Yemeni govt, Houthis agree to release hundreds of detainees

News Network
March 21, 2023

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New York: The Yemeni government and the Houthis have agreed to release 887 detainees, following 10 days of negotiations in Geneva, the UN and the International Committee of the Red Cross said.

They added that both sides have also agreed to visit each other’s detention facilities, grant the delegations full access to all detainees during those visits, and to meet again in May to discuss further prisoner swaps.

Hans Grundberg, the UN’s special envoy for Yemen, described the deal as one more reason to believe things are moving “in the right direction” toward a resolution of a conflict that has ravaged the country for more than eight years and caused one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world.

“For hundreds of Yemeni families, today is a good day,” said Grundberg. “Unfortunately, Yemen doesn’t experience as many good days as it deserves. So, I warmly congratulate all involved for this achievement. Today, hundreds of Yemeni families can look forward to reuniting with their loved ones.

“But it is important to remember that when the parties committed to the Detainees’ Exchange Agreement they made a promise, not just to each other, but to thousands of Yemeni families who have been living with the pain of separation from those dearest to them for far too long.”

Referring to the announcement on March 10 of the resumption of diplomatic ties between Saudi Arabia and Iran, Grundberg added that he senses there is now “a willingness to engage in a positive direction on trying to come to a settlement on the conflict in Yemen.”

During a UN Security Council meeting last week, Grundberg welcomed the agreement between Saudi Arabia and Iran and said the region was witnessing a “step change in the scope and depth” of talks to end the long-running conflict in Yemen.

At the same time, he urged all those involved in the conflict to seize the opportunity offered by this “renewed regional diplomatic momentum” and take “decisive steps toward a more peaceful future.”

On Monday, he said a “comprehensive and sustainable end to the conflict is necessary if Yemen is to recover from the devastating toll the eight-year conflict has had on its men and women.”

According to a message posted on Twitter by the head of the Houthis’ prisoner affairs committee, Abdul Qader Al-Murtada, and the militia’s chief negotiator, Mohammed Abdulsalam, the Houthis have agreed to release 181 detainees, including 15 Saudis and three Sudanese nationals, in exchange for 706 prisoners held by the Yemeni government. The exchange will take place in three weeks, they added.

“It’s an expression of hope, it’s an expression of humanity and it indicates the way ahead for all parties to the conflict,” said Fabrizio Carboni, the International Committee of the Red Cross’s regional director for the Middle East, who was sitting between representatives of the two delegations on Monday.

The talks, which took place near the Swiss capital, Bern, were the latest in a series of meetings under the UN-brokered Stockholm Agreement, which previously led to the release of prisoners in 2020 and 2022.

Grundberg thanked the Swiss government for hosting the negotiations, and Jordan for hosting a number meetings of the supervisory committee.

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News Network
May 20,2024

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Hopes are fading that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi and his foreign minister have survived a helicopter crash in mountainous terrain and icy weather, an Iranian official said on Monday after search teams located the wreckage.

"President Raisi's helicopter was completely burned in the crash ... unfortunately, all passengers are feared dead," the official told Reuters.

Rescue teams fought blizzards and difficult terrain through the night to reach the wreckage in East Azerbaijan province in the early hours of Monday.

“We can see the wreckage and the situation does not look good,” the head of Iran’s Red Crescent, Pirhossein Kolivand, told state TV.

Raisi, 63, was elected president in 2021, and since taking office has ordered a tightening of morality laws, overseen a crackdown US-Israel backed anti-government protests and pushed hard in nuclear talks with world powers.

A Turkish drone identified a source of heat suspected to be the helicopter's wreckage and had shared the coordinates of the possible crash site with Iranian authorities, Anadolu news agency said earlier on X.

State news agency IRNA said Raisi was flying in a US-made Bell 212 helicopter.

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who holds ultimate power with a final say on foreign policy and Iran's nuclear programme, sought to reassure Iranians, saying there would be no disruption to state affairs.

The chief of staff of Iran's army ordered all resources of the army and the elite Revolutionary Guards to be put to use in search and rescue operations.

Earlier, the national broadcaster had stopped all regular programming to show prayers being held for Raisi across the country.

In the early hours of Monday, it showed a rescue team, wearing bright jackets and head torches, huddled around a GPS device as they searched a pitch-black mountainside on foot in a blizzard.

“We are thoroughly searching every inch of the general area of the crash," state media quoted a regional army commander as saying. "The area has very cold, rainy, and foggy weather conditions. The rain is gradually turning into snow."

Several countries expressed concern and offered assistance in any rescue.

The White House said U.S. President Joe Biden had been briefed on reports about the crash. China said it was deeply concerned. The European Union offered emergency satellite mapping technology.

Possible successor to Khamenei

The crash comes at a time of growing dissent within Iran over an array of political, social and economic crises. Iran's clerical rulers face international pressure over Tehran's disputed nuclear programme and its deepening military ties with Russia during the war in Ukraine.

Since Iran’s open support to Hamas’ resistance against Israeli aggression, US and Israel have harshly criticised the President Raisi. 

In Iran's dual political system, split between the clerical establishment and the government, it is Raisi's 85-year-old mentor Khamenei, supreme leader since 1989, who holds decision-making power on all major policies.

For years many have seen Raisi as a strong contender to succeed Khamenei, who has endorsed Raisi's main policies. Raisi's victory in 2021 elections brought all branches of power under the control of revolutionaries, after eight years when the presidency had been held by pragmatist Hassan Rouhani and a nuclear deal negotiated with powers including Washington.

Raisi had been at the Azerbaijani border on Sunday to inaugurate the Qiz-Qalasi Dam, a joint project. Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev, who said he had bid a "friendly farewell" to Raisi earlier in the day, offered assistance in the rescue.

The chopper that was transporting President Raeisi, Foreign Minister Hossein Amir-Abdollahian and their companions encountered some difficulties and was forced to make a "hard landing".

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News Network
May 19,2024

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Mangaluru: Disgruntled BJP leader and former MLA K Raghupathi Bhat, who is contesting the legislative council election as an independent candidate from the South West Graduates constituency, said the BJP has adopted the “godfather culture” of the Congress.

Bhat told reporters here on Saturday, that he has not tried to appease any senior BJP leaders to get a party ticket to contest the MLC poll.

“I am contesting and seeking votes based on my achievements. My contesting may have a negative impact on the BJP. However, I want to go back to the BJP after winning this election,” Bhat said, and refused to answer the actual reason for the denial of a BJP ticket to him.

“I have no idea who played from behind that I was denied a ticket for the MLC poll.

Earlier, the BJP had a culture of selecting candidates for MLA and MLC polls by seeking the opinion of party workers at the booth level, followed by discussions at mandal and district levels.

Now the situation is such that even if one person’s name was sent from the state, the final list will be different. The godfather culture of the Congress has stretched into our party too. Only those who appease leaders get a ticket in the BJP. However, I have not appeased any leader. I believe in the support of party workers, and with this confidence I am contesting the election,” Bhat said.

To a query, Bhat said that he has not contacted by BJP leaders after deciding to contest the MLC poll.

“I have already requested all leaders that I should get the party’s Form B to contest the MLC poll from the South West Graduates constituency. I have told them that I am also contesting as an independent candidate on behalf of the BJP. The ultimate aim of my contesting the election is that senior leaders should know the injustice that honest party workers are facing in the BJP,” he said.

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News Network
May 28,2024

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The United Nations humanitarian chief has hit out at Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for claiming that the recent deadly aerial assault in the southern Gaza Strip was a “mistake,” saying the carnage was possibly the “most cruel abomination.”

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths made the remarks on Monday, one day after the Israeli strike hit a camp for displaced Palestinians in the city of Rafah and killed at least 50 people and wounded 200 others.

Terrifying scenes of tents in flames and burned victims, many of whom were women and children, sparked an international outcry. 

However, Netanyahu called the air raid a "tragic mistake" and claimed that Israel was investigating the incident.

“Whether the attack was a war crime or a “tragic mistake,” for the people of Gaza, there is no debate. What happened last night was the latest – and possibly most cruel – abomination,” Griffiths said in a statement.

“To call it ‘a mistake’ is a message that means nothing for those killed, those grieving, and those trying to save lives.”

The UN relief chief also pointed to the widespread warnings of a slaughter ahead of Israel's incursion into Rafah, saying, "We've seen the consequences in last night's utterly unacceptable attack."

He further noted that no shelters, hospitals and so-called humanitarian zones are safe in Gaza.

The Rafah carnage came two days after the International Court of Justice (ICJ) ordered Israel to “immediately” halt its military offensive in Rafah.

The occupying regime began a ground offensive in the overcrowded Palestinian city on May 7, defying calls from the international community, including the United States, not to proceed.

Rafah, situated on Gaza's southern border with Egypt, is home to about a million displaced Palestinians who have fled from the rest of the besieged territory amid a genocidal Israeli war.

EU ministers discuss anti-Israel sanctions

Ireland’s Foreign Minister Micheal Martin, meanwhile, said the European Union has for the first time engaged in a “significant” discussion on sanctioning Israel over its Gaza onslaught.

He said the imposition of EU sanctions was discussed as a possible measure to be taken if Israel does not comply with the ICJ’s ruling to halt its attack on Rafah, Irish public broadcaster RTE reported.

“Certainly, if compliance isn’t forthcoming, then we have to consider all options,” he added.

Martin also said that a number of EU foreign ministers had raised the prospect of bans against Israeli officials who were aiding and abetting violent settlers in the occupied West Bank.

Israel unleashed its US-backed war on Gaza on October 7 after the Palestinian Hamas resistance group carried out a surprise operation against the usurping entity in retaliation for its intensified atrocities against the Palestinian people.

The Tel Aviv regime has so far killed at least 36,050 Palestinians, mostly women and children, and injured 81,026 others.

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