US and Britain strike Yemen in reprisal for Houthi attacks on shipping

Update US and Britain strike Yemen in reprisal for Houthi attacks on shipping
The strikes killed at least five people and wounded six the Houthis said. (AFP)
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Updated 12 January 2024
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US and Britain strike Yemen in reprisal for Houthi attacks on shipping

US and Britain strike Yemen in reprisal for Houthi attacks on shipping
  • Houthis said five of their fighters killed in a total of 73 air strikes
  • US official said targets chosen to weaken Houthis’ ability to attack

WASHINGTON D.C./ADEN: US and British warplanes, ships and submarines launched dozens of air strikes across Yemen overnight in retaliation against Houthi forces for months of attacks on Red Sea shipping that the Iran-backed fighters cast as a response to the war in Gaza.
Witnesses confirmed explosions at military bases near airports in the capital Sanaa and Yemen’s third city Taiz, a naval base at Yemen’s main Red Sea port Hodeidah and military sites in the coastal Hajjah governorate.
“These targeted strikes are a clear message that the United States and our partners will not tolerate attacks on our personnel or allow hostile actors to imperil freedom of navigation,” US President Joe Biden said.
The Houthis, who have controlled most of Yemen for nearly a decade, said five of their fighters had been killed in a total of 73 air strikes. They vowed to retaliate and continue their attacks on shipping, which they say are intended to support Palestinians against Israel.
“We saw a large fire from where the attack took place. It was half an hour of terror,” said Kheloud, a Sanaa resident who awoke to loud explosions from the direction of the airport.
By mid-afternoon, crowds had gathered in central Sanaa and other cities. Drone footage on the Houthis’ Al-Masirah TV showed hundreds of thousands of people carrying Palestinian and Yemeni flags, chanting slogans denouncing Israel and the United States in a response to a speaker on a giant screen.
“Your strikes on Yemen are terrorism,” said Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, member of the Houthi Supreme Political Council. “The United States is the Devil.”
The commander of US air operations in the Middle East, Air Force Lt. General Alex Grynkewich, said 60 targets at 16 locations had been hit using more than 100 precision-guided munitions.
A US official said the targets had been chosen to weaken the Houthis’ ability to attack: “We were going after very specific capability in very specific locations with precision munitions.”
In a poor country only just emerging from nearly a decade of war that brought millions to the brink of famine, people fearing an extended new conflict queued at petrol stations.
“There is a lot of worry that the fuel shortages will repeat themselves and food supplies will be scarce,” said Ali Ahmad, 52. “We are rushing to fuel our car and we bought flour and rice in case of any emergency because we are expecting the Houthis to respond and an escalation to take place.”
In Hodeidah, a resident who gave only his first name, Mahmoud, said troops were spreading through the streets and military vehicles were leaving barracks with security escorts.

PRICE OF OIL JUMPS
The price of oil rose sharply on concern that supplies could be disrupted, with Brent crude up $2 on Friday.
Commercial ship tracking data showed at least four oil tankers diverting from the Red Sea.

INTERTANKO, an oil tanker industry body, sent a note to members saying the US-led Combined Maritime Forces had advised ships to “stay well away from Bab Al-Mandab,” the mouth of the Red Sea where 15 percent of global seaborne trade passes.
“The threat period for shipping is expected to last for several days,” said the note, seen by Reuters.
Britain’s defense ministry said there were indications that “the Houthis’ ability to threaten merchant shipping has taken a blow.” Officials said no further action was planned for now.
The strikes follow months of raids by Houthi fighters, who have boarded ships they claimed were Israeli or heading for Israel.
The United States and some of its allies deployed a naval task force to the area in December, and recent days saw increasing escalation. US helicopters sank three Houthi boats on New Year’s Eve, killing fighters attempting to board a ship. On Tuesday, the United States and Britain shot down 21 missiles and drones in what they called the biggest attack yet.
Iran, which supports armed groups around the Middle East including both the Houthis and the Hamas militants that control Gaza, condemned the US and British attacks.
Iran-backed armed groups have increased attacks on US targets in several countries since Hamas militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and precipitating the war in Gaza, which has so far killed more than 23,000.

FEARS OF ESCALATION
Houthi attacks have forced commercial ships to take a longer, costlier route around Africa, creating fears of a new bout of inflation and supply chain disruption.
Carmaker Tesla said delays to parts shipments from Asia due to Red Sea unrest had forced it to shut its factory in Germany for two weeks, the first big manufacturer to make such an announcement.
Washington has had to weigh its determination to keep the shipping lane open against the risk of spreading unrest in a region on edge over the Gaza war.
Whether the strikes will in fact deter further attacks on shipping will depend on how the Houthis respond, said Tobias Borck, a Middle East security export at Britain’s Royal United Services Institute.
The Houthis wanted to portray themselves as champions of the Palestinian cause and foes of the West, but were mainly concerned about retaining power.
“Is this the hill they want to die on?” said Borck. “They were doing well, they have been able to survive the last eight years, have expanded their power, but now they are inviting air strikes from the world’s most powerful military.”
Saudi Arabia, which has sought for nearly a decade to oust the Houthis in a war that is now in a delicate stage of peace negotiations, called for restraint.
The US accused Iran of providing the Houthis with military capabilities and intelligence to carry out their attacks.
“We believe that they have been certainly involved in every phase of this,” a senior US official told reporters.


EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks
Updated 4 sec ago
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EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks

EU Red Sea mission says it defended 120 ships from Houthi attacks
  • Human rights activist raps cases of prisoner fatalities as a result of torture in militia’s captivity

AL-MUKALLA, Yemen: The EU mission in the Red Sea, known as EUNAVFOR Aspides, said on Sunday that it had protected over 100 ships while sailing the critical trade channel and shot down more than a dozen Houthi missiles and drones in the last three months.

In a post on X marking three months since the start of its operation, the EU mission, which is now made up of five naval units and 1,000 personnel from 19 contributing nations, said that its forces had destroyed 12 drones, one drone boat, and four ballistic missiles fired by the Houthis from areas under their control in Yemen, as well as provided protection to 120 commercial ships since February.

“Great day for Freedom of Navigation, as 3 months have passed since the launch of ASPIDES. Three months of multiple challenges and great achievements. ASPIDES continues its mission in full compliance with international law, to ensure maritime security and seaborne trade,” EUNAVFOR Aspides said.

On Feb. 19, the EU announced the commencement of EUNAVFOR Aspides, a military operation in the Red Sea to defend international marine traffic against Houthi attacks.

At the same time, the Philippines Department of Migrant Workers said on Sunday that 23 of its citizens who were aboard the oil ship assaulted by Houthi militia in the Red Sea on Saturday were safe.

“The DMW is closely coordinating with international maritime authorities, shipping companies, and local manning agencies on the status of ships with Filipino seafarers traversing high-risk areas and war-like zones in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden,” the DMW said in a statement carried by the official Philippine News Agency. 

For seven months, the Houthis have launched hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones, and drone boats against commercial and navy ships along international commerce lanes off Yemen, including the Red Sea.

The Houthis claim that their strikes are intended to push Israel to cease the war in Gaza and allow humanitarian supplies into the Palestinian territory. 

Three civilian sailors, including two Filipinos, were killed in March after the Houthis launched a missile at their ship in the Red Sea.

Many international shipping companies directed their ships to avoid the Red Sea and other passages off Yemen, opting for longer and more costly routes through Africa.

Meanwhile, Yemen human rights activists have said that a man held by the Houthis during the last seven years died as a result of abuse in Houthi imprisonment, making him the latest victim of torture within Houthis detention facilities. 

On Saturday, the Houthis told the family of Najeed Hassan Farea in Taiz through the Yemen Red Crescent that their son had died in their custody, but they did not explain how.

The Houthis abducted Farea in February 2017 after storming his village and home in the Al-Taziya district, preventing him from contacting his family and denying them information about where he was being detained.

Eshraq Al-Maqtari, a human rights activist in Taiz who reached Farea’s family, told Arab News that the Houthis cruelly tortured the man and that his family was stunned to hear of his death after years of information blackout since his detention.

“He was denied the right to communicate, to know his fate, and the right to healthcare, which appears to have caused his death,” she said, adding that since the start of the year, there have been three verified cases of prisoner fatalities as a result of torture in Houthi captivity.


10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp

10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp
Updated 9 min 47 sec ago
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10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp

10 years on, thousands forgotten in Syria desert camp
  • Rukban camp was established in 2014 as desperate people fled Daesh and Syrian regime bombardment in hopes of crossing into Jordan

BEIRUT: In a no-man’s land on Syria’s border with Iraq and Jordan, thousands are stranded in an isolated camp, unable to return home after fleeing the regime and militants years ago.

When police defector Khaled arrived at Rukban, he had hoped to be back home within weeks — but eight years on, he is still stuck in the remote desert camp, sealed off from the rest of the country.

Damascus rarely lets aid in and neighboring countries have closed their borders to the area, which is protected from Syrian forces by a nearby US-led coalition base’s de-confliction zone.

“We are trapped between three countries,” said Khaled, 50, who only gave his first name due to security concerns.

“We can’t leave for (other areas of) Syria because we are wanted by the regime, and we can’t flee to Jordan or Iraq” because the borders are sealed, he added.

The camp was established in 2014, at the height of Syria’s ongoing war, as desperate people fled Daesh and regime bombardment in hopes of crossing into Jordan.

At its peak, it housed more than 100,000 people, but numbers have dwindled, especially after Jordan largely sealed its side of the border in 2016.

Many people have since returned to regime-held areas to escape hunger, poverty and a lack of medical care. The UN has also facilitated voluntary returns with the help of the Syrian Arab Red Crescent.

The last UN humanitarian convoy reached the camp in 2019, and the body described conditions there as “desperate” at the time.

Today, only about 8,000 residents remain, living in mud-brick houses, with food and basic supplies smuggled in at high prices.

Residents say even those meager supplies risk running dry as regime checkpoints blocked smuggling routes to the camp about a month ago.


Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey

Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey
Updated 17 min 1 sec ago
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Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey

Egyptian churches begin preparations to celebrate anniversary of Holy Family’s journey

CAIRO: Egypt’s Coptic community is preparing to celebrate the Feast of the Entry of the Holy Family into Egypt, starting on June 1.

Churches in the country have begun early preparations to welcome visitors, focusing on securing and preparing the sites along the journey the Holy Family is believed to have taken.

Robier El-Fares, an Egyptian Coptic researcher for Arab News, said: “The celebration of the journey of the Holy Family is a relatively new tradition that benefits religious tourism in Egypt. This comes after many years of neglecting the celebration.”

He added: “The route includes about 20 locations that represent the journey from Bethlehem in Palestine, fleeing the persecution of Herod who intended to kill Jesus Christ, and their subsequent travel to Egypt through plateaus and deserts.”

Father Augustinos Morris, priest of the Holy Family Church in Zeitoun, Cairo, for the Coptic Catholics, told Arab News: “Masses will be held at nine in the morning and six in the evening for all Copts who wish to participate. The readings are from Matthew 2, which discusses the flight into Egypt, and include a passage from the Old Testament in the Bible, amid the procedures followed in the holiday masses organised by the scout team.”

Father Matta Philip, priest of St. Mary’s Church in Maadi, Cairo, said: “The church is considered the first point of the Holy Family’s journey to Upper Egypt through a staircase, from there to a boat and then to Upper Egypt.”

He said: “Inside the Church of the Virgin Mary in Maadi, there is an icon depicting the life of the Virgin Mary, the altar vessels, and the Bible open to the verse — ‘Blessed be my people Egypt,’ — and a map of the family's route that starts from Arish and extends to the Monastery of Al-Muharraq.”

“Inside the church is the historic staircase that the Holy Family crossed, with an altar at its beginning where prayers are held,” he said. “From this staircase, the family headed to areas like Al-Bahnasa and Mount Al-Tair and other routes to the Monastery of Al-Muharraq, a journey that took about six months.”

Robier El-Fares said: “The known points of the Holy Family’s journey are 20, starting from Farma, located between the cities of Arish and Port Said, then to Tel Basta.”

“In Cairo, there are many points through which the Holy Family passed, including the area of Ain Shams, in addition to other areas in Maadi and Zeitoun, to start the points of Upper Egypt (southern Egypt), which are numerous including Gabal Al-Tair in Minya, and the Monastery of the Virgin Mary,” he said.


Supporters of Hezbollah and Amal protest in Beirut against security plan

Members of the Lebanese security forces man a checkpoint on an avenue in the capital Beirut. (AFP file photo)
Members of the Lebanese security forces man a checkpoint on an avenue in the capital Beirut. (AFP file photo)
Updated 25 min 18 sec ago
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Supporters of Hezbollah and Amal protest in Beirut against security plan

Members of the Lebanese security forces man a checkpoint on an avenue in the capital Beirut. (AFP file photo)
  • Security Forces warn against attacks on their units and members
  • MP fears concerted campaign against interior minister

BEIRUT: Motorcycle owners in Beirut and the southern suburbs have protested against a security plan launched by the Ministry of Interior in the capital since Monday.

The protests reached their peak with gunfire being exchanged between the protesters and the internal security forces in the heart of the southern suburbs of Beirut.

The situation worsened on Sunday as protesters marched to the Ministry of Interior, claiming that the decision to confiscate unregistered motorcycles was being made randomly and arbitrarily while the vehicle registration office had been closed for years.

Thousands of young men and women have turned to using motorcycles as an alternative to cars since 2019 amid Lebanon’s economic crisis.

The shift has led to a rise in motorcycle thieves targeting people at the entrances of Beirut, particularly on the airport road and highways to the suburbs.

A Lebanese security source said that thieves often seek refuge in Palestinian refugee camps at the entrances of Beirut or in slums in the southern suburbs of Beirut, where illegal weapons are prevalent.

Social media activists shared videos of security forces confiscating motorcycles, while owners claimed the registration service was inaccessible, leading to a lack of registration.

For more than four years, tens of thousands of transactions have accumulated in the vehicle registration department without market licenses, car books, electronic stickers or license plates being issued.

This is due to the crisis of fluctuating exchange rates between the government and contractors — especially contracts in dollars.

In addition to this crisis, corruption investigations are being conducted.

The southern suburbs of Beirut, a stronghold for Hezbollah and the Amal Movement supporters, saw clashes between protesters and security forces on Saturday night.

The supporters held motorcycle rallies to oppose the security plan.

Protesters gathered around the Al-Marija Police Station to chant the message to Interior Minister Bassam Mawlawi that the situation was not under his control.

The Internal Security Forces said that the protesters fired in the air, and the police officers fired in the air to remove them from the site. There was no deaths or injuries among the protesters or the police, as claimed by some social media sites, according to authorities.

The security plan started on May 15, following a meeting of security service leaders 10 days before.

The meeting focused on Beirut’s security due to the increase in pickpocketing, theft, weapon threats and drug trafficking using motorcycles.

The security plan is based on strict measures aimed at maintaining security.

Traffic police units in Beirut and the southern suburbs conduct patrols day and night, with support from various units of the Internal Security Forces, such as the Fuhud forces, the judicial police and others.

Protesters have been blocking main roads with burning tires during afternoon rush hours for days.

Some affected roads include Sports City Road, Mazraa Corniche and the Mar Mikhael-Chiyah intersection.

A political observer expressed concern that “the protest in the heart of the southern suburb of Beirut against one of the state’s police stations may have been carried out with direct cover from Hezbollah, which rejects any disturbance to this environment. Hezbollah maintains a stable security grip in the southern suburb of Beirut while focusing on its war on the southern front against the Israeli army.”

One of the most prominent objections was a statement by the mayor of Ghobeiry, Maan Al-Khalil, who is close to Hezbollah.

The mayor protested against “the confiscation of motorcycles and vehicles belonging to the municipality and driven by municipal employees.”

Beirut MP Nabil Badr said that there was a campaign targeting the interior minister, who is committed to safeguarding the Lebanese people’s safety.

The MP said: “From the start of the security operation, we have urged a comprehensive effort in government agencies, particularly the Car and Motorcycle Registration Department, to help citizens resolve their breaches. The minister has acknowledged the issues and assured that the strict measures will be eased.”

Badr fears that “the campaign aims to create complete chaos in the streets of the capital and its suburbs among those affected by the imposition of security and state prestige. This is something we categorically reject.”

In a statement released on Sunday, the Internal Security Forces rejected “any attacks on their units and members, regardless of the excuses.”

They said that the security plan was requested to protect citizens on public roads from theft, robbery and reckless motorcycle riders, as well as their failure to wear helmets, which has led to an increase in traffic accident deaths.

The security plan aimed to protect people, they said, not to seek revenge or retaliate against them, and, according to authorities, has resulted in a significant decrease in crimes.

 

 


Hundreds rally in support of Tunisia president

Hundreds rally in support of Tunisia president
Updated 40 min 22 sec ago
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Hundreds rally in support of Tunisia president

Hundreds rally in support of Tunisia president
  • ‘No to foreign interference, because we are a sovereign state,’ say protesters

TUNIS: Hundreds of people rallied Sunday in downtown Tunis in support of President Kais Saied.

President Saied on Thursday blasted the international criticism as foreign “interference” and ordered the Tunisian Foreign Ministry to summon the ambassadors of several countries.

“No to foreign interference, because we are a sovereign state,” said Saber Rzigue, a protester on Sunday.

“We support the Tunisian leadership, particularly President Kais Saied.”

“We are against foreign interference and against traitors, even if they are Tunisian,” said Mohamed Hentati, another protester.

“Today, we want to contribute to history and stand against anyone who wants to occupy our country and try to change its social fabric,” he added.

Sunday’s rally also came after a protest and strike by lawyers earlier in the week over police raids and arrests in the national bar association.

But Saied replied on Thursday by saying the arresting of two lawyers was “in full respect for Tunisian law, which guarantees equality and the right to a fair trial.”

Demonstrators on Sunday defended the president. “Kais Saied is above all of us,” said Mahmoud, a protester who chose not to give his full name.

“It is in him that we trust. He brought us security and peace.”

Separately, Tunisia recovered the bodies of four migrants off the country’s coast, the national guard said, amid an increase in migrant boats heading from Tunisia toward Italy in recent weeks.

The force said the coast guard separately rescued 52 migrants. The national guard arrested nine smugglers, and boats were seized.

At least 23 Tunisian migrants were missing after setting off in a boat for Italy, the national guard said.

Tunisia is facing a migration crisis and has replaced Libya as the main departure point for people fleeing poverty and conflict in Africa and the Middle East in the hope of a better life in Europe.