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.


Ancient Egyptians skulls reveal ‘extraordinary’ cancer surgery, study suggests

Ancient Egyptians skulls reveal ‘extraordinary’ cancer surgery, study suggests
Updated 5 sec ago
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Ancient Egyptians skulls reveal ‘extraordinary’ cancer surgery, study suggests

Ancient Egyptians skulls reveal ‘extraordinary’ cancer surgery, study suggests
  • Discovery gives ‘new perspective in our understanding of the history of medicine,’ says researcher
  • Ancient civilization may have broken ‘medical knowledge frontier’ with precise treatment

LONDON: Ancient Egyptians may have discovered the existence of cancer and practiced surgery to treat it, a new study has found.

A team of international researchers studied two human skulls, discovering “extraordinary” evidence that places the already distinguished medical practices of Ancient Egypt in a new light.

Historical texts documenting medicine in Ancient Egypt already revealed tremendous knowledge, including the ability to treat disease, traumatic injury and dental issues.

But researchers say that the civilization may have broken through a “medical knowledge frontier” in treating cancer, Sky News reported.

Lead author Prof. Edgard Camaros, a paleopathologist at the University of Santiago de Compostela, said: “This finding is unique evidence of how ancient Egyptian medicine would have tried to deal with or explore cancer more than 4,000 years ago.

“This is an extraordinary new perspective in our understanding of the history of medicine.”

Scientists in the study examined two skulls held at the University of Cambridge’s Duckworth Collection.

The first, of a man estimated to be 30 to 35 years of age, was dated to between 2687 and 2345 B.C.

The second skull is of a woman older than 50, dated to between 663 and 343 B.C.

Microscopic viewing of the male skull showed a “big-sized lesion,” resulting in likely tissue destruction and about 30 metastasized lesions, said Tatiana Tondini, a researcher at the University of Tubingen.

But researchers later discovered cuts around the lesions, suggesting the precise medical use of a metal instrument.

“When we first observed the cutmarks under the microscope, we could not believe what was in front of us,” added Tondini, the first author of the study in the “Frontiers of Medicine” journal.

“We see that although ancient Egyptians were able to deal with complex cranial fractures, cancer was still a medical knowledge frontier.

“We wanted to learn about the role of cancer in the past, how prevalent this disease was in antiquity and how ancient societies interacted with this pathology.”

The female skull that was examined also featured a large lesion “consistent with a cancerous tumour that led to bone destruction,” Sky News reported.

The discovery may also lead to reappraisals of the proliferation of cancer and carcinogens throughout human history.

However, researchers cautioned against making definitive statements based on the study.

Prof. Albert Isidro, the study’s co-author and a surgical oncologist at the University Hospital Sagrat Cor, said: “It seems ancient Egyptians performed some kind of surgical intervention related to the presence of cancerous cells, proving that ancient Egyptian medicine was also conducting experimental treatments or medical explorations in relation to cancer.

“This study contributes to a changing of perspective and sets an encouraging base for future research in the field of paleo-oncology, but more studies will be needed to untangle how ancient societies dealt with cancer.”


Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins

Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins
Updated 7 min 51 sec ago
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Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins

Decade after Daesh horrors, Iraq’s Sinjar remains in ruins
  • The area near the Syrian border still bears the scars of the fighting that raged there in 2014
  • A decade on, the self-declared Daesh caliphate across Syria and Iraq is a dark and distant memory

SINJAR, Iraq: When Bassem Eido steps outside his modest village house in Iraq’s Sinjar district, he is reminded of the horrors that befell the majority-Yazidi region during Daesh group’s onslaught a decade ago.
The area near the Syrian border still bears the scars of the fighting that raged there in 2014 — bullet-riddled family homes with pancaked roofs and warning signs of the lethal threat of land mines and war munitions.
It was here that the militants committed some of their worst atrocities, including mass executions and sexual slavery, before a fightback driven by Kurdish forces dislodged them from the town of Sinjar by the following year.
A decade on, the self-declared Daesh caliphate across Syria and Iraq is a dark and distant memory, but the pain is raw in Eido’s largely abandoned village of Solagh, 400 kilometers (250 miles) northwest of Baghdad.
“Out of 80 families, only 10 have come back,” Eido told AFP in the desolate village which was once famed for its flourishing grape vines. “The rest say there are ... no homes to shelter them. Why would they return?“
A walk through Solagh reveals collapsed homes overgrown with wild scrub and the rusting skeletons of destroyed plumbing systems scattered amid the dust and debris.
“How can my heart be at peace?” said Eido, a 20-year-old Yazidi. “There is nothing and no one that will help us forget what happened.”
After liberation, Eido honored his father’s wish to spend his final days at their home and agreed to move back in with him. Their house was ravaged by fire but still standing and could be rebuilt with help from an aid group.
Most people cannot afford to rebuild, said Eido, and some camp in tents in the ruins of their homes. However, if large-scale reconstruction started, he predicted, “everyone would come back.”
Such efforts have been slowed by political infighting, red tape and other structural problems in this remote region of Iraq, a country still recovering from decades of dictatorship, war and instability.
Many who fled the Daesh moved to vast displacement camps, but the federal government this year announced a July 30 deadline to close them.
Baghdad promised financial aid to returning families and has vowed to ramp up reconstruction efforts. The migration ministry said recently that hundreds had returned to their homes.
However, more than 183,000 people from Sinjar remain displaced, the International Organization for Migration said in a recent report.
While most areas have seen “half or fewer” of their residents come back, it said, “13 locations have not recorded returns since 2014.”
Local official Nayef Sido said that villages “are still razed to the ground and the majority of the people haven’t received compensation.”
Some returnees are leaving again because, with no jobs, they cannot make ends meet, he added.
All of this only adds to the plight of the Yazidis, an ethnic and religious minority that suffered the brunt of Daesh atrocities, with thousands killed and enslaved.
In the village of Kojo, Hadla Kassem, a 40-year-old mother of three, said she lost at least 40 members of her family, including her mother, father and brother.
Three years ago, she sought government compensation for her family’s destroyed home, with the support of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), but to no avail.
While she is still hoping for a monthly stipend for the loss of her relatives, she is trapped in a maze of bureaucracy like many others.
Authorities “haven’t opened all the (mass) graves, and the martyrs’ files haven’t been solved, and those in camps haven’t returned,” Kassem said.
“We are devastated... We need a solution.”
In order to entice people to return, said the NRC’s legal officer in Sinjar, Feermena Kheder, “safe and habitable housing is a must, but we also need functional public infrastructure like roads, schools and government buildings.”
“Only with these foundations can we hope to rebuild our lives.”
For now, many residents must travel hours for medical care that is not available at the city’s only hospital.
A local school has been turned into a base for an armed group, while an old cinema has become a military post.
Sinjar has long been at the center of a paralysing struggle for control between the federal government and the autonomous Kurdistan administration based in Irbil.
In 2020, the two sides reached an agreement that included a reconstruction fund and measures to facilitate the return of displaced people. But they have so far failed to implement it.
Adding to the complexities is the tangled web of armed forces operating there today.
It includes the Iraqi military, a Yazidi group affiliated with Turkiye’s foe the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), and the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a coalition of pro-Iran ex-paramilitaries now integrated into the regular army.
“All parties want more control, even blocking appointments and hindering” reconstruction efforts, said a security official who requested anonymity.
In 2022, clashes between the army and local fighters forced thousands to flee again.
Human Rights Watch researcher Sarah Sanbar warned that “both Baghdad and Irbil claim authority over Sinjar, but neither is taking responsibility for it.”
“Rather than focus on closing the camps, the government should invest in securing and rebuilding Sinjar to be a place people actually want to return to.”


No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says
Updated 29 May 2024
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No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says

No indication from Israel that Rafah crossing could open soon, Palestinian minister says
  • Rafah was a major entry point for humanitarian relief before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gaza side of the border

GENEVA: The Palestinian health minister said on Wednesday there was no indication from Israel that the Rafah crossing, used to bring in essential humanitarian and medical supplies, could be opened soon.
“Since it was closed, we have no indication that the Israelis would like it to be opened any time soon,” the minister, Majed Abu Ramadan, told reporters on the sidelines of the World Health Assembly in Geneva.
Rafah was a major entry point for humanitarian relief before Israel stepped up its military offensive on the Gaza side of the border earlier this month and seized control of the crossing from the Palestinian side.


Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis
Updated 29 May 2024
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Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis

Iran’s Tasnim news agency: Iran made sea-launched ballistic missile available to Houthis
  • Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment
  • Iran is armed with the largest number of ballistic missiles in the region

DUBAI: Iran’s semi-official Tasnim news agency reported on Wednesday that Tehran’s sea-launched ballistic missile Ghadr has been made available to Yemen’s Houthis.
“Iran’s sea-launched ballistic missile, named Ghadr, now has been made available to Yemen’s (Houthi) fighters,” — reported Tasnim, which is believed to be affiliated to Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards.
“Now, the missile … has become a weapon capable of presenting serious challenges to the interests of the United States and its main ally in the region, the Zionist regime,” Tasnim said.
Iran’s foreign ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Iran supports the Houthis but has repeatedly denied arming the group.
The Houthis have been attacking shipping lanes in and around the Red Sea to show support for Palestinians in the Gaza war impacting a shipping route vital to trade.
According to the US Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Iran is armed with the largest number of ballistic missiles in the region. It is also a major producer of drones.


Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’

Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’
Updated 29 May 2024
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Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’

Turkiye’s Erdogan says ‘spirit of United Nations dead in Gaza’
  • Calls on the ‘Islamic world’ to react after the latest deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza
  • Turkish premier hits out at fellow Muslim-majority countries for failing to take common action over the Israeli strike

ANKARA: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday hit out at the United Nations and called on the “Islamic world” to react after the latest deadly Israeli strikes in Gaza.
“The UN cannot even protect its own staff. What are you waiting for to act? The spirit of the United Nations is dead in Gaza,” Erdogan told lawmakers from his AKP party.
Erdogan’s comments came as the UN Security Council met to discuss a deadly Israeli attack on a displacement camp west of Rafah on Tuesday that killed 21 people, according to a civil defense official in Hamas-run Gaza.
The Turkish premier also hit out at fellow Muslim-majority countries for failing to take common action over the Israeli strike.
“I have some words to say to the Islamic world: what are you waiting for to take a common decision?” Erdogan, who leads a Muslim-majority country of 85 million people, told lawmakers from his AKP party.
“Israel is not just a threat to Gaza but to all of humanity,” he said.
“No state is safe as long as Israel does not follow international law and does not feel bound by international law,” Erdogan added, repeating an accusation that Israel is committing “genocide” in Gaza.