UN demands explanation from Houthis over death of aid worker in detention

Director of security and safety for the international charity Save the Children, Hisham Al-Hakimi, died while detained by the Houthis, an incident that sparked outrage against the Houthis and demands for an investigation. (Supplied)
Director of security and safety for the international charity Save the Children, Hisham Al-Hakimi, died while detained by the Houthis, an incident that sparked outrage against the Houthis and demands for an investigation. (Supplied)
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Updated 30 October 2023
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UN demands explanation from Houthis over death of aid worker in detention

UN demands explanation from Houthis over death of aid worker in detention
  • David Gressly, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, expressed his sadness over the death

AL-MUKALLA: The UN has demanded that the Iran-backed Houthis provide an explanation for the death of a Yemeni national working for an international aid organization.

David Gressly, the UN’s resident and humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, expressed his sadness on Saturday over the death in Houthi detention of Hisham Al-Hakimi, the security and safety director at the international charity Save the Children, calling on the militia to share the reasons for the worker’s death with the UN and its partners.

Gressly said in a statement that the bodies “are very concerned by the limited information available regarding Mr. Al-Hakimi’s death.”

He added: “I call on the Sanaa authorities to provide complete and timely information regarding the circumstances that led to his death.”

Save the Children suspended its operations in Houthi-controlled areas last week to put pressure on the Yemeni militia to investigate the death of Al-Hakimi.

The organization said in a statement that the Houthis arbitrarily kidnapped the 44-year-old worker in September and refused to impart information to the organization or his family regarding his whereabouts or the reason for detaining him.

Yemeni media reports and activists said that the Houthis kidnapped the worker from his home in Sanaa and threatened to harm his family if members talked to the media.

Gressly also said that the Houthis were still holding three UN employees, two of whom were kidnapped in November 2021 and the third in August 2023, and urged the militia to allow their families to see them.

He said: “I call on the Sanaa authorities to provide full information on their circumstances as well as visitation access.”

Al-Hakimi’s death has prompted condemnation and calls from local and international rights groups and activists, as well as the government, for the Houthis to release abducted aid workers, and cease intimidating organizations that provide lifesaving humanitarian assistance to millions of Yemenis. 

The Geneva-based SAM Organization for Rights and Liberties has cautioned about the effect of Houthi operations in Yemen against foreign organizations, adding that the Houthis have used its security and justice institutions to harass charity workers.

It said in a statement: “The Houthi group has continued to harass humanitarian workers in Yemen and to undertake systematic repression against them, as it previously mandated a male guardian as a condition of mobility for female relief workers.”

Abductees’ Mothers Association, an umbrella organization representing thousands of female family members of civilian war captives, criticized the Houthis for raiding the homes of aid workers and then abducting them.

The Yemeni organization said in a statement: “The association condemns and denounces all practices and violations against humanitarian aid workers, including abductions, home raids, and assassinations, as well as any practices that could harm or affect the lives of organization workers and restrict their relief work, which meets the needs of many Yemenis.”

Human rights activists in Yemen have warned that the three UN workers held by the Houthis could be killed, citing the militia’s violent history of murdering prisoners.

“The Houthi detention is a death sentence,” Riyadh Al-Dubae, a human rights activist, said on X, while criticizing the UN and other international organizations for failing to name and shame the militia for its violations of human rights.

“This humiliation to which international organizations and local employees are exposed is caused, first and foremost, by their leniency and disregard for all the actions of the Houthis,” Al-Dubae added.


Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  
Updated 13 min 19 sec ago
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Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

Saudi finance minister to lead Kingdom’s delegation at IMF-World Bank Spring Meetings  

RIYADH: Saudi Finance Minister Mohammed Al-Jadaan will head the Kingdom’s delegation to the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank Group assemblies in Washington this week to discuss global economic developments.

Al-Jadaan will chair the first meeting of the International Monetary and Financial Committee under Saudi Arabia’s three-year chairmanship.
The meeting will review economic developments and the threats to overall global development. It will also discuss global economic policy, key priorities and the role of the Washington-based lender in providing financial assistance, advice, technical capacity building to member states, and financial support to countries in need.

The minister will also take part in the meeting of the World Bank Development Committee to discuss the global development plans implemented by the entity.  

Moreover, Al-Jadaan and the governor of the Saudi Central Bank, Ayman Al-Sayari, will also participate in the second meeting of finance ministers and central bank governors of the G20 under the Brazilian presidency.

The meeting will discuss a number of economic and development issues as well as ways to enhance international cooperation to meet the challenges of the global economy.

The Kingdom’s delegation includes the CEO of the Saudi Fund for Development, Sultan Al-Marshad, the deputy chair of the International Monetary and Financial Committee of the IMF, Ryadh bin Mohammed Al-Khareif, and Assistant Minister of Finance for the Macro Fiscal Policies and International Relations Abdulmohsen Al-Khalaf.

 


Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan

Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan
Updated 21 min 16 sec ago
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Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan

Heavy rain and flash floods kill 33 in Afghanistan
  • Most casualties were from roof collapses while some 600 houses were damaged or destroyed
  • Some 20 of the nation’s 34 provinces were lashed by heavy rains after an unusually dry winter

KABUL: At least 33 people have been killed over three days of heavy rains and flash flooding in Afghanistan, the government’s disaster management department said Sunday.
“From Friday onward, because of the rains there were flash floods which caused high human and financial losses,” department spokesman Janan Sayeq said.
“The primary information shows that, unfortunately, in the floods, 33 people were martyred and 27 people got injured.”
Most casualties were from roof collapses while some 600 houses were damaged or destroyed, nearly 600 kilometers (370 miles) of road demolished, and around 2,000 acres of farmland “flooded away,” Sayeq said.
Some 20 of the nation’s 34 provinces were lashed by the heavy rains, which have followed an unusually dry winter season which has parched terrain and forced farmers to delay planting.
Since the Taliban returned to power in 2021 the flow of foreign aid into the impoverished country has drastically diminished, hindering relief responses to natural disasters.
At least 25 people were killed in a landslide after massive snowfall in eastern Afghanistan in February, whilst around 60 were killed in a three-week spate of precipitation ending in March.
The United Nations last year warned “Afghanistan is experiencing major swings in extreme weather conditions.”
Scientists say harsh weather patterns are being spurred by climate change and after being ravaged by four decades of war Afghanistan ranks among the nations least prepared to face the phenomenon.


Houthis say Iran’s attack on Israel ‘legal’

Houthis say Iran’s attack on Israel ‘legal’
Updated 1 min 41 sec ago
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Houthis say Iran’s attack on Israel ‘legal’

Houthis say Iran’s attack on Israel ‘legal’
  • Iran launched a volley of drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday night in revenge for Israel’s airstrike on its Damascus consulate
  • Houthis claim that their attacks are intended to push Israel to break its stranglehold on the Palestinian Gaza Strip

AL-MUKALLA: Houthi militia said on Sunday that Iran’s large-scale missile and drone launch on Israel was “lawful” and “in accordance with international law” and pledged to continue their attacks on ships in the Red Sea.

Iran launched a volley of drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday night in revenge for Israel’s airstrike on its Damascus consulate, which killed several Revolutionary Guards leaders.

In a statement broadcast by their official news agency, the Houthi Foreign Ministry hailed Iran’s strikes, which they claimed fell within Iran’s “rights of defense,” and called on foreign powers to halt their “unlimited” political, military, financial and logistical support for Israel. 

Despite media reports that Iran-backed militias in the region, including the Houthis in Yemen, launched drones and missiles at Israel on Saturday, the Houthis have not officially claimed credit for participating in Iran’s campaign against Israel or other attacks in the Red Sea since April 10.

Since November, the Houthis have shot hundreds of ballistic missiles and drones toward Israel, as well as international commercial and navy ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and the Gulf of Aden, preventing Israel-linked and Israel-bound vessels from passing through crucial maritime channels.

The Houthis claim that their attacks are intended to push Israel to break its stranglehold on the Palestinian Gaza Strip. 

Unlike in the early days of their Red Sea ship campaign, when the Houthis swiftly announced strikes, they have recently published notices of more attacks some days later.

At the same time, Sultan Al-Sami’i, a member of the Houthi Supreme Political Council, reiterated on Sunday the militia’s warning to target ships in the Red Sea until Israel lifts its siege on Gaza.

Speaking on the seized Galaxy Leader ship off Yemen’s western Hodediah city, the Houthi leader said that the Red Sea was “safe” for international trade and that they were only targeting Israel-linked ships and those bound for Israel.

“Except for vessels owned by the Zionist entity or those affiliated with it, we assure all nations that the Red Sea remains a secure zone for international trade, navigation and ship passage,” Al-Sami’i said.

The US and the UK, supported by allies, have responded to the Houthi attacks on ships by striking Houthi targets in Sanaa, Saada, Hodeida and other Yemeni areas under the militia’s control.

The Houthis say that the strikes have not achieved their goal of reducing their military capabilities and that they will continue to target ships. 


Pakistanis from different faiths rally against Israeli atrocities in Gaza

Pakistanis from different faiths rally against Israeli atrocities in Gaza
Updated 58 min 56 sec ago
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Pakistanis from different faiths rally against Israeli atrocities in Gaza

Pakistanis from different faiths rally against Israeli atrocities in Gaza
  • The protest was organized by Palestine Foundation Pakistan (PFP) that advocates for the rights of Palestinians
  • A PFP representative says the purpose of the rally in Karachi was to condemn the ‘genocide’ happening in Gaza

KARACHI: A large number of Pakistanis, who came from different faiths, on Sunday gathered in the port city of Karachi to demand an immediate end to Israeli strikes in Gaza, which have killed 33,360 Palestinians and wounded 75,993 others since Oct. 7.
The protest, held outside the Karachi Press Club, was organized by the Palestine Foundation Pakistan (PFP) advocacy group and attended by Pakistani men, women and children from different faiths.
Anil Singh, a Pakistani Sikh, said their gurus (spiritual leaders) had urged their followers to stand against oppression and the same teachings had brought him to the demonstration.
“The entire nation has gathered for a purpose, to condemn the loss of human lives in Palestine due to Israeli aggression, which has been bombing for months, resulting in the martyrdom of more than 33,000 children, mothers and sisters,” Singh told Arab News.
“I condemn this act on behalf of the Sikh community, strongly denounce it, and it’s my message to the United Nations, international media, and all major platforms that we need to raise our voice.”
Singh called the killing of Palestinians in Gaza a “loss of humanity.”
“This is not just the loss of Muslim lives. It’s a loss of humanity, a violation of human rights,” he said. “We should stand with these [Palestinians] as humans and as Sikhs.”
Dr. Sabir Abu Maryam, general secretary of the PFP, said the purpose of the rally was to condemn the “genocide” happening in Gaza. “We strongly condemned this genocide and we stand with Palestine,” he said.
The rally came hours after Iran launched several drones and missiles on Israel in response to an Israeli strike on its consulate in Damascus, which killed seven Revolutionary Guards, including two generals, this month.
Commenting on Saturday’s attack by Iran, the protester said it was a “retaliation” to the Israeli strike on the Iranian mission in Syria.
“It’s the fundamental right of the state to retaliate and to respond to [an attack]. So, the response of Iran is the actual and an appropriate response,” he said, arguing that if Israel attacked Iran, it would be a violation of the international law.
Mrs. Iqbal, another participant who only gave her second name, told Arab News she and other protesters would take to the streets in case Israel attacked Iran.
“Iran has yesterday retaliated but if Israel takes any sort of step, we will come out for it [Iran],” she said. “We will raise our voice.”
Iqbal said Israel wanted to wipe Palestine off the face of the earth and Muslims across the world had the obligation to take to streets and at least protest it.
“We are also training our children and asking the people, who are sitting in their homes but not coming out, to come out,” she added.


US will not take part in retaliatory action against Iran, White House says

US will not take part in retaliatory action against Iran, White House says
Updated 57 min 4 sec ago
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US will not take part in retaliatory action against Iran, White House says

US will not take part in retaliatory action against Iran, White House says
  • The US will continue to help Israel defend itself, but does not want war, John Kirby, the White House’s top national security spokesperson, said

JERUSALEM/DUBAI/WASHINGTON: President Joe Biden warned Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu the US will not take part in a counter-offensive against Iran if Israel decides to retaliate for a mass drone and missile attack on Israeli territory overnight, a White House official said.
The threat of open warfare erupting between the arch Middle East foes and dragging in the United States has put the region on edge, triggering calls for restraint from global powers and Arab nations to avoid further escalation.
US media reported earlier on Sunday that Biden had informed Netanyahu he would not participate in retaliatory action in a phone call overnight. The remarks were confirmed to Reuters by a White House official.
The US will continue to help Israel defend itself, but does not want war, John Kirby, the White House’s top national security spokesperson, told ABC’s “This Week” program on Sunday.
Iran launched the attack over a suspected Israeli strike on its consulate in Syria on April 1 that killed top Revolutionary Guards commanders and followed months of clashes between Israel and Iran’s regional allies, triggered by the war in Gaza.
However, the attack from more than 300 missiles and drones, mostly launched from inside Iran, caused only modest damage in Israel as most were shot down with the help of the US, Britain and Jordan.
An Air Force base in southern Israel was hit, but continued to operate as normal and a 7-year old child was seriously hurt by shrapnel. There were no other reports of serious damage.
Two senior Israeli ministers signalled on Sunday that retaliation by Israel is not imminent and it would not act alone.
“We will build a regional coalition and exact the price from Iran in the fashion and timing that is right for us,” centrist minister Benny Gantz said ahead of a war cabinet meeting.
Defense Minister Yoav Gallant also said Israel had an opportunity to form a strategic alliance against “against this grave threat by Iran which is threatening to mount nuclear explosives on these missiles, which could be an extremely grave threat,” he said. Iran denies seeking nuclear weapons.
Iranian army chief of staff Major General Mohammad Bagheri warned on television that “our response will be much larger than tonight’s military action if Israel retaliates against Iran” and told Washington its bases could also be attacked if it helped Israel retaliate.
Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Abdollahian said Tehran had informed the United States its attack on Israel would be “limited” and for self defense and that regional neighbors had also been informed of its planned strikes 72-hours in advance.
A Turkish diplomatic source said Iran had informed Turkiye in advance of what would happen.
Iran said the attack was aimed at punishing “Israeli crimes” but it now “deemed the matter concluded.”
Russia, China, France and Germany as well as Arab states Egypt, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates urged restraint and the UN Security Council was set to meet at 4 p.m. ET (2000 GMT) on Sunday.
“We will do everything to stop a further escalation,” German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said on a visit to China. “We can only warn everyone, especially Iran, against continuing this way.”
Turkiye also warned Iran it did not want further tension in the region.
Escalation
Analysts debated how far Iran’s attack was calibrated to cause genuine devastation in Israel, or to save face at home after vows of revenge while avoiding a major new war.
“I think the Iranians took into consideration the fact that Israel has a very, very strong multi-layer anti-missile system and they probably took into consideration that there will not be too many casualties,” said Sima Shine, a former senior Mossad official at the Institute for National Security Studies in Tel Aviv.
But if Iran was hoping for a muted response, like with its missile attacks on US forces in Iraq after the killing of Guards commander Qassem Soleimani in 2020, she warned “I don’t think Israel sees it this way.”
On Saturday Iran’s Revolutionary Guards seized an Israel-linked cargo ship in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s most important energy shipping routes, underscoring the risks to the world economy of a wider conflict.
Some flights were suspended in countries across the region.
The war in Gaza, which Israel invaded after an attack by Iran-backed Hamas on Oct. 7, has spread to fronts with Iran-aligned groups in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen and Iraq.
Iran’s most powerful ally in the region, the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah fired rockets at an Israeli base overnight. Israel said it struck a Hezbollah site deep inside Lebanon on Sunday morning.
Yemen’s Houthis, who have been firing missiles at ships in the Red Sea in what they say is support for the Palestinians, called Iran’s attack legitimate.
The Oct. 7 attack in which Israel says 1,200 were killed and 253 taken hostage, along with internal discontent with the government and international pressure over the war in Gaza, form the backdrop to Netanyahu’s decisions over a response. At least 33,000 people have been killed in Gaza since Israel began its military offensive, according to authorities in the enclave.
The Israeli prime minister has for years advocated a tough military line against Iran, pushing the United States for harder action over Tehran’s nuclear program and its backing for Hezbollah, Hamas and other groups in the region.
In Israel, although there was alarm at the first direct attack from another country in more than three decades, the mood was in contrast to the trauma after the Hamas-led attack on Oct.7.
“I think we’ve been given license to respond now. I mean it was a major attack from Iran... I imagine Israel will respond and may be over quickly and get back to normal life,” said Jeremy Smith, 60.
In Iran, state television showed small gatherings in several cities celebrating the attack, but in private some Iranians were worried about Israel’s response.
“Iran gave Netanyahu a golden opportunity to attack our country. But we, the people of Iran, will bear the brunt of this conflict,” said Shima, a 29-year-old nurse, from Tehran.