Houthis vow to continue blocking Red Sea for Israeli ships

Special Houthis vow to continue blocking Red Sea for Israeli ships
Armed men stand on the beach as the Galaxy Leader commercial ship, seized by the Houthis last month, lies anchored off the coast of Al-Salif, Yemen, Dec. 5, 2023. (Reuters)
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Updated 07 December 2023
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Houthis vow to continue blocking Red Sea for Israeli ships

Houthis vow to continue blocking Red Sea for Israeli ships
  • Houthi Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Al-Atefi said that the militia would continue to block the Red Sea to ships owned or operated by Israel
  • US envoy discusses militia threats to international commercial traffic and peace efforts with key Yemen official

AL-MUKALLA: The Houthis have threatened again to launch missile and drone strikes against Israeli ships traversing the Red Sea as well as Israel itself, amid mounting international pressure on the Yemeni militia. 

Houthi Defense Minister Mohammed Nasser Al-Atefi said on Wednesday that the militia would continue to block the Red Sea for ships owned or operated by Israel and would fire ballistic missiles and drones at Israel, defying international calls for the militia to stop threatening maritime navigation in the Red Sea.

“In support of our people in Gaza, the navy, missile, and drone forces are ready to conduct the toughest individual and collective attacks on fixed or moving targets in Israel,” Al-Atefi said while addressing a group of military and security officers, as well as media, aboard the seized cargo ship Galaxy Leader.

Al-Atefi’s warnings came as the militia’s military declared the firing of a number of ballistic missiles targeting military sites in Eilat, south of Israel.

Since the beginning of this month, the Houthis have fired drones and ballistic missiles toward Israel and commercial ships in the Red Sea in response to Israel’s assault in Gaza.

Several drones and missiles were intercepted over the Red Sea by US Navy ships. 

The Houthis seized the Israeli-linked cargo ship Galaxy Leader from the Red Sea on Nov. 19 and diverted it to the shore of Yemen’s Hodeidah. 

The militia transformed the seized ship into a tourist attraction, allowing visitors to board for 500 Yemeni riyals (almost a dollar in Houthi cities).

People were seen wandering around the ship, dancing in groups, and chewing the hobby qat leaves, according to social media influencers.

Images on social media showed tiny boats transporting passengers from Hodeidah’s shoreline to the ship.

Others were spotted snapping pictures and waving Palestinian and Yemeni flags.

The slogans of the Houthis were displayed on the ship.

“The ship is available to everybody for 500 riyals. Life is great here since one may chew (qat), alter his mood, smoke shisha, and even earn a livelihood,” Mustafa Al-Maouri, a Yemeni online influencer who was kidnapped by the Houthis and placed on trial earlier this year, said on the ship’s top deck.

Meanwhile, Tim Lenderking, US Yemen envoy, met with Aidarous Al-Zubeidi, deputy president of Yemen’s Presidential Transitional Council, in Dubai on Thursday to discuss Houthi threats to international commercial traffic in the Red Sea and peace efforts to end the conflict in Yemen.

“We discussed the urgent maritime security concerns and challenges in the Red Sea and Bab Al-Mandab considering the recent escalation by the Houthis and reviewed together the latest updates regarding the UN-led political peace process to end the war in #Yemen,” Al-Zubeidi said on the social media platform X.

The US Department of State said that Lenderking traveled to the region on Monday to push for a peaceful resolution to the Yemen crisis and to discuss with US partners measures to maintain the safety of international commerce.


King Abdullah II: Jordan won't become ‘theatre of war’ between Israel and Iran

King Abdullah II: Jordan won't become ‘theatre of war’ between Israel and Iran
Updated 2 min 32 sec ago
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King Abdullah II: Jordan won't become ‘theatre of war’ between Israel and Iran

King Abdullah II: Jordan won't become ‘theatre of war’ between Israel and Iran
  • King of Jordan reinforced the nation's commitment to upholding its security and sovereignty
  • He said Jordan's aim was to safeguard its own sovereignty rather than defend Israel

DUBAI: Jordanian King Abdullah II said Tuesday that his country must not become ‘the theatre of a regional war’ after Jordan intercepted multiple missiles and drones when Iran attacked Israel at the weekend. 

The king reinforced the nation's commitment to upholding its security and sovereignty above all other considerations. He stressed Jordan's aim was to safeguard its own sovereignty rather than defend Israel.

Last weekend, Jordan was among a group of nations that helped Israel shoot down missiles, rockets and attack drones launched by Iran and its allies at Israel.

Earlier on Tuesday, Jordan's Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi said the international community should stop Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu from "stealing" attention away from Gaza by escalating his confrontation with Iran.

In remarks during a press conference with his German counterpart in Berlin, Safadi said Iran had responded to the attack against its consulate and had announced that it did "did not want to escalate further".

"We are against escalating. Netanyahu wants to draw attention away from Gaza and focus on his confrontation with Iran," Safadi added.

Iran's weekend attack caused modest damage in Israel and wounded a 7-year-old girl. Most missiles and drones were shot down by Israel's Iron Dome defence system and with help from the US, Britain, France and Jordan.

Iran -- which labelled its attack an act of self-defence after a deadly Israeli strike on its Syria consulate -- warned Jordan it could be “the next target”, a military source was reported as saying by Iran's Fars news agency. 

(with agencies)


Israel’s old Lebanese allies grapple with new Hezbollah threat

Israel’s old Lebanese allies grapple with new Hezbollah threat
Updated 16 April 2024
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Israel’s old Lebanese allies grapple with new Hezbollah threat

Israel’s old Lebanese allies grapple with new Hezbollah threat
  • The South Lebanon Army was a mostly Christian militia recruited by Israel when it occupied south Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s

The looming threat of a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon is reviving painful memories for former Lebanese militiamen and their families who fled to Israel, their erstwhile ally, more than 20 years ago.
The South Lebanon Army was a mostly Christian militia recruited by Israel when it occupied south Lebanon in the 1980s and 1990s.
The Zadalnikim, as the SLA’s former members are known in Israel from the group’s Hebrew acronym, sought shelter south of the border in the aftermath of Israel’s sudden withdrawal from Lebanon in May 2000, fearing reprisals from Hezbollah, whom they had fought for years in a brutal and uncompromising conflict.
Iran-backed Hezbollah — a Hamas ally with a large arsenal of rockets and missiles — has exchanged fire with Israeli forces almost daily since Hamas attacked Israel on October 7 triggering war in Gaza.
In response, Israel has carried out strikes deeper and deeper into Lebanese territory, targeting several Hezbollah commanders.
A strip several kilometers (miles) wide on either side of the border has become a de facto war zone, emptied of its tens of thousands of civilian residents.
“They told us to prepare for two weeks in a hotel in Tiberias” in northern Israel, said Claude Ibrahim, one of Israel’s more prominent Lebanese collaborators.
“It’s already been six months. I hope it won’t last 24 years,” he told AFP, referring to his exile from Lebanon.


Ibrahim, a former right-hand man of the late SLA commander Antoine Lahad, was evacuated from the northern Israeli town of Kiryat Shmona, near the Lebanese border, in October when the entire city was emptied.
“It’s as if history repeated itself... generation after generation,” he said, referring to how the Zadalnikim had to flee their homeland after years spent moving from village to village during the Lebanese civil war of the 1970s and 1980s.
Of the 6,000 to 7,000 Lebanese who fled to Israel in May 2000, around 3,500 still live in Israel, according to the authorities. They are registered with the interior ministry as “Lebanese of Israel” and were granted citizenship in 2004.
Shortly after their arrival in Israel — where authorities only partly took responsibility for them — many moved on to Sweden, Germany or Canada. Others returned to Lebanon, where they were tried for collaboration with Israel.
All former SLA members in Israel have relatives in Lebanon, mostly in villages in the south, a few kilometers (miles) from the Israeli border.
Few agreed to be interviewed out of fear of reprisals against their families in Lebanon, whom they stay in touch with via third parties for the same reason.
Maryam Younnes, a 28-year-old communications student at Bar-Ilan University near Tel Aviv, was five when she arrived in Israel with her parents.


When her father, a former SLA officer, died a decade ago, they were able to bury him in their ancestral village of Debel, roughly 10 kilometers (six miles) as the crow flies from Ma’alot-Tarshiha, the northern Israeli town they moved to.
The rest of their family remained in Lebanon, in Debel and the capital Beirut.
With fears growing that the near-daily exchanges of fire across the border might escalate into a full-scale war, Younnes was worried about her relatives.
“I’m very concerned for my family, for my village (in Lebanon),” said Younnes, who sees herself as “half Lebanese, half Israeli.”
“I hope that there will be a way to protect them,” she said, if there is an all-out war with Hezbollah.
Ibrahim was equally worried, although he voiced hope that a new conflict with Israel would “finish off” his old enemy Hezbollah.
“The only solution is a big strike on Hezbollah so that it understands that there is no way forward but through peace,” he said.
Ibrahim said there was no reason Israel and Lebanon should not be at peace.
But Asher Kaufman, a history professor at Notre Dame University in Indiana who specializes in Lebanon and the wider Middle East, said attitudes in Israel had shifted significantly in the decades since the civil war and the cooperation between Lebanese Christian militias and the Israeli military.
The vision of an alliance between “Lebanese Christians and the Israelis, which was at the root of the 1982 invasion (of Lebanon by Israel) has completely collapsed.”
Israel has stopped “viewing Lebanon as the Switzerland of the Middle East,” a peaceful and prosperous country, and now sees it as “a violent quagmire it wants nothing to do with.”


Israeli forces must halt ‘active participation’ in settler attacks on Palestinians: UN

Israeli forces must halt ‘active participation’ in settler attacks on Palestinians: UN
Updated 16 April 2024
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Israeli forces must halt ‘active participation’ in settler attacks on Palestinians: UN

Israeli forces must halt ‘active participation’ in settler attacks on Palestinians: UN
  • Israel is still imposing “unlawful” restrictions on humanitarian relief for Gaz

Geneva: The UN voiced grave concern Tuesday over escalating violence in the West Bank, demanding that Israeli security forces “immediately end their active participation in and support for settler attacks” on Palestinians there.
“Israeli authorities must instead prevent further attacks, including by bringing those responsible to account,” Ravina Shamdasani, spokeswoman for the United Nations rights office, told reporters in Geneva.
Israel is still imposing “unlawful” restrictions on humanitarian relief for Gaza, the UN rights office said on Tuesday. “Israel continues to impose unlawful restrictions on the entry and distribution of humanitarian assistance, and to carry out widespread destruction of civilian infrastructure,” said Ravina Shamdasani, spokesperson for the UN human rights office, at a press briefing in Geneva.

The children in Israel’s prisons
Ongoing hostage-for-prisoners exchange opens the world’s eyes to arrests, interrogations, and even abuse of Palestinian children by Israeli authorities
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Heavy rains lash UAE and surrounding nations as the death toll in Oman flooding rises to 18

Heavy rains lash UAE and surrounding nations as the death toll in Oman flooding rises to 18
Updated 16 April 2024
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Heavy rains lash UAE and surrounding nations as the death toll in Oman flooding rises to 18

Heavy rains lash UAE and surrounding nations as the death toll in Oman flooding rises to 18
  • Lightning flashed across the sky, occasionally touching the tip of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building

DUBAI: Heavy rains lashed the United Arab Emirates on Tuesday, flooding out portions of major highways and leaving vehicles abandoned on roadways across Dubai. Meanwhile, the death toll in separate heavy flooding in neighboring Oman rose to 18 with others still missing as the sultanate prepared for the storm.
The rains began overnight, leaving massive ponds on streets as whipping winds disrupted flights at Dubai International Airport, the world's busiest for international travel and the home of the long-haul carrier Emirates.
Police and emergency personnel drove slowly through the flooded streets, their emergency lights flashing across the darkened morning. Lightning flashed across the sky, occasionally touching the tip of the Burj Khalifa, the world's tallest building.
Schools across the UAE, a federation of seven sheikhdoms, largely shut ahead of the storm and government employees were largely working remotely if able. Many workers stayed home as well, though some ventured out, with the unfortunate stalling out their vehicles in deeper-than-expected water covering some roads.
Authorities sent tanker trucks out into the streets and highways to pump away the water.
Rain is unusual in the UAE, an arid, Arabian Peninsula nation, but occurs periodically during the cooler winter months. Many roads and other areas lack drainage given the lack of regular rainfall, causing flooding.
Initial estimates suggested over 30 millimeters (1 inch) of rain fell over the morning in Dubai, with as much as 128 mm (5 inches) of rain expected throughout the day.
Rain also fell in Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
In neighboring Oman, a sultanate that rests on the eastern edge of the Arabian Peninsula, at least 18 people had been killed in heavy rains in recent days, according to a statement Tuesday from the country's National Committee for Emergency Management. That includes some 10 schoolchildren swept away in a vehicle with an adult, which saw condolences come into the country from rulers across the region.


Iran closed nuclear facilities in wake of Israel attack: IAEA chief

Iran closed nuclear facilities in wake of Israel attack: IAEA chief
Updated 16 April 2024
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Iran closed nuclear facilities in wake of Israel attack: IAEA chief

Iran closed nuclear facilities in wake of Israel attack: IAEA chief
  • Israel has carried out operations against nuclear sites in the region before
  • Israel accuses Iran of wanting to acquire an atomic bomb, something Tehran denies

United Nations: Iran temporarily closed its nuclear facilities over “security considerations” in the wake of its massive missile and drone attack on Israel over the weekend, the head of the UN’s atomic watchdog said Monday.
Speaking to journalists on the sidelines of a UN Security Council meeting, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief Rafael Grossi was asked whether he was concerned about the possibility of an Israeli strike on an Iranian nuclear facility in retaliation for the attack.
“We are always concerned about this possibility. What I can tell you is that our inspectors in Iran were informed by the Iranian government that yesterday (Sunday), all the nuclear facilities that we are inspecting every day would remain closed on security considerations,” he said.
The facilities were to reopen on Monday, Grossi said, but inspectors would not return until the following day.
“I decided to not let the inspectors return until we see that the situation is completely calm,” he added, while calling for “extreme restraint.”
Iran launched more than 300 drones and missiles at Israel overnight from Saturday into Sunday in retaliation for an air strike on a consular building in Damascus that killed seven of its Revolutionary Guards, two of them generals.
Israel and its allies shot down the vast majority of the weapons, and the attack caused only minor damage, but concerns about a potential Israeli reprisal have nevertheless stoked fears of all-out regional war.
Israel has carried out operations against nuclear sites in the region before.
In 1981, it bombed the Osirak nuclear reactor in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, despite opposition from Washington. And in 2018, it admitted to having launched a top-secret air raid against a reactor in Syria 11 years prior.
Israel is also accused by Tehran of having assassinated two Iranian nuclear physicists in 2010, and of having kidnapped another the previous year.
Also in 2010, a sophisticated cyberattack using the Stuxnet virus, attributed by Tehran to Israel and the United States, led to a series of breakdowns in Iranian centrifuges used for uranium enrichment.
Israel accuses Iran of wanting to acquire an atomic bomb, something Tehran denies.