US imposes more Iranian sanctions over Mahsa Amini’s death

The Iranian national flag is seen outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters during the agency’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. (File/AFP)
The Iranian national flag is seen outside the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) headquarters during the agency’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna. (File/AFP)
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Updated 26 October 2022

US imposes more Iranian sanctions over Mahsa Amini’s death

US imposes more Iranian sanctions over Mahsa Amini’s death
  • US imposes sanctions on members of Iran’s intelligence agency, leaders of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, prison wardens and others
  • The sanctions come 40 days since 22-year-old Mahsa Amini died while being held by the morality police

 WASHINGTON: The US placed over a dozen Iranian officials on its sanctions blacklist Wednesday for the crackdown on protests over the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini while being held by the morality police.
The sanctions were announced as security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters who massed in Amini’s hometown to mark 40 days since her death, according to Hengaw, a Norway-based human rights group.
Sanctions were placed on Mohammad Kazemi, the head of intelligence for the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Hossein Modarres Khiabani, the governor of Sistan and Baluchistan province, the location of some of the worst violence triggered by the recent protests.
Two other IRGC officials were blacklisted, as were the police chief of Isfahan and seven national and regional prison officials.
Since becoming head of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization in June, “Kazemi has overseen a heightened crackdown on civil society across the country,” the US Treasury said in a statement.
“The IRGC and its Basij militia have used lethal force against protesters and is an essential element of the regime’s aggressive use of violence against the Iranian people,” it said.
As Sistan and Baluchistan governor, Khiabani was responsible for an incident on September 30 when security forces killed at least 80 in Zahedan, the provincial capital.
The Treasury and State Department also placed sanctions on two Iranian intelligence officials who allegedly operate an academy to train and recruit hackers, and a company involved in Internet censorship for the government.
“It has been 40 days since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in the custody of Iran’s so-called ‘Morality Police,’ and we join her family and the Iranian people for a day of mourning and reflection,” US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.
“The United States is committed to supporting the Iranian people and ensuring that those responsible for the brutal crackdown on the ongoing nationwide protests in Iran are held accountable,” he said.


Egypt targeting 2m rail passengers per day

Egypt targeting 2m rail passengers per day
Updated 8 sec ago

Egypt targeting 2m rail passengers per day

Egypt targeting 2m rail passengers per day
  • On Sunday, the Egyptian Railways Authority will roll out a new fleet of Spanish Talgo trains on the Upper Egypt line
  • Among other features, there are display screens for each chair in first-class carriages and central screens in second-class carriages

CAIRO: Egypt’s rail system aims to accommodate up to 2 million passengers per day under new government plans.
On Sunday, the Egyptian Railways Authority will roll out a new fleet of Spanish Talgo trains on the Upper Egypt line.
Authority head Mohamed Amer told Arab News: “The Spanish Talgo trains constitute a huge quantum leap in the history of trains because they are similar to the trains operating in European countries.”
He added that the Talgo train features advanced technology, comfort for passengers and is designed to maintain stability through its aluminum carriages.
In addition, the train’s fuel efficiency will aid in Egypt’s environmental ambitions, Amer said.
Among other features, there are display screens for each chair in first-class carriages and central screens in second-class carriages.
The Talgo trains are equipped with surveillance cameras and a monitoring room.
The authority’s efforts to develop Egypt’s railways extend beyond new deploying new trains, Amer said, with ambitious daily and annual passenger targets being set.
In 2014, the rail system transported 900,000 passengers per day.
A report by the National Railways of Egypt said a development system is working to increase daily passenger transport to 1.5 million people per day by 2024 and 2 million by 2030.
There are also plans to raise the cargo transport capacity to 13 million tons in 2030, compared to 4.5 million tons in 2014.


Cancer patients in Lebanon fear death due to lack of vital medicine

Cancer patients in Lebanon fear death due to lack of vital medicine
Updated 35 min 57 sec ago

Cancer patients in Lebanon fear death due to lack of vital medicine

Cancer patients in Lebanon fear death due to lack of vital medicine
  • The patients’ protest on Saturday coincided with World Cancer Day
  • Joe Salloum, president of the Lebanese Order of Pharmacists, condemned “the genocide committed against the patients by depriving them of cancer medication”

BEIRUT: Dozens of cancer patients in Lebanon staged a demonstration on Saturday in Riad Al-Solh Square near the headquarters of the prime minister to highlight the unavailability of drugs in pharmacies and hospitals.
Protesters held banners saying, “We will tell God everything” and “Medicine will be available when you stop your corruption.”
The patients’ protest on Saturday coincided with World Cancer Day.
Joe Salloum, president of the Lebanese Order of Pharmacists, condemned, along with the Barbara Nassar Association for Cancer Patient Support, “the genocide committed against the patients by depriving them of cancer medication.”
Salloum is one of the organizers of the protest taking place in Beirut.
Joyce, a protester in her 40s, said: “Medicine is unavailable. I cannot buy it myself because I cannot cover its costs, but I get it from an association that supports cancer patients in Lebanon.”
Joyce, who suffers from breast cancer and needs an eight-year-long treatment, added: “If the government decides to lift subsidies on cancer medication as it has been reported lately, what am I going to do? The ruling class is no longer subsidizing anything, but it can at least keep the subsidies on the medication so we can stay alive.”
Karim Gebara, head of the Lebanese Pharmaceutical Importers, believes there is a drug shortage because the funds available for their purchase are not enough to cover the needs of all Lebanese patients.
Gebara said that importers no longer play a key role when it comes to the amount of imported drugs. Instead, it is the Health Ministry that decides the quantity and type of drugs and who will receive them, Gebara added.
Patients and activists supporting them wore black during their protest on Saturday, mourning cancer victims who died last year because they could not receive their treatment on time.
They charged that the state is “trying to kill and exterminate them.”
Last year, cancer patients carried and smashed a wooden coffin symbolizing their death caused by the lack of medicine and inability to receive treatment.
In an exclusive interview with Arab News, caretaker Health Minister Firass Abiad said that cancer patients have a right to be worried, but the ministry has not lifted subsidies on medications for cancer and incurable diseases.
“What happened is that we substituted eight expensive medications with generic ones from international companies,” he said.
“Moreover, the price of one branded medication pack equals the price of two generic medication packs, meaning that for the price of one branded medication pack, I can give two patients two generic medication packs. This does not mean that subsidies were lifted as interpreted by some people.”
Abiad stressed that one of the ministry’s priorities is to secure medication and treatment for patients suffering from cancer and incurable diseases, adding that their numbers range between 20,000 and 30,000.
He said the computerized system the ministry has set up to track subsidized medications, such as those for cancer and incurable diseases, has the aim of providing fair treatment.
It has, to date, detected many loopholes, including how some people would acquire expensive cancer medications under the names of deceased patients or in a quantity that exceeds their needs, said Abiad.
Now, the minister said 90 percent of the subsidized medications are going to the right place and the ministry is in the process of adding more medications to the tracking system.
The Ministry of Health has previously warned against smuggling subsidized cancer drugs outside Lebanon and using counterfeit or expired drugs smuggled inside Lebanon. Several hospitals have documented dozens of samples that, upon inspection, were found to be mixed with water and salt.
According to patients, subsidized medications do not arrive on time, which messes up the schedule of treatment sessions, leading to the deterioration of patients’ health conditions.
Abiad said complaints stem from the fact that drug companies no longer keep extra stock in their warehouses because of Lebanon’s current financial straits, causing a delay.
“Previously, we were suffering from the lack of drugs. Now we suffer from their late arrival. We are continuously working under tough circumstances. Public sector employees are still on strike, and we are doing everything we can,” he said.
Patients who can no longer find their medications are either importing them or opting for alternatives from Turkiye, Armenia, India, Iran and Syria.
The funds the Ministry of Health has allocated for medications for cancer and incurable diseases decreased from $45 million to $35 million per month, due to Lebanon’s current economic crisis.
Abiad said: “Of those funds, $12 million was allocated to cancer and incurable diseases. Now that we have lifted the subsidies on medicines for other diseases, we have directed financial savings to medicines for cancer and incurable diseases and raised the allocated amount to $25 million.”
The Cabinet is set to meet next week to discuss an agenda of “necessary, urgent and emergency topics.”
The agenda includes three points related to securing the needs of the Ministry of Health for the purchase of drugs for cancer and incurable diseases, dialysis supplies and primary materials for the pharmaceutical industry, in addition to the payment of social assistance to workers in government hospitals.
Ismail Sukkarieh, head of the “Health is a Right and Dignity” campaign, told Arab News: “There are dozens of files related to price manipulation, counterfeit drugs, the smuggling of drugs from the Ministry of Health that are then sold on the black market and outside Lebanon.
“These files weren’t appropriately addressed by the Parliament, the parties or the educated elites. This gave the drug mafia the green light and allowed it to exploit the health of cancer patients by withholding medications and reselling them for obscene prices on the black market.”


Houthi land mines killed 32 Yemenis this year

Houthi land mines killed 32 Yemenis this year
Updated 04 February 2023

Houthi land mines killed 32 Yemenis this year

Houthi land mines killed 32 Yemenis this year
  • Civilian casualties due to land mines have increased despite the cessation of hostilities during the truce brokered by the United Nations in April
  • Hodeidah was the province with the highest number of civilians killed by land mines, with 18 deaths including eight children

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: At least 32 Yemeni civilians have been killed and 42 others injured by land mines planted by Houthis since the start of the year, according to Yemeni Landmine Records — a group that tracks civilian land mine fatalities in the country.
The group said it had recorded 41 explosions caused by land mines, ordnance, or other explosive devices that had killed 32 civilians — including 14 children and a woman — and wounded 42 others including 15 children and a woman in January.
Civilian casualties due to land mines have increased despite the cessation of hostilities during the truce brokered by the United Nations in April, it added.
Hodeidah was the province with the highest number of civilians killed by land mines, with 18 deaths including eight children and a woman, and 20 injuries, including 11 children.
Next on the list were Jouf, Marib, Saada, and Hajjah.
“The intensity of military activities has diminished over the last several months, but mines and other war leftovers continue to kill and harm people. They have aggravated misery and hindered the return of some displaced families to their homes and farmers to their jobs,” Fares Al-Hemyari, Yemeni Landmine Records’ executive manager, said in a statement.
Al-Hemyari’s organization is one of many local and international rights groups to say that thousands of Yemeni civilians have been killed or injured since the beginning of the Iran-backed Houthis’ expansion across the country following their military seizure in late 2014.
They accuse the Houthis of randomly planting land mines in former battlefields and refusing to hand over maps indicating where those land mines are located.
The most recent verified victims of Houthi land mines were two children: Khalil Yahiya, 12, and Saber Mohammed, 15, from the city of Hodeidah, according to Yemeni Landmine Records. The group also reported that 14 Yemeni civilians had been killed or wounded in Jouf, Hodeidah, Saada, Hajjah, and Lahj in the 48 hours before its announcement.
The Saudi-funded Project Masam — a demining program in Yemen — has reported that the Houthis have transformed Yemen into the largest land mine field in the world by planting tens of thousands of the devices.
Masam said its field deminers removed 4,615 land mines, unexploded ordnance, and other devices from approximately 968,000 square meters of ground in January, bringing the total number of defused land mines and other explosive devices to 384,220 from 43,612,000 square meters of Yemeni soil since the project was launched in 2018.
Yemeni deminers say that the majority of recent civilian deaths in the province of Hodeidah happened in regions held by the Houthis.
Salem Hemaid, head of Masam’s demining team, told Arab News on Saturday that they are racing against time to avoid human casualties and enable displaced residents to return home.
“The absence of maps, vast swaths of contaminated ground, and the indiscriminate placement of land mines are our greatest obstacles,” Hemaid said, adding that the Houthis had laid land mines in numerous Hodeidah districts abandoned by the Yemeni government’s Joint Forces in late 2021.
Hemaid’s crew removed over 25,000 land mines in 2022 in 16 communities in Hodeidah, he said.
“The Houthis thoroughly mined the shoreline, as well as the locations and barricades from which the Joint Forces withdrew so that if they returned they would be blown up by the mines,” Hemaid said.
 


British military forces in Kuwait for Desert Warrior 7 drills

British military forces in Kuwait for Desert Warrior 7 drills
Updated 04 February 2023

British military forces in Kuwait for Desert Warrior 7 drills

British military forces in Kuwait for Desert Warrior 7 drills
  • Joint exercise serves to ‘increase bilateral cooperation’ Kuwait Defense Ministry says

KUWAIT: British military forces have arrived in Kuwait to participate in Desert Warrior 7 — a military exercise that will be carried out in partnership with the Kuwait Land Force between Feb. 5 and Feb. 23.
The Kuwait News Agency reported on Saturday that a statement from Kuwait’s Ministry of Defense said that the joint drill “serves to increase bilateral cooperation and unify military concepts and joint training.”


Israeli army besieges homes of fugitives in West Bank raid

Israeli army besieges homes of fugitives in West Bank raid
Updated 04 February 2023

Israeli army besieges homes of fugitives in West Bank raid

Israeli army besieges homes of fugitives in West Bank raid
  • The army said it entered the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp southwest of Jericho in the occupied West Bank to search for suspects involved in a shooting attack last week
  • Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest in those areas since 2004

AQABAT JABR REFUGEE CAMP, West Bank: The Israeli army raided a refugee camp near the Palestinian city of Jericho on Saturday, besieging houses it said were being used as hideouts for Palestinian attackers and shooting at residents who opened fire. The fighting wounded six Palestinians, two seriously, said the Palestinian Health Ministry, and jolted a generally quiet oasis town that has seen less violence than other West Bank cities.
The army said it entered the Aqabat Jabr refugee camp southwest of Jericho in the occupied West Bank to search for suspects involved in a shooting attack last week at a nearby Israeli settlement.
Last Saturday, with the West Bank on edge after the deadliest Israeli military raid in two decades and two subsequent Palestinian attacks in east Jerusalem that killed seven people, the army said a Palestinian gunman had opened fire in a restaurant at a settlement near Jericho. After firing one bullet, the gunman fled the scene, the army said. No one was wounded.
The army said several Palestinians had holed up in their homes after the shooting with the help of family and were planning future attacks.
To force the fugitives to surrender, a military bulldozer clawed at the walls of one of the homes as an Israeli commander shouted threats over a loudspeaker. Camp residents reported receiving text messages urging families to keep their children inside and avoid clashing with Israeli troops.
The suspects and family members trickled out of one of the homes and turned themselves in, the military said. Security forces had leveled much of the house, leaving a pile of rubble and twisted metal. Palestinian protesters threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at military jeeps as they rumbled down the camp streets, while some gunmen opened fire. The Israeli military fired back, wounding six, none critically, the Palestinian Health Ministry said.
The incursion comes as violence rises in east Jerusalem and the occupied West Bank under Israel’s new far-right government, which has taken a combative stance against the Palestinians. Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip. The Palestinians seek those territories for their hoped-for independent state.
The Israeli army has ramped up near-nightly raids in the occupied West Bank since a series of deadly Palestinian attacks within Israel last spring. Over the last year and a half of escalating raids, Jericho has remained a sort of sleepy desert town, spared much of the violence.
Since last week’s shooting at the nearby settlement, the Israeli military has blocked access to several roads into Jericho — a closure that has placed the city under a semi-blockade, disrupting business and creating hourslong bottlenecks at checkpoints that affected even Palestinian security forces, footage showed.
The Palestinian Authority, in retaliation for last week’s raid into the Jenin refugee camp that killed 10 Palestinians, declared a halt to security coordination with Israel.
Nearly 150 Palestinians were killed last year in the West Bank and east Jerusalem, making it the deadliest in those areas since 2004, according to figures by the Israeli rights group B’Tselem. Some 30 people were killed in Israel by Palestinians in 2022.
The Israeli army says most of the Palestinians killed have been militants. But stone-throwing youths protesting the incursions and others not involved in confrontations have also been killed.