Houthi disruption of Red Sea shipping hurts, not helps, Gaza Palestinians, US diplomat Tim Lenderking tells Arab News

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Updated 08 February 2024
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Houthi disruption of Red Sea shipping hurts, not helps, Gaza Palestinians, US diplomat Tim Lenderking tells Arab News

Timothy Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen. (US State Department)
  • Special envoy for Yemen underscores importance of keeping Iran-backed militia focused on the peace process
  • Defends earlier Biden move to remove Houthis’ terrorist designation as motivated by humanitarian imperatives

DUBAI: The Houthis’ professed attempts to show solidarity with Gaza are not helping but hurting Palestinians in the embattled enclave, Timothy Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, has said.

Since the Israel-Hamas war erupted in October last year, the Iran-backed militia has been launching missiles and drones from Yemen not just at Israel but also at commercial and military vessels in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden.

The militia says that its actions are an expression of solidarity with Gaza — a claim Lenderking strongly disagrees with, citing the resultant “increasing freight and insurance costs” and higher prices in general.

“It’s just unfortunate that the Houthis have chosen to convey their solidarity with the Palestinians, which many people feel, many Americans feel, many regional countries feel, by attacking regional shipping,” Lenderking said.

“It’s as though I have an issue with my neighbor, and I go and burn down the neighborhood grocery store. It makes no sense.”

He added: “This action by the Houthis is doing nothing to help the Palestinians, nothing to alleviate the suffering of Gazans at all. In fact, on the contrary, it’s complicating the movement of vital supplies into Gaza. So, this is also an adverse effect of what the Houthis are doing. It is simply the wrong reaction.”

Lenderking, a career member of America’s Senior Foreign Service, made the remarks on “Frankly Speaking,” Arab News’ current affairs show. The full interview will be published on Sunday.

The US State Department only recently announced the listing of “Ansarallah, commonly referred to as the Houthis, as a Specially Designated Global Terrorist group.”

Yet, between 2015 and 2022, Houthi missiles repeatedly struck civilian infrastructure and population centers in Saudi Arabia and the UAE, some of which killed civilians.

The State Department had listed the Houthis as a foreign terrorist organization in January 2021 in the last days of former President Donald Trump’s administration but revoked the designation less than one month later when President Joe Biden took office.

Addressing what many view as a double standard on the part of US foreign policy, Lenderking said the recent relisting of the Houthis as a terrorist group was a response to their attacks on civilian and commercial ships “in a reckless, indiscriminate manner,” adding that more than 50 nations have been affected by the latest violence.

“This is becoming a global problem, raising prices, increasing freight costs and insurance costs, not for the wealthy, but for those moving wheat,” Lenderking said.

“This is hurting all sorts of consumers and ordinary people all over the world. And that’s why there’s been such a short, such a sharp reaction and why the reaction is growing against this Houthi behavior.”

Defending the US decision to revoke the Houthis’ terrorist designation in February 2021, Lenderking said that despite some “detestable aspects of (Houthi) ideology” and a litany of documented human rights violations carried out by the group, the US “felt that removing the designation would lessen the stress on humanitarian networks in Yemen,” something that was a priority for the Biden administration.

Though the US has repeatedly affirmed its support for a peaceful, non-military solution to the decade-long Yemeni conflict — backing up its promises with more than $5 billion in humanitarian aid since the start of the conflict — the strikes against the Houthis have cast doubt on Washington’s commitment to peace.

Lenderking said that the Central Command’s retaliatory strikes were limited to military targets only. “The targets that have been selected are all missile sites and storage facilities, UAV (unmanned aerial vehicle) capabilities that are specifically aimed at international shipping,” he said. “They are having significant impact in degrading that capability.”

He underscored the importance of keeping the Houthis focused on the peace process in Yemen as opposed to the war in Gaza.

“I think we all recognize that we are not going to solve any of the problems in the region if we have to keep dealing with these attacks on shipping. So, let the Houthis de-escalate this effort, we de-escalate, and we can move the focus back to helping the Gazans in a genuine and effective way,” he said.

“And also working toward a genuine and durable peace in Yemen.”

The full episode of Frankly Speaking will be released on Sunday.


Palestinians to reconsider US ties after veto of bid for full UN membership, Abbas says

Palestinians to reconsider US ties after veto of bid for full UN membership, Abbas says
Updated 56 min 21 sec ago
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Palestinians to reconsider US ties after veto of bid for full UN membership, Abbas says

Palestinians to reconsider US ties after veto of bid for full UN membership, Abbas says
  • Washington vetoed a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership

CAIRO: The Palestinian Authority will reconsider bilateral relations with the US after Washington vetoed a Palestinian request for full United Nations membership, President Mahmoud Abbas said in an interview with the official WAFA news agency.


Israel says its forces kill 10 militants in West Bank raid

Israel says its forces kill 10 militants in West Bank raid
Updated 20 April 2024
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Israel says its forces kill 10 militants in West Bank raid

Israel says its forces kill 10 militants in West Bank raid
  • “Security forces eliminated 10 terrorists during encounters” over more than 40 hours, the army said
  • Eight soldiers and a police officer had been injured in the raid

TULKARM, Palestinian Territories: The Israeli army said Saturday that its security forces killed 10 militants in an ongoing raid around Nur Shams, a refugee camp in the north of the occupied West Bank.
“Security forces eliminated 10 terrorists during encounters” over more than 40 hours, the army said in a statement.
The army said eight soldiers and a police officer had been injured in the raid.
An AFP journalist in nearby Tulkarem heard gunshots and blasts coming from Nur Shams on Saturday.
Residents contacted by AFP said there was a power outage and food was running short in the camp, saying nobody was allowed to enter or leave.
Since early last year violence has flared across the West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967. The violence has further escalated since the war in Gaza broke out on October 7.
Israeli forces say their frequent raids in the West Bank target Palestinian militants, but civilians are often among the dead.
Around 480 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli troops or settlers in the West Bank since the Hamas assault on Israel triggered the Gaza war, according to Palestinian official sources.


Emirates and flydubai resume normal operations after Dubai floods

Emirates and flydubai resume normal operations after Dubai floods
Updated 20 April 2024
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Emirates and flydubai resume normal operations after Dubai floods

Emirates and flydubai resume normal operations after Dubai floods
  • Emirates canceled nearly 400 flights and delayed many more as a result of a record storm that hit the desert city of Dubai

RIYADH: Dubai’s flagship carrier Emirates and sister airline flydubai have restored normal operations after heavy rains caused severe flooding across the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, the airlines said on Saturday.
Emirates canceled nearly 400 flights and delayed many more as a result of a record storm that hit the desert city of Dubai on Tuesday, said a statement released by the airline’s president, Tim Clark.
Due to the impact of the storm, the airline suspended check-in for passengers departing from Dubai and halted its transit operations through Dubai International Airport, a major global travel hub, leaving thousands of travelers stranded.
The airport has struggled to return to normal operations after the storm flooded taxiways, forcing flight diversions, delays and cancelations.
Flydubai also returned to its full flight schedule from the airport’s Terminal 2 and Terminal 3 on Saturday following the weather-related disruption, a spokesperson for the airline said.
Clark said Emirates had provided 12,000 hotel rooms and 250,000 meal vouchers to customers who were affected. He added it would take days to clear the backlog of rebooked passengers.
The UAE has suffered the impact of the flooding for days, with roads between the city and Abu Dhabi still partially under water as of Saturday. In Abu Dhabi, some supermarkets and restaurants faced product shortages, unable to receive deliveries from Dubai.
Researchers have linked extreme weather events such as Tuesday’s storm to climate change and anticipate that global warming will lead to higher temperatures, increased humidity and a greater risk of flooding in parts of the Gulf region.
A lack of drainage infrastructure to cope with heavy rains in countries such as the UAE can put them at particular risk of flooding.


Israeli airstrike in Rafah kills at least 9 Palestinians, including 6 children

Israeli airstrike in Rafah kills at least 9 Palestinians, including 6 children
Updated 20 April 2024
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Israeli airstrike in Rafah kills at least 9 Palestinians, including 6 children

Israeli airstrike in Rafah kills at least 9 Palestinians, including 6 children
  • Strike late Friday hit a residential building in the western Tel Sultan neighborhood of the city of Rafah

RAFAH, Gaza Strip: An Israeli airstrike on a house in Gaza’s southernmost city killed at least nine people, six of them children, hospital authorities said Saturday, as Israel pursued its nearly seven-month offensive in the besieged Palestinian territory.
Israel’s war against the Islamic militant group Hamas has led to a dramatic escalation of tensions in an already volatile Middle East.
The strike late Friday hit a residential building in the western Tel Sultan neighborhood of the city of Rafah, according to Gaza’s civil defense. The bodies of the six children, two women and a man were taken to Rafah’s Abu Yousef Al-Najjar hospital, the hospital’s records showed.
At the hospital, relatives cried and hugged the bodies of the children, wrapped in white shrouds, as others comforted them.
The fatalities included Abdel-Fattah Sobhi Radwan, his wife Najlaa Ahmed Aweidah and their three children, his brother-in-law Ahmed Barhoum said. Barhoum also lost his wife, Rawan Radwan, and their 5-year-old daughter Alaa.
“This is a world devoid of all human values and morals,” Barhoum told The Associated Press Saturday morning, crying as he cradled and gently rocked the body of Alaa in his arms. “They bombed a house full of displaced people, women and children. There were no martyrs but women and children.”
No victims were registered from a second overnight strike in the city.
Rafah, which lies on the border with Egypt, currently hosts more than half of Gaza’s total population of about 2.3 million people, the vast majority of whom have been displaced by fighting further north in the territory.
Despite calls for restraint from the international community, including Israel’s staunchest ally, the United States, the Israeli government has insisted for months that it intends to push a ground offensive into the city, where it says many of the remaining Hamas militants are holed up.
Such a ground operation has not materialized so far, but the Israeli military has repeatedly carried out airstrikes on and around the city.
The war was sparked by an unprecedented raid into southern Israel by Hamas and other militant groups on Oct. 7 that left about 1,200 people dead, the vast majority of them civilians, and saw about 250 people kidnapped and taken into Gaza. Israel says about 130 hostages remain in Gaza, although more than 30 have been confirmed to now be dead, either killed on Oct. 7 or having died in captivity.
The Gaza Health Ministry said Saturday the bodies of 37 people killed by Israeli strikes were brought to hospitals in Gaza over the past 24 hours. Hospitals also received 68 wounded, it said. The latest figures bring the overall Palestinian death toll from the Israel-Hamas war to at least 34,049, and the number of wounded to 76,901, the ministry said. Although the Hamas-run health authorities do not differentiate between combatants and civilians in their count, they say at least two thirds have been children and women.
The war has sent regional tensions spiraling, leading to a dramatic eruption of violence between Israel and its archenemy Iran that threatened to escalate into a full-blown war.
On Friday, both Iran and Israel played down an apparent Israeli airstrike near a major air base and nuclear site in central Iran, indicating the two sides were pulling back from what could have become an all-out conflict. Over the past several weeks, an alleged Israeli strike killed two Iranian generals at an Iranian consulate in Syria and was followed by an unprecedented Iranian missile barrage on Israel.
Israel has also faced off with the Hezbollah militant group, an Iranian proxy operating from Lebanon, with the two sides there frequently trading rocket and drone attacks across the Lebanese-Israeli border. Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels have also joined the fray, launching strikes against merchant ships in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden in what they say is a campaign of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza.
Tension has also been high in the occupied West Bank, where an Israeli military raid Friday in the Nur Shams refugee camp killed at least four Palestinians, including three militants, according to the Israeli military, Palestinian health officials and a militant group.
Palestinian health authorities said one of those killed was a 15-year-old boy shot dead by Israeli fire. The Islamic Jihad militant group confirmed the deaths of three members, including one who it said was a local military commander. The Israeli military said four Israeli soldiers were slightly wounded in the operation.
Saraya Al-Quds, the military arm of Islamic Jihad, said its fighters had engaged in heavy gunbattles Saturday morning with Israeli forces in the town of Tulkarem, adjacent to Nur Shams. No further details were immediately available. Residents in Tulkarem went went on a general strike Saturday to protest the attack on Nur Shams, with shops, restaurants and government offices all closed.
Since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on southern Israel, more than 460 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli fire in the West Bank, Palestinian health officials say. Israel stages frequent raids into towns and cities in the volatile territory. The dead have included militants, but also stone-throwers and bystanders. Some have also been killed in attacks by Israeli settlers.


Iran FM downplays reported Israeli retaliation

Iran FM downplays reported Israeli retaliation
Updated 20 April 2024
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Iran FM downplays reported Israeli retaliation

Iran FM downplays reported Israeli retaliation
  • Israeli officials have made no public comment on what happened Friday
  • Overnight last Saturday-Sunday Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory

Tehran: Iran’s foreign minister has dismissed as akin to child’s play the reported Israeli retaliation for an unprecedented Iranian strike, and said Tehran would not respond unless Iranian “interests” were targeted.
On Friday, Iran’s state media reported explosions were heard after, according to an official, small drones were successfully shot down.
Media in the United States quoted officials there as saying Israel had carried out strikes in retaliation for Tehran’s drone and missile barrage fired at Israel last weekend.
“What happened last night was no attack,” Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian told NBC News in a Friday interview.
“It was the flight of two or three quad-copters, which are at the level of toys that our children use in Iran.”
He added that, “As long as there is no new adventure on behalf of the Israeli regime against Iran’s interests, we will have no response.”
Friday’s explosions prompted world leaders to appeal for calm and de-escalation with fears of wider conflict against the backdrop of the war in Gaza which began on October 7.
Overnight last Saturday-Sunday Iran launched its first-ever direct attack on Israeli territory. The barrage was in response to a deadly April 1 air strike on Tehran’s consulate in Damascus, which Iran blamed on Israel.
The Israeli army said the vast majority of the more than 300 missiles and drones fired by Iran were shot down — with the help of the United States and other allies — and that the attack caused only minimal damage.
Israeli officials have made no public comment on what happened Friday, and analysts said both sides are looking to de-escalate, for now.
“If the Israeli regime intends to take another action against our interests, our next response will be immediate and to the maximum,” Amir-Abdollahian said in the interview.