With US designating Houthis a ‘terror’ group, Yemen’s humanitarian crisis likely to worsen

News Network
January 11, 2021

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The United States will designate Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist group, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, a late-term move that aid groups fear will worsen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

With just 10 days left before President-elect Joe Biden takes office, the announcement on Sunday could complicate the new US administration’s efforts to restart diplomacy with Iran, which has ties to the Houthis and to reassess the US relationship with Saudi Arabia, which has led a brutal offensive in Yemen.

“The designations are intended to hold Ansar Allah accountable for its terrorist acts, including cross-border attacks threatening civilian populations, infrastructure and commercial shipping,” Pompeo said in a statement, using the official name of the Houthi movement.

It has led a campaign that has “killed many people, continues to destabilise the region and denies Yemenis a peaceful solution to the conflict in their country”, he added.

Pompeo pointed to a December 30 attack on an airport in Yemen’s second city Aden, which killed 26 people and was blamed by the Saudi-backed government on the Houthis.

The rebel group controls much of Yemen and is already under US sanctions.

But a designation as a terrorist group is expected to scare away outside actors from carrying out many transactions with Houthi authorities, including bank transfers and buying food and fuel.

The Trump administration has been piling on sanctions related to Iran in recent weeks, prompting some Biden allies and outside analysts to conclude that Trump aides are seeking to make it harder for the incoming administration to re-engage with Iran and rejoin an international nuclear agreement.

“I also intend to designate three of Ansar Allah’s leaders, Abdul Malik al-Houthi, Abd al-Khaliq Badr al-Din al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists”, Pompeo added.

‘Significant move’

The Houthi group is the de facto authority in northern Yemen and aid agencies have to work with it to deliver crucial assistance. Aid workers and supplies also come in through Houthi-controlled Sanaa airport and Hodeidah port.

“This serves no interest at all,” Ryan Crocker, a retired US ambassador who served in the Middle East, said of the designation.

“Are there elements among the Houthis who have been involved in terrorist acts? Sure. Just as with other groups in the Middle East. The Houthis are an integral part of Yemeni society. They always have been. This is making a strategic enemy out of a local force that has been part of Yemen for generations. They are not Iranian pawns.”

The United Nations is trying to restart political talks to end the war between the Houthis and a Saudi-Emirati-led military coalition, and the US designation could create legal impediments for negotiations with the Houthis, who control the capital Sanaa and most urban centres.

“It is significant move because it will undermine any future peace efforts, because if you designate someone as a terrorist organisation you won’t be able to negotiate with it anymore,” Marwan Kabalan, director of policy analysis at the Arab Centre for Research and Policy Studies, told Al Jazeera.

“Nobody recognises the Houthis as a legitimate government of Yemen but they are a very important party to the conflict in the country, so if there are no talks with the Houthis peace will be very difficult to achieve in the country.”

Aid groups as well as members of Biden’s Democratic Party have warned the move will severely impede efforts to address what the UN calls the world’s largest humanitarian crisis.

Pompeo insisted the designations – which will come into effect a day before Biden takes office on January 19 – will not affect relief work.

“We are planning to put in place measures to reduce their impact on certain humanitarian activity and imports into Yemen,” Pompeo said.

“We have expressed our readiness to work with relevant officials at the United Nations, with international and non-governmental organisations and other international donors to address these implications.”

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News Network
January 10,2021

Jakarta, Jan 10: Indonesian rescuers pulled out body parts, pieces of clothing and scraps of metal from the Java Sea early on Sunday morning, a day after a Boeing 737-500 with 62 people onboard crashed shortly after takeoff from Jakarta, officials said.

Officials were hopeful they were honing in on the wreckage of Sriwijaya Air Flight 182 after sonar equipment detected a signal from the aircraft.

Transportation Minister Budi Karya Sumadi told reporters that authorities have launched massive search efforts after identifying "the possible location of the crash site".

"These pieces were found by the SAR team between Lancang Island and Laki Island," National Search and Rescue Agency Bagus Puruhito in a statement.

"As of this morning, we've received two (body) bags, one with passenger belongings and the other with body parts," Jakarta police spokesman Yusri Yunus told Metro TV.

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News Network
January 17,2021

Oslo, Jan 17: Norwegian officials said 29 people had died in the country a short time after receiving their first dose of the Covid-19 vaccine. Of those deaths, at least 13 have been autopsied, with the results suggesting that common side effects may have contributed to severe reactions in frail, elderly people, according to the Norwegian Medicines Agency.

Norway said Covid-19 vaccines may be too risky for the very old and terminally ill, the most cautious statement yet from a European health authority as countries assess the real-world side effects of the first shots to gain approval.

“For those with the most severe frailty, even relatively mild vaccine side effects can have serious consequences,” the Norwegian Institute of Public Health said. “For those who have a very short remaining life span anyway, the benefit of the vaccine may be marginal or irrelevant.”

The recommendation does not mean younger, healthier people should avoid being vaccinated. But it’s an early indication of what to watch as countries begin to issue safety monitoring reports on the vaccines. Emer Cooke, the new head of the European Medicines Agency, has said tracking the safety of Covid vaccines, especially those relying on novel technologies such as messenger RNA, would be one of the biggest challenges once shots are rolled out widely.

Pfizer and BioNTech are working with the Norwegian regulator to investigate the deaths in Norway, Pfizer said in an e-mailed statement. The agency found that “the number of incidents so far is not alarming, and in line with expectations,” Pfizer said.

Allergic reactions have been uncommon so far. In the US, authorities reported 21 cases of severe allergic reactions from December 14-23 after administration of about 1.9 million initial doses of the vaccine developed by Pfizer Inc. and BioNTech SE. That’s an incidence of 11.1 cases per million doses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Though both Covid-19 vaccines approved so far in Europe were tested in tens of thousands of people -- including volunteers in their late 80s and 90s -- the average trial participant was in his or her early 50s. The first people to be immunized in many places have been older than that as countries rush to inoculate nursing-home residents at high risk from the virus.

Norway has given at least one dose to about 33,000 people, focusing on those considered to be most at risk if they contract the virus, including the elderly. The Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine approved late last year has been used most broadly, with a similar shot from Moderna Inc. approved earlier this month also now being administered.

Of 29 cases of potential side effects investigated by Norwegian authorities, almost three-quarters were in people age 80 or older, the regulator said in a January 14 report.

In France, one frail patient died in a care home two hours after being vaccinated, but authorities said given the patient’s previous medical history there is no indication the death was linked to the vaccine. The French pharmaceutical safety agency on Thursday reported four cases of severe allergic reactions and two incidents of irregular heartbeat after vaccination.

The first Europe-wide safety report on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine will probably be published at the end of January, the regulator’s key medicines committee said Friday. Vaccine makers are required to submit data monthly.

In the UK, which has carried out more immunizations per capita than anywhere else in Europe, authorities will assess safety data and plan to publish details of suspected reactions “on a regular basis,” the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency said, without giving a date.

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News Network
January 19,2021

New Delhi, Jan 19: Food served in Parliament canteens for MPs and others will become costlier as a subsidy given for it has been stopped, Lok Sabha Speaker Om Birla said on Tuesday.

While Birla did not specify the financial implications of the move, sources said the Lok Sabha Secretariat can annually save more than Rs 8 crore with the subsidy coming to an end.

Talking to reporters about preparations for the next Parliament session, beginning January 29, Birla also said the Parliament canteens will now be run by ITDC in place of Northern Railways.

Birla said all Members of Parliament will be requested to undergo the Covid-19 test before the start of the Budget session.

While Rajya Sabha will sit from 9 am to 2 pm, Lok Sabha will function in the second half from 4-8 pm. The Question Hour will be allowed during the session for an already fixed time of one hour.

He said all arrangements have also been made for RTPCR Covid-19 tests of MPs near their residence.

In Parliament premises, the RTPCR tests will be conducted on January 27-28, while arrangements have also been made for these tests of families and staff members of MPs.

Birla said the vaccination drive policy finalised by the Centre and states will apply to parliamentarians as well.

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