Mauritania Investigates Granting of Island to Former Qatari Emir

Then-Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz waits the arrival of his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Nouakchott airport, Mauritania, July 2, 2018. (Reuters)
Then-Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz waits the arrival of his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Nouakchott airport, Mauritania, July 2, 2018. (Reuters)
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Mauritania Investigates Granting of Island to Former Qatari Emir

Then-Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz waits the arrival of his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Nouakchott airport, Mauritania, July 2, 2018. (Reuters)
Then-Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz waits the arrival of his French counterpart Emmanuel Macron at Nouakchott airport, Mauritania, July 2, 2018. (Reuters)

The Mauritanian parliament discussed on Monday amendments to a law establishing the High Court of Justice, which has the authority to prosecute presidents and ministers as per the constitution.

The formation of the court coincides with a parliamentary investigation into corruption files that purportedly involve former President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who is said to have decided to grant a Mauritanian island to the former Emir of Qatar, Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani in 2012 during what was known as the Arab Spring.

The committee formed by the Mauritanian parliament conducted investigations on infrastructure, roads, real estate and energy deals, and listened to the testimonies of ministers and officials, who worked with Ould Abdel Aziz. The last file opened by the committee before submitting its final report next week pertained to a decision taken by the former president on granting a Mauritanian island to the former emir of Qatar.

The documents obtained by the parliamentary committee, leaked by the local media, showed correspondence between the Qatar embassy in Nouakchott and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar about receiving a “beautiful Mauritanian island” as a gift from Ould Abdel Aziz to Hamad bin Khalifa.

In April 2012, Ould Abdel Aziz appointed a presidential advisor, lawyer Ibrahim Ould Daddah, who was instructed to follow up on the procedures for handing over the island to the Qataris and who was later appointed as Minister of Justice.

The case angered a large number of Mauritanians, especially as the said island is located on a coastal basin on the Atlantic Ocean and is a natural reserve and a safe haven for millions of migratory birds and rare types of fish.

Despite the progress of talks between the Qataris and the regime of Ould Abdel Aziz over the gift, discussions were halted when the former president was shot in October 2012, an incident that sent shockwaves across the country. He survived the attack.

Some members of the Mauritanian parliament believe, however, that the former president’s move, even unfinished, constituted a violation of the constitution and could end up with a charge of high treason against him, thus lifting his immunity.



Austria to Unblock Funds for UN Palestinian Relief Organization

Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
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Austria to Unblock Funds for UN Palestinian Relief Organization

Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)
Youths gather with jerrycans to fill up water from a tanker truck in the yard of a school of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA), housing Palestinians displaced by the ongoing conflict in the Gaza Strip between Israel and Hamas, in Jabalia in the north of the Palestinian territory on May 14, 2024. (AFP)

Austria will release funds to the UN's Palestinian relief organization UNRWA that were blocked after allegations agency staff were involved in the Oct. 7 attacks on Israel.

Vienna's decision comes after UNRWA set out an action plan to better ensure its impartiality, strengthen internal reviews, and improve how its staff are monitored.

"After a thorough analysis of the action plan, we will release funds to UNRWA again," the Austrian foreign ministry said on Saturday.

Funds totaling 3.4 million euros ($3.70 million) have been budgeted for 2024, with the first payment due to be made in the summer, it added.

Austria was one of the donor states to freeze some $450 million in funds after Israel accused 12 UNRWA staff of participating in the Hamas-led attack that triggered the Gaza war.

Germany said last month it would resume cooperation with UNRWA following a report led by former French foreign minister Catherine Colonna into UNRWA's procedures for ensuring adherence to principles of neutrality.

UNRWA employs 32,000 people in the Palestinian territories and nearby countries, including 13,000 in the Gaza Strip, running schools and social services.


UN Denounces 'Intimidation and Harassment' of Lawyers in Tunisia

Hundreds of Tunisia lawyers and activists from civil society organizations take part in a protest against the decline in freedoms (EPA)
Hundreds of Tunisia lawyers and activists from civil society organizations take part in a protest against the decline in freedoms (EPA)
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UN Denounces 'Intimidation and Harassment' of Lawyers in Tunisia

Hundreds of Tunisia lawyers and activists from civil society organizations take part in a protest against the decline in freedoms (EPA)
Hundreds of Tunisia lawyers and activists from civil society organizations take part in a protest against the decline in freedoms (EPA)

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) condemned on Friday the recent intimidation and harassment of lawyers in Tunisia after authorities launched a massive arbitrary arrest and detention of human rights defenders, lawyers and journalists critical of the government.
“Reported raids in the past week on the Tunisia Bar Association undermine the rule of law and violate international standards on the protection of the independence and function of lawyers,” OHCHR spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told reporters in Geneva.
“Such actions constitute forms of intimidation and harassment.”
She said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk urges the authorities to respect and safeguard freedoms of expression, association and peaceful assembly, as guaranteed by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Tunisia is a party.
Over the past few days, Tunisian authorities have detained civil society figures including anti-racism activist Saadia Mosbah, a number of lawyers, as well as political commentators on radio and television stations.
On Thursday, hundreds of Tunisian lawyers led a strike in the capital Tunis to protest the decline of freedoms in a country that saw the onset of the Arab Spring.

The protest came after security officers stormed the Tunisian Bar Association's headquarters during a live television broadcast, arresting a media commentator and lawyer, Sonia Dahmani.
The officers also arrested her colleague, Mahdi Zagrouba, who was tortured during interrogation—an allegation denied by Tunisian officials.
The arrests have sparked condemnations and an international backlash, which Tunisia’s President Kais Saied has slammed as foreign “interference.”
Saied said the detention of lawyers is “legal,” adding that the events of the last few days had nothing to do with the legal profession of lawyers, but “with those who dared to denigrate and even slander their country in the media and who violently assaulted a security officer.”
In her statement, Shamdasani had also quoted Türk as saying that the rule of law in Tunisia must be upheld, and those arbitrarily detained, including for defending the rights of migrants and for combating racial discrimination, released.
“The human rights of all migrants must be protected, and xenophobic hate speech must stop,” she said.
The OHCHR spokesperson said, “We are very concerned by the increased targeting in Tunisia of migrants, mostly from south of the Sahara, and individuals and organizations working to assist them.”
At the same time, she noted, “we are witnessing a rise in the use of dehumanizing and racist rhetoric against Black migrants and Black Tunisians.”
Shortly following Shamdasani’s statements, sources in Tunisia said judicial authorities have arrested Saadia Mosbah, an anti-discrimination activist, as part of a money laundering investigation.
The arrest of Mosbah, the president of Tunisian anti-racism association Mnemty ("My dream"), came just hours after Saied criticized Tunisian humanitarian organizations that defend sub-Saharan migrants at a National Security Council meeting on Monday.
“The associations that cry today and shed tears in the media receive huge amounts of money from abroad,” Saied said.

 


Jordan Foils Major Drug Smuggling Attempt from Syria

A Jordanian army patrol is deployed at the border with Syria to prevent drug smuggling, April 2023. (AFP)
A Jordanian army patrol is deployed at the border with Syria to prevent drug smuggling, April 2023. (AFP)
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Jordan Foils Major Drug Smuggling Attempt from Syria

A Jordanian army patrol is deployed at the border with Syria to prevent drug smuggling, April 2023. (AFP)
A Jordanian army patrol is deployed at the border with Syria to prevent drug smuggling, April 2023. (AFP)

The Jordanian army announced on Friday that it thwarted a major drug smuggling operation from Syria.

In a statement, it said two smugglers were killed and others wounded in the operation. Some smugglers managed to flee back to Syria.

The army seized the drugs and weapons in possession of the smugglers.

Asharq Al-Awsat learned that the Jordanian authorities will release some of the confessions of Syrian smugglers it had detained in late 2023.

They were arrested during a clash that led to the arrest of nine smugglers along the northeastern border.

Jordanian sources had previously told Asharq Al-Awsat that smuggling gangs active in southern Syria were cooperating with Jordanian cells to deliver illicit material to the eastern Ruwaished region before smuggling them to neighboring countries.

Authorities soon carried out an operation against the cell, arresting some members and killing others. The search is still ongoing for some fugitive members.

Amman accuses Iran and its allied militias, including Lebanon’s Hezbollah which is active in southern Syria, of being behind the drugs smuggling.

It says the operations aim to cause tensions and security instability in Jordan.

Jordanian Foreign Minister Ayman al-Safadi met with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amir-Abdollahian in New York in mid-April where they were attending a United Nations Security Council meeting on the Middle East.

Safadi informed Abdollahian that “Jordan won’t allow Iran or Israel to turn it into a warzone.” Jordan will “confront any violation of its territories and threat to its security and safety of its citizens,” he vowed.

“Jordan wants good relations with Iran, but getting there demands the removal of the sources of tension and the immediate end of meddling in Jordanian affairs,” he stressed.

Damascus did not comment on the latest drug smuggling attempt, but local media sources said the operation had taken place in the desert area between Syria and Jordan.

It added that a person in connection to the government-affiliated Fifth Brigade was involved in the smuggling attempt.


Israeli Strikes Kill at Least Five in Lebanon Including Two Children

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
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Israeli Strikes Kill at Least Five in Lebanon Including Two Children

Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)
Black smoke rises from an Israeli airstrike on Kafar Hamam, a Lebanese border village with Israel in south Lebanon, Friday, May 17, 2024. (AP)

Israeli strikes on southern and eastern Lebanon killed at least five people on Friday including two children, security sources and UNICEF said.

Israel and Lebanese armed group Hezbollah have been exchanging fire across Lebanon's southern border for seven months in parallel with the Gaza war. Other Lebanese factions as well as Palestinian groups have also fired rockets at Israel from Lebanon.

On Friday, a series of Israeli strikes on a coastal town further north than the usual conflict area killed a Hezbollah member as well as two Syrian civilians, the security sources said. UNICEF Lebanon separately said two children were killed in an Israeli strike on Friday.

A separate Israeli strike on Majdal Anjar, on Lebanon's eastern border with Syria, killed Sharhabil al-Sayed, a member of Palestinian armed group Hamas who was in charge of the faction's operations in Lebanon's eastern Bekaa Valley, according to two security sources. The strike also killed another Palestinian Hamas member, the sources said.

The Israeli military said its forces struck a Hezbollah launcher and military infrastructure in southern Lebanon and confirmed the death of al-Sayed.

It said sirens warning of incoming rockets and hostile aircraft sounded in several communities throughout Friday and at one point identified 75 launches crossing from Lebanon into Israel. It said dozens of the launches were intercepted and there were no immediate reports of deaths or damage.

The exchanges of fire between armed groups in Lebanon and the Israeli military have ramped up in recent days. Hezbollah has deployed new types of rockets against Israel and launched a drone attack the furthest into Israeli territory since October.

Speaking to soldiers during a situational assessment and tour of the north, Defense Minister Yoav Gallant said that while Israel hoped for a diplomatic resolution, it was also readying for further escalation.

"We must be prepared and take into consideration that anything can happen," he said. "We want to exhaust every opportunity to do so by agreement because we know that there are costs to war that we would rather avoid, but you must take in account that this (escalation) might happen."


Iraq's Kurdish Regional Security Council Announces Arrest of Top Aide of Former ISIS Leader

File photo: Security forces secure a location after an ISIS attack in Kirkuk, Iraq. Reuters
File photo: Security forces secure a location after an ISIS attack in Kirkuk, Iraq. Reuters
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Iraq's Kurdish Regional Security Council Announces Arrest of Top Aide of Former ISIS Leader

File photo: Security forces secure a location after an ISIS attack in Kirkuk, Iraq. Reuters
File photo: Security forces secure a location after an ISIS attack in Kirkuk, Iraq. Reuters

The Kurdish Regional Security Council announced in a statement on Friday that it captured a senior ISIS figure, Socrates Khalil.
Khalil was known to be a confidant of the late ISIS leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
"After spending five years in Türkiye, Khalil returned to Kurdistan with a forged passport and was swiftly apprehended," the statement said.
Khalil made bombs for the ISIS group and was entrusted by al-Baghdadi with various major operations, the statement added, saying that he was instrumental in the 2014 ISIS takeover of Mosul, and participated in many battles against Iraqi forces and the Peshmerga forces, Reuters reported.


US Envoy Says Islamists Are ‘Problem for Us and Sudanese’

US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
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US Envoy Says Islamists Are ‘Problem for Us and Sudanese’

US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello. (Asharq Al-Awsat)
US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello. (Asharq Al-Awsat)

US Special Envoy for Sudan Tom Perriello stressed on Friday that his country will continue to use sanctions to pressure the Sudanese warring parties to stop the fighting and reach a solution in the country.

He added that sanctions will not be limited to institutions, but will target individuals so that their work will be affected in various countries.

Speaking at a meeting with Sudanese people in the Kenyan capital Nairobi, he stressed that Islamists – supporters of the ousted regime – are a “major problem for us and the Sudanese.”

He stated that Washington is aware that some Islamists are members of the army and that others had come from abroad to Sudan to join the war.

Moreover, the envoy revealed that the American administration was in contact with all countries that support the war in Sudan. It is urging them to take a positive position towards the Sudanese people, not interfere their country’s internal affairs that is only prolonging the war.

The United Arab Emirates needs to be part of the ongoing discussions in Jeddah, Perriello went on to say.

The Sudanese army had accused the UAE of supporting its rival, the Rapid Support Forces (RSF), in the conflict. Abu Dhabi has denied the claim.

Perriello predicted that the next round of talks in Jeddah would be different due to new factors and to the UAE and Egypt joining the discussions.

The goal is for these countries to play a role in stopping the war, he explained.

The US has also made strong warnings to the RSF against military intervention in al-Fasher, he continued, adding that such a move would have dire consequences.

He underlined the importance of the Jeddah platform because it enjoys the agreement of all parties, including the European Union and African Union. Several countries want to see the end of the war.

On the proposed initiatives to end the conflict, Perriello said the outcomes of the Jeddah and Manama meetings will be examined so that a unified vision can be declared.

Furthermore, the envoy ruled out that the US may intervene militarily in Sudan, but he acknowledged that discussions are ongoing at the African Union and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) for them to play a greater role in protecting civilians in the conflict.

The US and regional countries support these steps, he added, while warning that the spillover of the war into the region will have severe consequences.

The countries are already being affected by the conflict, he noted.


US Officials See Strategic Failure in Israel’s Rafah Invasion

A cloud of smoke rises from eastern Rafah after an Israeli raid (AFP)
A cloud of smoke rises from eastern Rafah after an Israeli raid (AFP)
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US Officials See Strategic Failure in Israel’s Rafah Invasion

A cloud of smoke rises from eastern Rafah after an Israeli raid (AFP)
A cloud of smoke rises from eastern Rafah after an Israeli raid (AFP)

Top Biden administration officials believe they are running out of chances to persuade the government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to adopt their vision of how to end the war in Gaza and bring lasting peace in the Middle East.
The two sides are as far apart as ever on both battlefield tactics and overall strategy to achieve their shared goal of defeating Hamas.
“I think in some ways we are struggling over what the theory of victory is,” US Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell told a NATO youth conference in Miami on Monday. “Sometimes when we listen closely to Israeli leaders, they talk about mostly the idea of some sort of sweeping victory on the battlefield, total victory. I don’t think we believe that that is likely or possible.”
Despite having committed itself to “ironclad” support of Israel’s defense, the Biden administration believes Israel’s current strategy is not worth the cost in terms of human lives and destruction, cannot achieve its objective, and will ultimately undermine broader US and Israeli goals in the Middle East.
US Delegation
In addition to Campbell, US and Israeli diplomatic, intelligence and military officials discuss the sensitive relationship and the fraught future between the two sides, particularly if White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan fails to reach tangible results during his visit, on Sunday, to Israel.
Sullivan will be accompanied by a triad of Biden’s top aides on the issue, including National Security Council Middle East coordinator Brett McGurk, presidential adviser Amos Hochstein and Derek Chollet, counselor to Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
“We have been doing a lot of work on this ... with partners in the Arab world and beyond over several months,” Blinken said at a Wednesday news conference in Kyiv. “But it’s imperative that Israel also do this work and focus on what the future can and must be.”
Israel, Blinken noted, “cannot, and says it does not want responsibility for Gaza. We cannot have Hamas controlling Gaza; we can’t have chaos and anarchy in Gaza. So there needs to be a clear concrete plan, and we look to Israel to come forward with its ideas.”
Netanyahu’s Rejection
Lately, Netanyahu acknowledged disagreements with the administration.
The two-state solution that the United States and most of the rest of the world have advocated for decades “would be the greatest reward for the terrorists that you can imagine ... giving them a prize. And secondly, it would be a state that would be immediately taken over by Hamas and Iran,” Netanyahu said.
Instead, he said a path forward in Gaza might be Palestinian administration, similar to what now exists on the West Bank, with Israel retaining “certain sovereign powers,” including all military and security functions and control over what and who crosses Gaza’s borders.
To the Biden administration that is a recipe for ongoing strife.
US intelligence officials share White House doubts that Hamas can be fully defeated.
The intelligence community reported in its annual threat assessment in February that Israel probably will face lingering armed resistance from Hamas for years to come.
Scorched Earth
To end the war in the short term and gain the release of the hostages, administration officials have pressed since the early months of the war an alternative to Israel’s scorched earth tactics of relentless attacks on dense urban areas, urging more intelligence-based, precise targeting.
The Washington Post quoted current and former US officials said it can be difficult to know precisely how the US-provided intelligence is used.
They said the task of persuading the Israelis to change course has become much harder with the ongoing failure of US-backed negotiations offering a temporary cease-fire in exchange for the release of Israeli hostages.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus, who utilized the “clear, hold and build” strategy to counter al-Qaeda forces in Iraq, said that Israel’s “punitive” clearing operations in Gaza, without any follow-up to hold territory or rebuild infrastructure and livelihoods for Palestinian civilians, would only result in Hamas reconstituting within an angry and alienated population.
A broad, armored invasion into Rafah would ensure a quagmire and lead to more civilian deaths, said Alon Pinkas a veteran Israeli diplomat and former senior government adviser. “Wake up,” Pinkas said. “‘Toppling Hamas’ is only possible through diplomatic means.”
The US officials pointed to the substantial effort exerted by the Biden administration to preserve the crucial relationship between Egypt and Israel. They said it has also worked to persuade Arab states to normalize their historically tense relations with Israel as a long-term security bulwark against Iran and its proxies, including Hamas, and to help secure and rebuild Gaza as part of a new Palestinian state.

 


Yemen's Houthis Claim Shooting Down another US MQ-9 Reaper Drone as Footage Shows Wreckage

In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is  launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a large barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea Wednesday. (LPhot Chris Sellars/MoD Crown copyright via AP)
In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a large barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea Wednesday. (LPhot Chris Sellars/MoD Crown copyright via AP)
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Yemen's Houthis Claim Shooting Down another US MQ-9 Reaper Drone as Footage Shows Wreckage

In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is  launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a large barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea Wednesday. (LPhot Chris Sellars/MoD Crown copyright via AP)
In this photo provided by the Ministry of Defense (MoD), a Sea Viper missile is launched from HMS Diamond to shoot down a missile fired by the Iranian-backed Houthis from Yemen, Wednesday, April 24, 2024. Yemen’s Houthi rebels fired a large barrage of drones and missiles targeting shipping in the Red Sea Wednesday. (LPhot Chris Sellars/MoD Crown copyright via AP)

Yemen's Houthi group on Friday claimed to have shot down an American drone, hours after footage circulated online of what appeared to be the wreckage of an MQ-9 Reaper drone. Early Saturday, a vessel also came under attack in the Red Sea.
The two incidents likely represent just the latest attacks by the Houthis as they press their campaign over the Israel-Hamas war in the Gaza Strip.
Houthi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Yahya Saree claimed the group shot down the Reaper on Thursday with a surface-to-air missile. He described the drone as “carrying out hostile actions" in Yemen's Marib province.
The Houthis later released footage they claimed showed the surface-to-air-missile being launched at night, along with night-vision footage of the missile hitting the drone. A man, whose voice had been digitally altered to apparently prevent identification, chanted the Houthi slogan: "God is the greatest; death to America; death to Israel; curse the Jews; victory to Islam.”
Online video showed wreckage resembling the pieces of the Reaper on the ground, as well as footage of that wreckage on fire.
The US military did not respond to a request for comment from The Associated Press over the Houthi claim. While the group made claims about attacks that turned out later not to be true, they have a history of shooting down US drones and have been armed by their main benefactor, Iran, with weapons capable of high-altitude attack.
Since the Houthis seized the country’s north and its capital, Sanaa, in 2014, the US military has previously lost at least five drones to the militant group.
Reapers, which cost around $30 million apiece, can fly at altitudes up to 50,000 feet and have an endurance of up to 24 hours before needing to land.
The drone shootdown comes as the Houthis launch attacks on shipping in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden, demanding Israel ends the war in Gaza, which has killed more than 34,000 Palestinians there. The war began after Hamas-led militants attacked Israel on Oct. 7, killing 1,200 people and taking some 250 others hostage.
The Houthis have launched more than 50 attacks on shipping, seized one vessel and sunk another since November, according to the US Maritime Administration.
Early Saturday, the British military's United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations center said a ship came under attack off the coast of Yemen's port city of Hodeida.
The captain “has confirmed sustaining slight damage after being struck by an unknown object on his port quarter,” the UKMTO said. “The vessel and crew are safe and continuing to its next port of call.”
The Houthis did not immediately acknowledge the attack, though it typically takes them hours to issue a claim.
Houthi attacks have dropped in recent weeks as the group has been targeted by a US-led airstrike campaign in Yemen. Shipping through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden still remains low because of the threat, however.


Trucks are Rolling across a New US Pier into Gaza, Aid Challenges Remain

This handout picture courtesy of the US Central Command (CENTOCOM) taken on May 16, 2024 shows US Army Soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), US Navy Sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel army emplace the Trident Pier on the Gaza coast. (Photo by US Central Command (CENTCOM) / AFP)
This handout picture courtesy of the US Central Command (CENTOCOM) taken on May 16, 2024 shows US Army Soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), US Navy Sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel army emplace the Trident Pier on the Gaza coast. (Photo by US Central Command (CENTCOM) / AFP)
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Trucks are Rolling across a New US Pier into Gaza, Aid Challenges Remain

This handout picture courtesy of the US Central Command (CENTOCOM) taken on May 16, 2024 shows US Army Soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), US Navy Sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel army emplace the Trident Pier on the Gaza coast. (Photo by US Central Command (CENTCOM) / AFP)
This handout picture courtesy of the US Central Command (CENTOCOM) taken on May 16, 2024 shows US Army Soldiers assigned to the 7th Transportation Brigade (Expeditionary), US Navy Sailors assigned to Amphibious Construction Battalion 1, and Israel army emplace the Trident Pier on the Gaza coast. (Photo by US Central Command (CENTCOM) / AFP)

Trucks carrying badly needed aid for the Gaza Strip rolled across a newly built US pier and into the besieged enclave for the first time Friday as Israeli restrictions on border crossings and heavy fighting hindered the delivery of food and other supplies.
The shipment is the first in an operation that American military officials anticipate could scale up to 150 truckloads a day, all while Israel presses in on the southern city of Rafah in its seven-month offensive against Hamas. At the White House, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said “more than 300 pallets” of aid were in the initial delivery and handed over to the UN, which was preparing it for distribution.
Kirby said the US has gotten indications that “some of that aid was already moving into Gaza”, The Associated Press said.
But the US, UN and aid groups warn that the floating pier project is not a substitute for land deliveries that could bring in all the food, water and fuel needed in Gaza. Before the war, more than 500 truckloads entered the Palestinian territory on an average day.
The operation's success also remains tenuous because of the risk of militant attack, logistical hurdles and a growing shortage of fuel for the aid trucks due to the Israeli blockade of Gaza since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack. Militants killed 1,200 people and took 250 others hostage in that assault on southern Israel. The Israeli offensive since has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians in Gaza, local health officials say, while hundreds more have been killed in the West Bank.
Aid agencies say they are running out of food in southern Gaza, while the UN World Food Program says famine has already taken hold in Gaza’s north.
Troops finished installing the floating pier on Thursday, and the US military's Central Command said the first aid crossed into Gaza at 9 a.m. Friday. It said no American troops went ashore in the operation.
The Pentagon said no backups were expected in the distribution process. The US plan is for the United Nations, through the World Food Program, to take charge of the aid once it leaves the pier. This will involve coordinating the arrival of empty trucks and their registration, overseeing the transfer of goods coming through the floating dock to the trucks and their dispatch to warehouses across Gaza, and, finally, handing over the supplies to aid groups for delivery.
The WFP said Friday evening that aid that had come through the pier had been transported to its warehouses in Deir al-Balah and was ready for collection and distribution.
The UK said some of its aid for Gaza was in the first shipment that went ashore, including the first of 8,400 kits to provide temporary shelter made of plastic sheeting. And it said more aid, including 2,000 additional shelter kits, 900 tents, five forklift trucks and 9,200 hygiene kits, will follow in the coming weeks.
“This is the culmination of a Herculean joint international effort," said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. “We know the maritime route is not the only answer. We need to see more land routes open, including via the Rafah crossing, to ensure much more aid gets safely to civilians in desperate need of help.”
The UN humanitarian aid coordinating agency said the start of the operation was welcome but not a replacement for deliveries by land.
“I think everyone in the operation has said it: Any and all aid into Gaza is welcome by any route,” Jens Laerke, spokesman of the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, told journalists in Geneva on Friday. Getting aid to people in Gaza “cannot and should not depend on a floating dock far from where needs are most acute.”
Anastasia Moran, an associate director of the International Rescue Committee, argues that the pier is in fact diverting attention from the surging humanitarian crisis.
Over the past couple of months, “the maritime route has been taking time and energy and resources at a time when aid has not been scaled up,” she said. “And now that the maritime route is up and running, the land crossings have been effectively shut down.”
During the nine-day period between May 6, when Israel began the Rafah offensive, and May 15, a total of 154 trucks carrying food and 156 carrying flour have entered Gaza through three land crossings, UN deputy spokesperson Farhan Haq said Friday. Haq also warned this week that almost no fuel is getting through.
Israel fears Hamas will use fuel in the war, but it asserts it places no limits on the entry of humanitarian aid and blames the UN for delays in distributing goods entering Gaza. Under pressure from the US, Israel has opened a pair of crossings to deliver aid into the territory’s hard-hit north in recent weeks.
It has said that a series of Hamas attacks on the main crossing, Kerem Shalom, have disrupted the flow of goods. The UN says fighting, Israeli fire and chaotic security conditions have hindered delivery. There have also been violent protests by Israelis that disrupted aid shipments.
Israel recently seized the Rafah border crossing in its push against Hamas around that city on the Egyptian border, raising fears about civilians' safety while also cutting off the main entry for aid into the Gaza Strip.
US President Joe Biden ordered the pier project, expected to cost $320 million. The boatloads of aid will be deposited at a port facility built by the Israelis just southwest of Gaza City. The US has closely coordinated with Israel on how to protect the ships and personnel working on the beach.
Concern about the safety of aid workers was highlighted last month when an Israeli strike killed seven relief workers from World Central Kitchen whose trip had been coordinated with Israeli officials. The group had also brought aid in by sea.
Pentagon officials have made it clear that security conditions will be monitored closely and could prompt a shutdown of the maritime route, even if just temporarily. Already, the site has been targeted by mortar fire during its construction, and Hamas has threatened to target any foreign forces who “occupy” the Gaza Strip.
Israeli forces are in charge of security on shore, but there are also two US Navy warships nearby that can protect US troops and others.
The aid for the sea route is collected and inspected in Cyprus, then loaded onto ships and taken about 200 miles (320 kilometers) to the large floating pier off the Gaza coast. There, the pallets are transferred onto the trucks that then drive onto the Army boats, which will shuttle the trucks from the pier to a floating causeway anchored to the beach. Once the trucks drop off the aid, they return to the boats.


Over 300 KSrelief Relief Trucks Head to Yemen in Q1 2024

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA
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Over 300 KSrelief Relief Trucks Head to Yemen in Q1 2024

Photo by SPA
Photo by SPA

The King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSrelief) continued its vital support for the Yemeni people in the first quarter of 2024. A significant aid convoy consisting of 330 relief trucks crossed the Al-Wadiah border crossing to deliver a total of 5,752 tons and 313 kilograms of critical supplies.
The vital assistance included food baskets, shelter materials, medical aid, dates, and logistical support to ensure the efficient distribution of these resources. The aid reached 14 Yemeni governorates: Hadramout, Al-Jawf, Al-Mahra, Sanaa, Shabwa, Abyan, Aden, Saada, Hajjah, Marib, Hodeidah, Taiz, Lahj, and Al-Dhalea, SPA reported.
The initiative exemplifies the unwavering commitment of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, through KSrelief, to alleviate the suffering of the Yemeni people amid a humanitarian crisis.