Houthis attack ship in Gulf of Aden

Houthis attack ship in Gulf of Aden
A missile believed to have been launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia struck a vessel off Yemen’s southern city of Aden on Thursday, as the US military said that it had shot down a fresh barrage of Houthi missiles and drones in the Gulf of Aden. (AFP/File)
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Updated 14 March 2024
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Houthis attack ship in Gulf of Aden

Houthis attack ship in Gulf of Aden
  • Militia fired missile in Gulf of Aden, no damage reported, US Central Command says
  • US military shoots down 4 drones, 1 surface-to-air missile launched by Houthis from area under their control

AL-MUKALLA: A missile believed to have been launched by Yemen’s Houthi militia struck a vessel off Yemen’s southern city of Aden on Thursday, as the US military said that it had shot down a fresh barrage of Houthi missiles and drones in the Gulf of Aden.
The UK Maritime Trade Operations, which documents ship attacks, said that it received a report from a vessel master about an explosion at “a distance astern of” the vessel while sailing 50 nautical miles southeast of Yemen’s city of Aden. The master reported no damage, and the crew was unharmed.
“The vessel is proceeding to its next port of call. Authorities are investigating,” UKMTO said.
The latest ship attack comes as the US Central Command said that the Houthis launched one anti-ship ballistic missile from areas under their control between 2 a.m. and 4:50 p.m. (Sanaa time) on Wednesday against international commercial and naval ships in the Gulf of Aden, but no ship was struck.
On Thursday, the US military shot down four drones and one surface-to-air missile launched by the Houthis from regions under their control in Yemen, according to a CENTCOM statement on social media site X.
The Houthis did not immediately take credit for assaulting the ship in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday or launching drones or missiles that were intercepted by US forces.
However, the Houthis routinely claim credit for Red Sea ship strikes hours after they occur.
Houthi media said on Thursday that the US and UK launched four strikes on the Al-Jah district of the Red Sea province of Hodeidah, a day after another round of strikes hit Hodeidah airport.
Since November, the Houthis have fired hundreds of drones, missiles, and remotely controlled boats at commercial and navy ships in the Red Sea, Bab Al-Mandab Strait, and Gulf of Aden, claiming that their actions are intended to force Israel to allow humanitarian assistance, including water and food, into the Palestinian Gaza Strip.
At the same time, the diplomatic missions of Australia, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, the UK, and the US all condemned the Houthi attacks on ships in the Red Sea, including the Houthi missile attack on the Liberian-owned MV True Confidence, which killed two Filipino and one Vietnamese civilian sailors.
“It is critical that the Houthis cease these attacks immediately. These illegal attacks have taken the lives of innocent sailors and only serve to destabilize the region and harm the people of Yemen,” the diplomats said in a joint statement.
The top Houthi negotiator, Mohammed Abdul Sallam, responded to the global condemnation of the militia’s attacks on ships by saying that they would continue to uphold their “religious, humanitarian and moral responsibilities” toward Palestinians by blocking the Red Sea before all ships headed to Israel and striking ships until Israel ends its siege on Gaza.
“We emphasize that Yemen’s stance is solid and will remain on Gaza’s side until the Israeli assault ceases, the blockade is removed, and aid reaches the whole Strip,” Abdul Sallam said on X.


French police clash with water demonstrators after port blockade

French police clash with water demonstrators after port blockade
Updated 9 min 45 sec ago
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French police clash with water demonstrators after port blockade

French police clash with water demonstrators after port blockade
  • Running battles erupted around barricades and burning rubbish bins as some protesters threw projectiles and police fired tear gas grenades

LA ROCHELLE, France: Protesters clashed with police in France’s western port of La Rochelle Saturday, as conservationists and small farmers mobilized against massive irrigation reservoirs under construction.
Local government officials had banned demonstrations in the city, which is a popular tourist site in summer.
A 2,000-strong march, one of two through the city, was charged by police at around 1:30 p.m. (1130 GMT).
Running battles erupted around barricades and burning rubbish bins as some protesters threw projectiles and police fired tear gas grenades.
“We were in the demo, they started blocking ahead and behind,” said Lilia, a 25-year-old who declined to give her full name. “They isolated us off to one side to charge everyone else.”
Police said around 500 participants in the march were so-called “black bloc” far-left radicals.
Prosecutors in La Rochelle said four members of the police and five demonstrators received medical care for minor injuries.
Several shops were damaged or looted, along with bus shelters and advertising hoardings. A building site was ransacked for cinder blocks and wood to construct barricades.
Police arrested seven people, mostly for trespassing.
The second, more peaceful march, made up of around 3,000 people family groups, moved from the city center toward the commercial port. Many wore costume disguises.
Some used kayaks or inflatable boats to approach the La Pallice agricultural export terminal, singled out by organizers as the target for the demonstrations.
The two marches joined up mid-afternoon along the waterfront before turning back and dispersing calmly.
Police had used tear gas earlier Saturday to clear around 200 people who entered the terminal at dawn, including farmers with old tractors.
That confrontation broke up mostly peacefully.
The protests in the city on France’s Atlantic coast were intended to show that new “reservoirs aren’t being built to grow food locally, but to feed international markets,” said Julien Le Guet, a spokesman for the “Reservoirs, No Thanks” movement.
Activists say the reservoirs, set to be filled from aquifers in winter to provide summer irrigation, benefit only large farmers at the expense of smaller operations and the environment.
Several dozen are under construction in western France, their supporters arguing that without them farms risk vanishing as they suffer through repeated droughts.
Last year, clashes between thousands of demonstrators and police in Sainte-Soline, around 90 kilometers (56 miles) inland from La Rochelle, left two protesters in a coma and injured 30 officers.
Further scuffles broke out Saturday as demonstrators returned to La Rochelle’s center from the agricultural port, some launching fireworks at the police, who responded with tear gas and water cannons.
“Cease fire, there are children in the march,” Le Guet shouted. “Don’t make the same mistake as at Sainte-Soline.”
Fears of clashes had been high all week. More than 3,000 police deployed around a “Water Village” protest camp in Melle, a few kilometers from Sainte-Soline, as authorities warned of a risk of “great violence.”
The prefecture banned the demonstrations in popular summer tourist destination La Rochelle, but organizers went ahead with them.
On Saturday, “our aim wasn’t to clash with law enforcement, it’s often law enforcement who aim to clash with us,” said Juliette Riviere, an SLT member.
Prosecutors said that six people had been taken into custody by mid-afternoon Saturday.


Israeli military looking into reports of explosions in Eilat

An Israeli navy missile boat patrols in the Red Sea off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eliat on December 26, 2023.
An Israeli navy missile boat patrols in the Red Sea off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eliat on December 26, 2023.
Updated 23 min 28 sec ago
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Israeli military looking into reports of explosions in Eilat

An Israeli navy missile boat patrols in the Red Sea off the coast of Israel's southern port city of Eliat on December 26, 2023.

JERUSALEM: Israel’s military said on Saturday it was looking into initial reports of explosions heard in the Red Sea port city of Eilat.

 


What is driving rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?

What is driving rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?
Updated 27 sec ago
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What is driving rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?

What is driving rise in marriages between Syrian women and local men in neighboring countries?
  • More than a decade of war, displacement, hardship and uncertainty has chipped away at Syrian women’s sense of security
  • Many of these women agree to marry locals to avoid the harsh reality of being a single woman alone in a war-devastated country

LONDON: Informal advertisements for “affordable Syrian brides” have been circulating on Iraqi social media platforms in recent months, several of them perpetuating tropes about Syrian women with lines like: “Marry a Syrian woman for $100 and enjoy delectable dishes and an endearing dialect.”

The controversial posts, which have drawn local media attention, are captioned as though they are advertising chattel. One reads: “You can hear to’borni (a Syrian term of endearment) at home for as little as 500,000 dinars” — the equivalent of $380.

Men promoting the trend lament the exorbitant mahrs requested by Iraqi women, often ranging from $10,000 to $20,000, locals told Arab News. On top of this, they say, prospective Iraqi brides will also often request property, expensive jewelry and cars.

Mahr is a mandatory gift from a groom to his bride in Muslim societies as a form of security and respect, often with legal significance in marriage contracts.

The sheer volume of online posts, especially on the video platform TikTok, suggests the trend is genuine. Commentators have expressed outrage at the posts, finding the rhetoric demeaning to both Syrian and Iraqi women.

Many Syrian women have found themselves as the sole breadwinners for their families after years of war in their country. (AFP)

More than a decade of violence, displacement, economic hardship and uncertainty has already chipped away at Syrian women’s dignity. Now, in neighboring countries where they have sought safety and economic security, they endure a form of commodification.

Many Syrian women, finding themselves as the sole breadwinners for their families, have sought employment in neighboring states, including Iraq, as the economic situation worsens in their home country.

Faced with the harsh reality of being a single woman alone in a conservative society and in countries where the law offers limited protection, some have agreed to marry locals for meager mahrs, if any at all.

Sattam Jadaan Al-Dandah, Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, revealed in January that in 2023 alone, some 5,000 marriages between Syrian women and Iraqi men had been documented.

Syria’s ambassador to Iraq, Sattam Jadaan Al-Dandah, has confirmed the trend about Syrian refugee wome being married to Iraqis. (Supplied)

According to the UN Development Programme’s Gender Inequality Index for 2024, Iraq is the fifth worst country in the world for women and girls despite many recent efforts to address gender inequality.

“Syrian women in countries like Iraq, where the law does not provide adequate protection, often find themselves exposed to harassment, exploitation and even trafficking,” Mouna Khaity, a UK-based Syrian feminist and researcher, told Arab News.

“The main reasons Syrian women are agreeing to such arrangements — many even seeking them — in almost all neighboring host countries are the need for protection and the desire to escape a deteriorating economic situation.”

Thirteen years of conflict and economic sanctions have plunged 90 percent of Syria’s population below the poverty line, creating a new social norm where families struggle to survive without women’s labor.

A woman carries water at the the Al-Yunani makeshift camp for internally displaced people in Syria's northern province of Raqa on July 10, 2023. (AFP)

“Under relatively normal circumstances women and girls’ communities and families would provide a level of protection, even though this sometimes entails unwanted intervention or even control,” said Khaity.

The erosion of this protection due to displacement has left Syrian women and girls more vulnerable.

About 5.4 million Syrians live in five countries across the region — Turkiye, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt — with more than 70 percent of them being women, according to UN figures.

“Women in need of protection will accept a lower mahr compared to women who live within the protection of their families in their home countries,” said Khaity.

However, a woman’s decision to pursue marriage for economic reasons “is often not a personal choice but a collective family decision, with women — even girls — being persuaded this is an opportunity for a better life.

“This is often seen in displacement camps, where women don’t even have the option to choose, and marriage to a local can be perceived as a convenient way to transform from a charity recipient to a dignified and protected woman.”

The Norwegian Refugee Council in 2016 reported an alarming increase in occurence of child marriages within Syrian refugee communities, with girls as young as 13 being married off.

A 2023 report by American Near East Refugee Aid, an NGO that addresses the needs of refugees and vulnerable communities in Palestine, Lebanon and Jordan, found that 41 percent of Syrian refugee women aged 20 to 24 in Lebanon were married before turning 18.

Stressing that the situation has been created by “layers of discrimination and injustices,” Khaity said the blame for such marriages should not be placed solely on individuals or families, but on “entire systems” that have normalized the exploitation of Syrian women through a lack of accountability.

“Neighboring countries have not been seeking to integrate Syrian refugees, who are being excluded by local communities and exploited by politicians for economic benefits,” she said.

Deeply rooted gender-related economic inequalities have long disadvantaged women, and the war has only widened this gap, despite increasing the proportion of women who earn an income.

“Middle Eastern societies have historically accumulated wealth in men’s hands, forcing women to be largely dependent on men,” said Khaity, adding that this has been achieved through “political systems, social norms and religious institutions.”

“Obedience to husbands has often been linked to men’s financial superiority and dominance, and consequently women’s reliance on them. There are financial resources that women cannot access.”

She added: “The war has deepened inequities, impoverished the majority of the population, heightened women’s vulnerability and displaced millions — all of which has devastated Syrian society.

“Therefore, many Syrian women have sought marriages with locals in host countries as a means to protect themselves, and often their families too, from all kinds of indignities — particularly in societies that have shown them hostility.”

Since the outbreak of civil war in 2011, which forced millions to flee abroad, Syrians in Lebanon, Turkiye and Jordan have repeatedly encountered waves of violence and threats of deportation.

Douna Haj Ahmed, a UK-based Syrian human rights activist, believes this new status quo “has created a form of modern slavery where Syrian women are commodified and traded under the guise of marriage.”

She told Arab News that the marriage arrangements promoted on Iraqi social media “reduce women to mere objects for sale,” calling the phenomenon “a stark reminder of how conflict and poverty can lead to the resurgence of exploitative systems akin to slavery.”

She added: “Such exploitation is not only unethical but also profoundly inhumane. Marriage should be grounded in mutual respect and genuine affection, not in exploiting the more vulnerable party’s needs.”

Thirteen years of conflict and displacement have placed Syrian women in “a class of their own,” said Khaity. “There is tolerance for the dehumanization of Syrian women, who are now perceived as having fewer rights.”

Caption

Both activists also believe Syrian women have been commodified by deceptive TV dramas. Iraqi TikTok posts promoting marriage to Syrian women even feature clips from controversial Syrian programs portraying Damascene women as part of an obedient, attentive harem.

Khaity says the drama genre known in Syria as “Al-Bi’a Al-Shamiyeh” — or Damascene culture — has propagated an “untrue, historically inaccurate, and unfair image of Syrian women and their role in society.”

Since the 1990s, numerous Syrian dramas have portrayed Damascene women as ravishing beauties with an innate talent for cooking, household management and seduction. They scurry to attend to their husbands’ needs, rub their feet, shower them with affection, and even hand feed them.

The popularity of Syrian drama series across the Arabic-speaking world has played a significant role in creating and reinforcing such harmful stereotypes.

“For decades, Syrian drama has perpetuated an image of the Syrian woman as the obedient servant to her husband, whose life revolves around meeting his needs through cooking and cleaning by day, and pampering and pleasuring by night,” said Haj Ahmed.

“This negative portrayal has reinforced outdated and misleading ideas about women’s roles in Syrian society.”

Haj Ahmed said that amid harsh economic circumstances, “many young men in Arab countries have seen the war in Syria as an opportunity to fulfill unhealthy desires for marriage.

“They have exploited the vulnerability of Syrian girls caused by war and poverty, forcing some Syrian families to make harsh compromises and accept any suitor for their daughters in a desperate bid to alleviate the family’s financial burden.”

She added that the social media trend promoting Syrian brides for $100 “goes beyond discrimination and hate speech” to “reflect the patriarchal mentality that objectifies women, particularly in times of war and disaster.

“This narrative confirms that women are among the first to suffer in such situations. What Syrian women are experiencing is a recurring scenario for women in all conflict zones.”
 

 


Lebanon state media says civilians injured in Israeli strike

Lebanon state media says civilians injured in Israeli strike
Updated 49 min 49 sec ago
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Lebanon state media says civilians injured in Israeli strike

Lebanon state media says civilians injured in Israeli strike
  • Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in support of Hamas

BEIRUT: An Israeli air strike in Lebanon about 30 kilometers from the border injured civilians on Saturday, Lebanese state media said, after Hezbollah and its Palestinian ally Hamas fired rockets and explosive-laden drones at Israeli positions.
Hezbollah has traded near-daily cross-border fire with Israeli forces in support of Hamas since the Palestinian militant group’s October 7 attack on southern Israel triggered war in the Gaza Strip.
“The Israeli enemy launched a raid on the town of Adloun” in south Lebanon, the state-run National News Agency said, adding that “a number of civilians have been injured” and traffic on the highway interrupted in both directions.
Videos circulating online showed several big explosions in the coastal town.
“Shrapnel from the explosions flew to surrounding villages,” the NNA said.
Earlier Saturday, NNA said Syrian nationals, including children, had been injured after an “enemy drone targeted an empty four-wheel drive” near their tent, close to the border.
Doctor Mouenes Kalakesh, who heads the Marjayoun government hospital, said a woman and her three children, two of them minors, had been admitted for shrapnel injuries after the strike outside Burj Al-Muluk.
Among them was an 11-year-old boy in critical condition after he sustained shrapnel injuries and a head wound, Kalakesh told AFP.
Hezbollah said it launched “dozens of Katyusha rockets” on Dafna, an area in Israel’s north that the group said it was targeting for the first time, “in response to the attack on civilians.”
Hamas’s armed wing, the Ezzedine Al-Qassam Brigades, said they also fired a rocket salvo from south Lebanon toward an Israeli military position in the Upper Galilee “in response to the Zionist massacres against civilians in the Gaza Strip.”
Later on Saturday, the Iran-backed Hezbollah said it also had launched “explosive-laden drones” targeting “artillery and missile positions” and Israeli troops at a site in the Golan Heights as well as Iron Dome platforms.
Before the drone attack, the Israeli army said a total of 45 “projectiles” had been fired from Lebanon Saturday afternoon, toward the occupied Golan Heights and the Galilee, reporting no casualties.
The army said it struck “the launcher in southern Lebanon from which the projectiles were launched toward the Golan Heights,” also targeting “an additional Hezbollah launcher.”
Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah had warned that his Iran-backed group would hit new targets in Israel if more civilians were killed in Israeli strikes.
Israeli strikes on Thursday killed at least five people in Lebanon, including the commander of a Hamas-allied group, a security source and militant groups said.
The violence since October has killed at least 515 people in Lebanon, according to an AFP tally.
Most of the dead have been fighters, but they have included at least 104 civilians.
On the Israeli side, 18 soldiers and 13 civilians have been killed, according to Israeli authorities.


Malaysia marks coronation of new king

Malaysia marks coronation of new king
Updated 20 July 2024
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Malaysia marks coronation of new king

Malaysia marks coronation of new king
  • Billionaire King Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar pledges to govern fairly during the 5-year term

KUALA LUMPUR: Traditional pomp and cannon fire on Saturday marked the coronation of Malaysia’s billionaire King Sultan Ibrahim Iskandar, who pledged to govern fairly during the five-year term he will serve under a unique rotating monarchy system.
Sultan Ibrahim, 65, was sworn in on Jan. 31. Saturday’s coronation at the national palace formalized his role as Malaysia’s 17th king in a ceremony steeped in Malay culture and pageantry.
Nine ethnic Malay state rulers take turns as Malaysia’s king for five-year terms under the country’s rotating monarchy, which began when Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957. Malaysia has 13 states but only nine have royal families, some which trace their roots to centuries-old Malay kingdoms that were independent states until they were brought together by the British.
Donned in black and gold traditional ceremonial outfit and headgear, Sultan Ibrahim and Queen Raja Zarith Sofiah were greeted by military salute before they proceeded to the throne. The heads of the other royal families, Brunei Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah and Bahrain King Hamad Isa al Khalifa were seated on a stage beside the throne.
At the start of the proceedings, a copy of the Qur’an was presented to the Sultan who kissed it. The monarch received a gold dagger, a symbol of power. Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim then pledged his government’s loyalty and said the royal institution was a pillar of strength for the nation. He then proclaimed Sultan Ibrahim as Malaysia’s new king.