Category: Arabian Peninsula


June 15, 2017

Co-founder of Algeria’s Islamic Salvation Front, Sheikh Ali Belhadj, has criticized the siege imposed by a number of Gulf and Arab countries on Qatar.

In an interview with Quds Press, Belhadj strongly criticized the involvement of Islamic institutions and using them to achieve political purposes against the State of Qatar.

“The involvement of the Muslim World League, with the aim of gaining legitimacy for the siege against Qatar, is an insult to this institution and to the teachings of Islam which refuse such behavior in the holy month of Ramadan,” he said.

The Muslim World League should have remained neutral towards this dispute and sought to heal the rift instead of involving itself in such a way.

Belhadj pointed out that Qatar is not the target of the blockade, but the aim is to strike every Arab or Islamic country that wants to support the oppressed or the Palestinian cause.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-algerias-belhadj-slams-boycott-of-qatar/.

June 15, 2017

King Salman of Saudi Arabia has given Pakistan’s prime minister an ultimatum over Qatar. In an attempt to force Nawaz Sharif to take sides, the monarch jibed, “Are you with us or with Qatar?” the Express Tribune has reported.

The king posed the question during a meeting between the two leaders in Jeddah on Monday as part of the effort to find a diplomatic solution to the Qatar crisis. “Pakistan has told Saudi Arabia it will not take sides in the brewing diplomatic crisis in the Middle East after Riyadh asked Islamabad ‘are you with us or with Qatar’,” the newspaper pointed out.

Pakistan has been treading a careful path since Saudi and other Gulf countries cut diplomatic ties with Qatar. However, the Saudi government wants Pakistan to side with the kingdom.

Citing a senior government official, who was briefed on the talks at the monarch’s palace in Jeddah, the Express Tribune said that Pakistan would not take sides in any event that would create divisions within the Muslim world. “Nevertheless, in order to placate Saudi Arabia, Pakistan offered to use its influence over Qatar to defuse the situation. For this purpose, the prime minister will undertake visits to Kuwait, Qatar and Turkey,” the newspaper added.

Sharif traveled to Jeddah accompanied by army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa and other senior officials to discuss the emerging situation in the Gulf. It is thought that Prime Minister Sharif’s mediation visit to Saudi did not achieve any immediate breakthrough.

According to an official statement, Sharif met King Salman in Jeddah and urged an early resolution of the impasse in Gulf in the best interest of all Muslims.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170615-saudi-king-gives-pakistans-prime-minister-an-ultimatum-over-qatar/.

June 14, 2017

Jordan’s economy has incurred losses worth $2 million since a closure of the Saudi land borders last week against the Jordanian exports heading to Qatar as a result of the Gulf diplomatic rift.

On 5 June, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain severed diplomatic ties with Qatar and began an economic blockade against the Gulf state. Jordan later joined the move by announcing a reduction in diplomatic representation with Qatar.

According to sources at Jordan’s Exporters and Producers Association for Fruits and Vegetables, Jordanian traders who have previously signed exporting contracts with Qatar, started exporting their products by air.

Jordanian shipments’ volume to the Gulf state has also dropped to 90 tons per day, down from 600 tons per day before the blockade.

According to Al Jazeera, Saudi Arabia has prevented the entry of 85 Jordanian trucks loaded with vegetables and fruits, and over 10 trucks which were loaded with livestock heading to Qatar, following the rift.

Qatar has begun pursuing alternative routes and agreeing on new deals with other countries to counter the blockade imposed by most of its neighboring Arab states. Turkey was ready to help resolve the dispute, according to the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, while Iranian officials have offered to send food to Qatar by sea.

Moreover the Danish company, A.P. Moller-Maersk A/S, which owns the world’s biggest container line, has worked to bypass the transport ban imposed on Qatar by using alternative routes. Last Friday, it announced that it would begin container shipments to Qatar via Oman, avoiding trade restrictions imposed on the Gulf state by Arab countries.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20170614-jordan-plunges-into-economic-crisis-following-qatar-blockade/.

January 11, 2017

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban say they did not plant the bomb in southern Afghanistan that wounded the United Arab Emirates’ ambassador and other diplomats the day before. They issued a short statement on Wednesday, blaming an “internal local rivalry” for the attack at the Kandahar governor’s guesthouse that killed five people and wounded 12.

The Taliban claimed attacks earlier on Tuesday in Kabul that killed at least 38 people and wounded dozens. The Taliban have denied some attacks in the past — attacks that diplomats and security forces later attributed to the group.

Tuesday’s Kandahar assault wounded Gov. Homayun Azizia, as well as UAE Ambassador Juma Mohammed Abdullah al-Kaabi and what Emirati officials described as “a number of Emirati diplomats.” Emirati officials did not respond to a request for comment.

SANAA (BNO NEWS) — Tens of thousands of people protested across Yemen on Thursday to urge the international community to support their demands as tensions continue to escalate in the conflict-ridden country, according to media reports.

Anti-government protesters took to the streets of the Yemeni capital Sana’a and other provinces to send a message to the international community to support their demands of change, freedom and a civil state. The uprising against President Ali Abdullah Saleh has claimed at least 1,500 lives since February.

The United Nations is trying to persuade President Saleh to sign the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) brokered deal – which he refused to ink three times previously. Saleh has repeatedly said he is committed to the deal, though he has so far refused to sign it, the DPA news agency reported.

The GCC-proposed plan includes guarantees that Saleh will not be prosecuted after his resignation within 30 days from the acceptance date. It also calls to hold presidential elections within two months from the date of Saleh’s departure as well as the establishment of a new government within 90 days.

Tensions have further escalated since Saleh returned to Yemen after spending more than three months in Saudi Arabia to recover from injuries he sustained in a rocket attack which hit the mosque of the presidential palace in Sanaa on June 3. On Saturday, Saleh said he is planning to leave power ‘in the coming days’, although a ruling party official immediately said that Saleh has no intention to leave.

(Copyright 2011 by BNO News B.V. All rights reserved.)

Thursday, October 13th, 2011

Source: WireUpdate (BNO News).

Link: http://wireupdate.com/news/thousands-of-yemenis-demand-international-support.html.

Paris (AFP)

Aug 18, 2016

Doctors Without Borders (MSF) on Thursday said it was evacuating its staff from six hospitals in northern Yemen after 19 people were killed in an air strike on one of its facilities earlier this week.

Monday’s Saudi-led coalition strike on Abs hospital in the rebel-held province of Hajja was the fourth and deadliest attack yet on an MSF facility in war-torn Yemen, according to the charity.

The decision to pull staff out “is never taken lightly”, the Paris-based aid agency said in a statement, accusing the coalition of “indiscriminate bombings and unreliable reassurances”.

“Given the intensity of the current offensive and our loss of confidence in the SLC’s (Saudi-led coalition’s) ability to prevent such fatal attacks, MSF considers the hospitals in Saada and Hajjah governorates unsafe for both patients and staff,” it added.

The hospitals will continue to be manned by local workers and volunteers, MSF said.

Yemen has been gripped by unrest since Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels and allied loyalists of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh overran the capital Sanaa in September 2014.

The violence increased after a Saudi-led Arab coalition launched a military campaign in March last year to help shore up the government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The coalition stepped up its air strikes this month after UN-mediated peace talks between the rebels and Yemen’s internationally backed government were suspended.

– ‘Indiscriminate attacks’ –

Monday’s bombing of Abs hospital drew international condemnation, prompting the coalition to announce an independent investigation into the attack.

MSF said it had shared the hospital’s GPS coordinates with all parties involved in the conflict.

“Coalition officials repeatedly state that they honour international humanitarian law, yet this attack shows a failure to control the use of force and to avoid attacks on hospitals full of patients,” it said.

“MSF is neither satisfied nor reassured by the SLC’s statement that this attack was a mistake.”

It also accused all sides in Yemen’s war of “indiscriminate attacks without any respect for civilians”.

One MSF worker was among those killed in the Abs hospital attack, while another 24 people were wounded.

The group’s emergency coordinator Laurent Sury told AFP that “several dozen” international and Yemeni MSF workers were affected by the decision to pull out of the six hospitals.

“Our aim is to open programs, not close them, especially considering the enormous needs in the north,” he said. “But today, the minimum security conditions can no longer be guaranteed.”

He said that civilians were paying a heavy price in the conflict.

“Today in Yemen, you risk your life when you seek out care, whether you are a pregnant woman needing a Cesarean or child requiring antibiotics.”

The hospital strike was the latest in a series of coalition raids that have allegedly hit civilian facilities — including a school in the rebel stronghold of Saada on Saturday where 10 children were killed.

The UN says more than 6,500 people, mostly civilians, have been killed since last March and more than 80 percent of the population needs humanitarian aid.

Source: Space War.

Link: http://www.spacewar.com/reports/MSF_evacuates_staff_from_6_Yemen_hospitals_after_air_strike_999.html.

Wednesday 25 May 2016

Taiz, YEMEN – The national tricolor of Yemen could not be seen in Taiz on this year’s unity day, and its people did not celebrate. The government-in-exile cancelled Sunday’s events in answer to those planned by their Houthi enemies in the capital, Sanaa.

Instead, new flags were flying for a growing movement – the Republic of Taiz – and traditional celebrations were replaced by local protests calling for independence.

Such is the mood in Taiz, scarred by a year of war, neglected by the government and its Saudi backers, shunned by southern separatists and under siege by the Houthis, that many feel their only answer is to go it alone.

The republican movement has taken root among residents and those fighting the Houthis – the local “Popular Resistance” and regular army troops who ostensibly back the government-in-exile of President Abd Rabbuh Hadi.

And their feelings have been made known. Their red, blue and yellow flag can now be seen fluttering from many military vehicles in the city of Taiz, and protests are regularly held by civilians.

Farouq al-Samei, an independence activist in Taiz, told Middle East Eye: “When I saw the Houthis killing the civilians of my city and no one helped, I decided to demand independence.

“All sides had disappointed Taiz – even those injured in the war have been denied help. We demand independence, and then we can develop our country.”

Samei said resistance fighters and the military were at the forefront of the movement, which would push their plan after the Houthis were defeated.

“In 2011 we supported Hadi, and he did not help us. In 2015 we fought for Hadi, and again he did not help us. We will not fight for Hadi again, we are fighting for liberation, and then we will build our own country.”

“We changed our loyalty, we are loyalists to the Republic of Taiz and not Yemen, and we do not care about the north or the south, we only care about Taiz.”

Taiz faces isolation despite being caught in the nexus of Yemen’s year-long civil war. It has been besieged by Houthi fighters for months, and reinforcements from the Saudi-led coalition have never arrived.

The secessionist Southern Movement, based in Aden, has refused aid to Taiz and continues to send undocumented “northerners” back to a war zone if they are found in its territory.

On Thursday, independence activists staged their first public demonstration in Jamal Street, in the center of Taiz city. Although the protest was small, military vehicles were decked with the new standard, suggesting tacit if not outright support from military leaders.

A soldier in Taiz city told MEE: “I have been fighting the Houthis for more than one year. The Yemeni government and the coalition forces did not send enough military reinforcements for us.

“Meanwhile, the southern authorities did not allow our injured friends to recover in Aden’s hospitals. I will not fight for the sake of Hadi or his government any more, but I will fight for Taiz.”

He could not give his name for fear his leadership would revoke his pay.

Activists say the new republic would encompass “al-Ganad” – Taiz province and surrounding areas such as Ibb, and some areas from al-Dhale and Lahj provinces.

Their plan mirrors agreements made in the national transition period after the fall of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2011, which envisaged the division of Yemen into six regions as a solution to growing calls for independence in the former South Yemen.

The Houthis cancelled the plan, agreed by the National Dialogue Conference, when they took over Sanaa and kicked out President Hadi, Saleh’s replacement.

The Houthis and Hadi government are currently locked in UN-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait, which special envoy Ahmed Ould-Sheikh on Wednesday said was “closer” to an agreement to end more than a year of full-blown war.

“We are in a stage where the parties have to make hard choices and compromises,” the diplomat said, adding that he was “very optimistic” that a deal could be reached.

However, a report released by the London-based Chatham House think tank warned on Wednesday that Yemen faces dissolving into a “chaos state” of small wars over local issues and grievances that would be unresolved by “elite-level” talks in Kuwait.

“In the event of an end to the ‘big war’, a replication of past patterns of behavior – focusing on the dynamics and ignoring localized issues – will most likely result in Yemen collapsing into a multitude of small wars,” the report said.

Taiz is one such localized issue.

Fadhl al-Rabei, a political analyst, said while independence for Taiz was not likely, the demand would nevertheless send a message to the world that Taiz was fighting alone.

Division was “the best solution” for war-torn Yemen, he added, noting Taiz was not the only area calling for independence.

The Tehama movement has grown in popularity in Hodeida province and its surrounding areas in recent years, with grievances similar to Taiz such as neglect by the government.

“The Southern Movement demands independence, the Tehama movement demands independence for Tehama, as does Taiz. These parts of Yemen can be divided into regions, and this will be the best solution,” he added.

However, the movement in Taiz is still only grassroots. Many of the province’s political parties support the Hadi government, meaning their hands are tied.

The leaders of the Popular Resistance, meanwhile, are publicly against the movement. Nael al-Adimi, a leader in Taiz city, called those involved “traitors” and a threat to the common defense of the province.

He stated that all Taiz residents must first expel the Houthis, before any other project can be discussed.

“We will not support such a ridiculous project,” he said.

“There are some traitors in Taiz trying to divide the Popular Resistance with their new projects, which are not in the interests of Taiz, and the Republic of Taiz is one of them.”

Source: Middle East Eye.

Link: http://www.middleeasteye.net/news/republic-taiz-yemen-resistance-1769604821.

May 18, 2016

The Yemeni government delegation on Tuesday has walked out of talks in Kuwait saying rebels insist on power sharing in violation of UN resolutions.

A source in the government delegation told Anadolu news agency that the delegation will issue a formal statement later in the day adding that the delegation intends to stay in Kuwait.

Yemen’s Saba News Agency (state owned) reported Foreign Minister, Abdulmalek Al-Mikhlafi who heads the government delegation as saying that he had asked UN envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to oblige the rebels to respect the negotiations references as precondition to return.

Anadolu news agency reported sources close to the talks earlier as saying that the rebels had asked to transfer President Hadi powers to a transitional council which includes them before they withdraw from cities they control.

According to sources the rebels have also asked to respect the peace and partnership agreement signed in September, 21 2014.

President Hadi has described the agreement void after moving to Aden in February 2015, saying it was signed under force of arms.

Meanwhile, the UN envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed on Monday said the two sides were still discussing the best way to reach a peaceful solution in Yemen after nearly 4 weeks of fruitless talks.

Source: Middle East Monitor.

Link: https://www.middleeastmonitor.com/20160518-yemeni-government-delegation-pulls-out-of-kuwait-consultations/.

25 April 2016 Monday

Yemeni troops have recaptured a key port city from Al-Qaeda militants who held it for a year, in what a Saudi-led coalition hailed Monday as a major victory in which over 800 fighters were killed.

The assault on the southeastern city of Mukalla, home to some 200,000 people, was part of a wider counter-offensive against the Sunni extremists launched by pro-government forces last month after a year in which they had focused their firepower on Shiite Huthi rebels who control the capital.

It comes as government and rebel delegations hold peace talks in Kuwait and after US President Barack Obama during a visit to Saudi Arabia called for a negotiated settlement that would enable both sides to turn their attention on Al-Qaeda.

At the talks, which opened last Thursday, UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said that “significant differences… remain but nonetheless there is consensus on the need to make peace”.

The peace talks and Obama visit have contributed to a change in “strategic priorities”, with Al-Qaeda back at the top, according to the Soufan Group consultancy.

The rebels’ Yemen-based branch, Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), is regarded by Washington as their most dangerous and the group’s militants have come under repeated US air and drone strikes in and around Mukalla.

The rebels used the area as a base to plan attacks overseas, including a January 2015 assault on French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that killed 12 people in Paris.

“We entered the city center and were met by no resistance from Al-Qaeda militants who withdrew west,” a military officer told AFP by telephone from Mukalla.

The officer, who requested anonymity, said residents had appealed to the rebels to spare the city the destruction of fighting and to withdraw.

Qaeda car bombing

Government troops were backed by special forces from Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as coalition air strikes, commanders said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Loyalist forces also recaptured a swathe of the adjacent Arabian Sea coast, including the city of Shihr and its Mina al-Dhaba oil terminal as well as Mukalla’s Riyan airport.

“The operation resulted… in the deaths of more than 800 Al-Qaeda members and some of their leaders, while some others fled,” the coalition commanders said.

The death toll could not be independently confirmed and no indication was given of any civilian casualties.

Mukalla is one of a number of southern cities that Al-Qaeda had overrun since the Saudi-led coalition launched its military intervention in March last year when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into exile after the Iran-backed rebels seized much of the country.

The rebels overran two other provincial capitals further west — Huta, which government forces recaptured last week, and Zinjibar which they entered late on Saturday, only to beat a tactical retreat.

An Al-Qaeda car bomb killed seven soldiers and wounded 14 as they were entering Zinjibar on Sunday triggering the pullback, military sources said.

“The withdrawal was decided following information that Al-Qaeda was preparing other car bomb attacks against our troops,” an officer in the province told AFP.

The counter-offensive against the rebels has come as a fragile April 11 ceasefire between pro-government forces and the rebels firms up.

US drone war

Washington, which has provided reconnaissance and refueling support for the coalition air campaign, had put mounting pressure on coalition leaders to call a halt and seek a negotiated settlement.

Obama joined a Gulf summit last week and Pentagon chief Ashton Carter also held talks with Gulf counterparts.

Washington has been waging a drone war against AQAP since November 2002, when it killed the suspected mastermind of an October 2000 bombing of a US destroyer that killed 17 sailors in the southern port of Aden.

In April last year, a US air strike killed AQAP commander Nasser bin Ali al-Ansi, who claimed responsibility for the Charlie Hebdo attack in a video, outside the presidential palace in Mukalla where the rebels had set up base.

Last month, an air strike on an AQAP training camp in Hajr, west of Mukalla, killed more than 70 rebels, provincial officials said.

During its year-long rule in Mukalla, AQAP imposed its strict interpretation of sharia law forbidding consumption of the mild narcotic qat, a mainstay of Yemeni social life, and demolishing the tombs of revered Sufi mystics.

Source: World Bulletin.

Link: http://www.worldbulletin.net/middle-east/171969/yemeni-forces-recapture-key-port-city.