Yemen’s Houthis vow to obstruct rescue of leaking ship in Red Sea

Cargo ship Rubymar is pictured in the Black Sea. (File/Reuters)
Cargo ship Rubymar is pictured in the Black Sea. (File/Reuters)
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Updated 26 February 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis vow to obstruct rescue of leaking ship in Red Sea

Cargo ship Rubymar is pictured in the Black Sea. (File/Reuters)
  • Hours after the US-UK strikes, the Houthis said they had targeted the US-flagged, owned, and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor in the Gulf of Aden
  • Houthi attacks are disrupting the vital Suez Canal trade shortcut that accounts for about 12 percent of global maritime traffic

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s Houthi militia has pledged to prevent the rescue of a leaking UK-linked ship in the Red Sea before humanitarian aid can reach Gaza, raising concerns that they would use the ship as leverage. 

On Feb. 18, the Houthis fired a missile that severely damaged a UK-owned and Belize-flagged ship, causing an 18-mile oil slick in the Red Sea and threatening a major environmental disaster if its cargo of over 41,000 tons of fertilizer leaked into the sea, according to the US Central Command.

The leak has caused the Yemeni government to seek international aid from countries and conservation groups to secure the ship.

Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, a Houthi leader, said that they would only allow the world to retrieve the leaking ship if people in Gaza had access to food, water, and medicine, prompting Yemenis to express concern that the Houthis might be using the ship as a bargaining chip, as they had done with the floating tanker Safer in the past.

“The sinking British ship might be hauled in return for delivering aid vehicles to Gaza,” Al-Houthi said on X. 

On Saturday night, the US and UK militaries launched additional strikes against 18 locations in Houthi-controlled Yemen, including underground arms and missile storage facilities, air defense systems, radar, a helicopter, and one-way attack unmanned aerial systems, according to a statement from the US Central Command.

This comes as UK Foreign Minister David Cameron pledged on Sunday to launch more attacks to discourage the Houthis from undermining international navigation freedom in the Red Sea.

“Despite repeated warnings, the Houthis have continued their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea, including targeting UK-linked vessels, undermining regional stability. We have been clear that we will back our words with actions,” he said on X.

In Sanaa, the Houthis defied pleas to end their Red Sea strikes by claiming to have fired missiles on Saturday at the US-flagged and operated oil tanker MV Torm Thor and drones at US Navy ships in the Gulf of Aden.

“Yemen’s Armed Forces affirm that they would counter the American-British escalation with more qualitative military operations against all hostile targets in the Red and Arab seas,” Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a statement. 

At the same time, Yemeni officials and experts believe the Houthis would use the leaking ship as leverage to get concessions from the world, including legitimacy. 

“We’ve seen that before. The Houthis used Safer as leverage for years with complete disregard for the potential environmental disaster it would have caused if leaked,” Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a non-resident fellow at the Middle East Institute in Washington, D.C., told Arab News.

After years of opposition, the Houthis agreed in 2023 to allow UN engineers to dump more than a million barrels of oil off the deteriorating floating FSO Safer tanker moored near Yemen’s western city of Hodeidah, averting an environmental calamity.

Ali Al-Fakih, editor of Al-Masdar Online, said that although the world’s attention is not as focused on the leaking UK-owned ship as it was on the Safer, the Houthis would continue to use the leakage to obtain international legitimacy for their militia.

“The Houthis appear unconcerned about the potential harm to Yemen’s maritime ecology or the loss of thousands of fishermen’s livelihoods,” Al-Fakih told Arab News, adding: “They want the world to acknowledge their sovereignty over the sea and depend on them as local agents to safeguard the waterways, which would offer them the legitimacy they currently lack.” 


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 4 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 24 min 46 sec ago
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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 44 min 56 sec ago
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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.