Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency

Special Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
1 / 6
Sudan already faced acute problems before the outbreak of violence late last week. (AFP)
Special Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
2 / 6
Sudan already faced acute problems before the outbreak of violence late last week. (AFP)
Special Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
3 / 6
Destroyed vehicles are seen in southern Khartoum on April 19, 2023 amid fighting between Sudan's regular army and paramilitaries following the collapse of a 24-hour truce. (AFP)
Special Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
4 / 6
A column of smoke rises behind buildings near the airport area in Khartoum on April 19, 2023, amid fighting between the army and paramilitaries following the collapse of a 24-hour truce. (AFP)
Special Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
5 / 6
Sudanese army soldiers loyal to Abdel Fattah al-Burhan man a position in Port Sudan, on April 20, 2023. (AFP)
Special Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
6 / 6
Civilians rally behind Sudan's army headed by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan in the Red Sea city of Port Sudan, on April 20, 2023. (Photo by AFP)
Short Url
Updated 28 April 2023
Follow

Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency

Caught in the crossfire, Sudanese civilians face a humanitarian emergency
  • Millions of civilians were in desperate need of assistance even before the latest eruption of deadly violence
  • Political turmoil, economic woe, intercommunal violence and drought had already brought Sudan to the brink

JEDDAH: Already reeling from decades of conflict and political turmoil, the recent sudden outbreak of fighting in Sudan between rival military factions threatens to plunge swathes of the population into an even greater humanitarian disaster.

On April 15, after weeks of tensions, clashes broke out in the capital Khartoum, between the Sudanese Armed Forces of Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan and the Rapid Support Forces of Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, also known as Hemedti.

Videos have emerged showing passenger planes on fire on the aprons at the city’s international airport, while fighter jets fly overhead. Buildings can be seen riddled with bullet holes and the roar of artillery is heard across the capital.

 

 

“The sudden eruption has disrupted life in the capital city,” Abdullah Mukhtar, a resident of Khartoum, told Arab News. His family home has been without electricity since the fighting began.

He said: “Between 70 and 80 percent of people in the capital are daily wage workers, and if they lose their wages, they’ll have to provide somehow, and as we heard and saw, there’s much looting. The neighborhood is in total darkness as well as nearby areas.

“The supermarkets are deserted and looted, and the people are experiencing one suffering after another. Frankly, there is no assistance whatsoever provided anywhere in the city except through some citizen initiatives. It’s a war zone and it’s very dangerous.

“I haven’t seen any humanitarian assistance from either side, nor have I seen any international organizations, which is understandable. How can they reach the capital when the airport has been deemed technically not suitable for landing aircraft?”

Millions of Sudanese civilians, now caught in the crossfire between the two rival factions, were already in desperate need of humanitarian assistance, much of which has been suspended since the 2021 military coup.




Sudan already faced acute humanitarian problems before the outbreak of violence late last week. (AFP)

Thousands have left the capital and many are still trying to flee the violence. The UN refugee agency said on Thursday that between 10,000 and 20,000 people have fled Sudan’s western Darfur region in the past few days, seeking refuge in neighboring Chad, a nation that already hosts more than 370,000 Sudanese refugees from Darfur.

For years, Sudan’s humanitarian situation was in a precarious state due to decades of sanctions, economic deterioration, intercommunal violence, extreme weather events linked to climate change, and political turmoil.

Even before the latest bout of fighting, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimated around 15.8 million people among Sudan’s 45.6 million (2021) population would require humanitarian assistance in 2023, up from 1.5 million in 2021.

Of these, around 11 million required emergency assistance for life-threatening conditions related to physical and mental well-being.

Aid officials now fear the situation will grow even worse.




Sudan already faced acute food problems before the outbreak of violence late last week. (AFP)

“I am most concerned about the potential for the current conflict to spiral into a full-blown civil war with other regional actors getting involved and supplying further weapons. This would not only lead to more civilian deaths, but also cut off access to aid for millions already in need,” Daniel Sullivan, Refugees International’s director for Africa, Asia, and the Middle East told Arab News.

“Fighting, shelling, and aerial bombardments in urban areas have caused scores of civilian deaths and cut people off from food, water, and access to medical care. Some progress had been made in providing aid and addressing accountability and preparations for return to civilian rule, but the latest violence has destroyed any positive momentum. Perhaps most worrying, the fighting has cut off aid groups from reaching millions of people already in need of assistance,” added Sullivan.

INNUMBERS

45.6 million Population of Sudan (2021).

15.8 million Facing acute food insecurity.

3.6 million Internally displaced people.

As an advocacy group, Refugees International does not have humanitarian operations in Sudan. Sullivan said there was some concern for local and international partner groups which had been forced to suspend activities and, in some cases, had come directly under fire. 

He added: “The fighting in Sudan has cut off food delivery and driven aid organizations to suspend their activities and could put millions more in danger of food insecurity.”

On April 19, Sudanese Ministry of Health officials warned of a “total collapse” as 16 hospitals went out of service. According to OCHA, hospitals in Khartoum were running out of medical supplies because of looting and resources not being delivered.

“The government, the state, provides 1 percent of the population with the necessary services, medical and health, because the state itself is in a very fragile state, we cannot say a failed state. It doesn’t provide the necessary needs to the Sudanese people,” Ahmed Gurashi, a senior editor at Al Arabiya News channel, told Arab News.

 

“The shortage and the deficiency in the system was there before. But now, we do anticipate a crisis after this. I mean, Allah knows when the Sudanese could overcome this crisis. After the crisis, things will be revealed. (It will be) huge, it is a catastrophe in the making.”

Asma Yassin, a Sudanese medical volunteer in Khartoum, told Arab News that the situation was challenging as “most hospital staff evacuated the hospitals and patients were returned to their families.”

Meanwhile, all volunteer operations have been halted due to the streets being deemed unsafe.




People fill barrels with water in southern Khartoum on April 22, 2023, amid water shortages caused by ongoing battles between the forces of two rival Sudanese general. (AFP)

“We hear that there’s shortage in vital medicines such as insulin and Ventolin, and a shortage of ventilators and oxygen.

“Several makeshift clinics at private homes were erected that supply these medicines to patients, and some Sudanese abroad have even transferred money to supply the medication.

“But it’s very difficult as most districts (in Khartoum) have been left without electricity or water since Saturday as the water stations have been hit and workers are not able to reach the stations to get them operational again,” Yassin said.

Despite the efforts of aid agencies and nongovernmental organizations, Yassin pointed out that Sudanese volunteers were doing their best to provide relief to some neighborhoods by delivering water by truck. “But not everyone is lucky,” she added.

“When you say a catastrophe, sometimes people will say it is an exaggeration, describing the very reality of the Sudanese people,” said Gurashi. “If the injured don’t have access (to services), they will die. When you want to describe the very necessary needs there, (even) if you have money, you cannot get it, you cannot obtain it.

“If this conflict is going to end in Khartoum, in the heart of Khartoum, we will find too many, literally, old people who have died of lack of access to medicine, lack of access to healthcare. Other people who were injured or needed help during this time will definitely pass away because no service will be provided to them, and no access to services will be possible. This is the most awkward problem.”

International aid distribution was disrupted this week after three World Food Programme employees were killed during the fighting, which caused the UN-backed body to halt operations.

In a statement following the deaths, the WFP’s executive director, Cindy McCain, said: “Aid workers are neutral and should never be a target.”




Cindy McCain

For much of its history, Sudan has been wracked by internal strife, including two of the longest-running civil wars on the African continent and the conflicts in Darfur, South Kordofan, and the Blue Nile.

These conflicts have shattered the nation’s infrastructure, disrupted its agricultural sector, and undermined public health, particularly in relation to nutrition and food security.

Long before the fighting broke out on April 16, the availability of food, medicine, and social development projects was limited, requiring external emergency assistance every year since 1984.

The situation has been made worse by the yawning inequality in the distribution of wealth and power between the center and the periphery, routine mass displacements, and the almost constant blight of drought.

Sudan has endured repeated and prolonged droughts from 1980 to 1984, 1985 to 1993, 1996, 2001, and most recently last year, which have led to severe shortages of food and destroyed livelihoods in farming, a sector that not only provides food but also alleviates poverty.

Agriculture generates 35 to 40 percent of Sudan’s gross domestic product, according to the World Bank, and employs between 70 and 80 percent of the labor force in rural areas, where around 65 percent of the population lives.

Without oil revenues, growth has faltered, while the country’s debt problem remains unresolved. Poverty and malnourishment, which were already severe, have now worsened.

After the 2019 military coup that overthrew Omar Al-Bashir, a transitional government took over, carrying out ambitious economic and social reforms and engaging in peace negotiations with armed groups.

In 2021, Sudan received approval from the International Monetary Fund for relief on more than $56 billion in debt and new IMF funding worth $2.5 billion over a period of three years.

Opinion

This section contains relevant reference points, placed in (Opinion field)

Saudi Arabia and the UAE also agreed to send $3 billion worth of aid, $500 million of which was deposited in the Sudanese central bank and the rest delivered in the form of food, medicine, and goods.

However, the promising start was soon disrupted in 2021 when the military launched another coup, resulting in the suspension of development and debt relief programs and a return to political deadlock.

Aid agencies fear the latest violence will also lead to further displacement. According to OCHA, Sudan hosts around 1.1 million refugees from other countries — constituting one of the largest refugee populations in Africa.

Among these are more than 800,000 South Sudanese and around 126,000 Eritreans.

However, Sudan also counts about 3.6 million internally displaced people, mainly in the Darfur region, which has experienced volatility and bouts of ethnic cleansing for almost two decades. Some 4 million Sudanese live in neighboring Egypt.




In this October 9, 2019 picture, Sudanese queue to receive humanitarian aid supplies at a camp for internally displaced people in Darfur's state capital Niyala. With workers from aid agencies fleeing the war in Sudan, the humanitarian crisis is feared to worsen. (AFP File)

According to reports in the New York Times, more than 15,000 people have already fled the Darfur region into Chad.

For Khartoum residents such as Mukhtar, who have found themselves caught in the crossfire, fleeing the country may be the only option to guarantee their safety — a luxury not everyone can afford, nor a risk everyone is willing to take.

With gunfire in the background, Mukhtar said: “Everyone is on edge, and the situation has reached boiling point for people in the city.

“Those who made it out are safer. It’s the ones who can’t leave, it’s the sick who will suffer most because of the lack of healthcare services, and the unprivileged.”

 


Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
Updated 6 sec ago
Follow

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • Israeli delegation that went to Paris for talks on hostage deal returned on Saturday night
  • Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal

JERUSALEM: -Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.
An Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”

After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.

An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.


Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
Updated 36 min 52 sec ago
Follow

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens

Israel discusses next steps in truce talks as Gaza desperation deepens
  • An Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night
JERUSALEM: -Israel’s war cabinet has discussed the next steps for negotiations toward a hostage deal and ceasefire in its war with Hamas, as concern deepens over the increasingly desperate situation faced by civilians in the devastated Gaza Strip.
An Israeli delegation that had traveled to Paris for fresh talks on a hostage deal returned to brief the country’s war cabinet on Saturday night, according to an official and local media reports.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said in a televised interview shortly before the meeting that the “delegation has returned from Paris — there is probably room to move toward an agreement.”
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the meeting would discuss the “next steps in the negotiations.”
Local media later reported that the meeting had concluded with the cabinet agreeing to send a delegation to Qatar in the coming days to continue the talks.
As with a previous week-long truce in November that saw more than 100 hostages freed, Qatar, Egypt and the United States have been spearheading efforts to secure a deal.
Domestic pressure on the government to bring the captives home has also steadily mounted, with thousands gathering in Tel Aviv Saturday night at what has come to be known as “Hostages Square” to demand swifter action.
“We keep telling you: bring them back to us! And no matter how,” said Avivit Yablonka, 45, whose sister Hanan was kidnapped on October 7.
Anti-government protesters were also out in Tel Aviv, blocking streets and calling for Netanyahu’s government to step down as authorities deployed water cannon and mounted officers in a bid to disperse them.
“They are not choosing the right path for us. Whether it’s (the) economy, whether it’s peace with our neighbors,” 54-year-old software company CEO Moti Kushner said of the government, adding “it looks like they never want to end the war.”


After more than four months of shortages inside the besieged Gaza Strip, the World Food Programme said this week its teams had reported “unprecedented levels of desperation,” while the United Nations warned that 2.2 million people were on the brink of famine.
In northern Gaza’s Jabalia refugee camp, bedraggled children held out plastic containers and battered cooking pots for what little food was available.
Supplies are running out, with aid agencies unable to get into the area because of the bombing, while the trucks that do try to get through face frenzied looting.
“We the grown-ups can still make it, but these children who are four and five years old, what did they do wrong to sleep hungry and wake up hungry?” one man said angrily.
Residents have resorted to eating scavenged scraps of rotten corn, animal fodder unfit for human consumption and even leaves.
The health ministry said on Saturday that a two-month-old baby identified as Mahmud Fatuh had died of “malnutrition” in Gaza City.
Save the Children said the risk of famine would continue to “increase as long as the government of Israel continues to impede the entry of aid into Gaza.”
Israel has defended its track record on allowing aid into Gaza, saying that 13,000 trucks carrying relief supplies had entered the territory since the start of the war.
The war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official figures.
Hamas militants also took hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 30 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,606 people, mostly women and children, according to a Saturday tally from Gaza’s health ministry.
The ministry said early Sunday that another 98 people had been killed overnight, with the Hamas media office reporting strikes along the length of the territory, from Beit Lahia in the north to Rafah in the south.


An AFP reporter said there had been a number of air strikes on Saturday evening in Rafah, a city along the territory’s southern border with Egypt where hundreds of thousands of Gazans have fled to escape fighting elsewhere.
The presence of so many civilians packed into the area has sparked concerns over Israeli plans for troops to finally push into the city, the last major urban center they have yet to enter.
Despite the concerns, including from key ally the United States, Netanyahu signalled Saturday night that the expected push had not been abandoned, adding that “at the beginning of the week, I will convene the cabinet to approve the operational plans for action in Rafah, including the evacuation of the civilian population from there.”
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he added.
Netanyahu this week unveiled a plan for post-war Gaza that envisages civil affairs being run by Palestinian officials without links to Hamas.
It also says Israel will continue with the establishment of a security buffer zone inside Gaza along the territory’s border.
The plan has been rejected by both Hamas and the Palestinian Authority in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, and drawn criticism from Washington.

Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan

Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan

Economy another victim of war in impoverished Sudan
  • With most banks out of service, the only exchange rate that matters to ordinary Sudanese is on the black market, where the dollar currently goes for around 1,200 Sudanese pounds

PORT SUDAN, Sudan: Before the Sudanese army and paramilitary fighters turned their guns on each other last year, Ahmed used to sell one of Sudan’s main exports: gum arabic, a vital ingredient for global industry.
Now he’s out of business, and his story encapsulates the broader economic collapse of Sudan during 10 months of war.
Since combat between two rival generals began on April 15, Ahmed has been at the fighters’ mercy.
“When the war began, I had a stock of gum arabic in a warehouse south of Khartoum that was intended for export,” Ahmed told AFP, asking to use only his first name for fear of retaliation.
“To get it out I had to pay huge sums to the Rapid Support Forces,” the paramilitaries commanded by Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo who are at war with the Sudanese Armed Forces led by Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan.
“I had to pay multiple times in areas under their control, before my cargo got to areas controlled by the government,” Ahmed said.
But the government — loyal to the army — “then demanded I pay taxes” on the product, an emulsifying agent used in everything from soft drinks to chewing gum.
When the trucks finally made it to Port Sudan for export on the Red Sea, “authorities again asked for new taxes, and I had to pay storage fees six times more than before the war,” Ahmed said.
His gum arabic — like many other Sudanese products — never made it onto a ship. According to Sudan’s port authorities, international trade fell 23 percent last year.
The finance ministry, which didn’t set a national budget for 2023 or 2024 and has foregone quarterly reports, recently raised the exchange rate for imports and exports from 650 Sudanese pounds to 950.
But that is still far below the currency’s real value.
With most banks out of service, the only exchange rate that matters to ordinary Sudanese is on the black market, where the dollar currently goes for around 1,200 Sudanese pounds.
“It’s a sign of the destruction of the Sudanese economy,” former Sudanese Chamber of Commerce head Al-Sadiq Jalal told AFP.
To make matters worse, a communications blackout since early February has hampered online transactions — which Sudanese relied on to survive.
The war has led industries to cease production. Others were destroyed. Businesses and food stocks have been looted.
The World Bank in September said “widespread destruction of Sudan’s economic foundations has set the country’s development back by several decades.”
The International Monetary Fund has predicted that even after the fighting ends, “years of reconstruction” await the northeast African country.
Sudan suffered under a crippled economy for decades and was already one of the world’s poorest countries before the war.
Under the Islamist-backed regime of strongman Omar Al-Bashir, international sanctions throttled development, corruption was rampant, and South Sudan split in 2011 with most of the country’s oil production.
Bashir’s ouster by the military in 2019 following mass protests led to a fragile transition to civilian rule accompanied by signs of economic renewal and international acceptance.
A 2021 coup by Burhan and Dagalo, before they turned on each other, began a new economic collapse when the World Bank and the United States suspended vital international aid.
More than six million of Sudan’s 48 million people have been internally displaced by the war, and more than half the population needs humanitarian aid to survive, according to the United Nations.
Thousands of people have been killed, including between 10,000 and 15,000 in a single city in the western Darfur region, according to UN experts.
Now the indirect death toll is also rising.
Aid agencies have long warned of impending famine, and the UN’s World Food Programme is “already receiving reports of people dying of starvation,” the agency’s Sudan director Eddie Rowe said in early February.
The Sudanese state “is completely absent from the scene” in all sectors, economist Haitham Fathy told AFP.
Chief among those is agriculture, which could have helped stave off hunger.
Before the war, agriculture generated 35-40 percent of Sudan’s gross domestic product, according to the World Bank, and employed 70-80 percent of the workforce in rural areas, the International Fund for Agricultural Development said.
But the war has left more than 60 percent of the nation’s agricultural land out of commission, according to Sudanese research organization Fikra for Studies and Development.
In the wheat-growing state of Al-Jazira, where RSF fighters took over swathes of farmland south of Khartoum, farmers have been unable to tend their crops. They saw their livelihoods wither away.
From the wheat fields to Ahmed’s gum arabic warehouse, the story is the same.
His savings spent, his stock gone and his future bleak, Ahmed — like much of Sudan’s business class — has closed up shop.


Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen

Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen
Updated 26 min 6 sec ago
Follow

Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen

Undeterred by latest US-UK strikes, Houthis target US-flagged oil tanker off Yemen
  • Hours after the US-UK strikes, the Houthis said they had targeted the US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden
  • Houthi attacks are disrupting the vital Suez Canal trade shortcut that accounts for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic

WASHINGTON/CAIRO: US and British forces carried out strikes against more than a dozen Houthi targets in Yemen on Saturday, officials said, the latest round of military action against the Iran-linked group that continues to attack shipping in the region.

A joint statement from countries that either took part in the strikes or provided support, said the military action was against 18 Houthi targets across eight locations in Yemen including underground weapons and missile storage facilities, air defense systems, radars and a helicopter.

But hours after the strikes, the Houthis said they had targeted the US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden. The group’s military spokesman Yahya Sarea announced the new attack in a televised speech early on Sunday.

It was not clear if the attack announced by the Houthis was the same incident referred to by the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations agency early on Sunday. The UKMTO said that it received a report of an incident 70 nautical miles east of the port of Djibouti and authorities are currently investigating.

The United States has carried out near-daily strikes against the Houthis, who control the most populous parts of Yemen and have said their attacks on shipping are in solidarity with Palestinians as Israel strikes Gaza.

The months of attacks by Houthis have continued and have upset global trade and raised shipping rates.

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said the strikes were meant “to further disrupt and degrade the capabilities of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia.”

“We will continue to make clear to the Houthis that they will bear the consequences if they do not stop their illegal attacks, which harm Middle Eastern economies, cause environmental damage and disrupt the delivery of humanitarian aid to Yemen and other countries,” Austin added.

Earlier this week the Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack on a UK-owned cargo ship and a drone assault on an American destroyer, and they targeted Israel’s port and resort city of Eilat with ballistic missiles and drones.

The group’s strikes are disrupting the vital Suez Canal trade shortcut that accounts for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic, and forcing firms to take a longer, more expensive route around Africa.

No ships have been sunk nor crew killed during the Houthi campaign. However, there are concerns about the fate of the UK-registered Rubymar cargo vessel, which was struck on Feb. 18 and its crew evacuated.

The Houthis say they are targeting Israel-linked vessels in support of Palestinians in Gaza, which has been ravaged by the Israel-Hamas war.

Following previous US and UK strikes, the Houthis declared American and British interests to be legitimate targets as well.

Anger over Israel’s devastating campaign in Gaza — which began after an unprecedented Hamas attack on October 7 — has grown across the Middle East, stoking violence involving Iran-backed groups in Lebanon, Iraq, Syria and Yemen.

 

 


Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks

Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks
Updated 25 February 2024
Follow

Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks

Israel war cabinet meets over Hamas hostage talks
  • “There is probably room to move toward an agreement,” Hanegbi told N12 News television
  • “Such agreement does not mean the end of the war”

JERUSALEM: Israel’s war cabinet convened Saturday after a delegation returned from talks in Paris on a hostage release and ceasefire deal in the war against Hamas.
National security adviser Tzachi Hanegbi said before the telephone meeting that members would hear an update on discussions about the conflict in the Gaza Strip, which is now in its fifth month.
The Paris talks saw the head of Israel’s overseas intelligence service Mossad and his counterpart at the domestic Shin Bet security service meeting with mediators from the United States, Egypt and Qatar.
“There is probably room to move toward an agreement,” Hanegbi told N12 News television in an interview, without elaborating.
Israel wants the release of all hostages seized in the October 7 attacks, starting with all women, but Hanegbi added: “Such agreement does not mean the end of the war.”
He also indicated that Israel would not accept any deal between the United States and Saudi Arabia for a Palestinian state.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said in a statement that Saturday’s meeting would discuss “next steps in the negotiations.”
He also reaffirmed his aim for troops to go into Rafah in southern Gaza, despite widespread concern about the impact on hundreds of thousands of civilians who have fled there to avoid bombardments.
An AFP reporter in Rafah said there had been at least six air strikes on the city on Saturday evening.
Israel’s air, land and sea against Hamas fighters in retaliation for their deadly October 7 on southern Israel has killed at least 29,606 people, the Hamas-run health ministry in Gaza says.
Hamas attacked rural communities and military posts bordering the Gaza Strip, leaving at least 1,160 people dead, according to an AFP tally based on official Israeli figures.
Some 250 hostages were taken, of whom 130 are still in Gaza, although about 30 are thought to be dead, Israel says.
A one-week pause in fighting in November saw more than 100 hostages released, the Israelis among them in exchange for some 240 Palestinians jailed in Israel.
Netanyahu has characterised Hamas’s demands for a ceasefire in Gaza as “bizarre” and vowed to press on with the military campaign until “total victory” over the group.
“Only a combination of military pressure and firm negotiations will lead to the release of our hostages, the elimination of Hamas and the achievement of all the war’s goals,” he said.
The head of Israel’s military, Herzi Halevi, visited the Gaza Strip and also said military action was the most effective way of getting back the hostages.
Combat was “leverage,” he told troops. “We need to continue and apply it strongly... to use it to release the hostages,” he added.
In Tel Aviv, where families and supporters of the hostages gathered again to call for their release, Orna Tal urged the government to “be responsible.”
“We think about them (the hostages) all the time and want them back alive as soon as possible,” said Tal, whose close friend Tsachi Idan was kidnapped from the Nahal Oz kibbutz.
“We’ll protest again and again until they’re back,” she told AFP