Netanyahu warns Assad against Iran entrenchment in Syria

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu chairs the weekly cabinet meeting in Jerusalem on June 28, 2020. (AFP)
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Updated 30 June 2020

Netanyahu warns Assad against Iran entrenchment in Syria

  • “We will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria,” Netanyahu told reporters

JERUSALEM: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Syrian President Bashar Assad on Tuesday he would be “risking the future” of his regime if he allowed Iran to be entrenched militarily in his country.
“We will not allow Iran to establish a military presence in Syria,” he told reporters alongside visiting US pointman on Iran policy, Brian Hook.
The two men called for an extension of an arms embargo on Iran, archfoe of both their countries, which expires in October.
“I say to the ayatollahs in Tehran: ‘Israel will continue to take the actions necessary to prevent you from creating another terror and military front against Israel’” in neighboring Syria, the premier said.
“And I say to Bashar Assad: ‘You’re risking the future of your country and your regime,” Netanyahu said.
Israel has launched hundreds of strikes in Syria since the start of its civil war in 2011, targeting government troops, allied Iranian forces and fighters from the Lebanese Shiite militant group Hezbollah.
It rarely confirms details of operations in Syria, but says Iran’s presence in support of Assad is a threat to the Jewish state and that it will keep up such attacks.
“We are absolutely resolved to prevent Iran from entrenching itself militarily in our immediate vicinity,” said Netanyahu.
Hook focused on the arms embargo, put in place as part of a multilateral nuclear accord signed by Tehran, Washington and other major powers in 2015.
A lifting of that embargo would allow Iran “to freely import fighter jets, attack helicopters, warships, submarines, large-calibre artillery systems and missiles of certain ranges,” the US envoy said.
“Iran will then be in a position to export these weapons and their technologies to their proxies such as Hezbollah, (Palestinian groups) Islamic Jihad, Hamas, Shiite militia groups in Iraq and Shiite militant networks in Bahrain and to the Houthis in Yemen,” Hook said.
“The last thing that this region needs is more Iranian weapons.”
The US unilaterally pulled out of the Iran nuclear accord in 2018.
Separately on Tuesday, Israel’s domestic security agency, the Shin Bet, said it had identified an Arab Israeli couple attempting to recruit for the Iran-backed Lebanese group Hezbollah.
The Shin Bet said journalist Beirut Al-Hamud and her husband, Bilal Al-Bizari, “were recruiting Israeli citizens to carry out activities on behalf of Hezbollah,” without detailing any specific planned attacks.
The agency said that Hamud had contacts with Hezbollah in Morocco and Tunisia between 2008 and 2012 and had attempted to recruit Arab Israelis in Turkey last year.

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Yemen faces costly bill as evacuation nears end

Updated 03 July 2020

Yemen faces costly bill as evacuation nears end

  • The country’s flagship carrier, Yemenia, has returned all stranded Yemenis in Jordan

AL-MUKALLA: Repatriation of Yemenis stranded abroad by the coronavirus pandemic is almost complete, the government’s emergency committee said.

Yemen’s government faces a bill running into millions of dollars after evacuating thousands of people from India, Egypt, Jordan and other countries.

At a virtual meeting headed by Yemeni Prime Minister Maeen Abdulmalik Saeed, the committee thanked Yemeni embassies abroad and governments that helped with repatriation planning.

The committee said that the process is “coming to a close” since most of those stranded have been brought home.

In May, the internationally recognized government of Yemen began arranging repatriation flights for thousands of Yemenis stranded abroad because of global travel bans.

A senior government official with knowledge of the process told Arab News on Thursday that the country’s flagship carrier, Yemenia, has returned all stranded Yemenis in Jordan, and is now repatriating those still stranded people in Egypt and India.

“All of the stranded Yemenis in Djibouti and Saudi Arabia were brought back home by sea and land. More than 3,400 Yemenis out of 7,000 have been evacuated from Egypt,” the government official said.

Yemenia has arranged direct flights to Indian cities with large numbers of stranded Yemenis, he added.

People seeking repatriation have been asked to supply a negative PCR test before returning to Yemen. Those who test positive for the virus are banned from boarding and must isolate themselves for 14 days before booking a flight.

“There are 211 people in Egypt who could not fly back home because they tested positive for the virus,” the official said.

Stranded Yemenis in India say they were disappointed when Yemenia rejected their tickets after they tested positive for the virus.

A Yemeni woman who has been in India since February told Arab News that her whole family was forced to stay put after she tested positive.

“I was happy when I saw my name and my family’s among the evacuees. But I was surprised when the result of the test showed that I alone tested positive,” she said.

Yemenia will continue flights to India and other destinations after the repatriation process ends, the government official said.

The Yemeni government grounded all flights into and out of airports under its control in May to prevent the virus from spreading in the war-torn country.

Yemen recorded its first case of coronavirus on April 10 in the southern port city of Sheher. The total number of infections in government-controlled areas is 1,190, including 318 fatalities and 504 recoveries, the Aden-based supreme national emergency committee said on Wednesday.

Yemen’s cash-strapped government has paid millions of dollars for aircraft fuel, empty seats and virus tests for stranded people, the government official said.

“We compensated Yemenia with $1.15 million for flying to five Indian cities to bring back stranded Yemenis,” the official said. On Tuesday, three flights touched down at Aden and Seiyun airports with 530 stranded nationals aboard.