Houthi threat to holy sites in Makkah condemned

Time: May 21, 2019

Debris of a drone used in a previous attack by Houthi militants. (AFP/File photo)
  • Iran-backed militias have no qualms about attacking the holiest place in Islam, says analyst
  • This is not the first time that Houthi militias have targeted Makkah, having fired on the city in July 2017

JEDDAH: The Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces intercepted and destroyed two missiles launched from Yemen by Iran-aligned Houthi militias on Monday.

The missiles were reported to have been heading toward Makkah and Jeddah.

A spokesman for the Arab Coalition said that the missiles were destroyed over Taif in the early morning, and that fragments from the first projectile had landed in Wadi Jalil, a valley that extends toward Makkah.

Residents in Jeddah told Arab News that they heard a loud blast early on Monday morning.

This is not the first time that Houthi militias have targeted Makkah, having fired on the city in July 2017.

Videos circulating on social media reportedly show the second missile being intercepted and destroyed in the skies over King Abdulaziz International Airport.

Bahrain’s Foreign Ministry denounced the Houthi attack and commended the Royal Saudi Air Defense Forces for their vigilance.

Dr. Hamdan Al-Shehri, a Riyadh-based Saudi political analyst and international relations scholar, said: “This isn’t the first time that the Houthis and their masters in Tehran have fired missiles close to the holy city of Makkah.”

They have no qualms about attacking the holiest place in Islam, he added.

“They care nothing for the sanctity of the holy month of Ramadan. What they did today, and what they did in the past, clearly reveal their sinister designs to strike at the heart of the Muslim world,” Al-Shehri said.

“Now is the time for all Muslim nations in the world to come to the defense of the holy land. Our sacred places are under attack from Iran, the Houthis and their militias,” he added.

“Mere condemnation won’t do. Iran and the Houthis have crossed a red line, and this calls for deterrent action against Tehran,” he said.

Yemen’s internationally recognized government also condemned the Houthis’ attempt to target Makkah, calling it “a full-fledged terrorist attack.”

Monday’s aggression came as Saudi Arabia warned that recent drone attacks against its oil-pumping stations by the Houthis will jeopardize UN peace efforts in Yemen and lead to further escalation in the region.

Abdallah Al-Mouallimi, Saudi ambassador to the UN, said “seven explosive drones” directed by the Houthis attacked pumping stations on May 14 in the cities of Dawadmi and Afif “on the east-west oil pipeline that transfers Saudi oil to Yanbu port and to the rest of the world.”

He urged UN Security Council members, in a letter circulated on Monday, “to disarm this terrorist militia in order to prevent the escalation of these attacks which increase regional tensions and raise the risks of a broader regional confrontation.”

Al-Shehri said Monday’s attack is a reminder to Muslim nations about the clear and present danger from Iran.  “Tehran timed the attack just as King Salman has called for a meeting in Makkah to discuss the threat from Iran to the Muslim world,” Al-Shehri said.

Saudi security forces have intercepted and destroyed 227 ballistic missiles launched by the Houthis at the Kingdom since 2015.

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World Food Programme considers ending aid to Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen after ‘interference’

Time: May 21, 2019

Yemeni children present documents in order to receive food rations provided by a local charity, in Sanaa. The World Food Programme is (AP)
  • Negotiations with Houthi leaders to open up access to hungry people had not yet brought tangible results
  • “Humanitarian workers in Yemen are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked,” WFP says

LONDON: The World Food Programme (WFP) is considering suspending aid delivery in the areas under the control of Yemen’s Houthi group because of fighting, insecurity and interference it its work, the agency said on Monday.

“Humanitarian workers in Yemen are being denied access to the hungry, aid convoys have been blocked, and local authorities have interfered with food distribution,” the WFP said in a statement. “This has to stop.”

The highly unusual threat from the UN agency, which is feeding more than 10 million people across Yemen, reflected what it said were “obstacles that are being put in our way”.

“We face daily challenges due to the unrelenting fighting and insecurity in Yemen. And yet, our greatest challenge does not come from the guns, that are yet to fall silent in this conflict – instead, it is the obstructive and uncooperative role of some of the Houthi leaders in areas under their control.”

Negotiations with Houthi leaders to open up access to hungry people had not yet brought tangible results, WFP said, although some had made positive commitments.

“Unfortunately, they (Houthi leaders) are being let down by other Houthi leaders who have broken assurances they gave us on stopping food diversions and finally agreeing to a beneficiary identification and biometric registration exercise.”

WFP’s threat of a partial pullout comes after fighting around Hodeidah marred an apparent diplomatic breakthrough by U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths, who got the Iranian-aligned Houthis to agree a unilateral withdrawal of their forces from Hodeidah and two other ports earlier this month.

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Saudi deputy defense minister, UN envoy discuss Yemen’s stability

Time: May 10, 2019  

Martin Griffiths, left, and Prince Khalid bin Salman. (SPA photos)
  • KSRelief has implemented 330 projects, worth almost $2 billion, in Yemen in partnership with 80 UN agencies and international and local NGOs.

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia’s Deputy Defense Minister Prince Khalid bin Salman met UN Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths to discuss latest developments in the war-ravaged country on Thursday.

During the meeting in Riyadh, they reasserted the Kingdom’s support for the UN’s efforts to reach a political solution in Yemen and its keenness to provide support and assistance for civilians caught up in the conflict.

They stressed their commitment to ensuring the return of security and stability to Yemen, and to preserving both its sovereignty and unity.

Griffiths praised the outstanding humanitarian support being provided by Saudi Arabia, specifically through bodies like the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief).

They also discussed developments and the implementation of the Stockholm Agreement around the port city of Hodeidah, as well as the actions of Iranian-backed Houthi militias which have repeatedly violated the deal.

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Saudi Arabia, UAE giving $200m in aid to Yemen for Ramadan

Time: April 09, 2019  

Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah, KSRelief supervisor general, vows to continue relief works despite Houthi ‘transgressions.’ AN photo
  • Iranian-backed Houthis using ‘starvation as political tool’
  • The funding is allocated to UN partners: World Food Programme, UNICEF and WHO

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia and the UAE will allocate $200 million as urgent humanitarian assistance to the people of Yemen, the supervisor general of the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief) said on Monday.

The assistance comes a few weeks before Ramadan, and will enable Yemenis to observe the holy fasting month, Dr. Abdullah Al-Rabeeah added.

“Every year for Ramadan, we have large programs for iftar (breaking the fast), especially in Yemen and for all countries in need,” he said.

The funding is allocated to UN partners: $140 million to the World Food Programme, $40 million to UNICEF to address sanitation issues and malnutrition among children and mothers, and $20 million to the World Health Organization to tackle cholera and provide intravenous feeding fluids.

“Transgressions” by the Houthi militia “will not stop us from supporting Yemen, especially with the holy month of Ramadan upon us,” Al-Rabeeah said.

“We were able to contain cholera before, but now we face two problems: The rainy season, and its spread in places where the Houthi militia is prevalent,” he added.

“We’re serious about reaching all parts of Yemen to eliminate this disease (cholera) and any (others) that the Yemeni people face,” he said.

“We must recognize that the Saudi-led coalition forces (supporting Yemen’s internationally recognized government) make sure the assistance reaches through ports or land. However, when the aid reaches militia-controlled regions, there are obstacles preventing beneficiaries from gaining proper access to humanitarian aid. That starvation method is a political tool that the Houthis use to control Yemen.” Al-Rabeeah said there must be accountability for these abuses.

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Saudi Arabia pledges continued financial support for Palestine, Yemen

Time: March 07, 2019  

Saudi Minister of State for African Affairs Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Kattan attends a meeting of the League of Arab States’ Council in Cairo. (SPA)

CAIRO: Saudi Arabia’s minister of state for African affairs on Wednesday pledged the Kingdom’s continued support for Palestine and Yemen at a top-level meeting of Arab states.

Ahmed bin Abdul Aziz Kattan made the commitment on behalf of the country as he attended a ministerial session of the Arab League Council, being held at the organization’s headquarters in Cairo.

Kattan, who was leading the Saudi delegation to the meeting in the Egyptian capital, said resolving the Palestinian issue remained a top priority for Arab League nations.

He added that in 2018 Saudi Arabia provided $160 million for UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) programs and said the Kingdom would continue to offer financial and political support.

The minister also confirmed future Saudi financial backing for the Yemeni people. He condemned the Iranian-backed Houthi militias’ violations against the Yemenis and said the Kingdom was committed to helping bring stability to Yemen. He reiterated Saudi Arabia’s support for the UN envoy there in finding a political solution to the country’s crisis.

Kattan added that the Kingdom supported a peaceful resolution to the war in Syria in order to maintain the war-torn nation’s integrity and unity in accordance with UN Security Council resolutions. He also backed Libyan efforts to rebuild the state and its institutions.

The Cairo gathering was preceded by a consultative meeting attended by heads of delegations and other officials.

The Arab ministers are scheduled to discuss the agenda for a major Arab summit to be held in Tunis later this month. The officials will also hold talks about joint political, economic, social, cultural and security cooperation between Arab countries, as well as the Palestinian issue and Arab-Israel conflict. Latest developments in the region, particularly in Syria, Lebanon and Yemen will be reviewed too.

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British minister emphasizes Saudi Arabia’s important role in Yemen peace process

Time: February 21, 2019  

Britain’s Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt gives a speech at the Konrad-Adenauer foundation in Berlin on February 20, 2019. (AFP)
  • Hunt said that the British-Saudi partnership helped parties to the Yemen conflict form the Stockholm Agreement under the auspices of the UN
  • British Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt pointed out that Riyadh was the “biggest donor of humanitarian efforts in Yemen”

LONDON: British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt highlighted Wednesday the “strategic partnership” between Britain and Saudi Arabia and said it would help British efforts to end the war in Yemen.
Hunt noted that the British-Saudi partnership helped parties to the Yemen conflict form the Stockholm Agreement under the auspices of the UN, Asharq Al-Awsat reported.
“The strategic relationship that the UK has with Saudi Arabia is what allows us to have a huge influence in bringing about peace in Yemen,” he said.
Hunt’s comments, made during a visit to Berlin on Wednesday, follow a decision by Germany to freeze arms exports to Saudi Arabia. That move was slammed by several other European countries, including France, with President Emmanuel Macron labeling it “pure demagoguery.”
“Britain and Germany have the same objectives, but we need to be able to continue that strategic relationship (with Saudi Arabia) in order to make sure that there is a European voice at the (Yemeni) negotiation table that does everything it can to press for peace,” the British foreign secretary said.
He added that he would raise the issue with German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas in Berlin, following reports that the British minister had written to his German counterpart to complain about the arms embargo.
Britain’s foreign ministry confirmed that Hunt sent a letter to Maas, but did not elaborate on its content.
Citing the letter, the German magazine Der Spiegel reported that London had urged Berlin to exempt major European defense projects from the weapons embargo.
Meanwhile, the British Minister of State for the Middle East Alistair Burt underlined Saudi Arabia’s pivotal role in Yemen, pointing out that Riyadh was the “biggest donor of humanitarian efforts in Yemen.”
Burt, who recently visited a number of Gulf states including Saudi Arabia, stressed Britain’s keenness to achieve progress in the Yemeni talks considering the country’s humanitarian situation. He added that he discussed the upcoming donor conference in Geneva during his visit.

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UN says grain stores in Yemen’s Hodeidah ‘at risk of rotting’

Time: February 11, 2019

The Red Sea Mills contain more than 46,000,000kgs of grains. Above, military coalition soldiers in Yemen guard one of the Red Sea Mills facilities. (AFP)
  • UN envoy to Yemen says food might rot in Hodeidah grain silos
  • The storages contain food sufficient to feed more than 3 million people for a month

DUBAI: The UN special envoy to Yemen on Monday said the urgency of accessing grain stores trapped in a frontline position in the port city of Hodeidah was increasing as the food was “at risk of rotting.”
The World Food Program grain stores at the Red Sea Mills are enough to feed 3.7 million people for a month and have been inaccessible for more than five months, Martin Griffiths said.
Yemen’s almost four-year war has killed tens of thousands of people, collapsed the economy and brought millions of people to the brink of famine.
The UN is pushing for the implementation of a cease-fire and troop withdrawal from Hodeidah, the main entry point for most of Yemen’s imports, agreed in December in Sweden.
Accessing the more than 46,000,000kgs of UN wheat and milling equipment at the frontline flashpoint is a key aim of ongoing peace talks.
Yemen’s conflict pits the Iran-aligned Houthi movement against a Saudi-backed coalition trying to restore the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi after it was ousted from power in Sanaa by the Houthis in 2014.
Negotiations between warring parties last week produced what the UN called a “preliminary compromise” on how to withdraw troops, although the deal has not yet been finally agreed.
Griffiths said he was encouraged by the recent engagement of all sides in talks to find a way of accessing the mills.
“We emphasize that ensuring access to the mills is a shared responsibility among the parties to the conflict in Yemen. With safe, unfettered and sustained access, the United Nations can make this urgently needed food available to people in need,” the statement said.
The joint statement between Griffiths and UN aid chief Mark Lowcock said the UN was scaling up its operations to provide food assistance to nearly 12 million people across Yemen struggling to meet their daily food needs.

 

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UN envoy ‘deeply concerned’ about Yemen hostilities

Time: 01 February 2019

Houthi militants on Thursday patrolling the streets of Sanaa, which they seized from the government in 2014. (AFP)

LONDON: The United Nation’s Yemen envoy warned Thursday that he was deeply concerened about “recent hostilities” in Yemen where a precarious regional truce is under increasing pressure.

Shortly after his comments, the Arab coalition said it was carrying out an operation targeting a Houthi drone storage site in Sanaa.

Martin Griffiths did not specify which hostilities, but the Yemeni government on Wednesday accused Houthi militants of attacking an explosives safety team who were on their way to clear land mines from near a food store in Hodeidah.

The Arab coalition supporting the government also said Wednesday that it had shot down a Houthi drone over Saudi Arabia.

Griffiths traveled to Yemen this week to shore up the Hodeidah ceasefire deal signed in Sweden in December. Since the agreement, the coalition have accused the Houthis of dozens of violations and of failing to withdraw its troops from certain areas. They have also been accused of opening fire on the UN team sent to monitor the deal.

“Deeply concerned about recent hostilities in Yemen,” Griffiths tweeted. He called on all sides to “exercise utmost restraint and de-escalate tensions.”

On Wednesday, Anwar Gargash, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs, said the Arab coalition is prepared to use “calibrated force” to push the Iranian-backed Houthis from Hodeidah as per the Sweden deal.

Gargash said the coalition struck 10 Houthi training camps outside Hodeidah governorate on Wednesday.

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Houthi militia attacks UN and demining teams in Hodeidah

Time: January 30, 2019

Houthi militants attacked members of the United Nations, Yemeni government liaison officers and an engineering team responsible for surveying and demining areas. (File/AFP)
  • Houthi militants attacked members of the United Nations, Yemeni government liaison officers and an engineering team responsible for surveying and demining areas
  • A government spokesman explained that the liaison officer waited for the UN delegate to enter the Red Sea Mills, but the Houthi militia refused to allow the road to be opened

DUBAI: Houthi militants attacked members of the United Nations, Yemeni government liaison officers and an engineering team responsible for surveying and demining areas on Tuesday, Saudi state-news agency SPA reported.

“The engineering, government, and UN officers moved at 8 a.m. to the Red Sea Mills, and reached the 13 Kilo area by 9 a.m. when suddenly the group came under intense fire from the Houthi militia” Yemeni government spokesman Rajih Badi said.

“We have already coordinated with the UN representative, who in turn told the team that the Houthis promised him a cease-fire and allowed for demining,” he added.

Badi explained that the liaison officer waited for the UN delegate to enter the Red Sea Mills, but the Houthi militia refused to allow the road to be opened.

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Yemen’s Houthis boycott meeting with UN-led truce monitors

Time: January 13, 2019     

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert, who heads a UN team monitoring a ceasefire between the Iranian-backed Houthi militias and Saudi-backed government forces in Yemen’s Hodeidah. (AFP)

Yemeni Houthi militias on Sunday boycotted a meeting chaired by the head of a UN-led ceasefire monitoring team in the flashpoint city of Hodeidah, accusing him of pursuing “other agendas”.

Retired Dutch general Patrick Cammaert is leading a joint committee, which includes both government and militia representatives, tasked with overseeing a truce in the Red Sea port city and the withdrawal of both parties.

Houthi militia negotiator Mohammed Abdelsalam said Cammaert “steered from the course of the agreement by implementing other agendas”.

“If (UN envoy to Yemen Martin) Griffiths does not address the issue, it is going to be difficult to discuss any other matter,” he said on Twitter without elaborating.

An AFP photographer said that the Houthi representatives did not take part in the committee meeting in Hodeidah on Sunday.

The UN declined to comment.

Last month the warring parties agreed a ceasefire for Hodeidah during UN-sponsored talks in Sweden.

Despite the peace efforts, the truce was shortly  impeded after a Houthi drone targeted senior officersand journalists at Yemen’s al-Anad Military base in Lahj last week.

Clashes erupted between Houthi militias and government forces in Hodeidah on Saturday, dealing a new blow to the fragile truce.

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