.

In a press conference, Bassil said that the Cabinet session on Monday was “unconstitutional, illegal and unconventional,” describing it as “an execution of the constitution and a fatal blow to (the) Taif Agreement.”

The FPM ministers boycotted the Cabinet session, with the exception of the Minister of Industry George Boushkian, who secured the quorum for the session. His behavior resulted in his party, the Tashnak, an ally of the FPM’s, renouncing him for not abiding by its decision to boycott the session.

The FPM website stated that “Hezbollah contributes to the normalization of the vacuum and the assault on the president’s position.”

Bassil indirectly addressed Hezbollah, saying: “If someone thinks that they are pressuring us on the presidential issue, we would like to tell them that it will not work.

“We will not attend the parliament sessions if we do not find a great national need to do so, and we will seek to abandon the blank vote quicker and go for a presidential candidate.”

MP Michel Moussa, a member of the Development and Liberation parliamentary bloc headed by Parliament Speaker Nabih Berri, downplayed the possibility of any change in the political map at the level of the presidential elections as a result of the tensions following the Cabinet session. “Not electing a new president contributes to deepening these conflicts,” he said.

Moussa stressed the need to conduct a serious and effective dialogue between all parties to calm tensions and elect a president.

Hezbollah avoided commenting on Bassil’s statements.

MP Bilal Abdullah, a member of the Democratic Gathering bloc, said: “One party has unsuccessfully tried to raise the sectarian discourse. Hezbollah did not respond.”

A political observer, preferring anonymity, said: “Hezbollah, by participating in the Cabinet session, tried to assure Bassil that it was not alone on the scene.”

The Sovereign Front for Lebanon, which opposes Hezbollah, stressed that the MPs must remain in the parliament hall until a new president is elected for the sake of the country and the constitution.

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation
Updated 07 December 2022

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation

Jordanian, Egyptian and Iraqi foreign ministers discuss opportunities for trilateral cooperation
  • They identified potential areas in which their nations could work together in the fields of politics, economics, security and industry

AMMAN: The foreign ministers of Jordan, Egypt and Iraq, Ayman Safadi, Sameh Shoukry and Fuad Hussein, met on Wednesday to discuss ways in which the strategic integration of their countries might be boosted through a trilateral cooperation mechanism, the Jordan News Agency reported.

They reportedly identified potential areas for cooperation in politics, economics, security and industry, and recommended that efforts continue to move forward toward signing agreements.

Safadi and Shoukry expressed the full support of their countries for stability and security in Iraq and congratulated the nation on the formation of its new government.

The three ministers also discussed regional issues of mutual interest, including the Palestinian cause. In addition, they agreed to maintain institutional communications to facilitate upcoming projects and plans and overcome economic challenges that requiring systematic cooperation.


Yemen central bank sanctions Houthi-affiliated businesses

Yemen central bank sanctions Houthi-affiliated businesses
Updated 07 December 2022

Yemen central bank sanctions Houthi-affiliated businesses

Yemen central bank sanctions Houthi-affiliated businesses
  • The majority of the 12 enterprises and dealers were also among 19 companies and individuals sanctioned by Saudi Arabia in June for supporting the Houthis

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Yemen’s central bank has frozen the assets and accounts of 12 business groups and traders for supporting or having connections with the Iran-backed Houthis.

The move was part of a list of measures approved by the internationally recognized government of Yemen to punish the militia for attacks on oil installations.

Ahmed Ahmed Ghaleb, head of the Aden-based central bank, has formally instructed local exchange firms to close the accounts of the 12 oil and trade organizations and businesspeople and cease doing business with them.

“You must freeze all accounts, prohibit commercial and financial activities with the aforementioned persons and organizations, and add them to your blacklists,” the governor said in a letter to the firms, adding that the decision was based on Yemen’s National Defense Council’s designation of the Houthi militia as a terrorist organization.

SAM Industrial Supplies and Oil Field Services (owned by Saddam Al-Fagih and Zaid Ali Al-Sharafi), Al-Zahraa for Trade and Agencies (owned by Nabeil Abdullah Al-Wazer, Black Gold Company (owned by Ali Nasser Qaresha), and Fuel Oil for Import of Petroleum Products (owned by Ismael Al-Wazer and Qusi Al-Wazer) were among the blacklisted companies.

The majority of the 12 enterprises and dealers were also among 19 companies and individuals sanctioned by Saudi Arabia in June for supporting the Houthis.

During a meeting with a delegation of EU ambassadors in Aden, Yemen’s Oil Minister Saeed Al-Shemasi on Wednesday said that oil exports accounted for 75 percent of the country’s revenues, which were spent on paying salaries, funding projects, and paying for food and goods imports.

He called for more severe punitive measures against the Houthis to stop them from attacking oil terminals.

In October, the Yemeni government designated the Houthis as terrorists and demanded that the international community do the same after the group attacked two oil terminals in the southern provinces of Shabwa and Hadramout, blocking oil shipments and depriving the government of its primary income source.

The Houthis have vowed to keep bombing oil installations in southern Yemen unless the government agrees to divide oil profits and pay public employees in areas they control.

Separately, the Houthis freed Yemeni journalist Younis Abdul Sallam on Wednesday after holding him captive for more than a year, a Sanaa-based lawyer told Arab News.

The Houthis kidnapped him from a Sanaa street in August last year after he criticized them on social media.

Yemeni journalists and his friends celebrated his release and appealed for thousands of other people being held captive by the Houthis to be freed.

In a tweet, Nabeil Al-Subai, a senior member of the Yemen Journalist Syndicate, said: “It is an opportunity to ask the Houthis to free the remaining journalists in their custody.”

EU cash injection boosts health care services for Syrian refugees in Turkiye

EU cash injection boosts health care services for Syrian refugees in Turkiye
Updated 07 December 2022

EU cash injection boosts health care services for Syrian refugees in Turkiye

EU cash injection boosts health care services for Syrian refugees in Turkiye
  • In one of the largest projects it has funded, the EU provided €50 million for a new 400-bed hospital that opened this week in the border city of Kilis
  • The city’s population grew massively due to an influx of Syrians fleeing the war in their country, which overwhelmed its existing health care system

ANKARA: A new 400-bed hospital, built with €50 million ($52.5 million) of EU funding, opened to patients on Tuesday in the border city of Kilis in southeastern Turkiye.
The project, one of the largest funded by the EU, is part of the bloc’s continuing investment in health infrastructure in the country to improve medical services for Syrian refugees and their host communities. It is managed by the Council of Europe Development Bank and the Turkish Ministry of Health.
Kilis is just a few miles from the border with Syria and often witnesses exchanges of artillery fire in the civil war that has devastated its neighbor. It previously had only one public hospital, which opened in 2007, to serve the needs of both the native and refugee population.
The city’s population massively expanded as a result of an influx of refugees when the war began in Syria in 2011. There are currently about 91,000 Syrians in Kilis, a community that is more than a third of the size of the local population of 237,000. This placed huge demands on the local health care system as the existing hospital struggled to cope. The new hospital, which is equipped with the latest medical technology, will help to ease the pressure.
Kilis, like other Turkish provinces, lacked a proper mechanism for coping with refugees and distributing them more evenly when Syrians began to pour into the country more than a decade ago, said Omar Kadkoy, a migration-policy analyst at TEPAV, a think tank in Ankara. This created problems providing access to basic services and has caused social friction at times, he added.
“Therefore the new hospital in Kilis is a big relief,” Kadkoy told Arab News. “In parallel, those funding it and implementing the project should loudly communicate the overall inclusive benefits of the new hospital.”
The hospital has 24 operating rooms and offers round-the-clock emergency services. It can accommodate more than 3,000 patients at any given time and treat then using state-of-the-art health equipment, including imaging systems, an MRI facility, two dialysis rooms, 10 X-ray rooms, mammography and tomography facilities, and intensive care units. It is thought to be the biggest and most modern hospital in the region.
The existing hospital, which has 200 beds, will now used as a maternity and children’s facility for locals and refugees. In addition there are four health centers for migrants in Kilis.
In a speech at the official opening of the hospital, Ambassador Nikolaus Meyer-Landrut, head of the EU delegation to Turkiye, described it as “one more EU-funded project that will have a huge impact on the growing community of Kilis.”
Kadkoy said that in addition to the health benefits, the new hospital will also provide much-needed employment opportunities.
“Taking into account the population composition in Kilis, the hospital should welcome Turkish and Syrian health care professionals,” he said. “Doing so contributes to the integration of Syrians in the labor market and pushes social cohesion forward in a practical way.”
The EU said it has provided more than €10 billion in funding for Syrian refugees and their host communities since 2014, €1 billion of which was earmarked for health care.
Under the flagship SIHHAT project, worth €720 million, the EU and the Turkish Ministry of Health worked together to set up several mental and physical health facilities in areas across the country with high concentrations of refugee. They employ more than 4,000 health workers and support staff, including Syrian nurses and doctors, as well as bilingual guides to assist refugees during medical consultations. The EU said more than 300,000 refugees have so far benefited from these facilities.
The EU also provided €40 million of funding for a 250-bed hospital in the southern province of Hatay-Dortyol, where there are large numbers of Syrian refugees. It opened last summer.
Brussels invested €90 million in a project called “Strengthening Healthcare Infrastructure for All,” which included the construction of dozens of health centers for migrants, the renovation of existing centers and hospitals, and the provision of equipment for new physiotherapy and rehabilitation units in existing facilities.
The EU said its support for Turkiye’s health sector will continue next year, with a particular focus on cancer treatment and mitigating the effects of climate change on health.