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UN warns humanitarian crisis to deteriorate next year

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Yemen: The United Nations says the humanitarian crisis in Yemen, already the worst in the world, will deteriorate in 2019, nearly four years after a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia invaded the impoverished country and began an intense campaign of airstrikes and ground attacks which are still ongoing.

“The country with the biggest problem in 2019 is going to be Yemen,” said Mark Lowcock, the head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), in a press conference in the Swiss city of Geneva.

He went on to say that last year the world body was providing food assistance to three million Yemenis a month. The figure, however, rose to eight million per month this year and is expected to hit 12 million next year, Lowcock added.

Leading a coalition of its allies, including the United Arab Emirates and Sudan, Saudi Arabia invaded Yemen in March 2015 in an attempt to reinstall former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who had resigned amid popular discontent and fled to Riyadh.

The aggression initially consisted of a bombing campaign but was later coupled with a naval blockade and the deployment of ground forces to Yemen.

Yemen’s Houthi movement says it has reached a UN-backed prisoner exchange agreement with the Saudi-led coalition and allied militants ahead of the upcoming peace talks in Sweden.

Since the onset of the imposed war, the Yemeni army, backed by fighters from the country’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, has been defending the impoverished nation against the brutal aggression. The coalition is also resolute to crush the movement as another goal in its war on Yemen, which is teetering on the edge of famine.

The war is estimated to have left 56,000 Yemenis dead. About 8.4 million Yemenis are now facing starvation. The number is likely to increase to 14 million.

More than three and a half years into the war, Saudi Arabia has achieved neither of its objectives. Riyadh had declared at the start of the invasion that the war would take no more than a couple of weeks.

The situation has worsened in Yemen in recent months due to a broad economic collapse following a full-scale offensive by UAE forces, backed by armed militia loyal to Hadi, launched against the Houthi-held port city of Hudaydah in June.

More than 70 percent of Yemen’s imports pass through the docks of Hudaydah, which is currently under a tight siege imposed by the invaders.

Save the Children says for every child killed by bombs and bullets, dozens are starving to death amid the brutal war and blockade led by Saudi Arabia.

The so-called liberation operation, however, failed to achieve its objective, which is overrunning the vital port and defeating Houthi fighters, backed by those from the Popular Committees.

Elsewhere in his comments, Lowcock said the UN was in an urgent need of $4 billion to help the suffering Yemenis in 2019. Overall, 24 million people in Yemen, roughly 75 percent of the whole population, would need humanitarian assistance next year, he added.

However, the OCHA head also stressed that the outlook of Yemen could improve if progress is made at UN-brokered peace negotiations that are to begin in Sweden this month.

Lowcock said that if the talks bear fruit, “It is possible that we could find by the second half of the year that the extreme edge could get taken off the suffering of those people who have no form of income.”

However, he added that diplomatic gains were difficult to predict. “The appeal we are making is based on our assessment of what the situation will actually be, rather than wishful thinking about what we would all like it to be.”


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China hopes resumption of Sino-India military drills will provide impetus to bilateral ties

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Beijing: China expressed hope that the resumption of military exercises between the Indian and Chinese armies that will begin on Tuesday would inject impetus and yield good results for the improvement of bilateral ties.

An Indian military team headed by Col Puneet Tomar has arrived in China’s southwestern Chengdu city to take part in the ‘Hand-in-Hand’ military drills between the two armies starting there from Tuesday, the Indian Embassy here said.

Officials earlier said both sides would field 100 personnel to take part in the seventh edition of the exercises. The inaugural ceremony would be held on Tuesday and the drills would be concluded on December 23.

The drills are being held after a gap of one year as they could not be held last year because both armies were locked in a 73-day standoff at Doklam in the Sikkim sector.

Asked about how China viewed the exercises being resumed after Doklam, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said “we hope this can have a good results”.

He referred to the informal summit between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Xi Jinping at Wuhan in April this year and the “important consensus” reached between the two leaders to improve relations.

He noted that the two leaders had met four times this year.

The two countries should implement the consensus between the two leaders including the exchanges between the two militaries, Lu said.

“Under the guidance of the consensus between the two leaders and through the concerted efforts of the two sides, I hope the exchanges between the two militaries can achieve positive outcomes, injecting impetus to the bilateral ties,” he said.

The Chinese military earlier said the subject of the exercises will include adoptive and basic training, and live shooting.

“The drills will promote understanding between the two militaries and improving their capabilities in fighting terrorism,” Chinese defence ministry spokesman Col Ren Guoqiang had said last month.

“True to its name which is ‘Hand-in-Hand’, we believe China and India’s militaries should work hand-in-hand to bring benefits to our people,” he said.

After the Doklam standoff, the two militaries made efforts to improve relations following the Wuhan summit.

Besides resuming the defence dialogue after the standoff, the two countries also held the 21st round of border talks.

National Security Advisor Ajit Doval and China’s State Councillor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi, who are the Special Representatives for the border talks, held the discussions on November 24 in Chengdu during which they called for intensifying efforts to find a solution to the vexed border dispute.

The two sides also held the ninth defence dialogue on November 13 led by Defence Secretary Sanjay Mitra and Lt General Shao Yuanming, Deputy Chief of Joint Staff Department of Central Military Commission of China.

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135 hurt in ‘yellow vest’ protests in France, PM calls for ‘dialogue’

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Paris: A total of 135 people have been injured after violence broke out between police and groups of masked youth in several French cities during protests against high living costs, said Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.

Besides, 1,385 people have also been detained.

Created on social media, the “yellow vest” movement which got its name from the high visibility vests drivers keep in their cars, has lured people of all ages and backgrounds.

With no leader, it had turned into a bigger movement denouncing a squeeze on household spending, high living costs caused by Macron`s fiscal and economic policy which they say favours the rich. Some even demanded Macron to step down.

In a joint press briefing with Prime Minister Edouard Philippe on Saturday, the Minister added that 974 individuals remained in police custody and that the figure could rise.

At least 10,000 demonstrators participated in the Paris march, while 125,000 protesters turned out across the country.

Among the injured were 17 police officers who were hurt in the scuffles mainly in the French capital and Bordeaux city, Xinhua news agency reported.

“The situation is under control,” Castaner said, adding “…but totally unacceptable.”

“Time for dialogue. This dialogue has begun, it must continue. The French nation must find itself. No tax can threaten national unity,” said Prime Minister Philippe, noting that President Emmanuel Macron would propose further measures to abate the social anger.

After a calm start, tension flared in Les Grands Boulevards and streets near the Champs Elysees and the Republic Square where a group of hooded men joined the protest and hassled police by setting barricades and setting afire garbage bins and trees.

Scores of vehicles were burnt and shops damaged, forcing the police to fire tear gas and use water cannon to push back the rioters.

Armoured vehicles were also deployed for the first time in the capital since Paris suburbs riot in 2005 amid intensified security measures that the government implemented to avoid the chaos two weeks ahead of the peak of Christmas holidays.

As part of an “exceptional” security plan, the government has deployed 89,000 officers in the French cities.

In Paris, 8,000 officers have been put in place to maintain law and order to avoid any incident similar to last Saturday`s rioting that plunged the French capital into chaos, its worst unrest in decades.

Earlier this week, the French government dropped a plan to increase fuel tax next year, bowing to the force of the streets.

However, the protest movement shows no sign of abating. Protesters still demand concrete moves, notably a rise in minimum wage and lower taxes.

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Decision to assassinate Arafat approved by Saudis: Former senior advisor

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Washington : A former senior adviser to Yasser Arafat, the late leader of the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO), has said that Arafat’s death was not natural and he was actually assassinated, with Saudi Arabia approving the decision to assassinate him.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Palestine’s Arabic-language Shehab news agency, Bassam Abu Sharif said former US president, George W. Bush, had contacted Saudi officials after a meeting with former Israeli prime minister, Ariel Sharon, during which Arafat’s liquidation was discussed, and Saudi authorities consented.

Abu Sharif went on to say that the Riyadh regime approved of Arafat’s assassination, because it viewed him as an obstacle to the Arab Peace Initiative, which envisioned a so-called two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

“Sharon met with Bush at the White House and told him that he could no longer keep his promise of not physically attacking Yasser Arafat, because he was a leading terror figure and collaborating with Hamas, and that Hamas operations were carried out with the approval and blessing of Arafat,” the senior member of the PLO pointed out.

Abu Sharif highlighted that Bush contacted Saudi officials the following day and informed them of the matter, and the Al Saud regime agreed to the decision to assassinate Arafat.

The late Palestinian leader’s adviser noted that his new book, titled Salty Fish, contains many secrets about the assassination of Arafat; Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the former leader of the Palestinian resistance movement Hamas, who was killed in an Israeli airstrike in 2004; as well as senior Hamas figure, Mahmoud al-Mabhouh, who was found dead in his hotel room in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, back in 2010.

Arafat, who led an armed struggle against Israel in the late 1960s, died of unknown causes at a hospital near the French capital, Paris, on November 11, 2004. He was 75.

Israeli forces have attacked a group of Palestinian students, who planned to hold a ceremony to mark the death anniversary of Yasser Arafat,In 2012, Arafat’s widow, Suha, filed a legal complaint in France, claiming that her husband had been assassinated while staying at the Mercy military hospital near Paris in 2004. He had been moved to the hospital the previous month for diarrhea and vomiting.

According to French doctors, he died of a massive stroke, although the origin of his illness was unknown.

Arafat’s tomb in Ramallah was opened the same year, so that three teams of French, Swiss, and Russian investigators could collect samples for investigation.

A subsequent French investigation found no proof of poisoning. However, separate probes from Swiss and Russian experts found that Arafat had been poisoned to death with polonium.

An investigation has proved Israel assassinated the former leader of Palestine Liberation Organization, Yasser Arafat.

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