No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict

Special No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
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People seeking escape from privations of war and natural disasters in Sudan are unlikely to find any relief in South Sudan. (AFP file photo)
Special No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
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People wait next to passenger buses as smoke billows in an area in Khartoum where fighting between Sudan's army and the paramilitary forces continues to this day. (AFP file photo)
Special No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
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Black smoke billows behind buildings amid ongoing fighting in Khartoum. (AFP)
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Updated 01 October 2023
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No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict

No reprieve from hardship in South Sudan for people fleeing Sudan conflict
  • South Sudan is no stranger to humanitarian crisis, having had its own share since achieving statehood in 2011
  • Experts say the country is in no position to handle the large and sudden influx of displaced people from Sudan

NAIROBI: Civilians displaced by the conflict in Sudan have sought sanctuary in the world’s youngest country next door, the Republic of South Sudan, only to face a daunting new set of challenges.

An estimated 250,000 people — including a large number of South Sudanese who had been living in Sudan — have crossed the border since fighting erupted in Sudan in April, with many now housed in overcrowded camps lacking food, sanitation and basic healthcare services.

High malnutrition rates and outbreaks of diseases such as cholera and measles among the new arrivals testify to the dire health conditions, which aid agencies operating in the area say is one of the many serious causes for concern.




Luggage is transported on a donkey-drawn cart at Sudan’s Qalabat border crossing with Ethiopia on July 31, 2023 amid fighting between the Sudan armed forces and paramilitary RSF. (AFP file photo)

The UN has given warning that the number of people fleeing Sudan could double by the end of the year unless a settlement between the warring parties is reached soon.

Aside from being unprepared to absorb this tide of humanity in search of shelter and sustenance, South Sudan’s own political and economic shortcomings render it an ineffective broker in ending the conflict in Sudan.

This is despite the mediation efforts of South Sudan’s President Salva Kiir, who recently hosted Sudan’s de-facto leader and head of the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF), Gen. Abdel Fattah Al-Burhan, in the capital Juba.




South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit, right, welcomes Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, Chairman of the Sudanese Sovereignty Council and Sudan’s armed force chief, in Juba, South Sudan, on Sept. 04, 2023. (Handout photo via Getty Images)

South Sudan is no stranger to hardship and adversity, having had its fair share of conflicts since gaining independence in 2011. Like its northern neighbor, from which it seceded, South Sudan is also grappling with political volatility and ethnic strife.

Add to the mix South Sudan’s limited resources and rudimentary infrastructure, and the country is in no position to handle such a large and sudden influx of impoverished people.

“The majority of these refugees are women, children, and young adults, with a notable concentration of youth between the ages of 12 and 22,” John Dabi, South Sudan’s deputy commissioner for refugee affairs, told Arab News.

INNUMBERS

250,000 Sudanese refugees and South Sudanese returnees who have crossed the border since the conflict began.

5 million Total number of people uprooted by the conflict, including 1 million who have fled to neighboring countries.

7,500 People killed since the onset of violence, according to conservative estimates of the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Particularly, Juba and the border town of Renk have come under pressure from a sudden explosion in population, which has led to an acute shortage of basic necessities, including food, medicine and shelter.

Then there is the impact of a fickle climate, as South Sudan’s rainy season leads to the flooding of entire districts and turns roads into impassable mud tracks, hindering aid deliveries and access to remote refugee camps.

Predictably, South Sudan’s economy is a shambles, despite the recent launch of the National Economic Conference, which is meant to accelerate development.




A boy walks at a camp for displaced persons in Bentiu, South Sudan. (AFP file photo)

Firas Raad, the World Bank representative in South Sudan, recently urged the government to strive for more stable macroeconomic conditions, robust public financial management, and effective governance reforms to improve conditions for its people.

The parlous state of the country’s economy calls into question Juba’s credibility as a mediator in Sudan’s conflict, Suzanne Jambo, a South Sudanese policy analyst and former government adviser, told Arab News.

“South Sudan still struggles to achieve a stable transition to a permanent status, including a unified army, agreed-upon constitutional arrangements, and fairly elected representatives, not to mention conducting the elections,” she said.

Instability in South Sudan is not just attributable to issues of governance and economics. The ethnic and tribal spillovers of the Sudanese conflict are all too evident, with millions fleeing to neighboring countries and exposing the political divisions within Sudan and along its porous borders.

For instance, the paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF) group has been recruiting fighters from among Darfur’s Arab tribes.




Internally displaced women fetch water from a well in Bentiu in South Sudan. (AFP file photo)

Given the possibility of further escalation of ethnic tensions, experts believe coordinated efforts are essential for the proper distribution of humanitarian aid as well as conflict prevention and resolution strategies.

Sudanese civilians arriving in South Sudan represent a mosaic of backgrounds mirroring the country’s ethnic, racial and religious diversity. To minimize the chances of inter-communal violence, separate settlements, rather than traditional refugee camps, have been established.

“A critical aspect of managing the refugee crisis is preventing inter-community conflicts,” said Dabi, the deputy commissioner for refugee affairs. However, the most pressing issue facing displaced Sudanese in South Sudan is the scarcity of essential resources, he added.

The situation of people who crossed over from Sudan into other neighboring countries appears to be equally dire.

In Chad, where more than 400,000 people have fled the violence in Darfur, aid group Medecins Sans Frontieres says the situation has become so desperate that “people are feeding their children on insects, grass, and leaves.”




People wait next to passenger buses as smoke billows in an area in Khartoum where fighting between Sudan’s army and the paramilitary forces continues to this day. (AFP file photo)

Amid severe shortages, “some have gone five weeks without receiving food,” Susana Borges, MSF’s emergency coordinator in Adre, said in a statement. Camps also lack water, sanitation, shelter, and medical care.

“The most urgent health needs we are dealing with are malaria, diarrhea, and malnutrition,” Borges added. According to the UN, dozens of children under the age of five have already died of malnutrition in Chadian camps.

The conflict in Sudan, now in its fifth month, was triggered by a plan to incorporate the RSF into the SAF.

On April 15 a long-running power struggle between the Al-Burhan and his former deputy, RSF chief Mohamed Hamdan “Hemedti” Dagalo, suddenly escalated, prompting the evacuation of foreign nationals and embassy staff.

At least 7,500 people have been killed since the conflict began, according to a conservative estimate from the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Khartoum, Sudan’s capital, and the troubled western Darfur region, where the worst of the violence has been taking place, have seen “intensified shelling” as the SAF and the RSF target each other’s bases with “artillery and rocket fire.”




Black smoke billows behind buildings amid ongoing fighting in Khartoum. (AFP)

In central Khartoum, the SAF controls the skies and has carried out regular air strikes, while RSF fighters dominate the streets.

In South Darfur’s regional capital, Nyala, residents say fighter jets have been targeting “RSF leadership.” However, reports from the ground suggest civilians are routinely caught in the crossfire.

UN figures show the fighting has uprooted more than five million people from their homes, including one million who have crossed international borders into neighboring countries.

Over the weekend, a cholera outbreak was reported in eastern Sudan and investigations launched to check whether it had spread to Khartoum and South Kordofan state.




A street vendor sells shoes and slippers in Port Sudan, Sudan, on Sept. 26, 2023. (REUTERS)

The conflict has also seen a surge in gender-based violence, as confirmed by numerous credible reports of rape, human trafficking, and increase in early marriage.

Despite multiple diplomatic efforts to broker a truce, the conflict has continued and intensified, leaving those displaced with little prospect of returning to their homes any time soon.

As South Sudan struggles to accommodate its own citizens previously living in Sudan, a recent visit to the country by Filippo Grandi, the UN high commissioner for refugees, suggests the international community is taking notice.

However, Peter Van der Auweraert, the UN humanitarian coordinator in South Sudan, has cautioned there could be a significant decline in humanitarian assistance for the country next year.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, says humanitarian aid organizations are struggling to meet the needs of the displaced, with only 19 percent of the $1 billion requested from donors so far received.

 


A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll

A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll
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A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll

A usually joyous Muslim holiday reminds families in Gaza of war’s punishing toll

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Last summer, Palestinians in the Gaza Strip celebrated the Muslim holiday of Eid Al-Adha the way it’s supposed to be: with large family feasts, meat shared with those less fortunate, and new clothes and gifts for children.
But this year, after eight months of devastating war between Israel and Hamas, many families will eat canned food in stifling tents. There’s hardly any meat or livestock at local markets, and no money for holiday treats or presents — only war, hunger and misery, with no end in sight.
“There is no Eid this year,” said Nadia Hamouda, whose daughter was killed in the war and who fled from her home in northern Gaza months ago and is staying in a tent in the central town of Deir Al-Balah. “When we hear the call to prayer, we cry over those we lost and the things we lost, and what has happened to us, and how we used to live before.”
Muslims around the world will celebrate the four-day Eid Al-Adha, the Feast of the Sacrifice, early in the week. It commemorates the Prophet Ibrahim’s willingness to sacrifice his son, Ismail, as recounted in the Qur’an. In the Jewish and Christian traditions, Abraham is called to sacrifice his other son, Isaac.
Gaza was impoverished and isolated even before the war, but people still managed to celebrate by hanging up colorful decorations, surprising children with treats and gifts, and purchasing meat or slaughtering livestock to share with those less fortunate.
“It was a real Eid,” Hamouda said. “Everyone was happy, including the children.”
Now much of Gaza is in ruins and most of the population of 2.3 million Palestinians have fled their homes. After Hamas’ surprise attack into Israel on Oct. 7, in which Palestinian militants killed some 1,200 people and took another 250 hostage, Israel launched a massive air and ground assault.
The war has killed over 37,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Health Ministry. It has destroyed most of Gaza’s agriculture and food production, leaving people reliant on humanitarian aid that has been held up by Israeli restrictions and the ongoing fighting.
United Nations agencies have warned that over a million people — nearly half the population — could experience the highest level of starvation in the coming weeks.
In early May, Egypt shut down its crossing into the southern Gazan city of Rafah after Israel captured the Palestinian side of it, sealing the only route for people to enter or leave the territory. That means virtually no Palestinians from Gaza will be able to make the annual Hajj pilgrimage that precedes the Eid.
Ashraf Sahwiel, who was among hundreds of thousands of Palestinians who fled from Gaza City earlier in the war and is also living in a tent, has no idea when or if he’ll be able to return.
“We don’t even know what happened to our houses or whether we’ll be able to live in them again, or if it’s even possible to rebuild,” he said.
Abdelsattar Al-Batsh said he and his family of seven haven’t eaten meat since the war began. A kilogram (2 pounds) of meat costs 200 shekels (around $50). A live sheep, which could be bought for as little as $200 before the war, now costs $1,300 — if it’s even available.
“Today, there is only war. No money. No work. Our houses have been destroyed. I have nothing,” Al-Batsh said.
Iyad Al-Bayouk, who owns a now-shuttered cattle farm in southern Gaza, said severe shortages of both livestock and feed due to Israel’s blockade have driven up prices. Some local farms have been turned into shelters.
Mohammed Abdel Rahim, who has been sheltering in a building in an empty cattle farm in central Gaza for months, said the farm-turned-shelter was particularly bad in the winter, when it smelled like animals and was infested with bugs. As the heat set in, the ground dried out, making it more bearable, he said.
Abdelkarim Motawq, another displaced Palestinian from northern Gaza, used to work in the local meat industry, which did brisk business ahead of the holiday. This year, his family can only afford rice and beans.
“I wish I could work again,” he said. “It was a busy season for me, during which I would bring money home and buy food, clothing, nuts, and meat for my children. But today there’s nothing left.”


WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis

WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis
Updated 15 June 2024
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WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis

WHO voices alarm at swelling West Bank health crisis
  • Israel has killed at least 37,266 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry

GENEVA: The World Health Organization decried Friday an escalating health crisis in the occupied West Bank, where growing restrictions, violence and attacks on health infrastructure are increasingly obstructing access to care.
In a statement, the UN health agency said it was calling “for the immediate and active protection of civilians and health care in the West Bank.”
It noted that a spike in violence in the West Bank, including in East Jerusalem, since the war in Gaza erupted on October 7 had by June 10 left 521 Palestinians dead, including 126 children.
Palestinian officials have put the West Bank death toll even higher, saying at least 545 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers since the Gaza war broke out.
In addition to the deaths, more than 5,200 people — 800 of them children — have been injured, the WHO said, stressing that this only added to “the growing burden of trauma and emergency care at already strained health facilities.”
The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, has experienced a surge in violence for more than a year, but especially since the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza erupted more than eight months ago.
That war began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack on Israel, which resulted in the deaths of 1,194 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
The militants also seized 251 hostages. Of these, 116 remain in Gaza, although the army says 41 are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 37,266 people in Gaza, also mostly civilians, according to the territory’s health ministry.
The war has repeatedly seen health facilities in the Gaza Strip come under attack.
And the WHO said Friday that health care in the West Bank was also facing increasing attacks.
Between October 7 and May 28, it said it had documented a full 480 such attacks in the West Bank, including on health facilities and ambulances, and the detention of health workers and patients.
Those attacks had left 16 people dead and 95 injured, it said.
At the same time, checkpoint closures, growing insecurity, and sieges and closures of entire communities were making movement within the West Bank increasingly restricted, making access to care ever more difficult.
The WHO warned that a long-standing fiscal crisis — made worse since October 7 as Israel increased its withholding of tax revenue meant for the Palestinian territory — was also taking its toll on health care.
This, it said, had resulted in “health workers receiving only half of their salary for nearly a year and 45 percent of essential medications being out of stock.”
And hospitals were operating at only around 70 percent capacity, it said.
It had also become more difficult for patients to seek medical care outside the West Bank, with 44 percent of requests to go to facilities in East Jerusalem and Israel denied or pending since October 7.
 

 


Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis

Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis
Updated 15 June 2024
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Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis

Crew evacuated from Greek-owned vessel hit by Houthis
  • The attack near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Wednesday caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room and left Tutor unable to maneuver
  • Tutor’s 22 crew members are mostly Filipino. A Greek ship has been assigned to tow Tutor, which is carrying 80,000 tons of coal

MANILA/LONDON: The crew of a Greek-owned vessel damaged in an attack by Yemeni Houthi militants has been evacuated, and the abandoned ship is drifting in the Red Sea, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations said on Friday.

One sailor from Tutor, the Liberia-flagged coal carrier, remains missing, officials in the Philippines said.
The attack near the Yemeni port of Hodeidah on Wednesday caused severe flooding and damage to the engine room and left Tutor unable to maneuver.
Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for the missile strike on Tutor and another vessel, Verbena, in the Gulf of Aden, over the past days. Their attacks also damaged two other ships in the last week, “marking a significant increase in effectiveness,” British security firm Ambrey said.
The Houthis have used drones and missiles to assault ships in the Red Sea, the Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden since November, saying they are acting in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war. They have sunk one ship, seized another vessel and killed three seafarers in separate attacks.
“This situation cannot go on,” International Maritime Organization Secretary-General Arsenio Dominguez said in a statement.
Tutor’s 22 crew members are mostly Filipino, Hans Cacdac, the Philippines’ Department of Migrant Workers secretary, told a press conference in Manila.
Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr said the country’s authorities were coordinating with the UKMTO to take the crew members to Djibouti and bring them home.
The missing crew member was believed to be trapped in the engine room, maritime sources said.
“We are still ... trying to account for the particular seafarer in that ship. We are praying we could find him,” Cacdac said.
The ship’s Athens-based manager Evalend Shipping has not responded to Reuters’ requests for comment.
Tsavliris Salvage Group has been assigned to tow the ship, which is carrying 80,000 tons of coal, a source with knowledge of the matter told Reuters. The project will involve two vessels. The first is expected to reach Tutor on Monday morning and the second on Tuesday evening.
The Houthis’ air and sea campaign has disrupted global shipping, causing delays and costs to cascade through supply chains. At least 65 countries and major energy and shipping companies — including Shell, BP, Maersk and Cosco — have been affected, according to a report by the US Defense Intelligence Agency.
INTERCARGO, which represents dry cargo ship owners, urged states to enhance maritime security in the area.
“We demand that all involved parties cease their deliberate and targeted attacks on innocent seafarers with immediate effect,” it said. (Reporting by Neil Jerome Morales in Manila and Renee Maltezou and Yannis Souliotis in Athens, Jonathan Saul in London, Adam Makary and Enas Alashray in Cairo, and Lisa Baertlein in Los Angeles; Editing by Angus MacSwan and Cynthia Osterman)


Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants

Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants
Updated 15 June 2024
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Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants

Tunisia sentences five over missing migrants
  • Tunisia and neighboring Libya are major departure points for migrants attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe

TUNIS: A Tunisian court has sentenced five people to prison for organizing an illegal migrant sea crossing that resulted in 18 deaths or disappearances, a spokesman said Friday.
The boat carrying the migrants, all Tunisians, went missing off the coast of the southeastern city of Zarzis during an attempt to reach Italy in September 2022.
The five Tunisian defendants, including two still at large, received prison terms ranging from four to 10 years on Thursday night, said Lassad Horr, spokesman for the Medenine court.
The incident sparked protests and a general strike in Zarzis. President Kais Saied later ordered an investigation to uncover what happened.
The court spokesman said Friday that a boat, two cars and a GPS device had been seized as part of the investigation.
Tunisia and neighboring Libya are major departure points for migrants attempting perilous sea crossings to Europe.
Each year, tens of thousands of migrants — mainly Sub-Saharan Africans — attempt to cross the Mediterranean from Tunisia, whose shores are about 150 kilometers (90 miles) from the Italian island of Lampedusa.
On May 19, the Tunisian National Guard said 23 people had been missing for two weeks off Nabeul in the northeast. On May 29, four others disappeared off Mahdia on the central coast, while 17 were rescued.
More than 1,300 people died or went missing last year in shipwrecks off the North African country, according to the Tunisian Forum for Social and Economic Rights, a non-governmental organization.
The International Organization for Migration has said more than 27,000 migrants have died in the Mediterranean in the past decade, including more than 3,000 last year.
 

 


US Navy faces its most intense combat since World War II against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels

US Navy faces its most intense combat since World War II against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels
Updated 15 June 2024
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US Navy faces its most intense combat since World War II against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels

US Navy faces its most intense combat since World War II against Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels
  • The Houthis say the attacks are aimed at stopping the war in Gaza and supporting the Palestinians, though it comes as they try to strengthen their position in Yemen

ABOARD THE USS LABOON IN THE RED SEA: The US Navy prepared for decades to potentially fight the Soviet Union, then later Russia and China, on the world’s waterways. But instead of a global power, the Navy finds itself locked in combat with a shadowy, Iran-backed rebel group based in Yemen.
The US-led campaign against the Houthi rebels, overshadowed by the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip, has turned into the most intense running sea battle the Navy has faced since World War II, its leaders and experts told The Associated Press.
The combat pits the Navy’s mission to keep international waterways open against a group whose former arsenal of assault rifles and pickup trucks has grown into a seemingly inexhaustible supply of drones, missiles and other weaponry. Near-daily attacks by the Houthis since November have seen more than 50 vessels clearly targeted, while shipping volume has dropped in the vital Red Sea corridor that leads to the Suez Canal and into the Mediterranean.
The Houthis say the attacks are aimed at stopping the war in Gaza and supporting the Palestinians, though it comes as they try to strengthen their position in Yemen. All signs suggest the warfare will intensify — putting US sailors, their allies and commercial vessels at more risk.
“I don’t think people really understand just kind of how deadly serious it is what we’re doing and how under threat the ships continue to be,” Cmdr. Eric Blomberg with the USS Laboon told the AP on a visit to his warship on the Red Sea.
“We only have to get it wrong once,” he said. “The Houthis just have to get one through.”
Seconds to act
The pace of the fire can be seen on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer, where the paint around the hatches of its missile pods has been burned away from repeated launches. Its sailors sometimes have seconds to confirm a launch by the Houthis, confer with other ships and open fire on an incoming missile barrage that can move near or beyond the speed of sound.
“It is every single day, every single watch, and some of our ships have been out here for seven-plus months doing that,” said Capt. David Wroe, the commodore overseeing the guided missile destroyers.
One round of fire on Jan. 9 saw the Laboon, other vessels and F/A-18s from the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower shoot down 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and a ballistic missile launched by the Houthis.
Nearly every day — aside from a slowdown during the holy Muslim fasting month of Ramadan — the Houthis launch missiles, drones or some other type of attack in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the narrow Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the waterways and separates Africa from the Arabian Peninsula.
The Navy saw periods of combat during the “Tanker Wars” of the 1980s in the Arabian Gulf, but that largely involved ships hitting mines. The Houthi assaults involve direct attacks on commercial vessels and warships.
“This is the most sustained combat that the US Navy has seen since World War II — easily, no question,” said Bryan Clark, a former Navy submariner and a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute. “We’re sort of on the verge of the Houthis being able to mount the kinds of attacks that the US can’t stop every time, and then we will start to see substantial damage. … If you let it fester, the Houthis are going to get to be a much more capable, competent, experienced force.”
Dangers at sea and in the air
While the Eisenhower appears to largely stay at a distance, destroyers like the Laboon spend six out of seven days near or off Yemen — the “weapons engagement zone,” in Navy speak.
Sea combat in the Mideast remains risky, something the Navy knows well. In 1987, an Iraqi fighter jet fired missiles that struck the USS Stark, a frigate on patrol in the Arabian Gulf during the Iran-Iraq war, killing 37 sailors and nearly sinking the vessel.
There’s also the USS Cole, targeted in 2000 by boat-borne Al-Qaeda suicide bombers during a refueling stop in Yemen’s port city of Aden, which killed 17 on board. AP journalists saw the Cole patrolling the Red Sea with the Laboon on Wednesday, the same day the Houthis launched a drone-boat attack against a commercial ship there that disabled the vessel.
That commercial ship was abandoned on Friday and left adrift and unlit in the Red Sea, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said.
Rear Adm. Marc Miguez, the Navy’s commander for its Carrier Strike Group Two, which includes the Eisenhower and supporting ships, said the Navy had taken out one underwater bomb-carrying drone launched by the Houthis as well during the campaign.
“We currently have pretty high confidence that not only is Iran providing financial support, but they’re providing intelligence support,” Miguez said. “We know for a fact the Houthis have also gotten training to target maritime shipping and target US warships.”
Asked if the Navy believed Iran picks targets for the Houthis, Miguez would only say there was “collaboration” between Tehran and the rebels. He also noted Iran continues to arm the Houthis, despite UN sanctions blocking weapons transfers to them.
Iran’s mission to the United Nations told the AP that Tehran “is adept at thwarting the US strategy in a way that not only strengthens (the Houthis) but also ensures compliance with the pertinent resolutions.”
The risk isn’t just on the water. The US-led campaign has carried out numerous airstrikes targeting Houthi positions inside Yemen, including what the US military describes as radar stations, launch sites, arsenals and other locations. One round of US and British strikes on May 30 killed at least 16 people, the deadliest attack acknowledged by the rebels.
The Eisenhower’s air crews have dropped over 350 bombs and fired 50 missiles at targets in the campaign, said Capt. Marvin Scott, who oversees all the air group’s aircraft. Meanwhile, the Houthis apparently have shot down multiple MQ-9 Reaper drones with surface-to-air missile systems.
“The Houthis also have surface-to-air capabilities that we have significantly degraded, but they are still present and still there,” Scott said. “We’re always prepared to be shot at by the Houthis.”
A stalemated war
Officers acknowledge some grumbling among their crew, wondering why the Navy doesn’t strike harder against the Houthis. The White House hasn’t discussed the Houthi campaign at the same level as negotiations over the Israel-Hamas war.
There are several likely reasons. The US has been indirectly trying to lower tensions with Iran, particularly after Tehran launched a massive drone-and-missile attack on Israel and now enriches uranium closer than ever to weapons-grade levels.
Meanwhile, there’s the Houthis themselves.
The US directly fighting the Houthis is something the leaders of the Zaydi Shiite group likely want. Their motto long has been “God is the greatest; death to America; death to Israel; curse the Jews; victory to Islam.” Combating the US and siding publicly with the Palestinians has some in the Mideast praising the rebels.
While the US and European partners patrol the waterways, Saudi Arabia largely has remained quiet, seeking a peace deal with the Houthis. Reports suggest some Mideast nations have asked the US not to launch attacks on the Houthis from their soil, making the Eisenhower’s presence even more critical. The carrier has had its deployment extended, while its crew has had only one port call since its deployment a week after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
Meanwhile, the Houthi attacks continue to depress shipping through the region. Revenue for Egypt from the Suez Canal — a key source of hard currency for its struggling economy — has halved since the attacks began. AP journalists saw a single commercial ship moving through the once-busy waterway.
“It’s almost a ghost town,” Blomberg acknowledged.