The deadly journey along Yemen’s potholed, heavily mined roads

Special The deadly journey along Yemen’s potholed, heavily mined roads
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A wrecked Toyota Land Cruiser, which was carrying 34 students when it plunged down a cliff in Yemen’s Dhamar — resulting in 11 fatalities and 23 injuries. (Facebook Photo)
Special The deadly journey along Yemen’s potholed, heavily mined roads
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A wrecked Toyota Land Cruiser, which was carrying 34 students when it plunged down a cliff in Yemen’s Dhamar — resulting in 11 fatalities and 23 injuries. (Facebook Photo)
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Updated 23 January 2023

The deadly journey along Yemen’s potholed, heavily mined roads

The deadly journey along Yemen’s potholed, heavily mined roads
  • Horrific crashes reignite demands for highways to be opened, repaired and cleared of landmines
  • The Houthis extensively laid explosives on major and minor highways around the country to prevent government troops from entering their regions

AL-MUKALLA: At least 11 schoolchildren were killed and 23 others were injured on Saturday after their packed vehicle crashed off a hilly road in Yemen’s Dhamar province, south of the capital Sanaa, the second fatal road crash in a day.

The incidents have reignited demands for highways to be opened, repaired and cleared of landmines.

A local man told Arab News by phone that 34 school children were returning home from their school in a remote region of Wusab Al-Ali District on Saturday when their Toyota off-road vehicle went down a cliff, killing 11 and injuring 23, 13 of whom were critically injured.

“The students live in a rural village with few transportation options. As a consequence, some of them were crammed inside the car, while others hung from the back or the top in an attempt to reach home as soon as possible,” the man, who was collecting funds to treat the injured, said on condition of anonymity.

“Students who were hanging outside the vehicle escaped when the car flung them down the cliff, while others who were inside were trapped and died.” 

Images on social media showed severely injured youngsters on hospital beds and others receiving treatment in hospital hallways and emergency rooms. 

The remains of the deceased were wrapped in blankets and laid on the ground.

Locals also said a driver was killed, and four members of his family, including two children, were injured on Friday when their cab plummeted down a cliff in the same district.

Despite criticizing the driver of the truck for overloading his vehicle with students, many demanded that roads be repaired and others that had been blocked for the past eight years be reopened. 

“Will these deaths and injuries inspire people to find ways to reduce the number of traffic accidents in Wusab and Yemen as a whole?” Mansour Taleb, a Sanaa resident, said on Facebook. 

As fighting erupted in the early days of the Houthi military advance after their seizure of Sanaa in late 2014, the key routes connecting major cities were cut off.

The Houthis blocked major highways leading into and out of Taiz, Yemen’s third most populous city, essentially besieging the densely populated area and forcing residents to use hazardous, unpaved and rocky paths while leaving or entering the city.

The Houthis also extensively laid explosives on major and minor highways around the country to prevent government troops from entering their regions.

The Houthis have constantly blamed the “blockade” for failing to fix roads in Sanaa and other Yemeni cities under their control, despite collecting billions of Yemeni riyals from taxes and other sources of revenue.

Because of years of neglect, the roads in government-controlled regions are as terrible as those in Houthi-controlled districts.

The Yemeni government blames the lack of road repairs on the conflict, the Houthis and limited financial resources.

Opening roads in besieged Taiz and other Yemeni provinces is one of the unimplemented requirements of the UN-brokered truce.

Yemeni drivers and citizens have complained that the shutdown of major roadways, Houthi landmines and rough roads have made travel between Yemeni cities or to neighboring countries much more hazardous and time-consuming.

A Yemeni driver from Sanaa heading to Saudi Arabia through the Wadea border crossing told Arab News that he was forced to drive across a desert and a mined route in Jouf with his family since the major road connecting Sanaa to other provinces through Marib is blocked.

“I paid SR1,000 ($266) to a driver with extensive knowledge of the desert route to transport my vehicle from Sanaa to Wadea. This route is a half-day shorter than the alternative route via Aden,” he said as he drove his white Toyota SUV into Saudi Arabia.

In mid-January, a Yemeni family of nine barely averted death when their car passed over a landmine in the Jouf desert, causing an explosion that injured them all.

The internationally recognized government’s Ministry of Interior recorded over the last year 2,692 traffic accidents that resulted in 430 fatalities and 1,960 injuries inside its control areas.

The Houthi Ministry of Interior said on Sunday that 59 people were killed or injured in traffic accidents in Sanaa and other regions under their control on Saturday alone.


Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
Updated 10 sec ago

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran

Netanyahu in Paris to press Macron on Iran
PARIS: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will hold talks with French President Emmanuel Macron Thursday, hoping to gain support against Iran’s nuclear program but shadowed by an upsurge of violence in the region.
Israel’s Paris embassy said the pair would discuss “the international effort to stop the Iranian nuclear program.”
Netanyahu hopes that Iran’s role supplying drones to Russian invaders in Ukraine as well as the crackdown on protests at home will prompt Western allies to drop any pursuit of a revival of the 2015 deal over its atomic drive.
The prime minister has also said Israel is considering sending military aid to Ukraine, apparently dropping its previously more neutral stance over the conflict.
France agrees that “firmness” is needed in dealings with Iran, a diplomatic source told AFP, calling its nuclear program “dangerous” and highlighting its role in the Ukraine war.
Tehran also holds several foreign nationals who Western governments see as political hostages.
But Macron’s office said the French leader would “reiterate (to Netanyahu) the need for all sides to avoid measures likely to feed the cycle of violence” between Israelis and Palestinians — while offering “France’s solidarity with Israel in the face of terrorism.”
Netanyahu visits as Israelis and Palestinians exchanged rockets and missiles over Gaza, the latest violent episode as the conflict intensifies.
A week ago, seven were killed in a mass shooting by a Palestinian at a synagogue in annexed east Jerusalem — one day after an Israeli raid in the West Bank killed 10 Palestinians.
No press conference is planned around the Macron-Netanyahu dinner starting at 1900 GMT at the French president’s Elysee Palace office.
In France until Saturday, Netanyahu is also set to meet French business chiefs and leaders of the country’s Jewish community, the Israeli embassy said.

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan
Updated 02 February 2023

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan

Iran says IAEA stance on nuclear work “incorrect” — Mizan
  • Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there

DUBAI: Iran’s said on Thursday that the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) latest position on Tehran’s nuclear work was not correct, according to Mizan news agency.
The UN nuclear watchdog criticized Iran on Wednesday for making an undeclared change to the interconnection between the two clusters of advanced machines enriching uranium to up to 60 percent purity, close to weapons grade, at its Fordow plant.
“The IAEA inspector’s interpretation was incorrect but he reported it to the agency ... We immediately provided the explanation to the IAEA on the same day,” Iran’s nuclear chief Mohammad Eslami said.
In a confidential report to member states seen by Reuters, the IAEA did not say how the interconnection between the two cascades of IR-6 centrifuges had been changed except that “they were interconnected in a way that was substantially different from the mode of operation declared by Iran (to the IAEA).”
Fordow is so sensitive that the 2015 nuclear deal between Iran and major powers banned enrichment there. Since the United States pulled out of the deal in 2018 and re-imposed sanctions against Iran, the Islamic Republic has breached many of the deal’s restrictions on its nuclear activities.
Talks between Tehran and world powers to revive the pact have stalled since September.


France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
Updated 02 February 2023

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen

France seizes Iran assault rifles, missiles heading to Yemen
  • Announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia

YEMEN: French naval forces seized thousands of assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles earlier this month in the Gulf of Oman coming from Iran heading to Yemen’s Houthi militia, officials said Thursday, the latest such interdiction amid the Mideast nation’s long-running war.
While Iran did not immediately acknowledge the seizure, images of the weapons released by the US military’s Central Command showed them to be similar to others captured by American forces in other shipments tied back to Tehran.
The announcement comes as Iran faces increasing Western pressure over its shipment of drones to arm Russia during its war on Ukraine, as well as for its violent monthslong crackdown targeting protesters. Regional tensions also have heightened after a suspected Israeli drone attack on a military workshop in the central Iranian city of Isfahan. Previous cycles of violence since the collapse of Iran’s nuclear deal with world powers have seen the Islamic Republic launch retaliatory attacks at sea.
The seizure occurred Jan. 15 in the Gulf of Oman, a body of water that stretches from the Strait of Hormuz, the narrow mouth of the Persian Gulf, through to the Arabian Sea and onto the Indian Ocean. US Central Command described the interdiction as happening “along routes historically used to traffic weapons unlawfully from Iran to Yemen.”
A United Nations resolution bans arms transfers to Yemen’s Iranian-backed Houthi militia, who took the country’s capital in late 2014 and have been at war with a Saudi-led coalition backing the country's internationally recognized government since March 2015.
The Wall Street Journal first reported on the seizure, identifying the forces involved as elite French special forces. A regional official with knowledge of the interdiction, who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity due to not having permission to speak publicly on the operation’s details, similarly identified the French as carrying out the seizure.
The French military did not respond to requests for comment about capturing the weapons. US Central Command did not immediately respond to questions about the seizure, nor did Iran’s mission to the United Nations. While France maintains a naval base in Abu Dhabi, it typically takes a quieter approach in the region while maintaining a diplomatic presence in Iran.
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, though Western nations, UN experts and others have traced weaponry ranging from night-vision scopes, rifles and missiles back to Tehran. In November, the US Navy said it found 70 tons of a missile fuel component hidden among bags of fertilizer aboard a ship bound to Yemen from Iran. Houthi ballistic missile fire has targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in the past.
Images taken Wednesday by US Central Command, analyzed by the AP, showed a variety of weapons on board an unidentified ship apparently docked at a port. The weapons appeared to include Chinese-made Type 56 rifles, Russian-made Molot AKS20Us and PKM-pattern machine guns. All have appeared in other seizures of weapons attributed to Iran.
Central Command said the seizure included more than 3,000 rifles and 578,000 rounds of ammunition. The released images also showed 23 container-launched anti-tank missiles, which also have turned up in other shipments tied to Iran.
More than 150,000 people have been killed in Yemen during the fighting, including over 14,500 civilians.


Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital
Updated 02 February 2023

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital

Jordan takes down a drug ring in capital
  • 13,000 narcotic pills and 68 packages of cannabis were seized

Dubai:  Jordanian police busted a drugs supply ring in the capital Amman, state news agency PETRA reported.

In the raid 13,000 narcotic pills and 68 packages of cannabis were seized, and four people were arrested, the report added, citing a public security department spokesman.

During the raid one of the suspects opened fire on police, who managed to arrest him with three others.

One other suspect remains at large, the spokesman added.

Three weeks ago Jordan’s Deputy Prime Minister Ayman Safadi in a meeting with Russian President's Special Envoy on Syria, Alexander Lavrentiev stressed Jordan focused efforts to prevent the smuggling of drugs from Syria into Jordan, and to bring down drug rings.

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Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge
Updated 02 February 2023

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge

Iran blames Israel for Isfahan drone attack, vows revenge
  • Primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible for the attack, says Iran's UN envoy
  • Attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity

DUBAI: Iran blamed Israel for a drone attack on a military factory near the central city of Isfahan, the semi-official ISNA news agency said on Thursday, vowing revenge for what appeared to be the latest episode in a long-running covert war.
The attack came amid tension between Iran and the West over Tehran’s nuclear activity and its supply of arms — including long-range “suicide drones” — for Russia’s war in Ukraine, as well as months of anti-government demonstrations at home.
In a letter to the UN chief, Iran’s UN envoy, Amir Saeid Iravani, said “primary investigation suggested Israel was responsible” for Saturday night’s attack, which Tehran had said caused no casualties or serious damage.
“Iran reserves its legitimate and inherent right to defend its national security and firmly respond to any threat or wrongdoing of the Zionist regime (Israel) wherever and whenever it deems necessary,” Iravani said in the letter.
“This action undertaken by the Zionist regime (Israel) goes against international law.”
Arch-foe Israel has long said it is willing to strike Iranian targets if diplomacy fails to curb Tehran’s nuclear or missile programs, but does not comment on specific incidents.
Talks between Iran and world powers to revive a 2015 nuclear deal have stalled since September. Under the pact, abandoned by Washington in 2018 under then-President Donald Trump, Tehran agreed to limit nuclear work in return for easing of sanctions.
Iran has accused Israel in the past of planning attacks using agents inside Iranian territory.
In July, Tehran said it had arrested a sabotage team of Kurdish militants working for Israel who planned to blow up a “sensitive” defense industry center in Isfahan.
“The equipment and explosives used in the Isfahan attack were transferred into Iran with the help of anti-revolutionary groups based in Iraq’s Kurdistan region under orders by a foreign security service,” Iran’s Nournews said on Wednesday.
Several nuclear sites are located in Isfahan province, including Natanz, the centerpiece of Iran’s uranium enrichment program, which Iran accuses Israel of sabotaging in 2021. There have been a number of explosions and fires around Iranian military, nuclear and industrial sites in recent years.