Blast in Yemen fish market kills at least 4 people, wounds over 30

A damaged car in an area where a bomb attack happened in Aden in March. Police said Thursday 4 people were killed and over 30 injured at a Yemen fish market when an explosive device in a trash can detonated. (AFP)
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Updated 26 May 2022

Blast in Yemen fish market kills at least 4 people, wounds over 30

  • The police statement said that several suspects had been detained for questioning, but gave no further details

ADEN: At least four people were killed and more than 30 injured at a Yemen fish market when an explosive device planted in a trash can detonated, police in the port city of Aden said on Thursday.
Medical charity Doctors Without Borders said on Twitter that its trauma hospital in Aden received 50 wounded patients, five of whom had died while six were seriously injured.
The police statement said that several suspects had been detained for questioning, but gave no further details.

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US-Iran match mirrored a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

Updated 30 November 2022

US-Iran match mirrored a regional rivalry for many Arab fans

  • Critics of Iran say it has fomented war and unrest across the Arab world by supporting powerful armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories

BAGHDAD: The US team’s victory over Iran at the World Cup on Tuesday was closely watched across the Middle East, where the two nations have been engaged in a cold war for over four decades and where many blame one or both for the region’s woes.
Critics of Iran say it has fomented war and unrest across the Arab world by supporting powerful armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and the Palestinian territories. Supporters view it as the leader of an “axis of resistance” against what they see as US imperialism, corrupt Arab rulers and Israel’s oppression of the Palestinians.
The divide is especially intense in Lebanon and Iraq, where heavily armed Iran-backed political factions vie for political influence with opponents more oriented toward the West. In those countries, many believe Iran or the US are due for comeuppance — even if only on the pitch.
Others wished a plague on both their houses.
“Both are adversaries of Iraq and played a negative role in the country,” Haydar Shakar said in downtown Baghdad, where a cafe displayed the flags of both countries hanging outside. “It’s a sports tournament, and they’re both taking part in it. That’s all it is to us.”
A meme widely circulated ahead of Tuesday’s match between the US and Iran jokingly referred to it as “the first time they will play outside of Lebanon.” Another Twitter user joked that whoever wins the group stage “takes Iraq.”
The Iran-backed Hezbollah was the only armed group to keep its weapons after Lebanon’s 1975-1990 civil war. It says its arms are needed to defend the country from Israel and blames Lebanon’s economic crisis in part on US sanctions. Opponents decry Hezbollah as an “Iranian occupation,” while many Lebanese accuse both the US and Iran of meddling in their internal affairs.
In Iraq, the 2003 US-led invasion led to years of intense violence and sectarian strife, and Iran-backed political factions and militias largely filled the vacuum. While US forces and Iran-backed militias found themselves on the same side against the Islamic State extremist group, they have traded fire on several occasions since its defeat.
Both Lebanon and Iraq have had to contend with years of political gridlock, with the main dividing line running between Iran’s allies and opponents.
In Yemen, the Iran-aligned Houthi militia captured the capital and much of the country’s north in 2014. The Houthis have been at war since then with an array of factions supported by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, two US allies.
In Syria’s civil war, Iran supported President Bashar Assad’s government against rebels, some supported by the West. In the Palestinian territories, it backs Hamas and Islamic Jihad, militant factions that do not recognize Israel and have carried out scores of attacks over the years.
Interviews with soccer fans in Beirut and Baghdad revealed mixed emotions about the match.
In Beirut’s southern suburbs, a center of Hezbollah support, young men draped in Iranian flags gathered in a cafe hung with a “Death to America” flag to watch the match.
“We are against America in football, politics and everything else,” Ali Nehme said. “God is with Lebanon and Iran.”
Across the city on the seafront promenade, Beirut resident Aline Noueyhed said, “Of course I’m not with Iran after all the disasters they made. Definitely, I’m with America.” She added, however, that the US also was “not 100 percent helping us.”
The post-game reaction in the streets of Beirut after the US defeated Iran 1-0, eliminating it from the tournament and advancing to the knockout round, was far more subdued than after the previous day’s win by Brazil — a fan favorite in Lebanon — over Switzerland.
In Baghdad, Ali Fadel was cheering for Iran, because “it’s a neighboring country, an Asian country.”
“There are many linkages between us and them,” he added.
Nour Sabah was rooting for the US because “they are a strong team, and (the US) controls the world.”
In Irbil in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region in the north, fans also gave mixed reactions.
Twenty-seven-year-old Zainab Fakhri was rooting for the US to beat Iran “to punish the Iranian regime that has been oppressing the women’s revolution,” referring to recent protests there.
At the same cafe, Aras Harb, 23, was backing Iran. “We prefer them because my family were able to flee there during the war, and the Iranian people are kind.”
Saad Mohammad, 20, had been hoping for a tie, fearing that a win could worsen an already alarming security situation. If locals celebrate the win, he said, “I fear Iran will launch rockets at us.”
Although the Iran supporters were visibly upset at their loss, the crowd filed out after the game without incident.
Regional politics hovered over the last matchup, at the 1998 World Cup, when Iran famously defeated the US 2-1, eliminating it from the tournament. That came less than two decades after Iran’s Islamic Revolution toppled the US-backed shah and protesters overran the US Embassy, leading to a prolonged hostage crisis.
French riot police were on site at the stadium in Lyon that year, but they weren’t needed. The teams posed together in a group photo, and Iran’s players even brought white roses for their opponents.
In this year’s matchup, allegiances have been scrambled by the nationwide protests gripping Iran, with some Iranians openly rooting against their own team. The players declined to sing along to their national anthem ahead of their opening match, in what was seen as an expression of sympathy for the protests, but reversed course and sang ahead of their next one.
In some neighborhoods of Tehran, people chanted “Death to the dictator!” after the match, even though it was past midnight local time.
Danyel Reiche, a visiting associate professor at Georgetown University Qatar who has researched the politics of sports, said World Cup fandom is not necessarily an indicator of political affiliation, even in countries with deep divisions.
Local sports in Lebanon are “highly politicized,” with all the major basketball and soccer clubs having political and sectarian affiliations, he said. But when it comes to the World Cup — where Lebanon has never qualified to play — fans latch on to any number of teams.
That’s true across the region, where fans sporting Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo jerseys can be found from Gaza to Afghanistan.
“This is one of the few spheres where people have the liberty and freedom to choose a country that they simply like and not the country where they think there’s an obligation for them to be affiliated with it,” Reiche said.


Brothers among 5 Palestinians killed in West Bank

Updated 29 November 2022

Brothers among 5 Palestinians killed in West Bank

  • Jawad Abd Al-Rahman Rimawi, 22,  was shot dead in Kufr Ein, near Ramallah; his brother, Thafer, 21, was shot and critically injured, and later died
  • Mohammad Shtayyeh, Palestinian prime minister, said that the deaths of the two brothers was a “heinous crime”

RAMALLAH: Five Palestinians, including two brothers, were killed and 21 injured in the occupied West Bank on Tuesday.

Mufid Mahmoud Ekhlil, 44, was shot dead in the town of Beit Ummar, northern Hebron.

Nine Palestinians were injured by bullets during the confrontations and taken to nearby hospitals, the Palestinian Ministry of Health said.

The Israel Defense Forces said that “rioters” attacked soldiers with rocks and explosive devices after two IDF vehicles got stuck during an operational patrol near Beit Ummar.

It added: “The rioters also shot at the soldiers, who responded with riot dispersal means and live fire.”

Jawad Abd Al-Rahman Rimawi, 22,  was shot dead in Kufr Ein, near Ramallah. His brother, Thafer, 21, was shot and critically injured, and later died.

Rami Abu Ali, 45, from Betunia, west of Ramallah, was killed following a car accident involving a 20-year-old Israeli soldier, who was wounded.

Raed Na’asan, another Palestinian, was killed by Israeli fire when the troops stormed his Al-Mughair village in north-eastern Ramallah.

The latest bloodshed took place amid a mounting surge of Israeli-Palestinian violence in the wake of a Jerusalem bombing last week that killed two Israelis.

A general strike in Ramallah and some surrounding towns was called to mourn the deaths of the two brothers.

Ghassan Al-Khatib, a Palestinian political analyst and vice president of Birzeit University, told Arab News that there is a clear indication of an Israeli policy of escalation.

He added that he believes the soldiers’ incursions into Palestinian cities and villages will increase in the light of the ultra right-wing Israeli government being formed under Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu and including Itamar Ben-Gvir and Bezalel Smotrich.

He said: “We are facing a revolt and an escalation of violence because a popular Palestinian reaction will meet every attack of the Israeli army.”

Nabil Abu Rudeineh, Palestinian presidential spokesperson, said the Israeli government “bears full responsibility for these crimes and must be held accountable for them,” noting that successive right-wing governments have declared daily war on the Palestinian people.

He added: “The American administration also bears a great responsibility for the occupation and authorities’ continuous crimes against our people, as it is the only sponsor of the occupying state in the world, in arms and financing and at international forums.

Abu Rudeineh said the US administration needed to take action to deter Israel from carrying out crimes that destabilized the region.

Mohammad Shtayyeh, Palestinian prime minister, said that the deaths of the two brothers was a “heinous crime.”

He added: “With the continued declaration of war on our people, and the new Israeli government, we call on the world’s countries to intervene urgently to stop the Israeli killing machine and to hold the perpetrators accountable.”

Hundreds of Palestinians attended the funerals of the victims in Ramallah and Hebron, and chanted slogans condemning the crimes of the Israeli occupation, and calling for their cessation.

Hussein Al-Sheikh, from the Palestine Liberation Organization, tweeted that the deaths of the brothers was an “awful crime committed by the occupation forces.” He added that execution in cold blood is “fascist behavior.”

Hamas spokesman Hazem Qassem said: “The Israeli occupation is trying desperately to stop the legitimate struggle of the Palestinian people, through killings and assassinations, but this blood will be fuel for our people’s revolution and continuous uprising.”

Meanwhile, Benny Gantz, outgoing Israeli defense minister, said he had approved the construction of 10,000 units in the West Bank and East Jerusalem, and that settlements, especially in the Jordan Valley, must be strengthened.

In addition, Yair Lapid, the outgoing Israeli prime minister, has sent more than 50 world leaders a letter calling on them to exert their influence on the Palestinian Authority to prevent the General Assembly vote on an advisory opinion from the International Court of Justice on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“This resolution is the outcome of a concerted effort to single out Israel, to discredit our legitimate security concerns, and to delegitimize our very existence,” Lapid said in the letter.


Qatar top official says worker deaths for World Cup ‘between 400 and 500’

Updated 29 November 2022

Qatar top official says worker deaths for World Cup ‘between 400 and 500’

  • Number is drastically higher than any other previously offered by Doha, threatens to reinvigorate rights groups
  • Supreme Committee says Al-Thawadi was referring to all work-related fatalities in Qatar between 2014-2020 

DOHA, Qatar: A top Qatari official involved in the country’s World Cup organization has put the number of worker deaths for the tournament “between 400 and 500” for the first time, a drastically higher number than any other previously offered by Doha.

The comment by Hassan Al-Thawadi, the secretary-general of Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, appeared to come off the cuff during an interview with British journalist Piers Morgan.

It also threatened to reinvigorate criticism by human rights groups over the toll of hosting the Middle East’s first World Cup for the migrant labor that built over $200 billion worth of stadiums, metro lines and new infrastructure needed for the tournament.

In the interview, portions of which Morgan posted online, the British journalist asks Al-Thawadi: “What is the honest, realistic total do you think of migrant workers who died from – as a result of work they’re doing for the World Cup in totality?”

“The estimate is around 400, between 400 and 500,” Al-Thawadi responds. “I don’t have the exact number. That’s something that’s been discussed.”

But that figure hasn’t been discussed publicly by Qatari officials previously. Reports from the Supreme Committee dating from 2014 through the end of 2021 only include the number of deaths of workers involved in building and refurbishing the stadiums now hosting the World Cup.

Those released figures put the total number of deaths at 40. They include 37 from what the Qataris describe as nonwork incidents such as heart attacks and three from workplace incidents. One report also separately lists a worker death from the coronavirus amid the pandemic.

Al-Thawadi pointed to those figures when discussing work just on stadiums in the interview, right before offering the “between 400 to 500” death toll for all the infrastructure for the tournament.

In a later statement, the Supreme Committee said Al-Thawadi was referring to “national statistics covering the period of 2014-2020 for all work-related fatalities (414) nationwide in Qatar, covering all sectors and nationalities.”

Since FIFA awarded the tournament to Qatar in 2010, the country has taken some steps to overhaul the country’s employment practices. That includes eliminating its so-called kafala employment system, which tied workers to their employers, who had say over whether they could leave their jobs or even the country.

Qatar also has adopted a minimum monthly wage of 1,000 Qatari riyals ($275) for workers and required food and housing allowances for employees not receiving those benefits directly from their employers. It also has updated its worker safety rules to prevent deaths.

“One death is a death too many. Plain and simple,” Al-Thawadi adds in the interview.

Activists have called on Doha to do more, particularly when it comes to ensuring workers receive their salaries on time and are protected from abusive employers.

Al-Thawadi’s comment also renews questions on the veracity of both government and private business reporting on worker injuries and deaths across the Gulf Arab states, whose skyscrapers have been built by laborers from South Asia nations like India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

“This is just the latest example of Qatar’s inexcusable lack of transparency on the issues of workers’ deaths,” said Nicholas McGeehan of Fairsquare, a London-based group which advocates for migrant workers in the Middle East.

“We need proper data and thorough investigations, not vague figures announced through media interviews.

“FIFA and Qatar still have a lot of questions to answer, not least where, when, and how did these men die and did their families receive compensation.”

Mustafa Qadri, the executive director of Equidem Research, a labor consultancy that has published reports on the toll of the construction on migrant laborers, also said he was surprised by Al-Thawadi’s remark.

“For him now to come and say there is hundreds, it’s shocking,” he told The Associated Press. “They have no idea what’s going on.”


UAE set to launch rover to the moon Wednesday

Updated 29 November 2022

UAE set to launch rover to the moon Wednesday

  • Rashid rover will blast off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, tomorrow
  • If lunar mission succeeds, UAE would be fourth country to land on moon

DUBAI: The UAE has completed the final preparations to launch its rover to the moon in the Arab world’s first lunar mission, it was announced on Tuesday.

Rashid rover will blast off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, US, on Wednesday, Nov. 30, embarking on a five-month journey to the moon.

In a statement, Japan-based ispace inc. announced it had completed the integration of its HAKUTO-R Mission 1 lunar lander into the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

“We are pleased to have finished the first phase of the Mission 1 with the final preparations before launch completed,” said Takeshi Hakamada, Founder and CEO of ispace.

“To do this, we utilized a design and development model that balanced reliability and low costs by employing proven technologies and components from around the world,” he added.

The Mohammed bin Rashid Space Center (MBRSC) invited viewers from all over the world to watch the launch live at 12:39pm UAE time (GMT+4).

The rover will land on the “unexplored moon surface at Atlas Crater, on the southeastern outer edge of Mare Frigoris (“Sea of Cold”)” in April 2023, the center said.

“The target site criteria were carefully considered by the Emirates Lunar Mission Team, including the duration of continuous sun illumination and communication visibility from Earth,” the MBRSC said in a statement. Once launched, the integrated spacecraft will take a low-energy route to the moon rather than a direct approach.

If the lunar mission succeeded, the UAE would be the fourth country to land on the moon.

The 10kg Rashid rover will study the properties of lunar soil, mobility on the lunar surface, the petrography and geology of the moon, dust movement, and study surface plasma conditions and the moon’s photoelectron sheath.

It will send data and images back to Earth, using two high-resolution cameras: Microscopic, and thermal imaging ones, said the mission’s team.

The lunar mission was the latest of the UAE’s effort in space exploration. Earlier in February 2021, the UAE made history by landing its Hope probe to Mars, becoming the first Arab nation to launch an unmanned mission to the red planet.


Iran forces killed 448 in crackdown on Amini protests, says rights group

Updated 30 November 2022

Iran forces killed 448 in crackdown on Amini protests, says rights group

  • The toll includes dozens of police, troops and militia killed in clashes with demonstrators or murdered

JEDDAH: Iranian security forces have killed at least 448 people in a crackdown on protests that began in mid-September, over half in ethnic minority regions, a rights group said on Tuesday.

Of the 448 people confirmed to have been killed, 60 were children aged under 18, including nine girls, and 29 women, the Norway-based Iran Human Rights group said.

It said 16 people were killed by security forces in the past week alone, of whom 12 were slain in Kurdish-populated areas where protests have been particularly intense.

The toll has also risen after the deaths of people killed in previous weeks were verified and included, it added. The toll only includes citizens killed in the crackdown and not members of the security forces.

Brig. Gen. Amirali Hajjizadeh of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps earlier on Tuesday said more than 300 people had been killed, the first time the authorities have acknowledged such a figure.

The UN Rights Council last week voted to establish a high-level fact-finding mission to probe the crackdown in a move angrily rejected by Iran. “Islamic republic authorities know full well that if they cooperate with the UN fact-finding mission, an even wider scale of their crimes will be revealed,” said IHR director Mahmood Amiry-Moghaddam. “That’s why their non-cooperation is predictable,” he added.

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Amiry-Moghaddam said more than half the deaths were recorded in regions populated by the Sunni Baluch or Kurdish ethnic minorities.

The most deaths were in the southeastern region Sistan-Baluchistan where 128 people were killed after protests which had a separate spark but have fed into the nationwide anger, IHR said.

Meanwhile, a UN-appointed independent expert on Iran voiced concern that the repression of protesters was intensifying, with authorities launching a “campaign” of sentencing them to death.

“I’m afraid that the Iranian regime will react violently to the Human Rights Council resolution and this may trigger more violence and repression on their part,” Javaid Rehman said, referring to a UN Human Rights Council vote to establish a probe into the crackdown last week.

Tehran has rejected the investigation and says it will not cooperate.

“Now (authorities) have started a campaign of sentencing (protesters) to death,” he added, saying he expected more to be sentenced.

Already, 21 people arrested in the context of the protests face the death penalty, including a woman indicted on “vague and broadly formulated criminal offenses,” and six have been sentenced this month, Rehman said.

The UN human rights office confirmed in an email that one of those indicted for “corruption on earth for publication of lies on a large scale” was famous Iranian rapper Toomaj Salehi, citing a judicial official.