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14 million people ‘on brink of famine’ in Yemen: NGOs

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Paris: Thirty-five Yemeni and international NGOs called for an “immediate cessation of hostilities” in Yemen, where they warned 14 million people were now “on the brink of famine”.

The joint appeal was signed by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Action Against Hunger, CARE International, Oxfam, Doctors of the World, and Yemeni organisations, according to a statement.

“With 14 million men, women and children on the brink of famine — half the country’s population — there has never been a more urgent time to act,” the statement said.

It called on governments to “secure an immediate cessation of hostilities” and “suspend the supply of arms at risk of being used in Yemen”.

The most impoverished country in the Arab world, Yemen has been gripped by war since 2015, when a regional military coalition led by Saudi Arabia joined the government’s fight against Huthi rebels.

“The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is manmade and a direct consequence of the warring parties’ severe restrictions on access to food, fuel, medical imports and humanitarian aid,” the statement added.

“The collapse of the Yemeni rial and the non-payment of public sector workers is adding to the catastrophe.

“We call on governments to redouble their efforts to guarantee unimpeded access to essential items… including through the lifeline port of Hodeidah, where civilians have been caught in renewed fighting over the past few days.”

Pro-government forces pressed even closer on Wednesday to the heart of Hodeida, the Red Sea city controlled by Huthi rebels and under blockade by Saudi Arabia and its allies.

International aid groups have appealed to both the rebels and the alliance to allow civilians to escape the densely-populated city of 600,000 people.

Nearly 10,000 Yemenis have been killed in the conflict since 2015, according to the World Health Organization.


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International

US adds Pakistan, China to its blacklist for religious freedom violations

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Washington: Pakistan, China and Saudi Arabia are among countries added to a US blacklist of nations that violate religious freedom, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said.

Pompeo said he has designated Pakistan, China, Saudi Arabia, Myanmar, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Sudan, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan as “Countries of Particular Concern” in a congressionally mandated annual report.

The development comes a year after the US State Department put Pakistan on a watchlist without legal consequences.

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Netanyahu threats Hezbollah with ‘unimaginable blows’

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Jerusalem: Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned that the Lebanese Hezbollah militia will be dealt “unimaginable blows” if it resists Israel’s recent operation to destroy cross-border tunnels.

The remarks were made by Netayahu during a tour along the northern border, where the Israeli army has uncovered three Hezbollah tunnels crossing from southern Lebanon into Israeli territory, reports Xinhua.

“The most important thing is the readiness here for a much stronger response if Hezbollah makes a major mistake and decides to attack us or oppose our action,”

Netanyahu said, according to a statement released by his office.

“Hezbollah will be dealt unimaginable blows,” he said.

During the tour, Netanyahu, who is also Israel’s defence minister, held a security meeting with Israeli army’s Chief-of-Staff Gadi Eizenkot.

“We are systematically dismantling the tunnels,” he said, adding the operation will continue “as long as necessary.”

“We are carrying out exactly what we planned but we are ready for the unexpected. There is great firepower here,” he added.

Israel launched the “Northern Shield” operation on December 4 in order to locate and thwart the cross-border tunnels built by Hezbollah, a Shiite militia backed by Iran. Israel has claimed that Hezbollah plans to use the cross-border tunnels to infiltrate into Israel.

Israel and Hezbollah fought a month-long war in 2006 that ended in a ceasefire.

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100 injured in BD poll campaign violence

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DHAKA: Bangladesh’s election campaign turned violent with scores injured at political rallies across the country, as police fired pellet guns into crowds and stick-wielding mobs attacked rival candidates.

Police said clashes broke out in at least seven major towns on just the second day of campaigning, injuring nearly 100 people who turned out to cheer the two major parties contesting the December 30 poll.

The unrest follows a crackdown on the Bangladesh Nationalist Party in recent weeks, with hundreds of supporters from the main opposition movement thrown behind bars before campaigning had even begun.

In Thakurgaon, a northern district, a motorcade for the BNP’s secretary general Fakhrul Islam Alamgir was set upon by a huge crowd swinging batons.

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