Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch says leader Khalid Al-Batarfi dead in unclear circumstances

This photo provided by Rewards for Justice, U.S. Department of State, shows Khalid al-Batarfi. (AP)
This photo provided by Rewards for Justice, U.S. Department of State, shows Khalid al-Batarfi. (AP)
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Updated 11 March 2024
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Al-Qaeda’s Yemen branch says leader Khalid Al-Batarfi dead in unclear circumstances

This photo provided by Rewards for Justice, U.S. Department of State, shows Khalid al-Batarfi. (AP)
  • The Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda has seen by Washington as the terror network’s most dangerous branch ever since its attempt in 2009 to bomb a commercial airliner over the United States

SANAA, Yemen: The leader of Yemen’s branch of Al-Qaeda is dead, the militant group announced late Sunday, without giving details.
Khalid Al-Batarfi had a $5 million bounty on his head from the US government over leading the group Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, long considered the most-dangerous branch of the extremist group still operating after the killing of founder Osama bin Laden.
Al-Qaeda released a video showing Al-Batarfi wrapped in a funeral shroud of the Al-Qaeda black-and-white flag. It offered no details on the cause of his death and there was no clear sign of trauma visible on his face. Al-Batarfi is believed to be in his early 40s.
“Allah took his soul while he patiently sought his reward and stood firm, immigrated, garrisoned, and waged jihad for His sake,” the militants said in the video, according to the SITE Intelligence Group.
The group made the announcement on the eve of Ramadan, the Muslim holy fasting month that Yemen will begin Monday.
In the announcement, the group said Saad bin Atef Al-Awlaki would take over as its leader. The US has a $6 million bounty on him, saying Al-Awlaki “has publicly called for attacks against the United States and its allies.”
The Yemen branch of Al-Qaeda has seen by Washington as the terror network’s most dangerous branch ever since its attempt in 2009 to bomb a commercial airliner over the United States. It claimed responsibility for the 2015 deadly attack in Paris on the French satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo.
Al-Batarfi took over as the head of the branch, known by the acronym AQAP, in February 2020. He succeeded leader Qassim Al-Rimi, who was killed by a US drone strike ordered by then-President Donald Trump. Al-Rimi had claimed responsibility for the 2019 attack at the US Naval Air Station Pensacola in which a Saudi aviation trainee killed three American sailors.
Al-Batarfi, born in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, traveled to Afghanistan in 1999 and fought alongside the Taliban during the US-led invasion. He joined AQAP in 2010 and led forces in taking over Yemen’s Abyan province, according to the US
In 2015, he was freed after an AQAP raid that saw the militants capture Mukalla, the capital of Yemen’s largest province, Hadramawt, amid the chaos that followed Yemen’s Houthi rebels seizing the capital, Sanaa, and as a Saudi-led coalition started a war against the Houthis. A photo at the time showed Al-Awlaki with a Kalashnikov rifle, posing inside a government palace there.
AQAP was later pushed out of Mukalla, but has continued attacks and been the target of a US drone strike campaign since the administration of then-President George W. Bush.
In 2020, there had been claims that Al-Bartafi had been detained, which later were denied. In 2021, he referred to the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol as “only the tip of the iceberg of what will come to them, God willing.”
 

 


Jordanian king, French president discuss war on Gaza

Jordanian king, French president discuss war on Gaza
Updated 8 sec ago
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Jordanian king, French president discuss war on Gaza

Jordanian king, French president discuss war on Gaza
  • Leaders urged the international community to intensify efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza

AMMAN: Jordan’s King Abdullah and French President Emmanuel Macron met on Monday in Paris to discuss the dangerous developments in Gaza and the severe humanitarian plight resulting from Israel’s war on the Strip, Jordan News Agency reported.

During their meeting at the Elysee Palace, the leaders urged the international community to intensify efforts to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza by all available means.

They reiterated their commitment to providing continued assistance to the region.

More than 37,500 Palestinians have been killed in Israel’s war on Gaza, the majority of them women and children, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry.

King Abdullah and Macron underscored the urgent need for a ceasefire and emphasized the protection of civilians. The discussions, attended by Queen Rania and Brigitte Macron, also touched upon broader regional issues.

The king expressed concern about the potential spillover of the conflict, which poses a threat to international security. He reiterated that the two-state solution remains the sole pathway to achieving a just and comprehensive peace.

The two leaders highlighted the importance of maintaining Lebanon’s stability and security while King Abdullah cautioned against the persistent targeting of relief organizations in Gaza and praised France’s support for UNRWA, which plays a crucial role in delivering essential services to nearly 2 million Palestinians in the region.

Addressing the situation in the West Bank, King Abdullah condemned the violence by extremist Israeli settlers against Palestinians and warned against any unilateral actions that violate the historical and legal status of Jerusalem’s Islamic and Christian holy sites.

The meeting was also attended by Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman Safadi and the Jordanian ambassador to France, Leena Al-Hadid.


 


Qatar Fund, IRC launch health project for Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp

Qatar Fund, IRC launch health project for Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp
Updated 16 min 37 sec ago
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Qatar Fund, IRC launch health project for Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp

Qatar Fund, IRC launch health project for Syrian refugees in Zaatari camp
  • IRC’s CEO emphasizes severe impact of declining humanitarian funding

AMMAN: The Qatar Fund for Development, and the International Rescue Committee have launched a project aimed at delivering primary healthcare services to over 23,000 Syrian refugees in Jordan, the Jordan News Agency reported on Monday.

In partnership with Qatar Charity and the Qatar Red Crescent Society, the IRC will provide reproductive healthcare, treatment for non-communicable and chronic diseases, and vaccination services at the Zaatari refugee camp.

The two-and-a-half-year project will also establish a health information system to manage healthcare data and enhance service delivery across three clinics.

Sultan Al-Aseeri, QFFD’s acting director general, reaffirmed the body’s dedication to ensuring a dignified life for refugees by offering essential healthcare and easy access, which he identified as crucial for developing effective primary health systems.

David Miliband, CEO of the IRC, emphasized the severe impact of declining humanitarian funding for the Jordan Response Plan for the Syria Crisis.

He highlighted how the funding shortfall had led to reduced health service availability in the Zaatari camp, compelling many humanitarian organizations to withdraw.

This situation has left more than 80,000 refugees, half of whom are children, without crucial medical services.

Nivedita Monga, the IRC’s country director in Jordan, said that studies indicated rising health needs within Syrian refugee camps, while primary health services were dwindling. She expressed her gratitude for the QFFD’s financial support, which will help extend essential healthcare services through IRC’s clinics and partner organizations to thousands of refugees in Zaatari.
 


Houthi attack targets another ship off Yemen’s remote Socotra island

Houthi attack targets another ship off Yemen’s remote Socotra island
Updated 24 June 2024
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Houthi attack targets another ship off Yemen’s remote Socotra island

Houthi attack targets another ship off Yemen’s remote Socotra island
  • Campaigners urge UN and international community to do more to help free detained Yemeni civilians and halt militia’s campaign of torture and terror
  • Houthi abuses will continue unless punished, says rights activist as he calls on UN and donors to ‘face this escalation with strength’ and ‘take a stand’

AL-MUKALLA: The Houthis reportedly attacked another commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden on Monday, as the Yemeni militia appears to be stepping up attacks on vessels along key maritime routes.

The UK Maritime Trade Operations, an agency that tracks attacks on shipping, said it received an alert from a ship’s master about an explosion in “close proximity” to the ship. It happened in an area 246 nautical miles southeast of Nishtun, a coastal town in the government-controlled Yemeni province of Mahra, close to Yemen’s remote Socotra island.

“The crew are reported safe, and the vessel is proceeding to its next port of call,” the agency said.

It was the second incident in the area reported by the UKMTO in the space of 24 hours. The captain and crew of a vessel abandoned ship on Sunday after it was damaged and took on water about 96 nautical miles southeast of Nishtun, the agency said.

On Sunday, the Houthis claimed credit for two other strikes on commercial shipping. A vessel called the Transworld Navigator was attacked with an explosive-laden drone in the Red Sea, and another called the Stolt Sequoia was targeted with ballistic missiles in the Indian Ocean, Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Sarea said in a televised statement. He accused the owners of the ships of violating the militia’s ban on shipping to Israeli ports.

According to the Marine Traffic ship-tracking app, the Stolt Sequoia is a Liberian-flagged oil and chemical tanker traveling from Bahrain to France.

The US Central Command reported on Sunday night that the Houthis were thought to have used a drone to strike the Transworld Navigator, a Liberian-flagged, Greek-owned and operated bulk cargo ship traveling from Malaysia to Egypt.

“Today, at 4 a.m. (Sanaa time), the crew reported minor injuries and moderate damage to the ship, but the vessel has continued underway,” the US military said.

Since their attacks on shipping began in November, the Houthis have sunk two ships, seized one and fired hundreds of ballistic missiles, drones and remote-controlled, explosive-laden boats at commercial and naval vessels in the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean in what they say is a campaign to put pressure on Israel to end its war in Gaza.

Yemenis have disputed the Houthi claims of support for the Palestinian people, accusing leaders of the militia of using the public outrage in Yemen over the killing of civilians in Gaza in an attempt to divert attention from their own internal problems, including growing public resentment over their failure to pay public-sector employees, and to recruit and rally the Yemeni public against opponents in Yemen.

Meanwhile, Yemenis from all sections of society and human rights organizations have launched an online campaign to draw global attention to the plight of dozens of Yemeni employees of the UN and other international organizations who are being held by the Houthis.

The militia abducted about 50 people in Sanaa this month, drawing widespread criticism from the UN as well as local and international rights groups.

In the online campaign, Yemenis call on the UN and the wider international community to take more action against the Houthis to secure the release of the detained workers, and to name and shame the militia for torturing and terrorizing the Yemeni people.

“This silence on their misdeeds serves as an indirect justification for them. The UN must take a stronger stand and compel them to end their crimes against humanity and free all abductees promptly and unconditionally.”

Yemeni human rights activist Riyadh Aldubai urged the UN and international donors to condemn the Houthi crackdown on Yemeni workers and relocate their agencies’ offices to government-controlled Aden, warning that the Houthis will continue their rights abuses if not punished.

“UN and donors must face this escalation with strength. Condemn the abductions, enforce strict measures, and relocate operations to reduce Houthi control. It’s time to take a stand,” he said in a message on X.


UNRWA is sued by Israeli victims of Oct. 7 Hamas attack

UNRWA is sued by Israeli victims of Oct. 7 Hamas attack
Updated 24 June 2024
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UNRWA is sued by Israeli victims of Oct. 7 Hamas attack

UNRWA is sued by Israeli victims of Oct. 7 Hamas attack
  • The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for what they allege was UNRWA’s “aiding and abetting Hamas’ genocide

NEW YORK: The United Nations Palestinian refugee agency was sued on Monday by dozens of Israelis who accused it of aiding and abetting the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel.
In a complaint filed with the US District Court in Manhattan, the plaintiffs said the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) spent more than a decade helping Hamas build what they called the “terror infrastructure” and personnel needed for the attack.
The plaintiffs are seeking unspecified damages for what they allege was UNRWA’s “aiding and abetting Hamas’ genocide, crimes against humanity, and torture,” which they said violated international law and the federal Torture Victim Protection Act.
UNRWA declined to comment, saying it had yet to be served with the lawsuit.
The agency has said it takes accusations of staff misconduct seriously, and terminated 10 staff members accused by Israel of involvement in the attack. Two others died, it has said.
UNRWA’s commissioner-general, Philippe Lazzarini, and several current and former agency officials are also defendants.
The plaintiffs include 101 people who survived the attack or had relatives who were killed.
While many of their accusations have been made by Israel’s government, the plaintiffs want UNRWA held liable for allegedly funneling more than $1 billion from a Manhattan bank account to benefit Hamas, including for weapons, explosives and ammunition.
The plaintiffs accuse UNRWA of providing “safe harbor” to Hamas in its facilities, and letting its schools use Hamas-approved textbooks to indoctrinate Palestinian children to support violence toward and hatred of Jews and Israel.
They also said the attack was “foreseeable” to the defendants, regardless of whether they knew the specifics.
“We are talking about people who have been killed, lost family members and lost homes,” Avery Samet, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said in an interview. “We expect damages will be substantial.”
WARNING FROM UNRWA CHIEF
The Oct. 7 attack by Hamas militants killed 1,200 people, while about 250 other people were abducted, according to Israeli tallies.
More than 37,000 Palestinians have since been killed in Israel’s assault on the Gaza Strip, health officials in the Hamas-ruled enclave have said.
Several countries including the United States halted funding to UNRWA after Israel alleged that staff members were involved in Hamas’ attack.
In April, Norway called on international donors to resume funding UNRWA, after a UN-authorized independent review found that Israel had not provided evidence supporting its accusations that hundreds of UNRWA staff were members of terrorist groups.
On Monday, Lazzarini urged resistance to Israeli efforts to disband UNRWA.
“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system,” Lazzarini said at a meeting of the agency’s advisory commission in Geneva.
Established in 1949 after the first Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA provides schooling, health care and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon. It is funded almost entirely by UN member states.
The case is Estate of Kedem et al v United Nations Relief and Works Agency et al, US District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 24-04765.


Morocco sends 40 tons of medical aid to Gaza

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
Updated 24 June 2024
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Morocco sends 40 tons of medical aid to Gaza

Trucks carrying humanitarian aid for the Gaza Strip pass through the inspection area at the Kerem Shalom Crossing.
  • The aid includes surgery equipment and supplies to treat burns and fractures as well as medicine for children
  • Moroccan authorities say they are using their ties to Israel to promote peace and defend the rights of Palestinians

RABAT: Morocco has begun sending 40 tons of medical aid to Palestinians in war-torn Gaza, the Moroccan foreign ministry said on Monday.
The aid includes surgery equipment and supplies to treat burns and fractures as well as medicine for children, it said.
The aid was transported by air and will be loaded into Palestinian red crescent trucks at the Kerem Shalom border crossing, which was first used by Morocco to deliver aid in March, a senior diplomatic source told Reuters.
Moroccan authorities say they are using their ties to Israel to promote peace and defend the rights of Palestinians, but there have been many protests in Moroccan cities criticizing these ties since the onset of the war in Gaza.
Israel’s ground and air campaign in Gaza was triggered after Hamas-led militants stormed into southern Israel on Oct. 7, killing around 1,200 people and seizing more than 250 hostages, according to Israeli tallies.
The Israeli offensive in retaliation has killed more than 37,600 people, according to Palestinian health authorities, and left much of Gaza in ruins.