UN fears ‘risky military adventurism’ could push Yemen into new cycle of war 

UN fears ‘risky military adventurism’ could push Yemen into new cycle of war 
Hans Grundberg (C), the United Nations' special envoy for Yemen, meeting with local officials in the country's third city of Taez on February 12, 2024. (AFP/File)
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Updated 14 March 2024
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UN fears ‘risky military adventurism’ could push Yemen into new cycle of war 

UN fears ‘risky military adventurism’ could push Yemen into new cycle of war 
  • Russian envoy warns that without a just solution to the Palestinian question, region ‘will always be a ticking time bomb’ 
  • ‘What happens regionally impacts Yemen, and what happens in Yemen can impact the region,” Special Envoy Hans Grundberg tells Security Council 

NEW YORK CITY: The longer the escalation of Houthi attacks in the Red Sea continues, the more complex the process of mediating a peace process in Yemen will become, the UN warned on Thursday. 

Officials expressed concern that the parties involved in the conflict in the country might decide to engage in “risky military adventurism” that would push the country into a new cycle of war. 

“Although we have tried to shield the peace process from regional developments since the war in Gaza, the reality is (that) what happens regionally impacts Yemen, and what happens in Yemen can impact the region,” Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen said during a meeting of the Security Council to discuss the latest developments in the country and the Red Sea. 

“The current trajectory gives cause for serious concern,” he added. 

Since November, the Iranian-backed Houthis have been targeting vessels in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, vowing the attacks will continue until Israel ends its war on Gaza. The US and the UK have retaliated by launching military strikes on Houthi-controlled areas. 

On March 7, two Filipino nationals and a Vietnamese citizen were killed, and several crew members wounded, when the Houthis attacked a Barbados-flagged merchant carrier in the Gulf of Aden. These were the first deaths caused by the group’s recent attacks on maritime traffic. 

Prior to that, the Houthis launched an anti-ballistic missile attack on the Belize-flagged, UK-owned cargo ship Rubymar, causing it to sink early this month. The vessel was carrying 21,000 tonnes of fertilizer, raising environmental concerns that the sinking could cause ecological damage in the Red Sea, including to its coral reefs and marine life. 

“With the Red Sea now part of a wider set of concentric circles of escalation,” Grundberg again warned about the risk of further spillovers from the conflict in Gaza. He urged all parties in Yemen to exercise “maximum restraint” and deescalate the conflict in the country, and also reiterated UN calls for an “immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza.” 

Within Yemen itself, although hostilities remain at relatively low levels compared with the period prior to the UN-brokered truce in April 2022, Grunderg highlighted recent clashes in Hudaydah, Lahj, Marib, Saadah, Shabwa and Taiz. 

“The parties also continue to make public threats to return to war,” he said. “Many Yemenis I have spoken to have expressed their fears of a potential escalation in internal fighting. We must do all we can to prevent this.” 

Grundberg added that his focus remains on efforts to reach a ceasefire agreement in Yemen and start a political process for peace. 

Edem Wosornu, the director of operations and advocacy at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, warned that the progress made since the 2022 truce was “at risk of unraveling.” 

She told council members: “Levels of food insecurity and malnutrition have surged in recent months, posing a real and increasing threat to the lives and well-being of millions of people, particularly women and children.” 

Nearly 17.8 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance to survive, with 5 million children under the age of 5 requiring treatment for acute malnutrition this year. This dire health situation prompted the World Health Organization to warn that the fragile Yemeni health system is overburdened and “edging closer to collapse.” 

Wosornu said: “The causes are familiar: conflict, a protracted economic crisis and, increasingly, severe funding shortfalls, which are significantly impacting humanitarian assistance.” 

Attacks against vessels in the Red Sea, such as the one on the Rubymar, could have “direct and indirect impacts on the livelihoods of thousands of people in coastal communities that rely on fishing for survival,” she added. 

“This incident illustrates the substantial risks posed by growing escalation in and around Yemen.” 

Speaking on behalf of the UN’s humanitarian chief, Martin Griffiths, Wosornu reiterated the UN’s call for all parties in Yemen “to comply with international law and refrain from actions that could exacerbate the situation.” 

Abdallah Al-Saadi, Yemen’s permanent representative to the UN, said the Houthis “have to stop their military escalation and war against the Yemeni people and their aspirations. They have to bring to an end their threats to regional international peace and security. They have to resort to peace. We have to renew hope for a return to the desire for peace.” 

Yamazaki Kazuyuki, Japan’s permanent representative to the UN, strongly condemned the Houthi attacks on maritime traffic, describing them as “outrageous and unjustifiable” actions that are “impeding global commerce and undermining navigational rights and freedoms as well as regional peace and security.” 

He added: “The Houthis must stop attacking commercial vessels and immediately release the Japanese-operated (cargo ship) Galaxy Leader and its 25 crew members. The Houthis must also refrain from further threats to maritime security, the environment and the innocent civilians.” 

Russia’s deputy permanent representative to the UN, Dmitriy Polyanskiy, called on the international community to persist in its efforts to end Israel’s military operations in the Gaza Strip. 

“Resolving that issue will be key to stabilizing the situation, not just in the Red Sea, but in other regions of the Middle East, where Israel's actions are causing righteous anger and outrage,” he told council members. 

“The Palestinian question, unresolved for so many years, is also having an impact. Without a just solution to that, based on the agreed international legal parameters, the region will always be a ticking time bomb. 

“Burying your head in the sand here is not appropriate and it could destabilize the situation not just at a regional but also a global level. Russia stands ready to do everything necessary to prevent that from happening.


In Congress speech, Netanyahu defends war in Gaza and denounces protesters

In Congress speech, Netanyahu defends war in Gaza and denounces protesters
Updated 14 sec ago
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In Congress speech, Netanyahu defends war in Gaza and denounces protesters

In Congress speech, Netanyahu defends war in Gaza and denounces protesters
  • Netanyahu’s speech quickly took on a darker tone as he defended his country but also derided those protesting the war
  • He drew shouts of applause from many in Congress, but also silence from leading Democrats

WASHINGTON: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu defended Israel’s war in Gaza and condemned American protesters in a scathing speech to Congress Wednesday that triggered boycotts by many top Democratic lawmakers and drew thousands to the Capitol to condemn the war and the humanitarian crisis it has created.
Netanyahu vowed to press on with the war until “total victory,” disappointing hopes by some that the Israeli leader’s visit to the United States could bring some breakthrough in negotiations for a ceasefire and hostage-release.
Speaking to applause from US lawmakers, and stony silence from others, Netanyahu sought to bolster US support for his country’s fight against Hamas and other Iran-backed armed groups.
“America and Israel must stand together. When we stand together something really simple happens: We win, they lose,” said Netanyahu, who wore a yellow pin expressing solidarity with the Israeli hostages held by Hamas.
But the Israeli leader soon pivoted to a darker tone as he derided those protesting the war on college campuses and elsewhere in the US, gesturing to demonstrations happening on the streets outside the Capitol. He called protesters “useful idiots” for Israel’s adversaries.
He drew shouts of applause from many in Congress, but also silence from leading Democrats who declined to stand and cheer.
Freed former hostages of Hamas and families of hostages listened in the House chamber. Lawmakers of both parties rose to applaud the Israeli leader in milder moments in the speech. Security escorted out protesters in the gallery who rose to display T-shirts with slogans demanding that leaders close a deal ending the conflict and freeing hostages.
Netanyahu accused the numerous protesters of the war in the United States of standing with the militants who he said killed babies in Hamas’ attack on Oct. 7. “These protesters that stand with them, they should be ashamed of themselves,” he said.
Netanyahu — who is frequently accused of wading into US politics in favor of conservative and Republican causes — started his remarks with praise of President Joe Biden. But he turned to lavishing praise on former president and current presidential contender Donald Trump “for all he’s done for Israel.”
With criticism against him rising in Israel, too, Netanyahu aimed to portray himself as a statesman respected by Israel’s most important ally. That task is complicated by Americans’ increasingly divided views on Israel and the war, which has emerged as a key issue in the US presidential election.
Tall steel barriers ringed the Capitol Wednesday, and police deployed pepper spray as thousands of protesters rallied near the Capitol, denouncing Netanyahu as a “war criminal” and calling for a ceasefire.
Netanyahu received a warm welcome from House Speaker Mike Johnson and other Republican lawmakers who arranged his speech in the House chamber. Netanyahu received a bipartisan standing ovation before speaking.
The appearance made Netanyahu the first foreign leader to address a joint meeting of Congress four times, surpassing Winston Churchill.
More than 50 Democrats and political independent Bernie Sanders boycotted Netanyahu’s speech. The most notable absence was right behind him: Vice President Kamala Harris, who serves as president of the Senate, said a long-scheduled trip kept her from attending.
The next Democrat in line, Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, declined to attend, so Sen. Ben Cardin, the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, served as “senator pro tempore” in place of her.
Rep. Rashida Tlaib, a Michigan Democrat who has family in the West Bank, sat in the House chamber with a keffiyeh, which she often wears, wrapped over her shoulders. Tlaib was censured last year for her strident criticism of Israel’s conduct in the war.
Republicans said the absence of Harris, the new Democratic front-runner for the presidency, was a sign of disloyalty to an ally. Former President Donald Trump’s running mate, JD Vance, was also a no-show for Netanyahu’s speech, citing the need to campaign.
Netanyahu is scheduled to meet with President Joe Biden and Harris on Thursday, and with Trump at Mar-a-Lago on Friday.
Many in the swelling crowds of demonstrators protested the killings of more than 39,000 Palestinians in the war. Others condemned Netanyahu’s inability to free Israeli and American hostages taken by Hamas and other militants during the Oct. 7 attack that sparked the war.
Support for Israel has long carried political weight in US politics. But the usual warm welcome for Netanyahu’s visits has been diminished this time around by political turmoil, including the assassination attempt against Trump and Biden’s decision not to seek another term.
Many Democrats who support Israel but have been critical of Netanyahu saw the address as a Republican effort to cast itself as the party most loyal.
Many Democrats attended the address despite their criticism of Netanyahu, including Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who called for new elections in Israel in a March floor speech. Schumer, of New York, said then that Netanyahu has “lost his way” and is an obstacle to peace in the region amid the humanitarian crisis in Gaza.
About 60 lawmakers met Wednesday with relatives of those taken hostage by Hamas, and they expressed anger toward Netanyahu. “Because by coming here, he risks making himself the issue, turning the humanitarian issue of the hostages into a political one,” Maya Roman, who had several family members taken hostage, told the lawmakers.
The United States is Israel’s most important ally, arms supplier and source of military aid. Netanyahu’s visit is his first abroad since the war started, and comes under the shadow of arrest warrants sought against him by the International Criminal Court over alleged Israel war crimes against Palestinians. The United States does not recognize the ICC.
The Biden administration says it wants to see Netanyahu focus his visit on helping it complete a deal for a ceasefire and hostage-release. Growing numbers of Israelis accuse Netanyahu of prolonging the war in order to avoid a likely fall from power whenever the conflict ends.
Netanyahu has said his aims for the US visit are to press for freeing hostages held by Hamas and other militants in Gaza, to build support for continuing Israel’s battle against the group, and to argue for continuing to confront Hezbollah in Lebanon and other Iranian-allied groups in the region.
Some Democrats are wary about Netanyahu since he used a 2015 joint address to Congress to denounce then-President Barack Obama’s pending nuclear deal with Iran.
Netanyahu used an appearance early Wednesday to focus on Iran, its nuclear program and its network of armed allies. Iran is “behind the entire axis of terror” that threatens the US and Israel, he said, speaking at a memorial for former Sen. Joe Lieberman.


Putin meets Syria’s Assad in Moscow

Putin meets Syria’s Assad in Moscow
Updated 2 min 49 sec ago
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Putin meets Syria’s Assad in Moscow

Putin meets Syria’s Assad in Moscow
MOSCOW: Russian President Vladimir Putin met Syrian President Bashar Assad in the Kremlin, the president’s press service said on Thursday.
“I am very interested in your opinion on how the situation in the region as a whole is developing,” Putin told Assad. “Unfortunately, there is a tendency toward escalation, we can see that. This also applies directly to Syria.”
The Kremlin said the meeting took place on Wednesday.
“Considering all the events that are taking place in the world as a whole and in the Eurasian region today, our meeting today seems very important to discuss all the details of the development of these events, to discuss possible prospects and scenarios,” Assad told Putin through a Russian translator.

Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress

Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress
Updated 25 July 2024
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Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress

Hamas slams Israel PM for ‘misleading’ speech to US Congress

Hamas said Wednesday that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was “misleading” the international community after he addressed the US Congress and called for expedited military aid to his country.

“Netanyahu’s talk about intensified efforts to return the hostages is a complete lie and misleading Israeli, American and international public opinion, while he is the one who thwarted all efforts aimed at ending the war and concluding a deal to release the prisoners, despite the continuous efforts of mediators from our brothers in Egypt and Qatar,” the Palestinian militant group said in a statement.


Israeli forces retrieve bodies of five hostages from Gaza

Israeli forces retrieve bodies of five hostages from Gaza
Updated 25 July 2024
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Israeli forces retrieve bodies of five hostages from Gaza

Israeli forces retrieve bodies of five hostages from Gaza
  • The army, in a rescue operation, brought to Israel the bodies of hostages Maya Goren and Oren Goldin, the kibbutzim Nir Oz and Nir Yitzhak said in separate statements

JERUSALEM: Israeli forces recovered on Wednesday the bodies of five hostages killed in Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack and held in Gaza since, the Israeli military said.
Maya Goren, a 56-year-old kindergarden teacher, was killed during the attack on her kibbutz, Nir Oz, according to Israeli Army Radio, one of the communities worst hit in the deadly attack in southern Israel that triggered the devastating war.
The other four hostages were two reserve soldiers and two conscript soldiers killed in combat during the Oct. 7 attack, the military said.
Their bodies were retrieved from the area of Khan Younis in southern Gaza, where Israeli forces launched new raids this week.
The five had been listed among 120 hostages still in Gaza, about a third of whom Israel has declared dead in absentia, based on forensic findings, intelligence, interrogations of captured militants, videos and testimony of released hostages.
In a speech to the US Congress on Wednesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said his government was actively engaged in intensive efforts to release the remaining hostages which he was confident would succeed.
An Israeli delegation would participate in talks to secure a Gaza ceasefire and hostage release — mediated by the United States, Egypt and Qatar — next week, an Israeli official said on Wednesday.
Hamas wants a ceasefire agreement to end the war in Gaza, but Netanyahu says the war cannot end before Hamas is defeated.


Hundreds killed in first 10 days of hostilities in south Lebanon

Hundreds killed in first 10 days of hostilities in south Lebanon
Updated 25 July 2024
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Hundreds killed in first 10 days of hostilities in south Lebanon

Hundreds killed in first 10 days of hostilities in south Lebanon
  • Foreign Affairs Committee met with ambassadors from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Britain, and Canada to present the results of the ongoing Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon
  • Hezbollah released a new video recorded by the Hudhud drone within Israel, showcasing footage from inside the Ramat David Air Base

BEIRUT: Thousands of attacks on South Lebanon have resulted in the death of nearly 540 people and hundreds more injured since hostilities began on July 15, according to MP Fadi Alama, the head of the Foreign Affairs Committee in the Lebanese parliament.

The MP said 538 people had died and 1,850 injured in the 5,736 attacks.

The Foreign Affairs Committee met on Wednesday with several ambassadors from the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Britain, and Canada to present the results of the ongoing Israeli attacks on southern Lebanon, as part of preparations for “the government’s work in the post-ceasefire phase.”

MP Alama said that “representatives of diplomatic missions and international organizations were surprised when we talked about 1,800 hectares intentionally burned by the Israeli enemy. They were also surprised by the number of schools that were targeted and the number of students who were unable to complete their education and moved to other places. Additionally, they were informed of the 28,000 new families who have been displaced from areas that are being targeted daily.”

 

 

The parliamentarian said there was urgency for the government to develop a plan and a roadmap as soon as possible.

MP Wael Abu Faour, a member of the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee, stated that “the human, health, urban, agricultural, and environmental losses as a result of Israeli attacks have become enormous. Initial estimates from Lebanese institutions indicate a cost of approximately two $2 billion so far, in addition to other damages and losses.”

Abu Faour said: “This is a new challenge for the Lebanese state that must be dealt with in Lebanon’s Arab and international relations. The state is bankrupt and unable to bear such responsibilities, but at the same time, it cannot abandon its responsibilities towards its citizens regardless of any controversial local political considerations regarding the feasibility of war or its justifications among some parties.”

Hostilities between Hezbollah and the Israeli army continued on Wednesday. According to Israeli media, “43 settlements were evacuated in the north, (and) more than 1,500 buildings, cars, and infrastructure were damaged in the north. Additionally, six industrial zones were affected, and hundreds of businesses were forced to close due to Hezbollah strikes.”

Israel targeted the towns of Kafr Shuba, Tayr Harfa, and Hula on Wednesday with airstrikes and artillery shelling. A raid also targeted a house in the town of Kfar Hammam, leading to its destruction. This small village is located in Hasbaya District on the eastern side of Nabatieh Governorate.

Hezbollah released a new video recorded by the Hudhud drone within Israel, showcasing footage from inside the Ramat David Air Base, located approximately 50 km from the Lebanese border.

According to Hezbollah, “the footage was captured on Tuesday using a drone.”

The new eight-minute video released by Hezbollah showcases several sensitive areas within the base, including aircraft fuel tanks, the headquarters of Squadron 109, an Iron Dome missile defense platform, and ammunition depots. It also reveals the locations of the Squadron 157 and Squadron 105 headquarters. Hezbollah included an image of the base commander’s office, exposing intricate details of the facility.

This is not the first time Hezbollah has employed such tactics. Previously, the group broadcast aerial footage of critical installations captured by similar unmanned aerial vehicles in Haifa and the Golan Heights.

Israeli media reacted strongly, with one outlet stating: “Over eight minutes of Hezbollah video exposing our vulnerability is a disgrace.”

The Israeli military, however, downplayed the incident, claiming the footage was captured by a drone designed solely for photography and did not affect base operations.

A Hezbollah source linked the timing of the video release to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s visit to Washington.

Amid these developments, the Israeli military announced on Wednesday that its “reserve brigade has completed a drill simulating war scenarios in Lebanon.”

Israeli National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir expressed support for a comprehensive war against Hezbollah, stating: “The sooner, the better.”

However, Israel’s Ambassador to Russia Simona Halperin maintained that while Tel Aviv is prepared for military confrontation with Lebanon, it still prefers a diplomatic solution.

She emphasized that Israel is not interested in a large-scale war. “We cannot dismiss a scenario where Israel might be compelled to engage in a wide-ranging war on the northern front,” she added.

Coinciding with Israel’s war rhetoric, the Canadian Embassy in Lebanon issued a renewed advisory to its citizens.

It called on “Canadians, permanent residents, their spouses, and dependent children to heed travel advisories and leave the country while commercial flights are available.”

The embassy emphasized its focus on assisting individuals in obtaining necessary travel documents and keeping families together during this process.

This escalation comes as thousands of Lebanese expatriates with dual citizenship from Canada, the US, and Europe have arrived in Lebanon for summer vacations.