At last, oil pumped out of Red Sea ‘time bomb’ FSO Safer tanker

A worker stands on the deck of the beleaguered Yemen-flagged FSO Safer oil tanker in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen's contested western province of Hodeida on July 15, 2023. (AFP)
A worker stands on the deck of the beleaguered Yemen-flagged FSO Safer oil tanker in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen's contested western province of Hodeida on July 15, 2023. (AFP)
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Updated 26 July 2023
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At last, oil pumped out of Red Sea ‘time bomb’ FSO Safer tanker

At last, oil pumped out of Red Sea ‘time bomb’ FSO Safer tanker
  • Transfer is expected to take around three weeks
  • UN hopes $143 million operation will eliminate risk of environmental disaster

JEDDAH: UN engineers on Tuesday began pumping more than a million barrels of oil out of a rusting and decaying storage vessel in the Red Sea, ending an eight-year standoff with the Houthi militia in Yemen.

The war in Yemen led to the suspension in 2015 of maintenance operations on the FSO Safer, which has been moored off the country’s coast for more than 30 years.

The three-week $143 million operation to pump out the oil will “defuse what might be the world’s largest ticking time bomb,” UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said. It was a “critical next step in avoiding an environmental and humanitarian catastrophe on a colossal scale.”

Saudi Arabia welcomed the start of the operation in a statement issued Wednesday morning.

UN officials have warned for years that the Red Sea and Yemen’s coastline were at risk from the Safer. Itcould leak four times as much oil as the 1989 Exxon Valdez disaster off Alaska, and a spill would cost $20 billion to clean up.
UN Development Programme spokesperson Sarah Bel warned that any spilled oil could reach the African coast, damaging fish stocks for the next 25 years and destroying 200,000 jobs. It would also close ports that bring food and supplies to Yemen, where about 17 million people rely on humanitarian aid.




Safer is a rapidly decaying and the unstable oil tanker that could leak, spill or explode at any time. (File/AFP)

Because of the Safer's position in the Red Sea, a spill would also cost billions of dollars a day in shipping disruptions through the Bab al-Mandab strait to the Suez Canal, while devastating ecosystems, coastal fishing communities and lifeline ports.

Meanwhile the UN engineers are crossing their fingers —scorching summer temperatures, ageing pipes and sea mines lurking in surrounding waters all pose threats to the operation.
“Because it is the start of the emergency phase of the project to remove the oil, we need to be very cautious,” Bel said.
Even if the transfer succeeds, the Safer “will pose a residual environmental threat, holding viscous oil residue and remaining at risk of breaking apart,” the UN said.
Disputes are also expected over ownership of the oil and the Nautica, the replacement vessel into which the oil is being pumped, pitting the Houthis against the legitimate government in Aden.

But most people see progress on the Safer issue as a positive sign. “I hope it will be the beginning of the peace process,” said Fathi Fahem, the Yemeni business leader who proposed a replacement vessel for the Safer two years ago.


G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique

G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique
Updated 2 sec ago
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G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique

G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique
The Western leaders reiterated their unwavering commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy: Group of Seven leaders are very concerned by the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border and endorse US efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, according to a draft communique due to be released following this week’s G7 summit.
The statement added that the Western leaders reiterated their unwavering commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, side-by-side.
In addition, they called on Israel to refrain from a full-scale offensive in Rafah, “in line with their obligations under international law.”

Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce

Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce
Updated 6 min 10 sec ago
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Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce

Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce
  • Erdogan said Ankara welcomed any ceasefire proposals that would end the Gaza war

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called on members of the United Nations Security Council, particularly the United States, to pressure Israel into a ceasefire in Gaza after the Council backed a US proposal earlier this week.
Speaking in Madrid alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Erdogan said Ankara welcomed any ceasefire proposals that would end the Gaza war, adding Washington’s stance on Israel’s operations there were “truly upsetting” Turkiye.


Heavy rocket fire from Lebanon at northern Israel

Heavy rocket fire from Lebanon at northern Israel
Updated 13 June 2024
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Heavy rocket fire from Lebanon at northern Israel

Heavy rocket fire from Lebanon at northern Israel
  • Numerous mid-air interceptions of rockets were conducted above Israeli towns, including in Safed
  • Two people were wounded by shrapnel

JERUSALEM: Air raid sirens sounded across cities in northern Israel on Thursday and Israeli officials said about 40 rockets had been fired from Lebanon in the afternoon.
State broadcaster Kan aired footage of numerous mid-air interceptions of rockets above Israeli towns, including in Safed, some 12 km (7.5 miles) from the border.
Two people were wounded by shrapnel, Israel’s national ambulance service said.
Iran-backed Hezbollah opened a second front against Israel shortly after Hamas’ Oct. 7 assault on southern Israel that triggered the war in Gaza. The Israel-Lebanon border has seen increasing attacks in both directions since.
The violence escalated this week with Hezbollah firing even more rockets as part of a retaliation for an Israeli strike that killed one of its senior field commanders.
Washington on Thursday expressed concern that fighting along the Israel-Lebanon border could spiral into a full-out war and called for new security arrangements.


More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says

More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says
Updated 13 June 2024
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More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says

More than half of cropland in hungry Gaza is damaged, UN says
  • The data reveals a rise in the destruction of orchards, field crops and vegetables in the Palestinian enclave
  • 57 percent of Gaza’s permanent crop fields and arable lands essential for food security had shown a significant decline in density and health

GENEVA: More than half of Gaza’s agricultural land, crucial for feeding the war-ravaged territory’s hungry population, has been degraded by conflict, satellite images analyzed by the United Nations show.
The data reveals a rise in the destruction of orchards, field crops and vegetables in the Palestinian enclave, where hunger is widespread after eight months of Israeli bombardment.
The World Health Organization warned on Wednesday that many people in Gaza were facing “catastrophic hunger and famine-like conditions.”
Using satellite imagery taken between May 2017 and 2024, United Nations Satellite Center (UNOSAT) and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) found that 57 percent of Gaza’s permanent crop fields and arable lands essential for food security had shown a significant decline in density and health.
“In May 2024, crop health and density across the Gaza Strip showed a marked decline compared to the average of the previous seven seasons,” UNOSAT said on Thursday.
“This deterioration is attributed to conflict-related activities, including razing, heavy vehicle movement, bombing, and shelling.”
The decline, UNOSAT said, marked a 30 percent increase in damaged agricultural land since it published its last analysis in April.
Israel’s ground and air campaign was triggered when Hamas stormed southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The offensive has killed more than 37,000 people in Gaza, according to health authorities in the Hamas-run enclave, and has caused mass destruction and cut off routes for aid.
WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said on Wednesday there were more than 8,000 children under five years old in Gaza who had been treated for acute malnutrition.
As well as damage to crop fields and orchards, greenhouses across the Gaza Strip had also sustained significant damage, UNOSAT said.
The Gaza Strip has an estimated 151 square kilometers of agricultural land, which makes up about 41 percent of the coastal enclave’s territory, according to data from UNOSAT.


Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding

Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding
Updated 13 June 2024
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Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding

Iraq warns of ‘danger’ in Lebanon conflict expanding
  • The exchanges between Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, have intensified in recent weeks, sparking fears of wider war
BAGHDAD: Iraq’s foreign minister on Thursday, receiving his Iranian counterpart in Baghdad, warned of the dangers of conflict expanding in southern Lebanon and its repercussions across the Middle East.
Near-daily cross-border fire between Lebanese-based militants and Israeli forces have occurred since Palestinian group Hamas attacked southern Israel on October 7, triggering the ongoing aggression in the Gaza Strip.
The exchanges between Israel and Lebanon’s powerful Iran-backed Hezbollah group, an ally of Hamas, have intensified in recent weeks, sparking fears of wider war.
“If southern Lebanon is attacked, it will affect the entire region,” Iraq’s top diplomat Fuad Hussein said at a press conference with Iran’s acting Foreign Minister Ali Bagheri, who also voiced opposition to a regional escalation.
“The expansion of the war is a danger, not only for Lebanon but for the entire region,” Hussein said, repeating his call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza.
The Iranian minister similarly called for “putting an end as quickly as possible, and without preconditions,” to “war crimes” and “genocide” in the Gaza Strip.
He said Israel, in response to their “failure” in Gaza, “may seek to commit further wrongs and broaden the scope of their aggression,” but Iran would not allow anyone “to harm stability and regional security, even if only a little.”
Experts have said they believe risk of a wider war is limited.
Hezbollah, a major ally of Tehran’s, launched a barrage of rockets at northern Israel on Wednesday and promised to intensify its attacks after the killing of a top military commander the day before in an Israeli strike.
The Israeli military said more than 150 projectiles were fired from Lebanon into Israel in successive barrages, without any reported casualties, adding that they responded with strikes against several targets in southern Lebanon.