Leader of Houthis says militia will target Israeli ships in Red Sea

Leader of Houthis says militia will target Israeli ships in Red Sea
Yemen's Houthi leader said on Tuesday his forces would make further attacks on Israel and they could target Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. (Reuters/File)
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Updated 14 November 2023
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Leader of Houthis says militia will target Israeli ships in Red Sea

Leader of Houthis says militia will target Israeli ships in Red Sea
  • “Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea,” Abdulmalik Al-Houthi said

ADEN: The leader of Yemen’s Houthis said on Tuesday his militia would make further attacks on Israel and they could target Israeli ships in the Red Sea and the Bab Al-Mandeb Strait.
The Iran-aligned group made several missile and drone attacks against Israel this month, highlighting the risk of the war between Israel and Palestinian militant group Hamas spreading into the wider Middle East.
“Our eyes are open to constantly monitor and search for any Israeli ship in the Red Sea, especially in Bab Al-Mandab, and near Yemeni regional waters,” Abdulmalik Al-Houthi said in a broadcast speech.
Washington is on heightened alert for activity by Iran-backed groups since Hamas fighters rampaged into Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people.
Since then, Israel has escalated its assault on Gaza, where its forces have killed more than 11,000 people, according to Palestinian officials.
The Yemen war has settled into a stalemate as the fighting has largely stopped but both parties have failed to renew a United Nations-brokered truce that expired in October.


Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows

Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows
Updated 26 February 2024
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Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows

Most UK exporters hit by Red Sea disruption, survey shows
  • 55 percent of exporters reported disruption, British Chambers of Commerce reports
  • Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea

LONDON: Most British exporters and manufacturers have felt an impact from disruption in the Red Sea caused by attacks on shipping by Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, according to a survey.
The British Chambers of Commerce said 55 percent of exporters reported disruption, as did 53 percent of manufacturers and business-to-consumer services firms, a category that includes retailers and wholesalers. Across all businesses, 37 percent reported an impact.
“There has been spare capacity in the shipping freight industry to respond to the difficulties, which has bought us some time,” the BCC’s head of trade policy, William Bain, said.
“But our research suggests that the longer the current situation persists, the more likely it is that the cost pressures will start to build,” he added.
Some businesses reported container hire costs had quadrupled, while others faced delivery delays of three to four weeks, as well as cashflow difficulties and shortages of parts.
The Bank of England has highlighted the Red Sea disruption as one of the main upside risks to inflation this year, although to date the attacks and broader conflict in the Middle East has had less economic impact in Britain than it originally feared.
Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden since November in support of Palestinians, as the Israel-Hamas war continues.
Last week the Houthis said they would step up attacks on shipping with links to Israel, the United States and Britain.
The BCC conducted its survey between Jan. 15 and Feb. 9 with responses from 1,087 firms, 90 percent of which had under 250 employees.
On Thursday, the S&P Purchasing Managers’ Index showed British businesses’ costs rose at the fastest rate in six months in February. Higher freight costs related to Red Sea disruption were cited by many manufacturers, but rising wage bills were a bigger factor for most.


Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister

Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister
Updated 26 February 2024
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Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister

Gaza deal won’t affect Israel’s Hezbollah fight: defense minister
  • Talks are underway toward a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza

JERUSALEM:  Defense minister Yoav Gallant on Sunday said there would be no let up in Israeli action against Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, even if a ceasefire and hostage deal is secured in Gaza.

Gallant visited the military’s Northern Command in Safed, which was hit earlier this month by a militant rocket strike from southern Lebanon, killing a soldier.

Talks are underway toward a possible deal for Hamas to release hostages and pause the fighting in Gaza, which was sparked by the militants’ attack on southern Israel on October 7.

Since then, there have been near-daily cross-border exchanges of fire between Israel and Hamas’s allies Hezbollah on the border with Lebanon, prompting fears of a regional escalation.

Both Hamas and Hezbollah are backed by Iran.

Gallant said he was keen to assess how Israel was combating increased Hezbollah activity from across the heavily fortified border.

“If anyone thinks that when we reach a deal to release hostages in the south and the firing stops it will ease what is happening here they are wrong,” he said in a video message.

Israel’s aim is to ensure the Iran-backed militants do not pose a threat from border areas in southern Lebanon, he added.

If a diplomatic solution to the situation is not possible, “we will do it by force,” Gallant warned.

On Sunday, the Israeli military said it had intercepted a “suspicious aerial target” in the Upper Galilee region of northern Israel, and rockets were fired at a number of locations.

Jets then struck a “terrorist cell exiting a Hezbollah military compound” and two “military compounds” on the Lebanese side of the border, it added.

Since October 7, 10 Israeli soldiers and six civilians have been killed by hostilities in the north, according to an AFP tally.

On the Lebanese side, at least 276 people have been killed, most of them Hezbollah fighters but also 44 civilians.

Hamas’s attacks on October 7 left around 1,160 people dead and saw 250 hostages taken, of whom about 130 are still thought to be in Gaza, according to an AFP tally based on official figures.

In Gaza, the Hamas-run health ministry says at least 29,692 have been killed in the war between the militants and Israel.


Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur

Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur
Updated 26 February 2024
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Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur

Sudan authorities block cross-border aid to stricken Darfur

PORT SUDAN: Authorities loyal to the army in war-ravaged Sudan have blocked cross-border aid to the western Darfur region, a move decried by aid workers and the United States.

The vast Darfur region, bordering Chad, has been one of the hardest hit parts of Sudan since war began 10 months ago between the Sudanese Armed Forces and paramilitary Rapid Support Forces (RSF).

RSF are descendants of the Janjaweed militia which began a scorched earth campaign in Darfur more than two decades ago.

In their current battle against the army, which started last April, the RSF have taken over four out of the five Darfur state capitals.

More than 694,000 people have fled over the border to Chad, according to the International Organization for Migration, but many more remain trapped in Darfur and in need of assistance.

The United Nations has had to limit its work in Darfur to cross-border operations from Chad, but last week the UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) country director Eddie Rowe told reporters that “authorities have restricted the Chad cross-border operation.”

State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller on Friday said the United States is deeply concerned by the army’s “recent decision to prohibit cross border humanitarian assistance from Chad and reports that the SAF is obstructing assistance from reaching communities in areas controlled by the RSF.”

Sudan’s foreign ministry, loyal to the army, expressed “confusion and rejection” of the “false accusations” by Washington.

The ministry said the Sudan-Chad border “is the main crossing point for weapons and equipment” used to commit “atrocities” against Sudanese.

Miller, of the State Department, also expressed concern about RSF “looting homes, markets and humanitarian assistance warehouses.”

In Brussels, Rowe of WFP said his agency was “engaging with the authorities to ensure this critical lifeline” from Chad remains operational.

It is essential, an international aid worker told AFP on Sunday from Darfur, requesting anonymity so as not to jeopardize their mission.

“Children and babies are already dying from hunger and malnutrition. There will be an immense human impact... and quite possibly large-scale mortality rates,” the aid worker said.

“The highest levels of diplomacy need to unblock this situation immediately because millions of lives hang in the balance,” the aid worker said, calling it “a huge region already facing an imminent and immense food security crisis on top of a civil war, ethnic violence and state service collapse.”

The war has killed thousands, including up to 15,000 in the West Darfur city of El Geneina alone, according to the UN experts.

Washington has accused both sides of war crimes, and said the RSF also carried out ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.


Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?
Updated 26 February 2024
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Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?

Frankly Speaking: Will Israel ever end its occupation of Palestine?
  • Israeli journalist Gideon Levy accuses Israel of dehumanization and demonizing Palestinians
  • Believes any Israeli leader would choose occupation over normalization with Saudi Arabia
  • Calls on his compatriots to choose between being a democratic state or an apartheid one

DUBAI: With the war in Gaza heading toward its sixth month, some are wondering if there is any end in sight to the Israeli occupation of Palestine. What is certain, however, is that Israel carries out a policy of dehumanization of Palestinians to justify its occupation, according to one of Israel’s most famous journalists.

“Israel systematically, from its first day, dehumanized and demonized the Palestinians in order to maintain their occupation, to maintain even the creation of the state of Israel,” Gideon Levy said.

He said Israel “is very efficient in manipulating propaganda and brainwashing all over the world,” and is “the only occupier in history which presents itself as a victim.”

Levy, who has spent over four decades as a journalist writing for the Israeli daily Haaretz covering mainly the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, made these remarks on the Arab News current affairs show “Frankly Speaking.”

Gideon Levy has spent over four decades as a journalist and columnist for the Israeli daily Haaretz. He spoke to Katie Jensen, the host of “Frankly Speaking,” the Arab News current affairs show. (AN photo)

Levy has been harshly critical of Israel’s actions, particularly those carried out in the wake of the Hamas attack in southern Israel in October 2023 which resulted in 1,200 deaths and the kidnapping of 240 people. According to Gaza’s Health Ministry, nearly 30,000 people, many of which are women and children, have been killed so far in Israel’s retaliatory offensive.

Arab countries, particularly Saudi Arabia, have been putting pressure on Israel to agree to a ceasefire or scale back its offensive. The Kingdom has made the establishment of a Palestinian state a prerequisite for any normalization deals, with Israeli officials keen on the idea of improved relations with Arab states.

Levy, however, doubts that any Israeli prime minister, including current prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu, would go that far.

“I don’t see them … putting an end to the occupation,” he told Katie Jensen, host of “Frankly Speaking.”

Israeli politicians might be hoping for a repeat of the 2020-2021 Abraham Accords, which saw Israel normalize relations with the UAE and Bahrain.

Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu (2-R) grins from ear to ear after signing the so-called Abraham Accords with Bahrain Foreign Minister Abdullatif Al-Zayani (L) and UAE Foreign Minister Abdullah bin Zayed Al-Nahyan (R), brokered by the US government under President Donald Trump (2-R), at the White House in Washington, DC, on Sept. 15, 2020. (AFP/File)

Israel quickly also normalized ties with Morocco and Sudan.

“Maybe they also hope that, like in the Abraham Accords, in which they got quite a good deal without changing the policy toward the Palestinians, only by all kind of lip services for this,” he said.

“I think that all the candidates for being prime minister in Israel, not only Netanyahu but also the opposition, would still prefer to maintain an occupation rather than to have normal relations with an important country like Saudi Arabia.”

Even beyond the Arab world, Israel’s counteroffensive in Gaza has triggered international backlash, including South Africa’s landmark court case against Israel in the International Court of Justice. However, Levy sees most of this as empty words.

This photo taken on January 26, 2024, shows the International Court of Justice panel assembled in The Hague during the reading of the genocide case filed by South Africa against Israel over its attacks on civilians in the Gaza Strip. (X: @CIJ_ICJ)

“Sympathy toward the Palestinians is very deep rooted among the grass roots, but I don't see many leaders really care about the Palestinians. Unfortunately, they fall between the chairs for many years now, when many statesmen give their lip service about solidarity with them, but finally almost nobody is doing for them anything and they are left quite alone, especially in (the) last years,” Levy said.

“Yes, there is a lot of talking going on; condemnations, resolutions, rulings, rules, hearings, many, many things. There is only one thing lacking, and this is action. That is, taking measures.

“The world never took real measures and the US, in particular, never took any measures to promote its interest, to promote its ideas. The US claims that it wants to see this war ended. And (at the same time) it is supplying Israel with more ammunition and more arms.”

Israel has learned “that you can very easily ignore the talk and stick to its policy, because Israel doesn’t pay any price for its policy,” Levy said.

A shipment of 155mm artillery shells supplied by the US for use by the Israeli army is transported on a truck along a highway between the Jerusalem and Beersheba in southern Israel on October 14, 2023. (AFP)

With Palestinians themselves and leaders across the world calling for peace, Levy is not certain that peace should be the top priority when it comes to talks on Palestine, but rather justice for the Palestinian people.

“I am calling for justice, not for peace … maybe peace will be the bonus that we’ll get out of it. But I am not sure that two people are ready for peace, but there is one people who deserve justice. And this must be pushed by the world.”

From 1978 to 1982, Levy worked as an aide and spokesman for Shimon Peres, the then leader of the Israeli Labor Party. In 1982 he began to write for Haaretz, and later worked there as a deputy editor.

He has long written of his support for a one-state solution in which Jews, Arabs, and all citizens have equal rights — a controversial opinion among both Israelis and Palestinians.

“There are 700,000 Jewish settlers in the occupied territories. Nobody is going to evacuate them. And there is no viable Palestinian state with 700,000 Jewish settlers, part of them very violent, all of them very ideological. I don’t see (a two-state solution) happening.”

Objects are scattered more than a week after Jewish settlers attacked the occupied West Bank village of Wadi al Seeq on October 24, 2023. (AFP/File)

He added: “If not the two-state solution, what is left? Only the one state … the only problem is that it’s not a democracy.

“I have to tell my fellow Israelis, you can’t have it all. If you wanted a Jewish state, you had to pull out from the occupied territories a long time ago.

“If you want a democratic state, you should give up the Jewish state because you cannot have it both, because there are two peoples here. Either you are an apartheid state or you are a democracy.”

As the Israeli bombardment continues across the entirety of Gaza, many Palestinians have begun to lose hope in their own officials. Even one month prior to the start of the most recent Israel-Hamas war, 78 percent of Palestinians wanted the resignation of Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, according to a poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Survey Research.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (L) meets with Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the city of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank on Feb. 7, 2024, during a Middle East tour, his fifth urgent trip to the region since the war between Israel and Hamas in Gaza erupted in October. (POOL / AFP)

Observers now speculate whether there could be a replacement for Abbas, one that could carry out reforms and to revitalize the PA.

For Levy, jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti could be a contender.

“He was the only one who would really unite the Palestinian people, Hamas and Fatah, together. I believed also that he is a man of peace. And he proved it in many ways,” he said.

Barghouti was arrested by Israel in Ramallah in 2002, and two years later was sentenced to five cumulative life sentences on five counts of murder.

“I hope he’s still capable of leading the Palestinians. I don’t have a better idea. I’m not sure Hamas will accept him today. Twenty years ago, yes, (but) I’m not sure today,” Levy said.

“I’m a great believer of him. And because I believe in him, and because so many people believe in him, Israel will never release him. And that’s so tragic.”

The portrait of jailed Palestinian dissident Marwan Barghouti (R) is seen along with that of the  late South African president Nelson Mandela at an office in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Barghouti, in Israeli custody for nearly two decades after being convicted over multiple killings during the second intifada, is being compared to Mandela, who successfully led the resistance to apartheid in South Africa. (AFP/File)

Particularly since October, the popular rhetoric in Israel has increasingly turned against Palestinians, something that Levy blames on a combination of racism and dehumanization.

“If you conduct such a brutal occupation over so many years, if you teach your soldiers and your young people, generation after generation, that there is nothing cheaper, and there is nothing cheaper than the life of a Palestinian, I can tell you, if the Israeli army would have killed so many dogs as it did (people) in Gaza, it would be a huge, huge scandal in Israel.”

In addition to this, Israeli news media, which Levy explains “doesn’t cover the suffering of Gaza,” has played a role in inflaming racist attitudes in the country.

“They know Israelis don’t want to see it, don’t want to hear about it. It’s an outcome of decades of brainwashing, decades of humanization; as I said before, decades of demonization of the Palestinians.

“Israelis don’t meet Palestinians anymore at all, because of the barrier of the (West Bank) separation wall. There’s almost no contact anymore between the two peoples,” Levy said, explaining that the Oct. 7 attack has led Israelis to lump all Palestinians in the same category as Hamas and the perpetrators of the attack.

Participants run past a section of Israel's controversial separation barrier during the "Freedom of Movement Palestine Marathon" in Bethlehem in the Israeli-occupied West Bank on March 10, 2023. (AFP/File)

“We are in a very, very low moment in history. And obviously the racism is now politically correct in Israel. It's enough to have one attack, like this terrible attack on the 7th of October, to make all the incorrect political ideas as politically correct.

“Because after what they have done to us, most of Israelis think, we have now the right to do and say whatever we want, because of those horrible things they did.

In the minds of Israelis now, Levy said, “all Palestinians must take responsibility for the October 7 crimes, all of them took part in it.”

 


Qatar emir due in Paris for talks on Gaza

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (File/Reuters)
Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (File/Reuters)
Updated 25 February 2024
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Qatar emir due in Paris for talks on Gaza

Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani. (File/Reuters)
  • The ruler’s trip on Tuesday and Wednesday will be his first state visit to France since he became emir of Qatar
  • Country hosts the political bureau of Hamas but also enjoys warm relations with the US

PARIS: Qatar’s Emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al-Thani, whose country has played the key mediation role in the Gaza war, visits Paris this week for talks with President Emmanuel Macron, the French presidency said Sunday.
The ruler’s trip on Tuesday and Wednesday will be his first state visit to France since he became emir of the small emirate in 2013, according to the Elysee.
Qatar has emerged as the key player in mediation between Israel and Hamas to agree a truce in Gaza and release more hostages abducted by the Palestinian militant group in its attack on Israel on October 7.
It hosts the political bureau of Hamas but also enjoys warm relations with the United States.
“Qatar is notably working on the release of the hostages, which is a priority for us,” said a French presidential official. Three French nationals are among those still held by Hamas.
The discussions will also focus on “ongoing efforts to obtain a ceasefire... and enable massive aid to be provided to the Gazan population,” added the official.
A previous week-long truce in November saw more than 100 hostages and 240 Palestinian prisoners freed but so far no other such deal has been agreed despite intense efforts over the last weeks.
Egyptian, Qatari and US experts met in Doha on Sunday for talks also attended by Israeli and Hamas representatives, state-linked Egyptian media said, seeking to secure a truce before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
The Doha talks followed a weekend meeting in Paris, without Hamas, where representatives “came to an understanding among the four of them about what the basic contours of a hostage deal for temporary ceasefire would look like,” White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told CNN.
The war broke out after Hamas’s unprecedented attack which resulted in the deaths of about 1,160 people in Israel, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally of official Israeli figures.
Hamas militants also took about 250 Israeli and foreign hostages, 130 of whom remain in Gaza, including 31 presumed dead, according to Israel.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 29,692 people, mostly women and children, according to the latest tally issued Sunday by the health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza.