US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen

US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen
The aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower and other warships pass through the Strait of Hormuz into the Arabian Gulf on Sunday, Nov. 26, 2023. (AP Photo)
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Updated 29 November 2023
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US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen

US Navy warship shoots down drone launched by Houthis from Yemen
  • USS Carney deemed the drone — an Iranian-made KAS-04 — to be a threat and shot it down over the southern Red Sea
  • Shootdown comes a day after a Iranian drone flew within 1,500 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier

WASHINGTON: A US Navy warship sailing near the Bab El-Mandeb Strait shot down a drone launched from Yemen, a US official said Wednesday, in the latest in a string of threats from the Iranian-backed Houthis.

The official said according to initial reports, USS Carney, a Navy destroyer, deemed the drone — an Iranian-made KAS-04 — to be a threat and shot it down over water in the southern Red Sea as the ship was moving toward the strait. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a military operation not yet made public.

The Wednesday shootdown comes a day after a Iranian drone flew within 1,500 yards of the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower aircraft carrier as it was conducting flight operations in international waters in the Arabian Gulf.

Navy Vice Adm. Brad Cooper, commander of US Naval Forces Central Command, said the drone “violated safety precautions” by not staying more than 10 nautical miles from the ship. The drone ignored multiple warnings but eventually turned away.

Earlier this month, another Navy destroyer, the USS Thomas Hudner, shot down a drone that was heading toward the ship as it sailed in the southern Red Sea. It also was near the Bab El-Mandeb Strait and it shot down the drone over the water.

The Red Sea, stretching from Egypt’s Suez Canal to the narrow Bab El-Mandeb Strait separating the Arabian Peninsula from Africa, is a key trade route for global shipping and energy supplies. The US Navy has stationed multiple ships in the sea since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, which has heightened tensions in the region.


Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea

Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea
Updated 33 min 21 sec ago
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Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea

Ship earlier attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels sinks in the Red Sea
  • Rubymar drifted northward after being attacked on Feb. 18 in the Bab El-Mandeb Strait
  • Yemen’s recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank

DUBAI: A ship attacked by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has sunk in the Red Sea after days of taking on water, officials said Saturday, the first vessel to be fully destroyed as part of their campaign over Israel’s war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The sinking of the Rubymar comes as shipping through the crucial waterway for cargo and energy shipments moving from Asia and the Middle East to Europe has been affected by the Houthi attacks.

Already, many ships have turned away from the route. The sinking could see further detours and higher insurance rates put on vessels plying the waterway — potentially driving up global inflation and affecting aid shipments to the region.

The Belize-flagged Rubymar had been drifting northward after being struck by a Houthi anti-ship ballistic missile on Feb. 18 in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait, a crucial waterway linking the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government, as well as a regional military official, confirmed the ship sank. The official spoke on condition of anonymity as no authorization was given to speak to journalists about the incident.

The Rubymar’s Beirut-based manager could not be immediately reached for comment.

Yemen’s exiled government, which has been backed by a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, said the Rubymar sank late Friday as stormy weather took hold over the Red Sea. The vessel had been abandoned for 12 days after the attack, though plans had been made to try and tow the ship to a safe port.

The Iran-backed Houthis, who had falsely claimed the ship sank almost instantly after the attack, did not immediately acknowledge the ship’s sinking.

The US military’s Central Command previously warned the vessel’s cargo of fertilizer, as well as fuel leaking from the ship, could cause ecological damage to the Red Sea.

Satellite pictures analyzed by The Associated Press from Planet Labs PBC showed smaller boats alongside the Rubymar on Wednesday. It wasn’t immediately clear whose vessels those were.

The private security firm Ambrey separately reported Friday about a mysterious incident involving the Rubymar.

“A number of Yemenis were reportedly harmed during a security incident which took place” on Friday, Ambrey said. It did not elaborate on what that incident involved and no party involved in Yemen’s yearslong war claimed any new attack on the vessel.

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over the Israel-Hamas war. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo bound for Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, and an aid ship later bound for Houthi-controlled territory.

Despite over a month of US-led airstrikes, Houthi rebels remain capable of launching significant attacks. That includes the attack on the Rubymar and the downing of an American drone worth tens of millions of dollars. The Houthis insist their attacks will continue until Israel stops its combat operations in the Gaza Strip, which have enraged the wider Arab world and seen the Houthis gain international recognition.

However, there has been a slowdown in attacks in recent days. The reason for that remains unclear.


Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan
Updated 02 March 2024
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Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan

Palestinian Authority hopes for Gaza ceasefire by Ramadan
  • Death toll in the Palestinian territory had reached 30,320 after 92 new fatalities were recorded in the previous 24 hours.

ANKARA: The Palestinian Authority hopes a ceasefire can be agreed in the Gaza war in time for Ramadan, its foreign minister, Riyad Al-Maliki, said on Saturday.
Israel and Hamas have been negotiating through mediators over a possible ceasefire in Gaza, with the aim of halting fighting in time for Ramadan, the Muslim fasting month, due to begin this year on March 10.
“We hope that we will be able to achieve a ceasefire before Ramadan, we hope to be able to achieve one today, yesterday, but we have failed,” he said at a news conference at a diplomatic forum in Antalya, Turkiye.
Egyptian security sources said on Saturday that ceasefire negotiations were due to resume in Cairo on Sunday.
Hamas, which precipitated the war in Gaza by attacking Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and capturing 253 hostages according to Israeli tallies, has said it will not free all its captives without a comprehensive deal to end the war.
Israel, which has assaulted the Gaza Strip, killing more than 30,000 people according to Palestinian health authorities, has said it will agree only to temporary pauses in fighting to release hostages, and will not end the war until Hamas is eradicated.
Maliki called on the international community to make more efforts for a ceasefire.
When asked about the PA’s role for the governance of Gaza after the war, Al-Maliki said: “The only legitimate authority that will operate and continue to operate Gaza is the Palestinian Administration. This is how we see the situation in post-war Gaza.”
The PA, which exercises limited self rule in parts of the Israeli-occupied West Bank, lost control of Gaza to the Hamas militant group in 2007.
Maliki also said the PA President Mahmoud Abbas will pay a visit to Ankara on Tuesday and meet Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan.
The health ministry in Hamas-run Gaza said on Saturday the wartime death toll in the Palestinian territory had reached 30,320 after 92 new fatalities were recorded in the previous 24 hours.
The ministry also said 71,533 people have been wounded in Gaza since the war broke out on October 7.


Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody

Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody
Updated 02 March 2024
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Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody

Palestinian women detained by Israel allege abuse while in custody
  • Six weeks in Israeli custody that included repeated beatings and interrogations
  • Rights groups accuse Israel of ‘disappearing’ Gaza Palestinians

JERUSALEM: Nabela thought the United Nations school in Gaza City was a safe haven. Then, the Israeli army arrived.
Soldiers stormed the place, ordering men to undress and hauling women to a mosque for strip searches, she said. So began six weeks in Israeli custody that she says included repeated beatings and interrogations.
“The soldiers were very harsh, they beat us and screamed at us in Hebrew,” said the 39-year-old from Gaza City, who spoke on condition that her last name not be used for fear of being arrested again. “If we raised our heads or uttered any words, they beat us on the head.”
Palestinians detained by Israeli forces in Gaza during the Israel-Hamas war have alleged widespread physical abuse and neglect. It’s not known how many women or minors have been detained.
Nabela said she was shuttled between facilities inside Israel in a coed group before arriving at Damon Prison in the north, where she estimated there were at least 100 women.
Rights groups say Israel is “disappearing” Gaza Palestinians — detaining them without charge or trial and not disclosing to family or lawyers where they’re held. Israel’s prison service says all “basic rights required are fully applied by professionally trained prison guards.”
Israel declared war after Hamas-led militants killed about 1,200 people and took roughly 250 others hostage on Oct. 7.
Since then, ground troops have arrested hundreds of Palestinians to search for suspected militants and gather intelligence. Images of blindfolded men kneeling, heads bowed and hands bound, have sparked worldwide outrage. In northern Gaza and the southern city of Khan Younis, troops rounded up dozens at a time from UN schools and hospitals, including medical personnel.
The military said it makes detainees undress to search for explosives, bringing detainees into Israel before releasing them back into Gaza if they’re deemed innocent.
For Nabela, that process took 47 harrowing days.
Despite Israeli evacuation orders, Nabela and her family had decided not to leave Gaza City, believing nowhere in Gaza was safe. Troops entered the school where they sheltered on Dec. 24.
“I was terrified, imagining they wanted to execute us and bury us there,” she said.
Forces separated Nabela from her 13-year-old daughter and 4-year-old son and loaded her onto a truck bound for a facility in southern Israel. According to the Israeli group Physicians for Human Rights-Israel, or PHRI, all detainees in Gaza are first brought to the Sde Teiman military base.
“We were freezing and forced to remain on our knees on the ground,” Nabela told The Associated Press from a school-turned-shelter in Rafah where she’s staying with other recently released female detainees. “Loud music, shouting and intimidation — they wanted to humiliate us. We were handcuffed, blindfolded, and our feet were tied in chains.”
Moved between several prisons, Nabela said she was subjected to repeated strip searches and interrogations at gunpoint.
Asked about her connection to Hamas and knowledge of the militants’ extensive underground tunnel network, she maintained her innocence, telling interrogators she was a housewife and her husband worked for Hamas’ rival, the Palestinian Authority.
‘AN APPARATUS OF RETRIBUTION AND REVENGE’
One woman detained from Gaza, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of another arrest, told the AP that during a medical check before she was moved to Damon Prison, Israeli forces ordered her to kiss an Israeli flag. When she refused, a soldier grabbed her by the hair, smashing her face into a wall, she said.
In a report by PHRI, former detainees from Gaza alleged similar mistreatment.
One, whose name was redacted, said he was urinated on by guards at Ketziot Prison in southern Israel, and witnessed strip searches where guards forced naked detainees to stand close to each other and inserted search devices into their buttocks.
PHRI described Israel’s prisons, also housing Palestinians from the West Bank and east Jerusalem held on security-related charges, as “an apparatus of retribution and revenge.” It alleged the prison service and military “have been granted free rein to act however they see fit.”
At the beginning of the war, prisons entered “lockdown mode,” confining detainees to their cells for two weeks, the report said. Under wartime emergency measures, Israel’s parliament in October suspended normal cell capacity requirements. Since then, inmates have slept on mattresses in overcrowded cells.
Phone privileges have been completely suspended, the report said. At some facilities, security wings were disconnected from electricity and water, plunging detainees into darkness for most of the day and rendering showers and sinks unusable.
During eight days at an unknown facility in southern Israel, Nabela said she did not shower and had no access to menstrual pads or toiletries. Food was scarce. Once, Nabela said, guards threw down the detainees’ meals and told them to eat from the floor.
The military said each detainee receives clothing, blankets and a mattress. It denied that cells were overcrowded, saying detainees had sufficient access to toilets, food, water and medical care.
“The violent and antagonistic treatment of detainees described in the allegations is prohibited,” the military said in response to an AP request for comment. “Cases of inappropriate behavior will be dealt with.”
It referred questions about Ketziot and Damon prisons to the Israeli Prison Service, which did not comment on the allegations beyond saying it was uninvolved in the arrests and interrogation of Palestinians from Gaza.
‘UNLAWFUL COMBATANTS’
Nabela said she never spoke with a lawyer or a judge.
Under a wartime revision to Israeli law, all detainees from Gaza can be held for 45 days without charge or trial.
Designated “unlawful combatants,” they aren’t granted the same protections under international law as prisoners of war. Their appearance before a court can be delayed and access to an attorney withdrawn, according to PHRI. The Israeli rights group HaMoked said there are 600 people from Gaza held as unlawful combatants in Israeli prisons, and more could be held in military facilities.
Palestinian detainees told PHRI that adequate medical care was rare, even for those needing insulin or chemotherapy treatments.
An official document obtained by the AP, laying out operations at the Sde Teiman military medical facility, specified that unlawful combatants be treated handcuffed and blindfolded.
Medical staff’s names were kept anonymous “to maintain the safety, well-being and lives of the caregivers,” it said. It did not require patient consent for medical procedures and said confidential medical information could be passed to detention center staff.
The military said the handcuffing of detainees was “done in accordance with their assessed level of danger and medical state.” Israel’s Ministry of Health did not respond to requests for comment.
Eleven Palestinian detainees have died in Israeli custody since Oct. 7, according to the advocacy group the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club, and the most recent was just this week. At least five had chronic health conditions, which PHRI says raises concerns that they died because of medical neglect.
The Israeli military said it would examine the deaths.
‘BETTER THAN GAZA’
Nabela’s fortunes improved when she arrived at Damon. There, she met Palestinian women detained from the West Bank.
She said the women were kind. She had electricity and warm showers. Her interrogator wondered aloud why Nabela was detained.
A month and a half after her arrest, a prison administrator announced Nabela would be released with about 20 other women. Israeli buses brought them to a Gaza crossing, where they made their way to UN shelters in the southern city of Rafah, full of displaced Palestinians. She cannot travel to Gaza City, where her family remains.
Nabela, her face bruised, recalled one of her final interrogations. She had begun to weep, and her interrogator told her:
“Don’t cry about it. You’re better living here than Gaza.”


Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed
Updated 02 March 2024
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Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed

Gaza doctor says gunfire accounted for 80 percent of the wounds at his hospital from aid convoy bloodshed
  • UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: The head of a Gaza City hospital that treated some of the Palestinians wounded in the bloodshed surrounding an aid convoy said Friday that more than 80 percent had been struck by gunfire, suggesting there was heavy shooting by Israeli troops.
At least 115 Palestinians were killed and more than 750 others injured Thursday, according to health officials, when witnesses said nearby Israeli troops opened fire as huge crowds raced to pull goods off an aid convoy. Israel said many of the dead were trampled in a crowd surge that started when desperate Palestinians in Gaza rushed the aid trucks. Israel said its troops fired warning shots after the crowd moved toward them in a threatening way.
Dr. Mohammed Salha, the acting director of Al-Awda Hospital, told The Associated Press that of the 176 wounded brought to the facility, 142 had gunshot wounds and the other 34 showed injuries from a stampede.
He couldn’t address the cause of death of those killed, because the bodies were taken to government-run hospitals to be counted.
Dr. Husam Abu Safyia, director of Kamal Adwan Hospital, said the majority of the injured taken there had gunshot wounds in the upper part of their bodies, and many of the deaths were from gunshots to the head, neck or chest.
The bloodshed underscored how the chaos of Israel’s almost 5-month-old offensive has crippled the effort to bring aid to Gaza’s 2.3 million Palestinians, a quarter of whom the United Nations says face starvation.
The UN and other aid groups have been pleading for safe corridors for aid convoys, saying it has become nearly impossible to deliver supplies in most of Gaza because of the difficulty of coordinating with the Israeli military, ongoing hostilities and the breakdown of public order, including crowds of desperate people who overwhelm aid convoys.
UN officials say hunger is even worse in the north, where several hundred thousand Palestinians remain even though the area has been isolated and mostly leveled since Israeli troops launched their ground offensive there in late October. UN agencies haven’t delivered aid to the north in more than a month because of military restrictions and lack of security, but several deliveries by other groups reached the area earlier this week.
The United Nations says a UN team that visited Shifa Hospital in Gaza City reported “a large number of gunshot wounds” among the more than 200 people still being treated for injuries Friday from Thursday’s chaotic aid convoy scene.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and several European leaders have called for an independent, credible investigation into what happened.
Acknowledging the difficulty of getting aid in, United States President Joe Biden said Friday the US soon will begin airdropping assistance to Gaza and will look for other ways to get shipments in, “including possibly a marine corridor.”
The announcement came hours after a Jordanian plane over northern Gaza dropped packages attached to parachutes, including rice, flour and baby formula.
“Innocent lives are on the line, and children’s lives are on the line. We won’t stand by until we get more aid in there,” Biden said. “We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.”
Aid officials have said airdrops are an incredibly expensive way of distributing assistance.
“I don’t think the airdropping of food in the Gaza Strip should be the answer today. The real answer is: Open the crossing and bring convoys and bring meaningful assistance into the Gaza Strip,” Philippe Lazzarini, head of the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, said Thursday.
Thursday’s convoy wasn’t organized by the UN Instead, it appeared to have been monitored by the Israeli military, which said its troops were on hand to secure it and ensure it reached northern Gaza.
United Nations spokesperson Stephane Dujarric said Friday’s convoy was also “coordinated and deconflicted with the Israeli authorities” because they control Gaza.
“We’ve been trying to do that every day,” he said. “We have not been successful every day.”
Thursday’s shooting and bloodshed raise questions about whether Israel will be able to keep order if it goes through with its postwar plans for Gaza.
Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has put forward a plan for Israel to retain open-ended security and political control over the territory — an effective reoccupation — after Hamas is destroyed. Under the plan, Palestinians picked by Israel would administer the territory, but it’s uncertain if any would cooperate.
That would leave Israeli troops — who, throughout the war, have responded with heavy firepower when they perceive a possible threat — to oversee the population during the massive postwar humanitarian and reconstruction operation envisioned by the international community.
Israel launched its air, sea and ground offensive in Gaza in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack into Israel, in which militants killed around 1,200 people, mostly civilians, and abducted around 250 others. Since the assault began, Israel has barred entry of food, water, medicine and other supplies, except for a trickle of aid entering the south from Egypt at the Rafah crossing and Israel’s Kerem Shalom crossing.
Despite international calls to allow more aid in, the number of supply trucks is far less than the 500 that came in daily before the war.
The Gaza Health Ministry said the Palestinian death toll from the war has climbed to 30,228, with another 71,377 wounded. The ministry doesn’t differentiate between civilians and combatants in its figures, but says women and children make up around two-thirds of those killed.
Thursday’s bloodshed took place as a convoy of around 30 trucks entered Gaza City before dawn.
Many of the wounded described a scene of desperation and chaos, with people climbing on the moving trucks to get bags of flour when Israeli troops began shooting, including from a tank.
“I was holding a bag of flour on my way home. They shot me in the right foot and in the left foot. Shells were fired above our heads, gunfire,” said Sameer Salman, who was being treated in Kamal Adwan.
The Israeli military said dozens of the deaths were caused by a stampede and that some people were run over by trucks as drivers tried to get away.
Rear Adm. Daniel Hagari, the chief military spokesperson, said Israeli troops guarding the area fired shots “only toward a threat after the crowd moved toward them in a way that endangered them.” He said the troops “didn’t open fire on those seeking aid.”
 

 


Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought

Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought
Updated 02 March 2024
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Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought

Tunisia raises drinking water prices by up to 16 percent due to drought
  • The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic meters and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic meter has increased by 16 percent to 2.310 dinars

TUNIS: Tunisia has raised its drinking water prices by up to 16 percent, the official gazette said on Friday, in response to a drought that has lasted five years.
After years of drought, average rainfall has increased in recent months but government officials said this week that Tunisian dams have only reached 35 percent of their stock capacity.
The North African country last year imposed a quota system for drinking water and a ban on its use in agriculture. Since last summer, it has been cutting off water supplies at night.
The price of water will be unchanged for small consumers.
Those whose consumption exceeds 40 cubic meters face about 12 percent increase to 1.040 Tunisian dinars ($0.33) per cubic meter and consumers of between 70 and 100 cubic meters per quarter will pay 13.7 percent more at 1.490 dinars per cubic meter with immediate effect.
The highest increase is for those whose consumption exceeds 150 cubic meters and for tourist facilities, for which the price per cubic meter has increased by 16 percent to 2.310 dinars.
Tunisia has launched water desalination plants to try to make up for the country’s lack of dams and the impact of climate change.