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.”
Two States only just solution for Israel-Palestine conflict: UN chief
United Nations: A “peaceful and just solution” to the longstanding Israel-Palestine conflict can only be achieved through creation of two States living side-by-side in peace and security, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has said, asserting that there is no plan B.
In his address to the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, which was established by the UN General Assembly in 1975, Guterres said on Friday that “based on relevant UN resolutions, long-held principles, previous agreements and international law”, Jerusalem should be the capital of both States.
“Unfortunately, over this past year, the situation has not moved in that direction”, he rued, pointing to protests that began along the border fence with Gaza last year that left hundreds dead and thousands wounded by Israeli security forces.
He also cited “security incidents and provocations by Hamas and other militants in Gaza”, including the launching of rockets and incendiary kites that dangerously escalated the situation.
“Thanks to the UN and Egyptian mediation efforts, a major escalation was avoided”, he said, appealing to Hamas authorities in Gaza to “prevent provocations”.
The UN chief said under International Humanitarian Law Israel too has a responsibility to exercise “maximum restraint”, except as a last resort.
Guterres said he regretted Israel’s decision not to renew the mandate of the Temporary International Presence in Hebron, saying “I hope an agreement can be found by the parties to preserve this long-standing and valuable arrangement”.
“Palestinians have endured more than a half-century of occupation and denial of their legitimate right to self-determination” with both sides continuously suffering from “deadly cycles of violence”, the Secretary-General said.
He indicated that leaders bore the responsibility to reverse this negative trajectory and pave the way toward peace, stability and reconciliation.
Guterres praised the Committee for keeping the focus on the ultimate objective of a “peaceful solution with two States coexisting in peace and security” as the only way to achieve the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people.
“As I have said repeatedly, there is no Plan B,” Guterres said.
He underscored that the UN firmly supports Palestinian reconciliation and “the return of the legitimate Palestinian Government to Gaza” as “an integral part of a future Palestinian State”.
Noting that the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Gaza must be immediately addressed, he detailed that some two million Palestinians remained mired in increasing poverty and unemployment, with limited access to adequate health, education, water and electricity, leaving young people with “little prospect of a better future”.
“I urge Israel to lift restrictions on the movement of people and goods, which also hamper the efforts of the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies, without naturally jeopardising legitimate security concerns,” Guterres said.
Lauding the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) for its “critical work” in Gaza, the occupied West Bank and across the region, he called on the international community to “significantly” increase efforts to revitalise Gaza’s economy.
Touching upon the risk of further unrest in the West Bank, the UN chief flagged that Israeli construction and settlement plans have expanded, including in East Jerusalem.
“Settlements are illegal under international law”, he asserted.
“They deepen the sense of mistrust and undermine the two-State solution”.
Five killed in US industrial park shooting
Washington: Five persons have been killed and several others injured after a gunman opened fire at an industrial park in the US state of Illinois, police said.
The gunman was also killed, a police spokesman said. He added that five police officers also sustained injuries after being hit by gunfire.
The attack took place in Aurora, a suburb about 65 km from Chicago, the BBC reported.
It comes a day after the first anniversary of a school shooting in Parkland, Florida, which left 17 dead.
The shooting is reported to have happened at Henry Pratt Company, a manufacturing firm that makes valves for large water pipes.
Police named the gunman as Gary Martin, 45, who they said was an employee at the industrial park.
Bill Donnell, an elected official in Aurora, told CNN that a number of civilians had been wounded in the shooting.
Chris Southwood of the Illinois Fraternal Order of Police described the Aurora officers who attended and were shot at as “courageous”.
“(These) officers and their colleagues did not hesitate to literally put their lives on the line today to stop further bloodshed,” Southwood said in a statement.
An employee at nearby Capitol Printing told ABC7 they had hid in a closet when the shooting began.
Witness John Probst, who works at the plant, told ABC7 that he saw the attacker, whom he recognised as a colleague.
He said the man was carrying a handgun equipped with a laser sight, but this has yet to be confirmed by officials.
Illinois Senator Tammy Duckworth said: “This is a scary, sad day for all Illinoisans and Americans.”
US President Donald Trump has been briefed on the incident, according to White House Spokeswoman Sarah Sanders.
Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman’s first visit to Pak delayed
Islamabad: Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman’s arrival in Pakistan on his first official visit to the country has been delayed by a day for “unknown reasons”. He was scheduled to reach Islamabad on Saturday but due to a slight change, he will arrive on Sunday, according to the Foreign Office.
However, the programmes of his stay in Pakistan will remain unchanged, it said. Prince Mohammad, who is also the deputy prime minister and minister of defence, will be conferred with Nishan-e-Pakistan – the highest civilian award — during his visit to the country, the Express Tribune reported.
A top official said that the arrival has been delayed by a day for “unknown reasons”. Preparations have been made to give an “unprecedented warm welcome” to the Saudi Prince who will be received personally by Prime Minister Imran Khan and his cabinet members at the Nur Khan Airbase, the report said.
Abdul Razzak Dawood, Advisor to prime minister on trade, said investment deals worth USD 10-15 billion dollars would be signed during the trip. On the top of the list is an agreement to set up an oil refinery in Pakistan. Elaborate security arrangements have been planned during the visit of the powerful heir to the Saudi throne.