Protests Continue in Syria's Sweida as US Congressman Reportedly Contacts Druze Leader

Protesters chant slogans during a protest in the Druze-majority city of Sweida, southwestern Syria, 15 September 2023. (EPA)
Protesters chant slogans during a protest in the Druze-majority city of Sweida, southwestern Syria, 15 September 2023. (EPA)
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Protests Continue in Syria's Sweida as US Congressman Reportedly Contacts Druze Leader

Protesters chant slogans during a protest in the Druze-majority city of Sweida, southwestern Syria, 15 September 2023. (EPA)
Protesters chant slogans during a protest in the Druze-majority city of Sweida, southwestern Syria, 15 September 2023. (EPA)

The anti-regime protests have continued in Syria’s Sweida amid reports that an American congressman contacted spiritual head of the country's Druze community to discuss the rallies.

News spread on social media on Saturday that Congressman French Hill had contacted Sheikh Hikmat al-Hajri. They spoke by telephone for over half an hour.

Hill reportedly inquired about "what was really happening in Sweida" and the overall situation in the southern province in wake of news that the protesters in front of the Baath party branch in Sweida city were fired at.

Syrian opposition figure Maher Sharafeddine said Hill expressed his pride in contacting Hajri, hoping to develop relations further with him.

Hill did not disclose information about his reported talks with Hajri and the latter did not issue any statement to confirm them either.

Three people were wounded on Wednesday when bullets were sprayed at anti-government protesters in Sweida, activists and local journalists said, in the first reported use of violence in weeks-long demonstrations there.

Activists, who have been taking to the streets to call for President Bashar al-Assad to step down over worsening living conditions, accused members of the ruling Baath party of firing.

Hajri has been the target of a fierce campaign by regime and Iran loyalists after he accused Iran of "occupying" Syria and calling for "jihad" against it.

In an open letter to Hajri, MP Khaled Abboud said that should the reports about his and Hill’s talks be true, then "it is evident who is behind the protest movement" and "this puts us in confrontation with it."

On Friday, the US embassy in Damascus said Washington was concerned over reports that the Syrian regime was quelling the Sweida rallies.

Washington supports the right of the Syrian people for peaceful protests in their pursuit of a dignified life, freedom, security and justice.

It added that the political solution, based on United Nations Security Council 2254, was the sole way to resolve the conflict in Syria.

Conflict erupted in Syria in 2011 with rallies against Assad in the country's south and quickly morphed into an all-out war that has left hundreds of thousands dead and displaced millions.

Assad recaptured most of the country with help from his allies Russia and Iran. Even with frontlines calmer, the country's economy remains in tatters and its humanitarian needs have skyrocketed.

Still, open criticism of the government was extremely rare in Assad-held areas until the government's decision to lift fuel subsidies last month, prompted fresh protests concentrated in Sweida.

Hajri, on Wednesday blamed "corrupt" security forces for the incident, which he said would not deter protests.

"The main thing is restraint, and we won't give up on our peaceful demands. The street is with us. ... (We will stay) a day or two or a month or years," Hajri said.



Abbas Says US Veto Makes it Complicit in Israeli 'War Crimes'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets  with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in the West Bank city Ramallah, on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.  (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in the West Bank city Ramallah, on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)
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Abbas Says US Veto Makes it Complicit in Israeli 'War Crimes'

Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets  with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in the West Bank city Ramallah, on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023.  (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas meets with Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez and Belgium's Prime Minister Alexander De Croo in the West Bank city Ramallah, on Thursday, Nov. 23, 2023. (Alaa Badarneh/Pool via AP)

Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said the US veto of a UN Security Council resolution demanding a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza made it complicit in what he described as war crimes against Palestinians.

Abbas also said he held the US responsible for the bloodshed of Palestinian children, women and the elderly in the Gaza Strip, a statement released by the presidency said.

The United States wielded its UN Security Council veto on Friday to shield Israel from a global demand for a ceasefire.
Thirteen of the Security Council's 15 members voted for the resolution calling for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire that was blocked by Washington. Britain abstained.


Intensified Fighting Across Gaza as Israel Orders More Evacuations in Khan Younis

Smoke rises over Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 9, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Smoke rises over Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 9, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
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Intensified Fighting Across Gaza as Israel Orders More Evacuations in Khan Younis

Smoke rises over Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 9, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha
Smoke rises over Gaza, amid the ongoing conflict between Israel and Hamas, as seen from southern Israel, December 9, 2023. REUTERS/Athit Perawongmetha

Israel pounded the Gaza Strip from north to south on Saturday in an expanded phase of its two-month-old war against Hamas as it ordered residents out of the center of the enclave's main southern city Khan Younis.

Israel's Arabic-language spokesperson posted a map on X highlighting six numbered blocks of Khan Younis that residents were told to evacuate "urgently". They included parts of the city center that had not been subject to such orders before. No explanation was given.
Israel issued similar warnings at the start of this week before storming the eastern parts of the city. Residents said they feared new evacuation orders heralded a further assault.

Since a truce collapsed last week, Israel has expanded its ground campaign into the southern half of the Gaza Strip by launching the storming of Khan Younis. Simultaneously, both sides have reported a surge in fighting in the north.

The vast majority of Gaza's 2.3 million residents have already been forced from their homes, many fleeing multiple times. With fighting raging across the length of the territory, residents and UN agencies say there is now effectively nowhere safe to go, though Israel disputes this.

Israel has blocked Gazans from fleeing along the main north-south route down the spine of the narrow strip, and is shunting them instead towards the Mediterranean coast.

Fighting in the north has been its most intense in parts of Gaza City and settlements on its northern edge, where huge explosions could be seen from across the fence in Israel.


US, Morocco Hold Conference on Cybersecurity

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy Jennifer Bachus (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy Jennifer Bachus (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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US, Morocco Hold Conference on Cybersecurity

Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy Jennifer Bachus (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Cyberspace and Digital Policy Jennifer Bachus (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The US aims to be a key partner in consolidating Morocco's position as a regional leader in cybersecurity, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary Jennifer Bachus has announced.

At its Dar America cultural center, the US Consulate General in Casablanca hosted a conference with Bachus on cybersecurity and cyber diplomacy, along with Moroccan Masters and Doctorate students from the Ben M'sik and Ain Chock Faculties of Sciences.

The conference was part of Bachus's official visit to Morocco from December 6 to 8.

Morocco is making great strides in digital transformation, and the United States is eager to support the Kingdom in its vision to become a regional leader in the tech space," Bachus said.

The official noted Morocco's progress and expressed Washington's desire to be a key partner in consolidating the Kingdom's position as a regional leader in this area.

"Among the top priorities of the US government, my Bureau is advancing global cyber stability through international partnerships and supporting trusted telecommunications infrastructure, including 5G," she recalled.

A statement from the US mission in Morocco, issued at the end of the meeting, indicated that the US official was impressed by Morocco and expressed Washington's readiness to be a key partner in strengthening Morocco's position as a field leader.

The statement highlighted that the rapid development of information and communications technology has resulted in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence emerging as fundamental pillars of global economic growth.

The US official confirmed that artificial intelligence has imposed itself as a significant driver for stimulating operational efficiency and opening new horizons for innovation, highlighting that integrating artificial intelligence into cybersecurity systems provides essential benefits.

Bachus called for international cooperation and the exchange of expertise to confront the increasing challenges associated with digital security, pointing out that global challenges in cybersecurity and digital policies are increasing significantly.

According to US officials, developing appropriate policies and providing investments in cybersecurity and artificial intelligence enhances economic growth by encouraging innovation, enhancing competitiveness, and enabling an environment for secure exchanges.

Integrating cybersecurity and artificial intelligence paves the way for new economic opportunities and provides innovative solutions to current challenges, ensuring sustainable and flexible economic development.


Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee Urges from Washington Immediate Gaza Ceasefire

Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee holds meeting in Washington (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee holds meeting in Washington (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee Urges from Washington Immediate Gaza Ceasefire

Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee holds meeting in Washington (Asharq Al-Awsat)
Arab-Islamic Summit Ministerial Committee holds meeting in Washington (Asharq Al-Awsat)

The ministerial committee assigned by the extraordinary joint Arab-Islamic Summit expressed unequivocal rejection of all violations and practices carried out by Israel against the Palestinians, including settlement operations, forced displacement, and the bombardment of civilian facilities.

Chaired by the Saudi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Prince Faisal bin Farhan, the committee, including his counterparts Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani of Qatar, Ayman Safadi of Jordan, and Sameh Shoukry of Egypt, held a press conference in Washington on Friday.

During the meeting, Prince Faisal bin Farhan warned of the “seriousness of the current situation,” citing a “significant increase in the number of civilian casualties and the deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Gaza.”

“Our message is clear and straightforward; we believe it is crucial to end the conflict immediately,” said the top Saudi diplomat.

He expressed dissatisfaction with the apparent lack of priority given to ending the conflict in some quarters of the international community.

As for the Jordanian Foreign Minister, he expressed pessimism towards the current situation.

“Unfortunately, I am not optimistic. I believe Israel does not listen to anyone and continues its assaults with destructive consequences for everyone in the region, including Israel itself,” Safadi told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“This aggression stems from anger and resentment, driven by a radical campaign, and that is why we are in Washington,” he clarified.

He added that the committee seeks to convey these messages during its meetings with officials in Washington.

In response to a question from Asharq Al-Awsat, the Egyptian Foreign Minister said: “The solution to the issue of Palestinian refugees is to end the military operations immediately.”

Shoukry emphasized that the current humanitarian situation poses a threat to international security and peace.

“The solution is a ceasefire and a plan by the Security Council to allow the flow of more humanitarian aid,” said Shoukry, explaining that these proposals could provide a temporary solution that might help avoid any forced or voluntary displacement.

“Any form of displacement is a violation of international law and constitutes a war crime,” affirmed Shoukry.

The committee, which held meetings and discussions in the capital, Washington, including a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, expressed its rejection of Israeli violations and practices in the Palestinian territories that violate international laws and norms.

The committee also held a conference at the Wilson Center in Washington.

It emphasized the importance of the international community taking serious and urgent steps to secure relief corridors for the delivery of urgent humanitarian, food, and medical assistance to Gaza.

The committee also stressed the importance of the commitment of UN Security Council member states to their responsibility to stop the violations committed by Israel against Palestinians in Gaza.

Furthermore, the committee pointed out that a return to the path of a fair, permanent, and comprehensive peace in Palestine requires serious action from the international community to implement international resolutions related to the two-state solution.


UN Chief Warns of Consequences of Displacing Palestinians in Egypt

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)
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UN Chief Warns of Consequences of Displacing Palestinians in Egypt

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres speaks during a United Nations Security Council meeting on Gaza, at UN headquarters in New York City on December 8, 2023. (Photo by Yuki IWAMURA / AFP)

The Secretary-General of the United Nations, Antonio Guterres, has warned of a "total collapse" of the humanitarian support system in Gaza, saying it would have devastating consequences.

Guterres cautioned during a Security Council session on Friday that this would result in the complete breakdown of public order and increase pressure for mass displacement into Egypt.

He called for an immediate cessation of the fighting between Israel and Hamas.

The Security Council failed to pass a draft resolution demanding an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza on Friday.

The text, presented by the UAE, was vetoed by the United States, one of five permanent council members.

The vote was delayed several hours to overcome the objections of the US and the UK.

Western diplomats sought to postpone the vote to another day, hoping to reach a consensus on a decision that would be approved by all member states, or at least no veto will be used against it.

An Arab and Islamic ministerial delegation, chaired by Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan, held several meetings in Washington with senior US officials, namely Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

- Breaking point

Before the vote, the Security Council held a meeting Friday during which Guterres delivered a speech warning that the war poses a severe risk of aggravating existing threats to maintaining international peace and security.

Ahead of the session, the Sec-Gen announced an unprecedented decision to invoke Article 99, urging Council members to press to avert a humanitarian catastrophe and appealing for a humanitarian ceasefire to be declared.

Guterres told the members that Gazans are going through "a spiraling humanitarian nightmare," noting that he wrote to the Security Council invoking Article 99 because "we are at a breaking point."

"We have already seen the spillover in the Occupied West Bank, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen."

He recalled that more than 130 UN staff had already been killed, many with their families.

However, Guterres asserted: "I cannot emphasize strongly enough that the UN is committed to stay and deliver for the people of Gaza."

"Nowhere in Gaza is safe," warned the Sec-Gen, adding that "Gazans are running out of food," and according to the World Food Program (WFP), there is a severe risk of starvation and famine.

He called upon Hamas to immediately and unconditionally release the Israeli captives, adding that "the brutality perpetrated by Hamas can never justify the collective punishment of the Palestinian people."

- Palestine and Israel

Palestine's permanent observer Riyad Mansour warned that the Israeli occupation is planning for "ethnic cleansing" in Gaza, seizing the property of the Palestinian people and forcibly displacing them.

Mansour stressed that the war on Gaza aims to end the Palestinian cause and "prevent forever any prospect of Palestinian impudence and peace."

The diplomat praised Guterres's call for a ceasefire in Gaza, asserting that if anyone says they are against the destruction and displacement of Palestinian people, they have to be in favor of an immediate ceasefire.

"When you refuse to call for a ceasefire, you are refusing to call for the only thing that can put an end to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. This is how Israel is conducting the war, through atrocities," Mansour said.

Furthermore, Israel's Permanent Representative Gilad Erdan criticized the calls for a ceasefire, considering that regional security and stability can only be achieved "once Hamas is eliminated."

- Russia and China

Russia's Representative Dmitriy Polyansky stated that his country is working with China and the UAE to achieve an "immediate" ceasefire in Gaza, adding that the humanitarian truce was "insufficient."

Polyansky strongly criticized Israel and the US support, warning of "a new catastrophe," adding that Russia is ready to redouble its efforts to achieve a two-state solution following international resolutions and the 2002 Arab initiative.

Representative of China Zhang Jun paid tribute to the Secretary-General for his statement on the seriousness of the situation in Gaza.

He said China supports and co-sponsors the draft resolution submitted by the UAE because only an immediate ceasefire will save lives and pave the way for the two-state solution.

"A larger crisis is imminent," and regional peace and security are "on the precipice," said the Chinese diplomat, adding that the world is watching.

- The US position

US Deputy Permanent Representative Robert Wood said Washington still could not understand why the resolution's authors declined to include language condemning Hamas's attack on Israel.

He reiterated that the US does not support calls for an immediate ceasefire.

"There must be no enduring displacement or reduction in Gaza's territory. Under no circumstances would the US support forced relocation of Palestinians from Gaza or the West Bank," he said.

Wood expressed concern about renewed acts of violence along the Blue Line on the Lebanese-Israeli border, adding that restoring stability is extremely important.

He condemned the Houthi attacks against commercial ships in international waters south of the Red Sea, saying Iran was involved in planning the operations.

He stressed that US officials extensively consulted with partners and allies to determine the appropriate next steps.

- France and Britain

France's Permanent Representative Nicolas de Riviere stressed that the Council must act in the face of this acute crisis, reiterating his country's demand for "a new, immediate and permanent humanitarian truce that leads to a permanent ceasefire."

He said that Paris is mobilizing its efforts to avoid the outbreak of a regional conflict, calling on all parties to exercise restraint.

UK's Ambassador Barbara Woodward said Hamas was responsible for the current situation, reiterating Israel's right to self-defense.

"Civilians must be protected," she underscored.

- Draft resolution

The UAE responded to Guterres' request to prepare a draft resolution that demands an immediate humanitarian ceasefire in the war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.

The Sec-Gen noted that international humanitarian law cannot be applied selectively.

It is binding on all parties equally at all times, and the obligation to observe it does not depend on reciprocity.

He called for the "immediate and unconditional release, as well as their humane treatment and visits from the International Committee of the Red Cross until they are freed."


France Freezes Aid to Lebanon, Pressuring Resolution for Army’s 'Vacuum Crisis’

Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati holding meeting with the French delegation (Dalati and Nohra)
Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati holding meeting with the French delegation (Dalati and Nohra)
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France Freezes Aid to Lebanon, Pressuring Resolution for Army’s 'Vacuum Crisis’

Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati holding meeting with the French delegation (Dalati and Nohra)
Lebanese Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati holding meeting with the French delegation (Dalati and Nohra)

While France may acknowledge the growing challenge in foreseeing the election of a president in Lebanon, it has not yielded in its efforts to avert a leadership void in the country's paramount Maronite institution, the Lebanese army.

This comes after a year-long vacuum in the presidency and another void in the governance of the Central Bank of Lebanon.

The recent visit of the French presidential envoy, Jean-Yves Le Drian, to Lebanon focused on this issue.

France’s strategy pivots towards the notion of “overcoming grievances.”

It implores the Lebanese to fulfill their “duty” by electing a president, aiming to reinstate constitutional order in a nation suffering from a profound economic and financial crisis.

Moreover, Lebanon confronts the mounting likelihood and considerable peril of being entangled in the persisting conflict in Gaza—a scenario separate from the minor attrition war orchestrated by Hezbollah along the southern borders, ostensibly in the name of “supporting the Palestinians.”

France senses a significant danger looming over Lebanon, with confrontations occurring at its southern borders and the threat of military and security vacuum haunting the country.

All these factors put its diplomacy on high alert.

This might explain the successive visits, both announced and undisclosed, by French officials to Lebanon in recent days, including a joint delegation from the defense and foreign ministries.

The deployment of 700 French soldiers in the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) makes their readiness even more pronounced.

According to French diplomatic sources, the vacuum in the army’s leadership is “a security threat to France at the same level as the threat to Lebanon's security.”

Moreover, there is an Israeli threat hovering over Lebanon, and while the issue of the presidential election may wait for some time despite its importance, the vacuum in the leadership of the Lebanese army poses an immediate and unavoidable security nightmare.

France, as per a source who requested anonymity, will not intervene in “how to prevent the vacuum.”

Preventing a power vacuum may be achieved by either extending the term of Army Commander General Joseph Aoun or by filling the gap in the General Staff that could replace the army commander when his term ends in January.

“France does not insist on extending the army commander’s term,” the source told Asharq Al-Awsat, explaining that French officials have informed their Lebanese counterparts to do “what they deem appropriate to prevent the vacuum at the top of the military institution.”

The source also notes that Le Drian received assurances from Lebanese officials that the matter is being addressed.

France has taken steps to pressure Lebanese officials in this regard, and a decision has been made to link aid allocated to the army and cooperation projects with resolving this issue.

 

 


US Special Envoy to Attend IGAD’s Extraordinary Summit

US Special Envoy to Attend IGAD’s Extraordinary Summit
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US Special Envoy to Attend IGAD’s Extraordinary Summit

US Special Envoy to Attend IGAD’s Extraordinary Summit

US Special Envoy for the Horn of Africa Mike Hammer will attend the 41st Extraordinary Summit of the Inter-Governmental Authority on Development (IGAD) Assembly Heads of State and Government in Sudan and meet with Djiboutian officials.

The US Embassy in Sudan announced that Hammer will support regional and international efforts in Sudan to end the conflict, promote a democratic transition, press for unhindered humanitarian access, and support justice and accountability for victims of the violence.

According to the statement, the Ambassador will participate in the Doha Forum and discuss regional and international efforts with Qatari officials to end the ongoing violence in Sudan and advance stability in the Horn of Africa.

Hammer is also scheduled to visit Ethiopia and intends to meet with African Union (AU) officials to coordinate efforts on Sudan and other regional priorities.

- Gebeyehu-Hammer

IGAD Executive Secretary Workneh Gebeyehu met with the US envoy on Friday ahead of the 41st Extraordinary Session of the IGAD Assembly in Djibouti.

They discussed issues of common concern and the partnership contributing to regional development, peace, and security.

The Personal Envoy of the UN Secretary-General to Sudan, Ramtane Lamamra, will also participate in the summit.

During his visit to Djibouti in November, the head of the Sudanese Sovereign Council and the army commander, Abdel Fattah al-Burhan, agreed with the IGAD secretary to hold an emergency summit to develop a clear road map to end the crisis.

- Salva Kiir - Hamdok

South Sudan Prime Minister Salva Kiir Mayardit met with Sudan’s former premier Abdullah Hamdok in UAE. The meeting discussed peace and stability in Sudan.

South Sudan’s Minister of Presidential Affairs, Joseph Bakosoro, said that the meeting focused on finding a peaceful settlement to the current crisis in Sudan.

- The division of Sudan

In the meantime, the leader of the Forces of Freedom and Change, Khalid Omar Yousif, warned of the worst scenario that may face the country in light of the ongoing war between Sudan’s National Army and the Rapid Support Forces (RSF) since last April.

Yousif said in a political forum on the Clubhouse application that the negotiated political solution is the only way to end the war. Otherwise, the country could face worse scenarios, such as the division of Sudan into failed states and turning the country into a hotbed for terrorist groups.

He asserted that the peaceful, negotiated solution is highly complex and may succeed or fail, pointing out that the continuation of the war will lead to the destruction and collapse of Sudan.


Yemen: Living Challenges on the Rise Amid Decline in Development Indicators

FILE PHOTO: Women hold their children as they wait outside a health center where they will receive nutritional support from the World Food Programme (WFP) June 9, 2010 in Yemen. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Women hold their children as they wait outside a health center where they will receive nutritional support from the World Food Programme (WFP) June 9, 2010 in Yemen. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
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Yemen: Living Challenges on the Rise Amid Decline in Development Indicators

FILE PHOTO: Women hold their children as they wait outside a health center where they will receive nutritional support from the World Food Programme (WFP) June 9, 2010 in Yemen. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: Women hold their children as they wait outside a health center where they will receive nutritional support from the World Food Programme (WFP) June 9, 2010 in Yemen. REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah/File Photo

Living challenges of Yemenis are increasing due to the Houthi coup, climate change, and various crises in the region, amid mounting warnings of worsening economic and humanitarian conditions and declining development indicators.

The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) predicted considerable losses to the Yemeni economy during the next three decades due to climate change, amounting to $93 billion in gross domestic product (GDP), 3.8 million more people suffering from malnutrition, and 121,000 deaths.

Furthermore, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) network warned that critical funding gaps exacerbate the crisis.

In its country network plan 2024, the IFRC expected that by December 2023, 41% of Yemenis will be categorized under Crisis and Emergency levels of food insecurity.

The report attributed the main drivers of this deterioration to a projected 20% shortfall in humanitarian assistance, an anticipated increase in food and fuel prices to about 30% above the average levels, and a continuation of the conflict.

It also noted that 21.6 million people will require humanitarian assistance or protection.

The report noted that despite some progress, Yemen continues to grapple with food insecurity, and according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) partial analysis, the number of people facing severe acute food insecurity remains high.

It indicated that the severity of the situation is underscored by widespread food insecurity, malnutrition, health, water and sanitation, and protection needs.

About 17.3 million people need food and agricultural assistance, more than 20.3 million people lack access to vital health services, and another 15.3 million people require clean water and basic sanitation needs.

- Damaged infrastructure

Public services and infrastructure in Yemen have been severely affected by war and extreme weather conditions, noted the Federation, noting that most public workers have not received regular income in years.

Yemen's severe water crisis, intensified by conflict and climate change, leaves the majority without clean water, with the UN warning of a total depletion by 2025.

Most Yemen is considered at high risk of water scarcity, with the country's water crisis being among the worst in the world.

About 18 million people lack access to safe water and sanitation, and providing safe water will be one of the biggest problems people will encounter in the coming years.

Earlier, the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Fisheries, Salem al-Saqtari, stressed the importance of boosting the interconnection between energy, water, and food resources within the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals framework.

In a panel discussion on sustainable solutions in human development in energy, food, and water, Saqtari explained that the challenges of a long-standing dry climate and rising pressures on water, energy, and food have greatly affected the country.

The Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development (KFAED) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) held a joint panel titled "Energy-Food-Water Nexus: Sustainable Solutions in the Humanitarian-Development-Peace Nexus."

The poverty rate in Yemen has exceeded 70% of the total population, and more than 17 million people suffer from food insecurity and other alarming indicators, which the government is facing by establishing projects such as water desalination plants and options for establishing dams.

Meanwhile, the General Coordinator of the Relief Committee, Jamal Balfaqih, called for rehabilitating vital facilities and supporting and encouraging agriculture and fishing, which provide job opportunities and help in achieving development sustainability.

Balfaqih referred to the $20 billion relief organizations received from donor countries in more than eight years, saying the efforts were still in the "life-saving phase."

The official hoped authorities would undertake supervision and control and submit periodic reports on relief organizations, especially the highest priority needs throughout the governorates.

- Development indicators decline

According to the "Impact of Climate Change on Human Development in Yemen," through which the UN monitors progress in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Yemen ranked 163rd out of 166 countries, with an index of 46.8, a significant decline from 2010, when it scored 49.5.

The level of implementation of the first goal of eradicating poverty has achieved a continuous decline, as poverty rates reached an income level of $2.15 per day.

It reported a decline in the fifteenth goal of conserving wildlife, the sixteenth goal to promote peaceful societies and provide access to justice for all, and the seventeenth goal of revitalizing the global partnership for sustainable development.

Economics professor at Sanaa University Jamil Abdulqader believes that all the challenges imposed by climate change require a solid state to deal with them.

Abdulqader indicated that achieving economic and social integration is dropping to the lowest levels, causing more suffering for the population.

He told Asharq Al-Awsat that establishing a coherent economy, achieving balanced and sustainable development, and realizing political and security stability enables the country to confront various living and natural challenges.

The expert warned that with those elements, all efforts will only produce temporary solutions that may postpone or limit disasters but will only prevent them partially.

Abdulqader admitted he was surprised the authorities continue to rely on international aid despite the regional wars and crises, which reduce the amount of support directed to Yemen, asserting that they should work on finding alternatives.


WHO Members Urge Israel to Protect Humanitarian Workers

Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)
Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)
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WHO Members Urge Israel to Protect Humanitarian Workers

Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)
Medics transfer wounded Palestinians from Gaza to Egypt through the Rafah crossing on Sunday. (AFP)

More than a dozen member states of the World Health Organization submitted a draft resolution on Friday that urged Israel to respect its obligations under international law to protect humanitarian workers in Gaza.

War erupted in Gaza after Hamas militants attacked southern Israel on October 7. Israel's retaliatory air and ground assault on Gaza has killed 17,487 people, mostly women and children, according to Gaza's health ministry in the besieged Palestinian territory.

The text of the draft resolution is due to be examined on Sunday during a special session of the WHO's Executive Board convened to discuss "the health situation in the occupied Palestinian territory".

It was proposed by Algeria, Bolivia, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Türkiye, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Palestinian representatives have WHO observer status, and were also signatories to the proposal.

The member states expressed their "grave concern about the catastrophic humanitarian situation in the occupied Palestinian territory, including east Jerusalem, especially the military operations in the Gaza Strip".

They called for Israel to "respect and protect" medical and humanitarian workers exclusively involved in carrying out medical duties, as well as hospitals and other medical facilities.

Separately, WHO spokesman Christian Lindmeier told reporters on Friday that Gaza's health system was on its knees and could not afford to lose another ambulance or a single hospital bed.

"The situation is getting more and more horrible by the day... beyond belief, literally," he said.

The United Nations' humanitarian agency OCHA said late on Thursday that only 14 of the 36 hospitals in the Gaza Strip were functioning in any capacity.


Israeli Strike Kills Three Pro-Hezbollah Fighters in Syria

File photo: Iranian militias’ training in Syria, including fighters for the Lebanese Hezbollah. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
File photo: Iranian militias’ training in Syria, including fighters for the Lebanese Hezbollah. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
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Israeli Strike Kills Three Pro-Hezbollah Fighters in Syria

File photo: Iranian militias’ training in Syria, including fighters for the Lebanese Hezbollah. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)
File photo: Iranian militias’ training in Syria, including fighters for the Lebanese Hezbollah. (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights)

Three Hezbollah fighters and a Syrian were killed on Friday in an Israeli drone strike on their car in the south of Syria, a war monitor said.

"A Syrian and three Lebanese Hezbollah fighters from the surveillance and missile-launching unit were killed in the Israeli drone strike on their rented car" in Madinat al-Baath town in the province of Quneitra, close to the Israeli-annexed Golan Heights, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights head Rami Abdel Rahman told AFP.

Later Friday Hezbollah said that three of its fighters had been killed, without giving any further details.

The previous day the Observatory, which has a network of sources in Syria, reported that Israel hit sites close to Damascus with eight missiles, as well as a "regime military post in the province of Quneitra", without causing any casualties.

The strikes were a response to the bombardment of Israeli-annexed Golan, the monitor said.

On December 2, two Syrian Hezbollah fighters and two officers of Iran's Revolutionary Guards were killed in an Israeli air strike on Hezbollah sites close to Damascus, the monitor said.

The official news agency of the Revolutionary Guards, Sepah News, reported on the same day that two members of the guards had died on an "advisory mission" in its ally Syria, but did not specify where and when they were killed.

Israel has undertaken hundreds of air strikes in its neighbour Syria since the start of the country's civil war in 2011, targeting the positions of the Syrian army and groups affiliated with Iran, such as Hezbollah.

Those missions have intensified since the start of Israel's war against Hamas in the Gaza Strip on October 7, which was triggered by the group's unprecedented attack on Israeli soil.

On November 8, three Hezbollah fighters were killed in an Israeli strike against the militant group's positions close to Damascus, according to the Observatory.

Israel rarely comments on its operations in Syria, but says it wants to prevent Iran, its sworn enemy, from establishing itself on Israel's doorstep.