Yemenis inch closer than ever to war’s end in 2022

Yemenis will remember 2022 as the year that saw the longest halt in hostilities since the beginning of the war. (Reuters/File Photo)
Yemenis will remember 2022 as the year that saw the longest halt in hostilities since the beginning of the war. (Reuters/File Photo)
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Updated 31 December 2022

Yemenis inch closer than ever to war’s end in 2022

Yemenis inch closer than ever to war’s end in 2022
  • Ceasefire sees major drop in fighting outside Marib, Taiz, elsewhere
  • Planes take off from Sanaa airport, fuel tankers trickle into Hodeidah port

AL-MUKALLA: Yemenis will remember 2022 as the year that saw the longest halt in hostilities since the beginning of the war, and the emergence of a new governing body that united the country’s competing groups.

UN Yemen envoy Hans Grundberg said on April 1 that the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Iran-backed Houthis had agreed to a two-month ceasefire that would entail restoring Sanaa airport, allowing fuel tankers to enter Hodeidah port, and opening highways in the city of Taiz and other provinces.

The declaration came days after the Arab coalition halted its bombing of Yemen in a bid to clear the way for peace.

Prior to the ceasefire, and as Grundberg shuttled between Yemen and regional towns to negotiate the truce, hundreds of Houthis died outside the city of Marib in heavy fighting with the government as they attempted to take control of the city in order to strengthen their position at the negotiating table.

Despite predictions that the ceasefire would be short-lived, the truce has resulted in a major drop in violence outside Marib, Taiz and other battlefields, while commercial planes finally took off from Sanaa for the first time in years and fuel tankers started to trickle into the port of Hodeidah.

On June 2, Grundberg declared that the parties had agreed to extend the ceasefire under the same conditions, despite the Yemeni government’s complaint that the Houthis had failed to relieve their siege of Taiz, a crucial condition of the truce.

Two months later, Grundberg made a similar declaration about the parties’ decision to extend the ceasefire for another two months. But in October, he said the parties failed to extend the truce after the Houthis rejected a fresh proposal about the opening of roads in Taiz and the payment of public workers.

The UN and other international organizations said that between April and October, the number of war-related deaths was at its lowest level since the beginning of 2015.

New governing body

Yemen’s former President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who took office in 2012 following an uncontested election, transferred his powers on April 7 to an eight-member Presidential Leadership Council led by Rashad Al-Alimi, the former interior minister.

The council drew together competing anti-Houthi groups, including pro-independence southerners, supporters of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, senior military officers and governors.

Ten days later, the council returned to the southern city of Aden, was sworn in before parliament, and created a military committee to unite opposing armed groups and military forces under its authority.

The formation of the council happened days after the start of Yemen discussions in Riyadh, which brought together a large number of Yemeni political, religious, military, security and tribal forces to develop a road plan for the nation under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

Fighting and assassinations

Despite the relative quiet on the battlefield in 2022, killings occurred in Aden and Sanaa, as well as the Houthi bombardment of civilian areas in Taiz, and their cross-border drone and missile assaults on the UAE and Saudi Arabia.

In March, the Houthis launched drone attacks and fired missiles against Saudi Arabian oil and water desalination facilities.

The Houthis also attacked oil infrastructure in Abu Dhabi on April 17, killing three people and raising worldwide anger.

Yemeni experts said that the Houthis initiated their strikes on the UAE and Saudi Arabia in an effort to persuade them to end their military support for the Yemeni government, which had evicted them from the southern province of Shabwa and was advancing on Marib province.

Also in 2022, politicians, military personnel and journalists were killed in a series of bombings and drive-by shootings in both government-controlled Aden and Houthi-controlled Sanaa.

Brig. Gen. Thabet Jawas, one of the army’s commanders throughout the six wars with the Houthis, was killed by a car bomb in Aden in March. In June, Saber Al-Haidari, a Yemeni journalist, was also killed in a bomb blast in the city.

In Sanaa, unidentified men killed 63-year-old Supreme Court judge Mohammed Hamran on Sept. 1, days after kidnapping him from his home.

Former Yemeni ambassador and retired military commander Maj. Gen. Dirham Noman was killed at his apartment in Sanaa on Oct. 16.

Fighting Al-Qaeda

Taking advantage of the respite in hostilities with the Houthis, Yemen’s military and security forces in September started a military offensive to dislodge Al-Qaeda militants from their long-held strongholds in the southern provinces of Abyan and Shabwa.

For the first time in years, Yemeni troops achieved success in the Omaran Mountain area, which has long functioned as a safe haven for Al-Qaeda, where militants planned attacks, trained and recruited members, and harbored captives.

Relapse

In October, the Houthis dashed hopes of negotiating peace and ending the conflict by flying drones at government-controlled oil terminals in Hadramout and Shabwa.

As a consequence, oil supplies were halted and the Yemeni government was forced into insolvency after losing its key source of revenue.

The UN estimated in December that more than 21 million Yemenis, out of a population of 32.6 million, would need humanitarian assistance in 2023.


Powerful earthquake strikes southern Turkiye, at least 10 reported killed

Powerful earthquake strikes southern Turkiye, at least 10 reported killed
Updated 2 min 15 sec ago

Powerful earthquake strikes southern Turkiye, at least 10 reported killed

Powerful earthquake strikes southern Turkiye, at least 10 reported killed
  • Temblor felt in neighboring countries, particularly in Lebanon, Cyprus, Syria and Jordan

RIYADH/ANKARA: A 7.8 magnitude quake knocked down multiple buildings in Turkiye and Syria early Monday and officials warned of many casualties.

At least 10 deaths have been confirmed in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, according to Gov. Salih Ayhan.

In northwest Syria, the opposition’s Syrian Civil Defense described the situation in the rebel-held region as “disastrous” adding that entire buildings have collapsed and people are trapped under the rubble. The civil defense urged people to evacuate buildings to gather in open areas.

The US Geological Survey (USGS) said the quake was centered about 33 kilometers (20 miles) from Gaziantep, a major city and provincial capital. It was centered 18 kilometers (11 miles) deep, and a strong 6.7 aftershock rumbled about 10 minutes later.

Turkiye’s Disaster and Emergency Management agency, AFAD, said the quake measured 7.4 and was centered in the town of Pazarcik, in Kahramanmaras province.

The German Research Center for Geosciences (GFZ) measured the quake at Magnitude 7.7, with a shallow depth of 10 kilometers.

Several buildings tumbled down in the neighboring provinces of Malatya, Diyarbakir and Malatya, HaberTurk television reported. 

Syria’s state media reported that some buildings collapsed in the northern city of Aleppo and the central city of Hama.

In Damascus, buildings shook and many people went down to the streets in fear.

The quake jolted residents in Lebanon from beds, shaking buildings for about 40 seconds. Many residents of Beirut left their homes and took to the streets or drove in their cars away from buildings.

The earthquake came as the Middle East is experiencing a snowstorm that is expected to continue until Thursday.

Turkiye's disaster management agency, AFAD, measured the quake at magnitude 7.4.

USGS reported another shallow 6.7-magnitude quake occurring near the site of the first about 15 minutes after.

The southern region of Gaziantep — one of Turkiye’s key industrial and manufacturing hubs — borders Syria. 

Turkish authorities have not yet reported any deaths or injuries, but videos posted on social networks showed destroyed buildings in several cities in the southeast of the country.

Netizens from as far as Jerusalem and Beirut talked of being awakened by the strong shaking.

"I live in Gaziantep, Türkiye.  Was sleeping when it started. Absolutely terrifying," Nasip (@iam_nasib) commented on a video posted on Twitter.

"Felt it in Jerusalem," said Amy di Nardò (@amybellabella).

Sagittarius (@JRsagittarius) said he was in Beirut and the experienced "was terrifying."

Karolingston (@karolingston) of Cyprus said he was awakened because "My bed was shaking."

"Felt it in Lebanon. It was a hell of a feeling!" chimed in CharbelRahmé (@charbelrahm_e)

Turkiye is in one of the world’s most active earthquake zones.

Duzce was one of the regions hit by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake in 1999 — the worst to hit Turkiye in decades.

That quake killed more than 17,000 people, including about 1,000 in Istanbul.

Experts have long warned a large quake could devastate Istanbul, which has allowed widespread building without safety precautions.

A magnitude-6.8 quake hit Elazig in January 2020, killing more than 40 people.

And in October that year, a magnitude-7.0 quake hit the Aegean Sea, killing 114 people and wounding more than 1,000.

(With agencies)

 

 


Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
Updated 06 February 2023

Turkiye’s President Erdogan says Western missions will ‘pay’ for closures

A view of the German consulate in Istanbul, on June 2, 2016. (AP)
  • Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned

ISTANBUL: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan said Western missions would “pay” for issuing security warnings and temporarily closing consulates in Turkiye last week, while police said there was no serious threat to foreigners after detaining 15 Daesh suspects on Sunday.
Ankara summoned the ambassadors of nine countries on Thursday to criticize their decisions to temporarily shut diplomatic missions and issue security alerts. Turkish officials said the following day that Western nations, including the United States and Germany, had not shared information to back up their claims of a security threat.
“The other day our foreign ministry summoned all of them and gave the necessary ultimatum, told them ‘You will pay for this heavily if you keep this up,’” Erdogan said during a meeting with youth that was pre-recorded and broadcast on Sunday.
Alongside the closures, several Western states warned citizens of a heightened risk of attacks to diplomatic missions and non-Muslim places of worship in Turkiye, following a series of far-right protests in Europe in recent weeks that included several incidents of burning copies of the Muslim holy book, the Qur'an.
Turkiye suspended negotiations for Sweden and Finland’s NATO accession last month following a protest in Stockholm during which a copy of the Qur'an was burned.
Erdogan said that the Western states were “playing for (more) time” and that the “necessary decisions” would be taken during Monday’s cabinet meeting, without elaborating.
’NO CONCRETE THREATS’
Earlier on Sunday, police said they had not found evidence of any concrete threat to foreigners in the detentions of 15 Daesh suspects accused of targeting consulates and non-Muslim houses of worship, state media reported.
Anadolu Agency cited an Istanbul police statement saying the suspects had “received instructions for acts targeting consulates of Sweden and the Netherlands, as well as Christian and Jewish places of worship.”
While the suspects’ ties to the jihadist group were confirmed, no concrete threats toward foreigners were found, the statement said.
Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu repeated on Saturday Turkiye’s frustration with what it says is Sweden’s inaction toward entities that Ankara accuses of terrorist activity. All 30 NATO members must ratify newcomers.
Turkiye, Sweden and Finland signed an agreement in June aimed at overcoming Ankara’s objections to their NATO bids, with the Nordic states pledging to take a harder line primarily against local members of the banned Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms against the Turkish state in 1984.
 

 


Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
Updated 05 February 2023

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide

Yemen’s Taiz mourns 2 children who committed suicide
  • Calls grow for deeper investigation into motivations and protection of youngsters amid shock and despair

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: Security services of the southern Yemeni city of Taiz said that two children committed suicide in two separate events on Saturday, leaving the beleaguered population in shock and despair.

Police in Taiz said in a statement that they were notified of two suicide victims in the city on Saturday evening, citing the deaths as “dangerous precedents.”

Police named the first child as 12-year-old Kareem Abdul Kareem from the Al-Jamhuria neighborhood, who hanged himself inside his room on Saturday afternoon by tying a scarf around his neck.

Ammar Khaled, a 16-year-old who committed suicide on Saturday evening by wrapping a rope around his neck and tying it to a door outside his family’s home, is the second victim. 

After forensic investigators gathered photographs and evidence, his family requested his burial on the same day. 

Police in Taiz pledged to investigate the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the victims and have asked the community and professionals for assistance in determining the reasons behind the suicides.

In a statement, police urged both authorities and members of the public “to collaborate…in order to provide the appropriate answers.”

Mohammed Alawi, an investigator with police in Taiz, told Arab News that a team, including social and psychiatric professionals, was looking into the cases and would release their findings this week.

Initially, Alawi ruled out the possibility of cyberbullying or even sexual harassment and attributed the deaths of the two children to the mobile game PUBG. 

“These are risky games, and we advise parents to monitor their children’s mobile devices to see what they are seeing or playing,” Alawi said.

He also touched on other instances of suicide, which he blamed on psychological suffering caused by the war.

“Women and children in Yemen, particularly in besieged Taiz, have suffered emotionally because of the war. We had never seen such crimes before the war,” he said.  

On social media, the police statement and photographs of the two deceased children have elicited condolences for the families and calls for an investigation into the motivations behind the suicides and for the protection of children.

“You should investigate with the family about the electronic games they played, such as PUBG, and whether they have Facebook or WhatsApp accounts,” said Adnan Taha on Facebook.

“All communications should be reviewed, since (the children) may be vulnerable to harassment and extortion,” Taha said.

Another social media user, Muneir Al-Qaisi, urged local security agencies not to bury the victims before autopsies are conducted to determine whether they consumed anything poisonous.

“We hope you will not hurry to bury them and (will) examine their bodies,” Al-Qaisi said. 

“It is conceivable that the parents are unaware of beverages or meals being shared among the children,” said Al-Qaisi.

Investigator Alawi responded to accusations of a hasty burial by stating that one of the boys was buried at the request of his family and only after investigators examined both the corpse and the scene.

“He was buried after forensic teams examined the scene, photographed it, and performed investigations. Additionally, his relatives requested burial from the prosecution,” Alawi said.


Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
Updated 05 February 2023

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground

Lebanon hopes UNESCO danger listing could save crumbling modernist fairground
  • Rachid Karami International Fair has decayed due to conflict, poor maintenance and country’s financial crisis

TRIPOLI: Its arch is cracking and its vast pavilions lie empty, but the crumbling Rachid Karami International Fair in Lebanon’s port city Tripoli now has hope of revival, having been added to the United Nations’ list of world heritage sites in danger.
Designed by Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer in 1962, the collection of structures on the 70-hectare plot is considered one of the key works of 20th century modernism in the Middle East.
But the fair park has slowly decayed due to repeated rounds of fighting over the last 60 years, poor maintenance and most recently Lebanon’s crippling, three-year-old financial crisis.
“It was placed on the World Heritage List exceptionally, quickly and urgently – and on the list of heritage in danger because it’s in a critical situation,” said Joseph Kreidi, UNESCO’s national program officer for culture in Beirut.
Its elegant arch is missing concrete in some parts, exposing the rebar underneath. Rainwater has pooled at the locked entrances. One section is sealed off by a sign that reads, “Unsafe building entry.”
“Placing it on the World Heritage Danger List is an appeal to all countries of the world, as if to say: this site needs some care,” said Kreidi.
He said it was up to the Lebanese authorities to draw together a plan for the site’s protection and rehabilitation but that UNESCO, the United Nations’ cultural agency, could help search for funding and provide technical expertise.
Lebanon has five other sites on UNESCO’s World Heritage list, most of them citadels and ancient temples.
Niemeyer is recognized as one of the fathers of modern architecture and the site in Tripoli was an early foray into the Middle East.
Construction of the fairground began in the 1960s but was delayed when civil war erupted in Lebanon in 1975. Fighters used the site to stage operations and stored weapons underneath its concrete dome.
Mira Minkara, a freelance tour guide from Tripoli and a member of the Oscar Niemeyer Foundation’s Tripoli chapter, has fond – but rare – memories of the fairground as a child.
For the most part, it was off-limits to Tripoli’s residents given safety concerns. But Minkara remembered her first visit during a festival of pan-African culture and crafts.
She hopes that UNESCO’s recognition could bring new festivals, exhibitions and economic benefits to Tripoli – already one of the poorest cities on the Mediterranean before Lebanon’s financial meltdown began.
Lebanon’s cultural heritage has been hit hard in recent years. The 2020 Beirut port blast tore through 19th-century homes in historic neighborhoods and power outages caused by the financial crisis have cut supplies to the national museum.
“We hope things change a little,” Minkara said. “It’s high time for this fairground to emerge from this long sleep, this almost-death.”


Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
Updated 05 February 2023

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges

Egypt cancels World Youth Forum in light of global challenges
  • Budget for event will instead be used to fund development initiatives
  • Event was set to start later this month

CAIRO: In response to a host of global economic challenges, this year’s World Youth Forum, which was set to start later this month, has been canceled, its organizers said on Saturday.

Instead, the budget for the event, which was to be held in the Egyptian town of Sharm El-Sheikh, will be used to fund the implementation of five development initiatives aimed at young people in Egypt and beyond.

This year would have marked the fifth edition of the forum, with the fourth being held in January last year. The event is organized by the Presidential Program for Qualifying Youth for Leadership.

It said the decision to cancel this year's conference was an acknowledgment of the multiple crises facing the world that have put huge humanitarian and economic pressures on nations and governments.

Among the beneficiaries of the redirected funding is a series of international exchange programs for young people. These will be arranged in cooperation with the Decent Life Foundation, National Alliance for Civil Development Action, Arab Union for Volunteering and UN Volunteers Program.

Parliamentary Counselor Issam Hilal Afifi told Arab News that the proceeds from the sponsorship rights to this year’s forum would be redirected toward a large package of initiatives.

Dr. Muhammad Mahmoud Mahran, secretary-general of the International Committee for the Defense of Water Resources, said the move would also enable recommendations made at the previous forum to be implemented.

The planned initiatives would have a positive impact at the local, African and global level, he said.