Houthis condemned for storing weapons in housing complex as blasts kill residents

Houthi militia fighters are being accused of endangering the lives of the civilian population in Taiz city by storing weapons and ammunition in residential buildings. (AFP file photo)
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Updated 03 March 2022
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Houthis condemned for storing weapons in housing complex as blasts kill residents

  • Explosions in Taiz left ‘many civilians killed or wounded,’ army officer says
  • Residential buildings in Houthi-controlled areas also being used as secret detention centers, officials say

AL-MUKALLA: Yemen’s military has accused the Iran-backed Houthis of storing weapons and ammunition inside or near residential areas, after large explosions ripped through several buildings in a housing compound in the southern city of Taiz.

Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a military officer, told Arab News on Thursday that the blasts that shook Houthi-controlled Huban district in Taiz early on Tuesday were caused by weapons and ammunition stored in the basements and lower floors of several buildings in Al-Saleh residential complex.

“The Houthi militia sealed off the area and even prevented ambulances from reaching the wounded,” he said. “Many civilians were killed or wounded in the explosions as fragments of bombs hit their houses outside the complex.”

An amateur video posted online showed explosions and large balls of fire rising from the ground floor of three buildings in Al-Saleh.

Other images showed three buildings that had been badly damaged by the blasts.

Yemeni army officials said the Houthis moved weapons, ammunition and drones from military bases in Dhamar and other areas to the residential area in Taiz, and turned the upper floors of Al-Saleh buildings into secret detention centers.

“The ground floors are workshops for assembling and booby-trapping drones, and weapons depots,” Al-Baher said, adding that the Houthis had endangered the lives of thousands of people who live in areas of Taiz under their control.

“This is a criminal and terrorist organization that does not care about the lives of civilians.”

The Houthis told residents that the explosions were caused by fireworks lit during a wedding in Huban.

A Yemeni news agency reported on Thursday that the Houthis were holding more than 3,000 people who had been abducted from Taiz and other areas at secret prisons in Al-Saleh, and had also turned some flats there into command rooms and hiding places for their leaders.

The explosions in the city are not the first to be linked to secret Houthi weapons dumps. Similar blasts have been reported in densely populated areas of Houthi-held Sanaa, Dhamar and Jouf.

Officials say the Houthis hide weapons and drones in civilian facilities that are on the no-target list of the Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen.

In May 2019, Human Rights Watch and the Sanaa-based Mwatana for Human Rights said an explosion in April that killed at least 15 children and wounded more than 100 people in Sanaa’s Sawan neighborhood was caused by a fire at a Houthi weapons storage facility.

Also on Thursday, in Sanaa, relatives of Yemeni abductees held at Houthi jails organized a rare protest to denounce the sentences handed down to their loved ones by a Houthi-controlled court.

The Mothers of Abductees Association, an umbrella organization for thousands of female relatives of war prisoners, staged the protest outside the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. The women demanded the release of 13 prisoners who had earlier been sentenced to death or jail terms by Sanaa’s Specialized Criminal Court.

“We hold Houthi armed groups fully responsible for our sons’ lives as such crimes are imprescriptible,” read one of the posters carried by the women.

The organization said the abductees had been brutally tortured by the Houthis into confessing to crimes and that the father of one of the convicted men died of shock after hearing the court’s ruling.

Meanwhile, dozens of Houthis were killed in more than 23 air raids by coalition warplanes in the provinces of Marib and Hajjah, which have witnessed bloody fighting between government troops and the Houthis over the past 24 hours.

The Arab coalition said on Thursday that the strikes also destroyed 17 Houthi military vehicles.


More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank

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More than one in four Syrians ‘extremely poor’: World Bank

27 percent of Syrians — about 5.7 million individuals — live in extreme poverty
“Continued funding shortfalls and limited access to humanitarian assistance” have further strained poor Syrians, the World Bank said

BEIRUT: More than a quarter of Syrians live in extreme poverty, the World Bank said Saturday, 13 years into a devastating civil war that has battered the economy and impoverished millions.
The World Bank published two new reports on Syria, which found that “27 percent of Syrians — about 5.7 million individuals — live in extreme poverty.”
“Extreme poverty, while virtually non-existent before the conflict, affected more than one in four Syrians in 2022” and might have further deteriorated after a deadly earthquake last year, one of the reports said.
The quake killed about 6,000 people in the country.
According to the United Nations, about 90 percent of Syrians live in poverty, while it previously estimated that around 2 million lived in extreme poverty after more than a decade of war.
The report cited neighbor Lebanon’s economic meltdown in late 2019, the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, as having eroded the welfare of Syrian households in recent years.
The civil war in Syria has also ravaged the economy, infrastructure and industry, while Western sanctions have added to the country’s woes.
“Continued funding shortfalls and limited access to humanitarian assistance” have further strained poor Syrians, already coping with “soaring prices, reduced access to essential services and rising unemployment,” the World Bank said.
The UN told AFP previously that its humanitarian response plan for Syria for 2024 requires more than $4 billion but that it is only six percent funded.
The international community is set to meet in Brussels Monday to try and muster funds for Syria at a yearly pledging conference.
A lack of opportunities and dwindling aid has pushed many Syrians to rely on money sent from relatives abroad to survive, with the World Bank estimating that “in 2022, the total value of remittances received by Syrian households reached about $1.05 billion.”
Syria’s estimated GDP stood at around $6.2 billion in 2023.
Syria’s “real GDP is projected to contract by 1.5 percent in 2024, extending the 1.2 percent decline in 2023,” the report said.
“Inflation is anticipated to remain high in 2024 due to the pass-through effects of currency depreciation, along with persistent shortages and potential further subsidy cuts (for) food and fuel,” it said.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.

Mediated Israel-Hamas talks on hostage deal expected next week, source says

Updated 26 min 29 sec ago
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Mediated Israel-Hamas talks on hostage deal expected next week, source says

  • The source declined to be identified given the sensitivity of the issue

JERUSALEM: Mediated negotiations between Israel and Hamas to reach a deal to free Israeli hostages held in the Gaza Strip are due to restart next week, an official with knowledge of the matter said on Saturday.
The decision to restart the talks, said the source, who declined to be identified by name or nationality given the sensitivity of the issue, came after the head of Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency met with the head of the CIA and the prime minister of Qatar, which has been a mediator.
“At the end of the meeting, it was decided that in the coming week negotiations will open based on new proposals led by the mediators, Egypt and Qatar and with active US involvement,” the source said.


Yemen’s Houthis postpone release of 100 prisoners belonging to government forces

Updated 37 min 58 sec ago
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Yemen’s Houthis postpone release of 100 prisoners belonging to government forces

  • The Houthis, an Iran-aligned movement that controls part of the country, last released prisoners in April 2023
  • Yemen has been embroiled in years of civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions hungry

CAIRO: Yemen’s Houthis said they had postponed the release of around 100 prisoners belonging to government forces that had previously been announced to take place on Saturday.
A Houthi official said that the delay was because of “technical reasons,” adding the release would take place at another time.
The head of the Houthi Prisoner Affairs Committee, Abdul Qader Al-Murtada, said on Friday that the group would release more than 100 prisoners in what he called “a unilateral humanitarian initiative.”
The Houthis, an Iran-aligned movement that controls part of the country, last released prisoners in April 2023 in an exchange of 250 Houthis for 70 government forces.
Yemen has been embroiled in years of civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions hungry.
The Houthis are the de facto authorities in northern Yemen, while the internationally recognized government is represented by the Political Leadership Council, which took over power from Yemen’s president-in-exile.


Spain demands Israel comply with UN court ruling on Rafah, Britain criticizes order

Updated 25 May 2024
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Spain demands Israel comply with UN court ruling on Rafah, Britain criticizes order

  • Spanish government: Ruling by the International Court of Justice is legally binding
  • British government says ruling would strengthen Palestinian Islamist group Hamas

MADRID/LONDON: The Spanish government demanded on Saturday that Israel comply with an order by the top UN court to immediately stop its bombardment and ground assault on the Gazan city of Rafah.
It stressed that the ruling on Friday by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) was legally binding.
“The precautionary measures set out by the ICJ, including that Israel should cease its military offensive in Rafah, are compulsory. Israel must comply with them,” Foreign Minister Jose Manuel Albares wrote on X.
“The same goes for a ceasefire, the release of the hostages and access for humanitarian aid (to Gaza),” he said.
“The suffering of the people of Gaza and the violence must end.”
The British government, meanwhile, has criticized the World Court order, saying the ruling would strengthen Palestinian Islamist group Hamas.
“The reason there isn’t a pause in the fighting is because Hamas turned down a very generous hostage deal from Israel. The intervention of these courts — including the ICJ today — will strengthen the view of Hamas that they can hold on to hostages and stay in Gaza,” a UK foreign ministry spokesperson said late on Friday.
“And if that happens there won’t be either peace, or a two-state solution.”
In a case brought by South Africa alleging the Israeli assault on Gaza amounts to “genocide,” the ICJ ordered Israel on Friday to “immediately halt” the ground and air offensive in Rafah.
The operations began on May 7 despite international fears for the safety of the 1.4 million civilians trapped in the city.
The Hague-based ICJ, whose orders are legally binding but lack direct enforcement mechanisms, also ruled that Israel must keep open the key Rafah crossing with Egypt to allow “unhindered” humanitarian aid into Gaza.
And it urged the “unconditional” release of hostages taken by Hamas fighters during their October 7 attack in Israel.
Israel responded on Saturday by bombing Rafah and other parts of the densely populated Gaza Strip.
Spain is one of the European countries to have been most critical of Israel over the war in Gaza.
On Wednesday, Spain, Ireland and Norway said their governments would recognize a Palestinian state from next week.
Israel summoned their envoys to “reprimand” them for the decision and on Friday said it would ban Spain’s consulate in Jerusalem from helping Palestinians in the occupied West Bank.
The war in Gaza began after Hamas’s unprecedented October 7 attack, which resulted in the deaths of more than 1,170 people, mostly civilians, according to an AFP tally based on Israeli official figures.
Some 252 people were taken hostage, 121 of whom remain in Gaza, including 37 the Israeli army says are dead.
Israel’s retaliatory offensive has killed at least 35,857 people in Gaza, mostly women and children, according to data from the Hamas-run territory’s health ministry.


Israeli strike kills two Hezbollah fighters in Syria: monitor

Updated 25 May 2024
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Israeli strike kills two Hezbollah fighters in Syria: monitor

  • It was the third strike against Hezbollah targets in Syria in about a week

BEIRUT: An Israeli drone strike in central Syria killed two fighters from Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah movement on Saturday, a war monitor said.
“An Israeli drone fired two missiles at a Hezbollah car and truck near the town of Qusayr in Homs province, as they were on their way to Al-Dabaa military airport, killing at least two Hezbollah fighters and wounding others,” said the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.
It was the third strike against Hezbollah targets in Syria in about a week.
On Monday, Israeli strikes in the Qusayr area, which is close to the Lebanese border, killed eight pro-Iranian fighters, said Observatory, a Britain-based monitor with a network of sources in Syria.
At least one Hezbollah fighter was among those killed, a source from Hezbollah told AFP at the time.
Another strike, on May 18, targeted “a Hezbollah commander and his companion,” the Observatory said. It did not report any casualties.
Israel rarely comments on individual strikes in Syria but has repeatedly said it will not allow its arch-enemy Iran to expand its presence there.
Israel has carried out hundreds of strikes in Syria since the outbreak of the civil war in its northern neighbor, mainly targeting army positions and Iran-backed fighters including from Hezbollah.
The strikes have increased since Israel’s war with Hamas in the Gaza Strip began on October 7, when the Iran-backed Palestinian militant group launched an unprecedented attack against Israel.
Syria’s war has killed more than half a million people and displaced millions more since it erupted in 2011 after Damascus cracked down on anti-government protests.