Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis

Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, likely because of a yearslong United Nations arms embargo on the rebels. (AFP)
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Updated 15 March 2024
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Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis

Yemen’s Houthis reported to have a hypersonic missile, possibly raising stakes in Red Sea crisis
  • Abdul Malik Al-Houthi said the militia will start hitting ships heading toward the Cape of Good Hope in Africa’s southern tip

DUBAI, UAE: Yemen’s Houthis claim to have a new, hypersonic missile in their arsenal, Russia’s state media reported Thursday, potentially raising the stakes in their attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and surrounding waterways against the backdrop of Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
The report by the state-run RIA Novosti news agency cited an unidentified official but provided no evidence for the claim. It comes as Moscow maintains an aggressively counter-Western foreign policy amid its grinding war on Ukraine.
However, the Houthis have for weeks hinted about “surprises” they plan for the battles at sea to counter the United States and its allies, which have so far been able to down any missile or bomb-carrying drone that comes near their warships in Mideast waters.
On Thursday, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi, the Houthis’ secretive supreme leader, said the militia will start hitting ships heading toward the Cape of Good Hope in Africa’s southern tip. Until now, the militia has largely struck ships heading into the Red Sea toward the Suez Canal, and such an escalation would target the longer, alternative route used by some vessels. It remains unclear how they would carry any possible assault out.
Meanwhile, Iran and the US reportedly held indirect talks in Oman, the first in months amid their long-simmering tensions over Tehran’s rapidly advancing nuclear program and attacks by its proxies.
Iran, the Houthis’ main benefactor, claims to have a hypersonic missile and has widely armed the militia with the missiles it now uses. Adding a hypersonic missile to their arsenal could pose a more formidable challenge to the air defense systems employed by America and its allies, including Israel.
“The group’s missile forces have successfully tested a missile that is capable of reaching speeds of up to Mach 8 and runs on solid fuel,” a military official close to the Houthis said, according to the RIA report. The Houthis “intend to begin manufacturing it for use during attacks in the Red Sea and the Gulf of Aden, as well as against targets in Israel.”
Mach 8 is eight times the speed of sound.
Hypersonic weapons, which fly at speeds higher than Mach 5, could pose crucial challenges to missile defense systems because of their speed and maneuverability.
Ballistic missiles fly on a trajectory in which anti-missile systems like the US-made Patriot can anticipate their path and intercept them. The more irregular the missile’s flight path, such as a hypersonic missile with the ability to change directions, the more difficult it becomes to intercept.
China is believed to be pursuing the weapons, as is America. Russia claims it has already used them.
In Yemen, Abdul Malik Al-Houthi boasted that his fighters “continue to expand the effectiveness and scope of our operations to areas and locations the enemy never expects.” He said they would prevent ships “connected to the Israeli enemy even crossing the Indian Ocean ... heading toward the Cape of Good Hope.”
The Houthis have attacked ships since November, saying they want to force Israel to end its offensive in Gaza, launched in response to Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel. The ships targeted by the Houthis, however, have increasingly had little or no connection to Israel, the US or other nations involved in the war. The militia has also fired missiles toward Israel, though they have largely fallen short or been intercepted.
The Houthis don’t have a navy, nor weapons reaching into the far distances of the Indian Ocean, making their Cape of Good Hope threat difficult. However, Iran is suspected of targeting Israeli-linked vessels previously in the Indian Ocean. The Houthis have claimed attacks assessed to have been carried out by Iran in the past, such as the 2019 attack on Saudi Arabia that temporarily halved its oil production.
After seizing Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in 2014, the Houthis ransacked government arsenals, which held Soviet-era Scud missiles and other arms.
As the Saudi-led coalition entered Yemen’s conflict on behalf of its exiled government in 2015, the Houthis’ arsenal was increasingly targeted. Soon — and despite Yemen having no indigenous missile manufacturing infrastructure — newer missiles made their way into militia’s hands.
Iran long has denied arming the Houthis, likely because of a yearslong United Nations arms embargo on the militia. However, the US and its allies have seized multiple arms shipments bound for the rebels in Mideast waters. Weapons experts as well have tied Houthi arms seized on the battlefield back to Iran.
Iran also now claims to have a hypersonic weapon. In June, Iran unveiled its Fattah, or “Conqueror” in Farsi, missile, which it described as being a hypersonic. It described another as being in development.
Iran’s mission to the UN did not respond to a request for comment Thursday. Asked about the hypersonic claim, Pentagon spokesperson Sabrina Singh said: “We have no indication that they even have that capability.”
Israel’s military declined to comment.
Also Thursday, The Financial Times reported that the US and Iran held indirect talks in Oman in January that America hoped would curtail the Red Sea attacks. The last known round of such talks had come last May.
Iran’s state-run IRNA news agency indirectly acknowledged the talks but insisted they were “merely limited to negotiations on lifting anti-Iran sanctions.”
The US State Department did not deny the January talks took place in a statement to The Associated Press, saying: “We have many channels for passing messages to Iran.”
“Since Oct. 7, all of (the communications) have been focused on raising the full range of threats emanating from Iran and the need for Iran to cease its across-the-board escalation,” it added.
The assaults on shipping have raised the profile of the Houthis, whose Zaydi people ruled a 1,000-year kingdom in Yemen up until 1962. Adding a new weapon increases that cachet and puts more pressure on Israel after a ceasefire deal failed to take hold in Gaza before the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.
Earlier in March, a Houthi missile struck a commercial ship in the Gulf of Aden, killing three of its crew members and forcing survivors to abandon the vessel. It marked the first fatal attack by the Houthis on shipping.
Other recent Houthi actions include an attack last month on a cargo ship carrying fertilizer, the Rubymar, which later sank after drifting for several days.
A new suspected Houthi attack targeted a ship in the Gulf of Aden on Thursday, but missed the vessel and caused no damage, the British military’s United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said. A later attack similarly missed a vessel in the Red Sea off Yemen’s port city of Hodeida, the center said early Friday.
Fabian Hinz, a missile expert and research fellow at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, said he wouldn’t be surprised if Iran transferred a new, hypersonic weapon to the Houthis. However, the question is how maneuverable such a weapon would be at hypersonic speeds and whether it could hit moving targets, like ships in the Red Sea.
“I wouldn’t exclude the possibility that the Houthis have some system that has some maneuvering capability to some extent,” Hinz said. “It is also possible for the Iranians to transfer new stuff for the Houthis to test it.”


Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April

Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April
Updated 5 sec ago
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Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April

Dubai ruler announces $8bn stormwater runoff system after record floods in April
DUBAI: Dubai ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum on Monday announced an $8 billion plan for a stormwater runoff system, two months after an unprecedented deluge and widespread flooding.
The rainwater drainage network announced by Sheikh Mohammed on social media platform X is set to be completed by 2033 with construction to start immediately.
“It will cover all areas of Dubai and will absorb more than 20 million cubic meters of water per day,” Sheikh Mohammed said of the plan.
It “will increase the capacity of rainwater drainage in the emirate by 700 percent and enhance the emirate’s readiness to face future climate challenges,” he said, calling it the region’s largest such network.
Record rains lashed the UAE on April 16, flooding homes and turning streets into rivers. The downpour, worsened by a lack of storm drains, caused delays at Dubai airport, the world’s busiest for international passengers.
The rainfall was the UAE’s heaviest since records began 75 years ago.Without drainage for excess water, authorities relied on trucks to pump up the water with giant hoses and drive it away.
The World Weather Attribution group said global warming caused by fossil fuel emissions “most likely” exacerbated the intense rains that also hit the neighboring sultanate of Oman, where 21 people died.
The UAE government announced $544 million to repair homes of Emirati families impacted by the flooding.
“We learned great lessons in dealing with severe rains,” said Sheikh Mohammed after a cabinet meeting in April, adding that ministers approved “two billion dirhams to deal with damage to the homes of citizens.”
* With AFP

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims
Updated 31 min 5 sec ago
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Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims

Foreign diplomats tour Beirut airport after weapons claims
  • On Sunday, British daily The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was storing missiles and rockets at Beirut airport
  • “The airport adheres to international standards,” said Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, who led the visit
BEIRUT: Senior Lebanese officials on Monday defended procedures at Beirut airport during a tour for journalists and diplomats, a day after a British daily alleged Hezbollah was storing weapons at the facility.
The accusations came during escalating exchanges of fire and bellicose rhetoric between Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Israeli forces, which have engaged in near-daily fire since war in Gaza began.
Hezbollah has been acting in support of its Palestinian ally Hamas since the militant group’s October 7 attack on Israel that sparked the Gaza war.
On Sunday, British daily The Telegraph reported that Hezbollah was storing missiles and rockets at Beirut airport, where “whistleblowers” had reported the arrival of “unusually big boxes” from Iran.
Hezbollah has not made any official comment.
“The airport adheres to international standards,” said Transport Minister Ali Hamieh, who led the visit together with Lebanon’s ministers for foreign affairs, tourism and information.
Representatives from foreign missions including Egypt, Germany and the European Union delegation joined the tour of the airport’s warehouse facilities.
Hamieh on Sunday held a press conference to reject The Telegraph report as false and “to say that there are no weapons entering or leaving Beirut.” He invited ambassadors and reporters for the tour.
At the airport, Hamieh described The Telegraph report as part of “psychological war” on Lebanon and said it was a “distortion of the reputation” of Lebanon’s only international airport.
The tour “included an import and export center... that accounts for 20 percent of the import traffic and is concerned with services for Iranian planes which were the subject of The Telegraph report,” Hamieh said.
Another warehouse accounted for the remaining 80 percent of imports and exports, he told a press conference.
Israel has for years accused Hezbollah of keeping weapons in installations throughout Lebanon, including near Beirut airport, an accusation Hezbollah has denied.
Israel bombed Beirut airport when it last went to war with Hezbollah in 2006.
Beirut airport manager Fadi El-Hassan said all aircraft arriving at the facility, including Iranian planes, “are subject to the same customs procedures.”
Egyptian ambassador Alaa Moussa said that while diplomats were not responsible for inspecting the airport for prohibited items, “our presence (at the tour) is a message of support” to Lebanon and “a message to all parties that what is needed... is calm.”
More than eight months of exchanges of fire between Hezbollah and Israeli forces have left at least 481 people dead in Lebanon, mostly fighters, but also including 94 civilians, according to an AFP tally.
Israeli authorities say at least 15 soldiers and 11 civilians have been killed in the country’s north.

Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
Updated 24 June 2024
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Medics aim to screen thousands of Gaza children for malnutrition

A malnourished Palestinian boy receives treatment at the International Medical Corps field hospital in Deir Al-Balah.
  • IMC and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign

DEIR AL-BALAH, Gaza Strip: Medics in Gaza said on Monday they were working to step up screening of young children for severe malnutrition amid fears that hunger is spreading as people flee to new areas.
Aid group International Medical Corps (IMC) and partners are planning to reach more than 200,000 children under 5 years old as part of a ‘Find and Treat’ campaign, one of its doctors, Mumawwar Said, told Reuters by phone.
“With the displacement, communities are settling in new locations that do not have access to clean water, or there is not adequate access to food,” he said. “We fear there are more cases being missed.”
Over the weekend, families were already coming into an IMC clinic in the central city of Deir Al-Balah, opened after the agency said it had to shut down two centers in the southern city of Rafah due to insecurity.
Five-year-old Jana Ayad had weighed just 9 kilograms when she arrived, suffering from diarrhea and vomiting, Nutrition Officer Raghda Ibrahim Qeshta told Reuters as she carefully held the child.
“My daughter was dying in front of me,” said Nasma Ayad as she sat next to the bed. “I didn’t know what to do.”
Jana had started putting on some weight after treatment, medics said, but she was still painfully thin with her ribs showing as she lay listlessly in her bunny pyjamas.
Staff can gauge nutrition levels by measuring the circumference of children’s arms. During a Reuters cameraman’s short visit at least two of the measurements were in the yellow band, indicating a risk of malnutrition.
A group of UN-led aid agencies estimates that around 7 percent of Gazan children may be acutely malnourished, compared with 0.8 percent before the Israel-Hamas conflict began on Oct. 7.
Until now the worst of severe hunger has been in the north, with a UN-backed report warning of imminent famine in March.
But aid workers worry it could spread to central and southern areas due to the upheaval around Rafah that has displaced more than 1 million people and constrained supply flows through southern corridors.
Israel launched its military operation in Gaza after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 hostage, according to Israeli tallies.
It says it has expanded efforts to facilitate aid flows into Gaza and blames international aid agencies for distribution problems inside the enclave.


UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
Updated 24 June 2024
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UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency

UNRWA chief urges pushback against efforts to disband Palestinian agency
  • UNRWA’s Philippe Lazzarini: ‘If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system’
  • Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack

GENEVA: The head of the United Nations Palestinian refugee agency (UNRWA) on Monday called on partners to fight back against efforts by Israel to have the organization disbanded as it provides humanitarian assistance to Gaza and across the region.
“Israel has long been critical of the agency’s mandate. But it now seeks to end UNRWA’s operations, dismissing the agency’s status as a United Nations entity supported by an overwhelming majority of member states,” UNRWA chief Philippe Lazzarini said at a meeting of the agency’s advisory commission in Geneva.
“If we do not push back, other UN entities and international organizations will be next, further undermining our multilateral system.”
The Israeli diplomatic mission in Geneva had no immediate comment.
Lazzarini said the agency, which has provided essential aid to Gazans throughout Israel’s offensive, was “staggering under the weight of relentless attacks.”
“In Gaza, the agency has paid a terrible price: 193 UNRWA personnel have been killed,” he said.
“More than 180 installations have been damaged or destroyed, killing at least 500 people seeking United Nations protection...Our premises have been used for military purposes by Israel, Hamas and other Palestinian armed groups.”
Lazzarini said the agency was being subjected to a “concerted effort” to dismantle it, including through legislative initiatives threatening to evict the agency from its compound and labelling UNRWA as a terrorist organization.
Several countries halted their funding to UNRWA following accusations by Israel that some of the agency’s staff were involved in the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that triggered the Gaza war. Most donors have since resumed their funding.
Lazzarini said that UNRWA still lacked the necessary resources to fulfil its mandate.
“The agency’s ability to operate beyond August will depend on member states disbursing planned funds and providing new contributions to the core budget,” he said.
Established in 1949 following the first Arab-Israeli war, UNRWA provides services including schooling, primary health care and humanitarian aid in Gaza, the West Bank, Jordan, Syria and Lebanon.


Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
Updated 24 June 2024
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Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say

Palestinian unity talks in China postponed, Palestinian officials say
  • Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.

CAIRO: Reconciliation talks between the rival Palestinian factions Hamas and Fatah due to be held in China this month have been delayed and no new date has been set, Hamas and Fatah officials told Reuters on Monday.
After hosting a meeting of Palestinian factions in April, China said Fatah — which is led by President Mahmoud Abbas — and Hamas had expressed the will to seek reconciliation through unity talks in Beijing. Fatah and Hamas officials had previously said the meeting would take place in mid-June.