EU ‘concerned’ by Tunisia arrests

EU ‘concerned’ by Tunisia arrests
A picture shows the bar association headquarters in Tunis following a police raid days earlier, on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
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Updated 14 May 2024
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EU ‘concerned’ by Tunisia arrests

EU ‘concerned’ by Tunisia arrests
  • Tunisian authorities ordered Sunday the arrest of two political commentators over critical comments
  • Lawyer Sonia Dahmani was arrested late Saturday after criticizing the state of Tunisia on television

BRUSSELS: The European Union on Tuesday expressed concern over a string of arrests of civil society figures in Tunisia.
Tunisian lawyers on Monday protested and launched a nationwide strike over the arrest of a lawyer and political commentator in a weekend police raid.
Tunisian authorities ordered Sunday the arrest of two political commentators over critical comments, a day after security forces stormed the bar association and took a third pundit into custody.
Lawyer Sonia Dahmani was arrested late Saturday after criticizing the state of Tunisia on television.
“The European Union has followed with concern recent developments in Tunisia, in particular the concomitant arrests of several civil society figures, journalists and political actors,” an EU spokeswoman said.
“Freedoms of expression and association, as well as the independence of the judiciary, are guaranteed by the Tunisian Constitution and constitute the basis of our partnership.”
The clampdown is the latest sign of the authorities tightening control over the country since President Kais Saied began ruling by decree after a sweeping power grab in 2021.
Concern over the situation in Tunisia did not prevent the EU last year from inking a major cooperation deal with the North African state aimed at curbing the flow of migrants across the Mediterranean.


Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades

Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades
Updated 13 June 2024
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Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades

Houthi opening of Taiz road raises hopes of end to blockades
  • Bus driver says the opening of Al-Houban road reminds him of the fall of the Berlin Wall
  • Yemeni government military officials urged the Houthis to unlock the seven city entrances that remain closed

AL-MUKALLA: The besieged Yemen city of Taiz was filled with jubilation on Thursday as people crossed into the city from Houthi-controlled areas for the first time in years.

In a surprise move, the Houthis opened a key road, raising hopes of an end to the militia’s blockade of Yemen’s main city after almost a decade.

The arrival of the first car from Al-Houban in Taiz sparked huge celebrations among hundreds of Yemenis, who crowded the government side of the city to wave the national flag and sing patriotic chants.

Abdul Kareem Shaiban, the head of the government’s delegation at talks with the Houthis, told Arab News that the opening of the Al-Houban-Taiz city road would alleviate over nine years of suffering for local residents. The move would connect the city to Taiz, Ibb, Sanaa, and other Yemeni centers, allow food and supplies to be delivered, and reduce travel costs.

“Today, we were relieved that our families, mothers, sisters and brothers arrived and exited Taiz after the opening of this road and that the family finally united after years of separation,” Shaiban said. He also called on the Houthis not to harass individuals who crossed into their area, to open the city’s remaining blocked exits, and to lift their siege altogether.

The Houthi militia laid siege to the city of Taiz in early 2015 after their forces were unable to seize control due to stiff opposition from Yemeni government troops and allied resistance fighters.

The group barricaded the city’s major exits, posted snipers and laid landmines to prevent civilians from leaving or entering. The blockade has forced more than two million civilians to use perilous dirt tracks to leave or enter the city.

Local and international relief and rights organizations have long chastised the Houthis for impeding the delivery of essential humanitarian supplies and products to the besieged city, driving people to starvation.

As well as the Al-Houban road, they have reopened a route connecting Marib with Sanaa via Al-Bayda and have committed to consider lifting blockades on additional restricted highways. 

Responding to the Houthi proposal, the Yemeni government in Taiz sent bulldozers to clear trees, dunes, and barriers, while deminers cleared landmines from its side of the route.

Abu Mohammed, a bus driver from Taiz, said the opening of the road reminded him of the fall of the Berlin Wall. He added that he could now travel to his mother and other relatives in the countryside in one hour instead of seven, the length of his journey while the road was closed.

“This is an extremely significant event. This year’s Eid (Al-Adha) will be very joyful since I’m bringing my family from the city to see my mother in the countryside,” he told Arab News joyfully.

Other Yemenis from Taiz residing overseas, including politicians, journalists, businesspeople, and activists, expressed similar excitement.

“Thanks to the productive efforts of all serious people, smiles returned today to brighten the faces of the residents of Taiz, with the reopening of the major artery,” Shawki Ahmed Hayel Saeed, a prominent businessman from Taiz, said on X.

At the same time, Yemeni government military officials urged the Houthis to unlock the seven city entrances that remain closed and allow large vehicles carrying food and other supplies to enter the city via the newly opened route.

“This is a partial lifting of the siege on Taiz because the militia only allowed small cars and pedestrians to enter or leave Taiz through this road and does not yet allow trucks or food supplies to enter the city,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni military official in Taiz, told Arab News.


Short circuit caused fire in Kuwait building housing foreign workers: fire service

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
Updated 13 June 2024
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Short circuit caused fire in Kuwait building housing foreign workers: fire service

A picture shows a building which was engulfed by fire, in Kuwait City, on June 12, 2024. (AFP)
  • Those killed were mostly Indians, and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart on Thursday

RIYADH: Kuwait’s fire service said on Thursday that an electrical short circuit caused the blaze that killed 50 people in a building housing foreign workers on Wednesday.

The fire broke out around dawn on Wednesday at the base of the block housing nearly 200 workers in the Mangaf area, south of Kuwait City.

Those killed were mostly Indians, and the Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Kirti Vardhan Singh was received by his Kuwaiti counterpart Sheikh Fahad Yusuf Saud Al-Sabah on Thursday.

Sheikh Fahad expressed his condolences over the tragic incident and Singh thanked Kuwait and its Emir Sheikh Meshal Al-Ahmad Al-Sabah for the help and support extended to the families of those killed and injured in the blaze. 

Kuwaiti authorities said earlier on Thursday that three people had been detained for suspected manslaughter over the fire. 


Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal

Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal
Updated 13 June 2024
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Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal

Israelis and Palestinians are hopeful but cautious over the latest ceasefire proposal
  • Hopes for a ceasefire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment
  • Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group

TEL AVIV: A proposed ceasefire deal between Israel and Hamas is raising hopes that eight months of fighting could soon come to an end. Displaced Palestinians are desperate to return home and rebuild, while Israelis yearn for dozens of captives taken by Hamas to be freed.
The US-backed proposal is the latest serious attempt to wind down the war in Gaza, and while it still faces significant hurdles, negotiations meant to bring it to fruition are ongoing.
But hopes for a ceasefire have been dashed before, and both Palestinians and Israelis are braced for disappointment. Hamas is determined to end the war still standing, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has promised to destroy the militant group before ceasing the fighting.
Here is a look at the hopes, fears and expectations of some in the region as the sides weigh a deal:
‘We want a solution’
With the war displacing 80 percent of Gaza’s population, making much of the urban landscape uninhabitable, and sparking widespread hunger, Palestinians are aching for an end to the hostilities.
“We want a solution. We want to return to our homes. We are tired of this life,” said Salama Abu Al-Qumbuz, a displaced person sheltering in the central Gaza town of Deir Al-Balah.
The fighting, sparked by Hamas’ cross-border attack on Oct. 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel, has killed more than 37,000 Palestinians. Most Palestinians in Gaza have lost at least one relative. Some have lost dozens.
The war, and the multiple failed attempts to secure a ceasefire deal, have deepened despair in the territory, which is compounded by the constant insecurity, the unnerving uncertainty about the future and, for some, the boredom of a life put on hold by the fighting.
Some have lost hope in the negotiations.
“They negotiated a lot, to no avail,” said Etaf Abdel Bari, who was also sheltering in Deir Al-Balah. “We are not a toy in their hands.”
Hostage families want a deal, but some don’t
In Israel, those most desperate for a deal are the families of the hostages held by Hamas and other militant groups.
The Hamas-led militants took some 250 people hostage in their attack, according to Israeli authorities, and after a ceasefire deal in November freed about 100. Around 80 people are still captive, along with the remains of about 40 others. The families have agonized over the fates of their loves ones, many without receiving a sign of life for eight months.
The families and thousands of their supporters gather weekly to demonstrate in support of a deal, arguing that negotiations are the only way to free significant numbers of hostages. And polls show the Israeli public views freeing them through a deal as a priority.
Shahar Mor Zahiro, whose uncle, Abraham Munder, 79, is being held hostage, said he fears this deal may fall through like previous ones.
“We already have like six or seven cycles of hope and despair, hope and despair, but what can we do? We are clinging on to any hope there is,” he said.
There is widespread support for a hostage deal, with tens of thousands of people joining street protests each week.
But among the families of hostages, some oppose a deal that would leave Hamas intact.
Eitan Zeliger is the director of the Tikva Forum, which he says represents about 30 hostage families who oppose freeing their loved ones through a deal that ends the war. Instead, they insist that Israel ramp up military pressure on Hamas to weaken its negotiating position.
“It is long and hard and hell for many hostage families,” he said. “But the families we are in touch with understand that there is no way to return the hostages without war.”
The mothers of soldiers speak out
In the aftermath of Hamas’ attack, Jewish Israelis rallied around the military as it called up hundreds of thousands of reservists to help fight against Hamas. But some voices are emerging, including of the mothers of soldiers, who accuse Netanyahu of dragging out the war to appease his far-right coalition members and keep himself in power.
“I don’t believe the decision-makers,” Noorit Felsenthal Berger, whose 21-year-old son has spent the better part of eight months in Gaza, told Israeli Army Radio Thursday. “I think we need to stop and we have a historic opportunity here,” she said about the proposed deal.
The postwar period is expected to include investigations into the government’s failures before the Oct. 7 attack and could likely lead to new elections at a time when Netanyahu’s popularity has dropped. The army says over 600 soldiers have been killed.
Protests by the mothers of soldiers have in previous wars helped pressure leaders to end the fighting, a movement that has yet to materialize in any significant numbers surrounding the war in Gaza.
That’s in part because there are other relatives of fighters who support continuing the war and balk at a deal that would leave Hamas in place.
The Gvura Forum, which represents some of the families of soldiers killed during the war, said in a letter to Netanyahu earlier this month that if Israel agreed to the proposed deal, it would be surrendering to Hamas without reaching the goals of the war.
“We will not agree that our loved ones serve as a silver platter on which the rule of terror returns to Gaza,” the group wrote.


G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique

G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique
Updated 13 June 2024
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G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique

G7 leaders worried by situation on Lebanon border -draft communique
  • The Western leaders reiterated their unwavering commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace

BORGO EGNAZIA, Italy: Group of Seven leaders are very concerned by the situation on the Israel-Lebanon border and endorse US efforts to secure a ceasefire in the Gaza Strip, according to a draft communique due to be released following this week’s G7 summit.
The statement added that the Western leaders reiterated their unwavering commitment to a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians to live in peace, side-by-side.
In addition, they called on Israel to refrain from a full-scale offensive in Rafah, “in line with their obligations under international law.”


Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce

Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce
Updated 13 June 2024
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Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce

Erdogan calls on US, UN Security Council to pressure Israel on Gaza truce
  • Erdogan said Ankara welcomed any ceasefire proposals that would end the Gaza war

ANKARA: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called on members of the United Nations Security Council, particularly the United States, to pressure Israel into a ceasefire in Gaza after the Council backed a US proposal earlier this week.
Speaking in Madrid alongside Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez, Erdogan said Ankara welcomed any ceasefire proposals that would end the Gaza war, adding Washington’s stance on Israel’s operations there were “truly upsetting” Turkiye.