Houthi attack severely damages Belize-flagged ship in key strait leading to Red Sea

Houthi attack severely damages Belize-flagged ship in key strait leading to Red Sea
The Iran-backed Houthis also claimed they shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, something not immediately acknowledged by US forces in the region. (AFP/File)
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Updated 20 February 2024
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Houthi attack severely damages Belize-flagged ship in key strait leading to Red Sea

Houthi attack severely damages Belize-flagged ship in key strait leading to Red Sea

DUBAI: A missile attack by Yemen’s Houthis that damaged a Belize-flagged ship traveling through the Bab el-Mandeb Strait that connects the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden has forced the crew to abandon the vessel, authorities said Monday. Another ship reportedly came twice under attack in the Gulf of Aden.

The Iran-backed Houthis also claimed they shot down an American MQ-9 Reaper drone, something not immediately acknowledged by US forces in the region. However, the Houthis have downed US drones before.

Meanwhile, the US military said it was conducting new airstrikes targeting the Houthis, including one that targeted the first Houthi underwater drone seen since they began launching attacks on international shipping in November.

The ship targeted in the Houthi attack on Sunday reported sustaining damage after “an explosion in close proximity to the vessel,” the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center reported.

“Military authorities report crew have abandoned the vessel,” the UKMTO said. “Vessel at anchor and all crew are safe.”

Houthi Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree issued a statement claiming the attack, saying the vessel later sunk.

There was no independent confirmation the vessel sank.

“The ship suffered catastrophic damages and came to a complete halt,” Saree said. “During the operation, we made sure that the ship’s crew exited safely.”

The private security firm Ambrey reported the British-registered, Lebanese-operated cargo ship had been on its way to Bulgaria after leaving Khorfakkan in the United Arab Emirates.

Ship-tracking data from MarineTraffic.com analyzed by The Associated Press identified the vessel targeted as the Rubymar. Its Beirut-based manager could not be reached for comment.

The Houthis later also identified the ship as the Rubymar, as did the US military’s Central Command.

Central Command said the attack involved two anti-ship ballistic missiles, which saw one struck the Rubymar.

Ambrey described the ship as being partially laden with cargo, but it wasn’t immediately clear what it had been carrying. The ship had turned off its Automatic Identification System tracker while in the Arabian Gulf early this month.

Later Monday, the UKMTO and Ambrey said a second vessel came under attack in the Gulf of Aden. Ambrey described the vessel as a Greek-flagged, US-owned bulk carrier bound for Aden, Yemen, and carrying grain from Argentina. The same ship then came under attack again, later in the day.

Those details, combined with ship-tracking data, identified the vessel as the Sea Champion. Its managers could not be immediately reached. The Houthis later claimed the attack, but instead said it targeted a second vessel other than the Sea Champion in that assault.

Late Monday, the UKMTO and Ambrey reported a suspected Houthi drone attack targeting a ship off Djibouti in the Bab el-Mandeb Strait. UKMTO described the vessel as sustaining “superficial damage.”

Since November, the rebels have repeatedly targeted ships in the Red Sea and surrounding waters over Israel’s war targeting Hamas in the Gaza Strip. They have frequently targeted vessels with tenuous or no clear links to Israel, imperiling shipping in a key route for trade among Asia, the Mideast and Europe. Those vessels have included at least one with cargo for Iran, its main benefactor.

In a separate attack, Saree also claimed that Houthi forces shot down an MQ-9 drone near Yemen’s port city of Hodeida on the Red Sea. He offered no evidence for the claim.

The Houthi “air defenses were able to shoot down an American plane — MQ-9 — with a suitable missile while it was carrying out hostile missions against our country on behalf of the Zionist entity,” Saree said.

The US military did not immediately confirm the loss of any drones in the region. However, the Houthis have surface-to-air missile systems capable of shooting down high-flying American drones. In November, the Pentagon acknowledged the loss of an MQ-9, shot down by the rebels over the Red Sea.

Since Yemen’s Houthi rebels seized the country’s north and its capital of Sanaa in 2014, the US military has lost four drones to shootdowns by the rebels — in 2017, 2019 and this year.

Meanwhile, the US military’s Central Command reported it carried out five airstrikes targeting Houthi military equipment. Those strikes targeted mobile anti-ship cruise missiles, an explosive-carrying drone boat and an “unmanned underwater vessel,” Central Command said.

“This is the first observed Houthi employment of a UUV since attacks began in Oct. 23,” Central Command said.


Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 13 min 54 sec ago
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Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

JERUSALEM: An Israeli battalion which US media say Washington is likely to sanction over alleged rights violations against Palestinians, has a long history of transgressions and impunity, according to analysts and Israeli media.

The military’s Netzah Yehuda unit was founded in 1999 to encourage ultra-Orthodox Jewish men to enlist but has since accepted other religious recruits including residents of Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank, where Netzah Yehuda was deployed until 2022.

The unit has mainly attracted marginalized ultra-Orthodox youths “who see the army as a means of integrating into Israeli society and earning a living,” said David Khalfa of Jean-Jaures Foundation, a French think tank.

But it has also drawn “rather radical religious nationalists having strong hostility toward Arabs,” he said. “Marked by a strong ideological and sociological leaning, the battalion has acquired a scandal-prone reputation.”

Marwa Maziad, a visiting lecturer of Israel studies at the US University of Maryland, told the Middle East Eye website that unlike most army units, Netzah Yehuda relies on volunteers.

She said: “The battalion attracts religious Zionists, who combine Jewish religious interpretations with nationalist militarism” and are closely associated with the extreme fringes of the Israeli settler movement.

The West Bank, which Israel has occupied since 1967, is home to 3 million Palestinians alongside some 490,000 Israelis living in settlements considered illegal under international law.

“A large part of the unit’s soldiers were born and raised in the West Bank,” Khalfa said, noting Netzah Yehuda was often tasked with policing and “counter-insurgency” operations in the Palestinian territory.

“A significant number of them — not all — committed abuses and the army hardly imposed any sanctions,” Khalfa said.

The January 2022 death of Palestinian American Omar Assad, 78, at the hands of Netzah Yehuda soldiers in the West Bank drew attention to the unit, with the US State Department later that year ordering embassy staff in Israel to investigate the case.

Handcuffed, gagged and blindfolded, Assad was left lying on the ground on his stomach for more than an hour in a freezing winter night.

Following Assad’s death, several Israeli media outlets published reports detailing incidents linked to the battalion that had gone largely unpunished, including beatings of Palestinians and attacks on Bedouin citizens of Israel.

The Jerusalem Post newspaper said Netzah Yehuda troops effectively allowed settlers to attack Palestinians, while Haaretz, a left-leaning daily, denounced the “clear ideological connection between the residents of the settlements and the unauthorized outposts and the soldiers” in the unit.

According to Khalfa, “within the army there are lively debates” over Netzah Yehuda, with some military officials considering it “dangerous for the army to bring together so many young people sharing the same nationalist ideology.”


Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
Updated 18 min 29 sec ago
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Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit

Emir of Kuwait arrives in Jordan for state visit
  • Aircraft escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets

AMMAN: The Emir of Kuwait Sheikh Mishal Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah arrived in Amman on Tuesday for a two-day state visit to Jordan, the Kuwait News Agency reported.

The emir’s aircraft was escorted by Royal Jordanian Air Force F-16 fighter jets as it entered Jordan’s airspace. Upon arrival at Marka Airport, he was warmly received by Jordan’s King Abdullah II and Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah.

An official welcoming ceremony took place, according to a statement by the royal court. The day continued with Sheikh Mishal and King Abdullah engaging in formal discussions at Basman Palace which focused on strengthening long-standing bilateral relations and enhancing cooperation to meet the aspirations of their countries.

Sheikh Mishal congratulated King Abdullah on the 25th anniversary of his coronation and spoke of Jordan’s progress under his leadership. The session was attended by top officials from both countries.

Sheikh Mishal was awarded the Al-Hussein Necklace, the highest civilian medal in Jordan, by King Abdullah.

The meeting concluded with a banquet hosted by King Abdullah in honor of Sheikh Mishal and his delegation, which celebrated the deep ties between Kuwait and Jordan.
 


US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
Updated 26 min 14 sec ago
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US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’

US to begin Gaza aid pier construction ‘very soon’
  • Facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore

WASHINGTON: The United States will begin construction “very soon” on a pier to boost deliveries of desperately needed aid to Gaza, the Pentagon said Tuesday.
Gaza — a small coastal territory — has been devastated by more than six months of Israeli bombardment and ground operations against Hamas militants, leaving the civilian population in need of humanitarian assistance to survive.
“All the necessary vessels are within the Mediterranean region and standing by,” Pentagon spokesman Major General Pat Ryder told journalists, referring to the watercraft carrying equipment for the pier project.
“We are positioned to begin construction very soon,” Ryder added.
The facility will consist of an offshore platform for the transfer of aid from larger to smaller vessels, and a pier to bring it ashore.
Plans were first announced by US President Joe Biden in early March as Israel held up deliveries of assistance by ground.
US officials have said the effort will not involve “boots on the ground” in Gaza, but American troops will come close to the beleaguered territory as they construct the pier, for which Israeli forces are to provide security on the ground.


Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
Updated 23 April 2024
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Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm

Services at Dubai Airport back to normal after disruptions caused by storm
  • DXB CEO Paul Griffiths says challenges remain, including baggage backlog
  • Regular flight schedules have resumed, with 1,400 flights operating each day

DUBAI: Regular flight schedules at Dubai International Airport had resumed by Monday following the storm early last week that caused the highest rainfall the UAE has experienced in 75 years, Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths said on Tuesday. About 1,400 flights are now operating each day.

“With roads in and around the airport 100 percent clear of water accumulation, our manpower, logistics and facilities are operating as usual again,” he added.

“To have the airport back up and running is no small feat. Also, 2,155 flights were canceled and 115 were diverted. We had to work closely with our airline partners and service providers to rework schedules, boost manpower and look after all those who had been disrupted.

“I’m continuously amazed by the unwavering dedication of our Dubai Airports employees, airline partners, government agencies, commercial partners and service partners. It has been the most challenging adverse weather event we’ve had to navigate, and our people and partners worked tirelessly to keep the operation running and to assist our guests.”

Griffiths said the welfare of passengers remained a central focus throughout the disruptions over the past week. After some initial difficulties in delivering supplies as a result of flooded roads around Dubai International and Dubai World Central airports, more than 75,000 food packs were successfully provided for passengers stranded at the two locations.

“While certain challenges remain, including processing the baggage backlog, we’re working closely with our service partners but know there’s still more work to be done and, once again, thank guests for their patience while we work through this,” said Griffiths.

“We’re deeply saddened by the ongoing impact of the heavy rainfall on affected communities and businesses across the UAE. We’re also supporting our own people who were badly affected by the weather and will continue to support wherever we can.”


US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
Updated 23 April 2024
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US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks

US calls on Iraq to safeguard US troops after new attacks
  • “These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing

WASHINGTON: The US military called on Iraq’s government on Tuesday to take steps to safeguard American troops in both Iraq and Syria after failed attacks on Monday by Iran-aligned militia.
“These attacks put coalition and Iraqi personnel at risk. We call on the government of Iraq to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of US forces in Iraq and Syria against attacks from these groups,” Air Force Major General Patrick Ryder told a news briefing.
“If these attacks continue, we will not hesitate to defend our forces, as we have done in the past.”