Houthis to step up Red Sea strikes, use ‘submarine weapons’, leader says

Update Houthis to step up Red Sea strikes, use ‘submarine weapons’, leader says
Ship identified as an Palau-flagged, UK-owned general cargo ship. (FILE/AFP)
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Updated 22 February 2024
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Houthis to step up Red Sea strikes, use ‘submarine weapons’, leader says

Houthis to step up Red Sea strikes, use ‘submarine weapons’, leader says
  • Houthis formalize ban on ships linked to Israel, US, Britain
  • Affected waters account for 12 percent of global maritime traffic

DUBAI: Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthis claimed responsibility for an attack on a UK-owned cargo ship and a drone assault on an American destroyer on Thursday, and they targeted Israel’s port and resort city of Eilat with ballistic missiles and drones.
The statement by a Houthi representative on social media site X came shortly after the group’s leader said it was ramping up attacks on ships in the Red Sea and other waters — including with new “submarine weapons” — to mirror Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip.
Houthi militants have launched repeated drone and missile strikes in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait and Gulf of Aden since November in support of Palestinians, as the Israel-Hamas war continues and the Gaza death toll reaches almost 30,000.
“Operations in the Red and Arabian Seas, Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and the Gulf of Aden are continuing, escalating, and effective,” Abdul Malik Al-Houthi added in a televised speech. He gave no details of the submarine weapons.
The group’s strikes are disrupting the vital Suez Canal trade shortcut that accounts for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic, and forcing firms to take a longer, more expensive route around Africa.
The Houthis on Thursday sent shippers and insurers formal notice of what they termed a ban on vessels linked to Israel, the US and Britain from sailing in surrounding seas, seeking to reinforce their military campaign.
The Houthis’ communication, the first to the shipping industry outlining a ban, came in the form of two notices from the Houthis’ newly dubbed Humanitarian Operations Coordination Center sent to shipping insurers and firms. The aim is to force sailing companies to collaborate with the Houthis to guarantee the safety of their ships,
Ships owned by individuals or entities in Israel, the US and UK or sailing under their flags are banned from the Red Sea, Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea, Thursday’s notices said.
“The Humanitarian Operations Center was established in Sanaa to coordinate the safe and peaceful passage of ships and vessels that have no connection to Israel,” a senior Houthi official told Reuters on Thursday.

The months of attacks have upset global trade and reset shipping rates at a higher level. Insurance sources on Thursday said there was no change in rates since the issuance of the adviseries because marine underwriters had already restricted coverage availability or increased rates.
“In terms or marine war insurance availability and pricing, we don’t see a significant effect from the Houthi group’s recent announcement since it echoed similar announcements from last year to target Israel, US and UK-linked vessels,” Marcos Alvarez, managing director, global insurance ratings, Morningstar DBRS, told Reuters.
Militant leader Al-Houthi said retaliatory strikes by the US-British coalition have failed to stop its campaign.
Earlier on Thursday, two missiles set ablaze a ship some 70 nautical miles southeast of Aden, Yemen, the United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) agency said. The vessel and crew were reported safe and are proceeding to the next port of call, it said in a later update.
That UK-owned, Palau-flagged ship, the Islander, was en route to Egypt from Thailand, according to British maritime security firm Ambrey and ship tracking data.
The US military’s Central Command said in a social media post that the US shot down six Houthi drones in the Red Sea after they were identified as an imminent threat to US and allied warships.
No ships have been sunk nor crew killed during the Houthi campaign. However there are concerns about the fate of the UK-registered Rubymar cargo vessel, which was struck on Feb. 18 and its crew evacuated.
The Houthis said the Rubymar was at risk of sinking but a US defense official said it remained afloat.
Rubymar is “sitting lower still in the water,” Ambrey said. A salvage attempt was aborted and a navigation warning to nearby ships was in place, the firm said. Other options are under consideration, the vessel’s security company ISS-SAPU said.
Earlier on Thursday, Israel’s military also said it intercepted a target in the area of the Red Sea after sirens warning of incoming rockets and missiles sounded in the southern city of Eilat.


Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses

Israel army unit facing US sanctions has history of abuses
Updated 39 min 42 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 44 min 17 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 52 min 2 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.”