Yemen Army foils Houthi attempt to take over Taiz

The city of Taiz has seen the bloodiest battles between government forces and the militias since early 2015. (AFP)
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Updated 14 February 2020

Yemen Army foils Houthi attempt to take over Taiz

  • Several Iranian-backed militants killed while trying to lay siege on city

AL-MUKALLA: Dozens of Houthi militants have been killed in Yemen’s southern city of Taiz as the Iran-backed militias push to break army’s lines of defenses and to reimpose their siege on the city, an army spokesperson told Arab News on Wednesday.

Col. Abdul Basit Al-Baher said attacks on government forces on all fronts around the city had escalated in an attempt to make a major breakthrough.

“The national army has foiled all attempts to make gains,” Al-Baher said, adding that loyalist forces had also shelled a Houthi training camp in the west of the city.

The city of Taiz has seen the bloodiest battles between government forces and the militias since early 2015, when the rebels moved a large number of forces from Sanaa to bring the city under their control. 

Despite their numerical advantage, the Houthis failed to push into the city’s downtown area, limiting them to the outskirts where they imposed a siege that brought Taiz to the edge of starvation.

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Despite their numerical advantage, the Houthis failed to push into the city’s downtown area, limiting them to the outskirts where they imposed a siege that brought Taiz to the edge of starvation.

Government forces have managed to recapture the western edge of the city and reopened a strategic road that linked the city with the southern port of Aden, which enabled the government to funnel vital humanitarian and military supplies to the city’s inhabitants.

Al-Baher said the Houthis had launched simultaneous attacks on the edges of the city for the first time in months.

“Their recent attacks have focused on all fronts around the city,” he said, adding that at least 59 Houthis and nine loyalists were killed in the latest clashes. Al-Baher also said that if the Houthis successfully laid siege again, it would put the lives of tens of thousands of people at risk.

In the southern province of Abyan, a government soldier was killed and several others injured when missiles fired by militiamen exploded inside their military base in the district of Lawder on Tuesday, local media said.

Fighting was also reported in the northern province of Jawf, where government forces attacked Houthi positions under air cover from the Saudi-led coalition.

Hospitals attacked

Local health authorities in the province of Marib have said that three health facilities, out of the region’s 12, had been completely destroyed by Houthi shelling over the last five years.

The remaining nine facilities had all been damaged by fighting, and seven health workers had been killed in different districts in Marib, according to the provincial office of the Ministry of Health.

Houthi missile and mortar fire has killed hundreds of civilians and soldiers in Marib over the last several months.


Iran sentences alleged US spies to up to 10 years in prison

Updated 18 February 2020

Iran sentences alleged US spies to up to 10 years in prison

  • Two of the environmental activists, Morad Tahbaz and Niloufar Bayani, got 10 years each
  • Iran has in the past has sentenced alleged American and Israeli spies to death

TEHRAN, Iran: Iran sentenced eight environmental activists, including an Iranian who reportedly also has British and American citizenship, to prison sentences ranging from four to 10 years on charges of spying for the United States and acting against Iran’s national security, the judiciary said Tuesday.
According to the judiciary spokesman, Gholamhossein Esmaili, an appeals court issued the final verdicts.
Two of the activists, Morad Tahbaz and Niloufar Bayani, got 10 years each and were ordered to return the money they allegedly received from the US government for their services.
Tahbaz is an Iranian who also holds US and British citizenship.
Iran does not recognize dual or multiple nationalities, meaning Iranians it detains cannot receive consular assistance from their other countries. In most cases, dual nationals have faced secret charges in closed-door hearings before Iran’s Revolutionary Court, which handles cases involving alleged attempts to overthrow the government.
Esmaili, the judiciary spokesman, said two other activists, Houman Jokar and Taher Ghadirian, each got eight-year sentences for allegedly “collaborating with the hostile government of America.”
Another three of the activists, Sam Rajabi, Sepideh Kashan Doust and Amirhossein Khaleghi Hamidi, were sentenced to six years in prison each. The eighth activist, Abdolreza Kouhpayeh, got four years. All the activists were arrested in early 2018.
A ninth activist who was arrested at the time, Kavous Seyed Emami, an Iranian-Canadian national, died while in custody under disputed circumstances in February 2018. His widow then was blocked from flying out of Iran, but later made it out.
Iran is also holding others with ties to the West, including Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe, a British-Iranian woman sentenced to five years on allegations of planning the “soft toppling” of Iran’s government while traveling in Iran with her young daughter.
Iranian businessman Siamak Namazi and his 81-year-old father Baquer, a former UNICEF representative who served as governor of Iran’s oil-rich Khuzestan province under the US-backed shah, both are serving 10-year prison sentences on espionage charges.
Iranian-American Robin Shahini was released on bail in 2017 after staging a hunger strike while serving an 18-year prison sentence for “collaboration with a hostile government.” Shahini has since returned to America and is now suing Iran in US federal court.
Former FBI agent Robert Levinson, who vanished in Iran in 2007 while on an unauthorized CIA mission, remains missing.
Earlier this month, Iran’s supreme court confirmed the death penalty for Amir Rahimpour, who was convicted of spying for the C.I.A. Iranian state media have alleged that he had shared details of the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program with the American spy agency.
Esmaili said at the time that Rahimpor would soon be executed.
Iran has in the past has sentenced alleged American and Israeli spies to death. The last such spy executed was Shahram Amiri, who defected to the US at the height of Western efforts to thwart Iran’s nuclear program. When he returned in 2010, he was welcomed with flowers by government leaders and even went on the Iranian talk-show circuit. Then he mysteriously disappeared.
He was hanged in August 2016, the same week that Tehran executed a group of militants and a year after Iran agreed to a landmark accord to limit uranium enrichment in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions.
Tensions remain high between Iran and the US since President Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from Tehran’s nuclear deal. A US drone strike in January killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad, prompting Tehran to retaliate with a ballistic missile strike on Iraqi bases housing American troops.