Yemeni government and Houthis hold prisoner swap meeting

The Houthi visit to Amman is the first since the US designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO). (AFP)
Short Url
Updated 24 January 2021

Yemeni government and Houthis hold prisoner swap meeting

  • Previous talks led to release of 1,065 inmates

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen and the Houthi militia held a new round of prisoner swap talks on Sunday, the UN and Yemeni officials said.

The UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said that the Supervisory Committee on the Implementation of the Prisoners and Detainees Exchange Agreement, which includes the warring parties in Yemen, held its fifth meeting in Amman. 

Griffiths called on them to focus on securing the release of vulnerable people and sick and elderly detainees.

“I urge the parties to prioritize in their discussions the immediate and unconditional release of all sick, wounded, elderly and children detainees as well as all arbitrarily detained civilians, including women,” he said. “I also urge the parties to discuss and agree on names beyond the Amman meeting lists to fulfill their Stockholm commitment of releasing all conflict-related detainees as soon as possible.” 

Previous talks led to the release of 1,065 inmates in October and rekindled hopes of striking a deal to end the war.

Griffiths, buoyed by that success, has pushed Yemeni parties into accepting his peace ideas, known as the Joint Declaration. This suggests putting into place a nationwide truce followed by economic measures to alleviate the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. 

A Yemeni government official with knowledge of the talks, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Arab News that the talks would be based on previous ones in Amman and might lead to the release of 301 detainees on both sides.

The government aims to secure the release of prominent military and political detainees who were mentioned in UN Security Council Resolution 2216, such as former Defense Minister Mahmoud Al-Subaihi and the Yemen president’s brother Nasser Mansour Hadi.

Abdul Kader Al-Murtada, head of the Houthi prisoner affairs committee, was in Amman on Saturday to take part in the meeting.

The Houthi visit to Amman is the first since the US designated the group as a foreign terrorist organization (FTO).

Yemenis on Sunday launched a social media campaign to highlight Houthi crimes and to convince countries to follow the US.

The people behind the campaign said they wanted to “inform the world about the terrorism acts by the Houthi militia against Yemenis and to call all free countries to designate them as a FTO.”

Dozens of Yemeni journalists, human right activists, intellectuals and officials have condemned the group’s human right abuses, using the hashtag #HouthiTerrorismInYemen, and shared images and videos that show Houthis blowing up the houses of their opponents.

“The Houthis waged numerous wars against civilians,” activist Mohammed Abdullah Qassem tweeted. “Until today, they are still attacking Taiz, Mareb, Al-Bayda, etc. They insist on ruling Yemenis by force, based on the theory of the divine right to rule, the ideology that the West overthrew before centuries.”

Zayed Al-Jaberi, a human rights advocate, was angry about media reports saying the US might reverse its terrorist designation decision. He added that Yemenis, who had borne the brunt of the group’s crimes, had treated them as terrorists for years.

“Apart from the designation of the US State Department, we as Yemenis, totally know that the Houthi militia is the worst terrorist group throughout history,” he tweeted.


Qatar’s controversial cleric Qaradawi contracts coronavirus

Updated 17 April 2021

Qatar’s controversial cleric Qaradawi contracts coronavirus

  • His son Abdul-Rahman Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirmed that the cleric had coronavirus on Twitter

LONDON: Yusuf Al-Qaradawi, an Egyptian cleric based in Qatar and infamous for his controversial religious edicts, has contracted COVID-19.
“Sheikh Al-Qaradawi has been infected with the coronavirus and he is in good condition, praise be to God. He is receiving health care, reassures his followers, and asks you to pray for his recovery and good health,” his official Twitter account stated.


The news was also reported by Turkish state-run news agency Anadolu.
His son Abdul-Rahman Yusuf Al-Qaradawi confirmed that the cleric had coronavirus on Twitter and said his father had been vaccinated against the virus previously. He also requested prayers for his father.
Al-Qaradawi is 94 years old and is the spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, head of the European council for Fatwa and Research and co-founder of IslamOnline.net.

 


NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

Updated 17 April 2021

NGO says 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons

  • Of the thousands behind bars, 430 are administrative detainees held without charge or trial, including 180 children and 41 women and girls
  • There are 550 prisoners suffering from various illnesses, including 11 with cancer, seven with kidney failure, and heart disease

AMMAN: There are 4,500 Palestinians in Israeli prisons, including an 82-year-old man who has been behind bars since 2001, according to the Palestinian Prisoners’ Club NGO. 
It released the figures to mark Palestinian Prisoner’s Day, which is observed on April 17.
Of the thousands behind bars, 430 are administrative detainees held without charge or trial, including 180 children and 41 women and girls.
There are 550 prisoners suffering from various illnesses, including 11 with cancer, seven with kidney failure, and heart disease. One of the sick prisoners is Foad Shobaki, who is 82.
There are eight prisoners with serious disabilities, said the NGO, adding that 222 prisoners had died in Israeli prisons since 1967.
Prisoner’s Day had become an occasion for paying tribute to the 1 million people jailed since 1967, the Palestine National Council (PNC) said. 
According to the council, 73 prisoners had died as a result of physical torture while 67 died because of medical negligence.
It said that prisoners caught in a war or armed struggle were not destined to remain imprisoned for life, as indicated in the Third Geneva Convention.
The PNC said there were 14 prisoners who had spent more than 30 years in jail, and 47 who had been imprisoned for more than 20 years.
Israel continues to detain 25 prisoners held before the Declaration of Principles between Israel and the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), in which Israel promised to release them but reneged at the last moment in 2014.
Former PLO Executive Committee member, Hanan Ashrawi, tweeted: “It’s important to understand the grave injustice that the Israeli Occupation inflicts on them and on the whole nation. The legal and political systems, the judiciary, the military and security forces are all in the service of an illegal and oppressive occupation.”
Fatah’s deputy chair Mahmoud Alloul said the prisoners’ cause was part of every Palestinian’s mind and consciousness.
His son Jihad, a Najah University student, was killed by Israeli gunfire during the second intifada. 
Alloul told the Voice of Palestine radio station: “Prisoners have sacrificed a lot having to spend their entire lifetime behind bars for their homeland. We will not carry (out) any political move without ensuring the freedom of the prisoners.”
He emphasized that the Palestinian leadership had resisted persistent pressure to stop support for prisoners and their families, saying that Israel had stolen money earmarked for the Palestinian Authority because of its continued support to prisoners and their families.
Khalil El-Halabi, whose son Mohammed has been held by the Israelis since 2016, made an appeal to world leaders — including Israeli ones.
He called for “building a new life based on peace for all the believers in God, Muslims, Christians, Jews and others.”
El-Halabi said his son was jailed because of false accusations that he diverted charitable funds to an illegal organization.
“The charity my son works for (World Vision) and the Australian government have thoroughly investigated these allegations and found them to be untrue,” he told Arab News. “Yet my son is in jail for five years despite torture that caused him to lose 50 percent of his hearing, simply because he refused to sign a plea bargain deal in which he would have to admit to a crime he did not commit.”
There were many like Mohammed who were tortured and charged with false accusations, he said, urging the Israeli people to seek justice if they wanted peace.
“Holding prisoners indefinitely will not bring peace and security and will not provide justice. I know that millions around the world would like to see peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Releasing innocent prisoners is the first step toward a lasting peace.”


Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

Updated 17 April 2021

Third coronavirus wave hits Egypt

  • Hatem said that the number of cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures
  • He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health

CAIRO: Egypt is witnessing a third coronavirus wave, a top official has said. Ashraf Hatem, head of the health affairs committee in the Egyptian Parliament and a member of the supreme committee for respiratory viruses of the Ministry of Higher Education, indicated that the number of coronavirus cases at university hospitals is once again increasing daily.
He said that citizens must adhere to precautionary measures, respect the rules of social distancing and wear their protective face masks, as well as avoiding family visits.
He advised of the need to follow proper nutritional habits and eat foods that contain nutrients that boost the immune system.
Hatem said that the number of coronavirus cases is directly related to how far citizens follow precautionary measures.
He said that there was no shortage of medicines in public hospitals, whether in university hospitals or those under the Ministry of Health.
Egypt has not yet reached the peak of the third wave, he said, and numbers might continue to rise until the last week of Ramadan. He called on citizens to be careful in the coming period to minimize the increase in infection rates.
He praised the decision of Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly to fine those who violate the instructions of the government.
Ashraf Abdel Basset, president of Mansoura University, said that the number of beds allocated for isolation had not been reduced following the earlier decrease in the number of daily recorded cases. He said that the hospitals are highly prepared for any emergency.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi had previously warned of a third coronavirus wave. “We are on the threshold of the third wave … please be careful, especially with the month of Ramadan … We want the matter to end in peace,” he said.


Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack

Updated 17 April 2021

Israel strikes Gaza after rocket attack

  • Strikes hit two militant ‘training sites’ in southern Gaza and another target in central Gaza
  • Airstrikes come hours after militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel

JERUSALEM: The Israeli military said Saturday it had conducted airstrikes against targets in the Gaza Strip following a rocket attack from the Palestinian enclave, in the second such exchange in as many days.
The strikes hit what the military described as “terror targets” operated by Gaza’s Islamist ruling party Hamas.
They included a “training facility, an anti-aircraft missile launcher post, a concrete production plant & terror tunnel infrastructure.”
Witnesses and security sources said the strikes hit two militant “training sites” in southern Gaza and another target in central Gaza.
A Hamas spokesman said that despite the Israeli action, “Gaza still fights and doesn’t break.”
The strikes came hours after militants in the Gaza Strip fired a rocket into southern Israel.
An Israeli army spokesperson said the rocket hit open ground and caused no casualties or damage.
It was the second such exchange in recent days. Late Thursday, Palestinian militants fired a rocket at southern Israel, prompting the army to launch retaliatory air strikes on Gaza that caused no casualties.
Israel imposed a blockade of Gaza’s sea and land borders after Hamas seized control in 2007. The two sides have since fought three wars.
A fragile truce has endured in recent years despite occasional flareups, with Palestinians firing rockets at Israel and the Jewish state responding with airstrikes on the coastal enclave.


US President Biden says Iranian enrichment to 60% unhelpful, but glad about nuclear talks

Updated 17 April 2021

US President Biden says Iranian enrichment to 60% unhelpful, but glad about nuclear talks

  • Iran on Friday said it had begun enriching uranium to 60 percent
  • Talks to carry on for several days before breaking so that Iranian and US officials can return home for consultations

US President Joe Biden on Friday called Iran’s enrichment of uranium to 60 percent purity unhelpful but said he is pleased Tehran is still in indirect talks with Washington about both countries resuming compliance with the 2015 Iranian nuclear deal.
Iran on Friday said it had begun enriching uranium to 60 percent, its highest level ever and a step closer to the 90 percent that is weapons grade, at its Natanz plant, where an explosion occurred earlier this week that Tehran blamed on Israel.
“We do not support and do not think it’s at all helpful that Iran is saying it’s going to move to enrich to 60 percent,” Biden told reporters in Washington during a joint news conference with Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.
“We are, though, nonetheless pleased that Iran has continued to agree to engage in discussions – indirect discussions – with us and with our partners on how we move forward and what is needed to allow us to move back into the (nuclear deal) ... without us making concessions that we are just not willing to make,” Biden added.
Iran had in recent months already raised enrichment to 20 percent purity, a level at which uranium is considered to be highly enriched and a significant step toward weapons-grade.
A 2015 deal with world powers to rein in Iran’s nuclear ambitions in return for the lifting of sanctions had capped the level of purity at 3.67 percent. Iran denies seeking a nuclear weapon.
“We are producing about 9 grams of 60 percent enriched uranium an hour,” Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, told state television.
“But we have to work on arrangements ... to drop it to 5 grams per hour. But then we will simultaneously produce 20 percent (uranium),” Salehi said.
Earlier, Iran’s parliament speaker Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf said Iranian scientists had successfully started enriching 60 percent uranium at 40 minutes past midnight.
“The will of the Iranian nation makes miracles that thwart any conspiracy,” Qalibaf wrote on Twitter.
In Vienna, a spokesman for the United Nations nuclear watchdog IAEA declined to comment on the Iranian statements about 60 percent enrichment.
Asked if Iran’s move was a sign that Tehran is not serious about returning to the nuclear deal, Biden replied: “The discussions are under way. I think it’s premature to make a judgment as to what the outcome will be. But we are still talking.”
Iran and global powers are meeting in Vienna to try to rescue the 2015 nuclear deal abandoned by former US President Donald Trump three years ago – an effort potentially complicated by Tehran’s decision to ramp up uranium enrichment.
The talks will carry on for several days before breaking so that Iranian and US officials can return home for consultations, a European Union official said on Friday.
“We have this (Iranian) decision to go for 60 percent enrichment. Obviously this is not making the negotiation easier,” the EU official told reporters, calling what happened at Natanz “deliberate sabotage.”
Abbas Araqchi, Iran’s chief negotiator at the talks, said on Tuesday that Iran would activate 1,000 advanced centrifuge machines at Natanz.
Multiple Israeli media outlets have quoted unnamed intelligence sources as saying the country’s Mossad spy service carried out the sabotage operation at the Natanz complex. Israel – widely believed to be the only Middle Eastern country with a nuclear arsenal – has not formally commented on the incident.
Israel will do “whatever it takes” to ensure that Iran does not acquire nuclear weapons, Israeli Foreign Minister Gabi Ashkenazi said on Friday.

Related