Saudi displays arms, says drone attack sponsored by Iran

Agencies
September 19,2019

Riyadh, Sept 19: Saudi Arabia on Wednesday displayed remnants of what it described as Iranian drones and cruise missiles used in an attack on Saudi oil facilities, saying they were "undeniable" evidence of Iranian aggression.

A total of 25 drones and missiles were launched at two oil plants in last weekend's strikes, including Iranian Delta Wing unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) and "Ya Ali" cruise missiles, Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said.

"The attack was launched from the north and unquestionably sponsored by Iran," he told a news conference. "The evidence ... that you have seen in front of you, makes this undeniable."

Saudi Arabia has claimed Iranian cruise missiles and drones were used to attack the kingdom's oil industry, showing journalists the remains of the weapons but stopping short of directly accusing Tehran of launching the assault. Iran denies being...

Authorities were still working to determine the exact launch point, Malki said, repeatedly declining to answer reporters questions about whether Iran actually carried out the attack.

Iran has denied any involvement in the assault that initially halved Saudi Arabia's oil production. An adviser to Iran's president tweeted that the press conference proved Saudi Arabia "knows nothing".

Yemen's Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which has been battling a Saudi-led military coalition, has claimed responsibility for the strikes.

On Wednesday, the group gave details of the type of drones it said were used in the Sept. 14 attack and warned that the United Arab Emirates was also in its sights.

Malki reiterated that the attack could not have come from Yemen, south of Saudi Arabia, and that the Houthis were "covering up" for Iran.

"The precision impact of the cruise missile indicate advanced capability beyond Iran proxy capacity," he said. "The targeting direction of the site indicate north to south direction of travel."

Eighteen drones and three missiles were launched at Abqaiq, home to the world's largest oil processing facility, but the missiles "fell short", Malki said. He said four missiles targeted Khurais, adding that the Ya Ali missiles have a range of 700 km and have been used by Iran's Revolutionary Guards.

HOUTHIS THREATEN UAE

Houthi military spokesman Yahya Saria reiterated that the movement had carried out the strike, saying it possessed new drones, powered by normal and jet engines, that could reach targets deep inside the "enemy".

The group had launched "Samad 3", "Qassef 3", jet-powered and other drones, including some carrying bombs, at the Saudi oil plants from three sites, he said in a televised speech.

"Today and for the first time we announce that we have dozens of targets within our range in the UAE, some are in Abu Dhabi and can be attacked at any time," he said.

The Western-backed, Sunni Muslim coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthis after they ousted the internationally recognised government from power in the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The UAE in June scaled down its military presence in Yemen as Western allies pressed for an end to the ruinous war and as rising tensions with Iran raised fears of a war in the Gulf.

The Yemen conflict, seen as proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has killed tens of thousands and pushed millions to the brink of famine in the poorest Arabian Peninsula nation.

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Trail of death and devastation as massive explosion rocks Lebanon's capital

Agencies
August 4,2020

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Beirut, Aug 4: A massive explosion has shaken the Lebanese capital of Beirut, with a very high number of casualties expected.

A warehouse at the Beirut Port caught fire on Tuesday afternoon, triggering a huge explosion, Lebanon’s official National News Agency (NNA) reported.

Several smaller explosions were heard before the bigger one occurred.

Abbas Ibrahim, the head of Lebanon’s General Security, said that “highly explosive materials” confiscated earlier had been stored at the site.

Footage shared on social media captured the moment of the bigger explosion, with a colossal shock wave seen traveling fast across several hundreds of meters and shrouding the area in thick smoke.

The blast left enormous material damage to the surrounding buildings and structures. But it was not immediately known how big an area was affected.

There was also no immediate casualty count. Graphic amateur video from the scene showed bodies strewn on the ground, with their clothes blown off.

The NNA said rescue operations were underway. Ambulances were seen heading toward the scene in central Beirut.

Lebanese LBC television channel quoted Lebanon’s Health Minister Hamad Hasan as saying that the blast had caused a “very high number of injuries” and “extensive damage.”

Beirut Governor Marwan Abboud said an unspecified number of firefighters dispatched to extinguish the initial fire had been killed in the explosion.

“As they were putting out the fire, the explosion took place and we’ve [lost them],” he said, breaking down on live TV.

The explosion comes at a time when the Arab country is passing through its worst economic and financial crisis in decades, and amid rising tensions with Israel.

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In its first, UAE launches 'Hope' mission to Mars from Japan

News Network
July 20,2020

Abu Dhabi, Jul 20: The United Arab Emirates launched its first-ever interplanetary Hope Probe mission to Mars from Japan's Tanegashima Space Centre at 01:58 a.m. (local time) on Monday.

"United Arab Emirates (UAE) launches its first mission to Mars, the 'Hope Mars Mission' from Japan's Tanegashima Space Center," UAE Space Agency said on its Twitter page.

The spacecraft is expected to reach Mars orbit in about 200 days from now and then begin its mission to study the Red Planet's atmosphere, WAM news agency reported.

Once it enters Mars' orbit in the first quarter of 2021, the Hope probe will mark the UAE's 50th anniversary.

The probe will travel 493 million kilometres into space in a journey that will take seven months, and will orbit the Red Planet for one full Martian year of 687 days to provide the first truly global picture of the Martian atmosphere.

The Hope probe will be the first to study the Martian climate throughout daily and seasonal cycles. It will observe the weather phenomena on Mars such as the massive famous dust storms that have been known to engulf the Red Planet, as compared to the short and localised dust storms on Earth.

It will also examine the interaction between the upper and lower layers of the Martian atmosphere and causes of the Red Planet's surface corrosion, as well as study why Mars is losing its upper atmosphere.

Exploring connections between today's Martian weather and the ancient climate of the Red Planet will give deeper insights into the past and future of Earth as well as the potential of life on Mars and other distant planets.

The Hope Mars Mission is considered as the biggest strategic and scientific national initiative announced by UAE's President His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan and His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum in 2014. The UAE will be the first Arab nation to embark on a space mission to the Red Planet in a journey that contributes to the international science community as a service to human knowledge.

The interplanetary mission is the first by any West Asian, Arab or Muslim majority country.

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Pilgrims converge on Mount Arafat for peak of hajj

Agencies
July 31,2020

mount 1.jpg

Mount Arafat, July 30: Muslim pilgrims converged Thursday on Saudi Arabia's Mount Arafat for the climax of this year's hajj, the smallest in modern times and a sharp contrast to the massive crowds of previous years.

A tight security cordon has been erected all around the foot of the rocky hill outside Mecca, also known as Jabal al-Rahma or Mount of Mercy.

Pilgrims, donning masks and observing social distancing, were brought in buses from neighbouring Mina, state television showed, as Saudi authorities impose measures to prevent a coronavirus outbreak.

They were subject to temperature checks and attended a sermon -- which state media said was translated into 10 languages -- before they set off on the climb to the summit for hours of Koran recitals and prayers to atone for their sins.

The scene was strikingly different to last year's ritual when a sea of pilgrims ascended Mount Arafat, marshalled by tens of thousands of stewards in a bid to prevent any crushes.

After sunset prayers, pilgrims will make their way down Mount Arafat to Muzdalifah, another holy site where they will sleep under the stars to prepare for the final stage of hajj, the symbolic "stoning of the devil".

It takes place on Friday and also marks the beginning of Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice.

The hajj, one of the five pillars of Islam and a must for able-bodied Muslims at least once in their lifetime, is usually one of the world's largest religious gatherings.

But only up to 10,000 people already residing in the kingdom will participate in this year's ritual, compared with 2019's gathering of some 2.5 million from around the world.

"You are not our guests but those of God, the custodian of the two holy mosques (Saudi Arabia's King Salman) and the nation," Hajj Minister Mohammad Benten said in a video released by the media ministry on Wednesday.

Security cordon

A security cordon has been thrown around the holy sites to prevent any security breaches, an interior ministry spokesman said.

Riyadh faced strong criticism in 2015 when some 2,300 worshippers were killed in the deadliest stampede in the gathering's history.

But this year, those risks are greatly reduced by the much smaller crowd.

The pilgrims have all been tested for the virus, and foreign journalists were barred from this year's hajj, usually a huge global media event.

As part of the rites completed over five days in the holy city of Mecca and its surroundings, the pilgrims converged on Mount Arafat after spending the night in Mina.

A district of Mecca, Mina sits in a narrow valley surrounded by rocky mountains, and is transformed each year into a vast encampment for pilgrims.

They began the hajj on Wednesday with their first "tawaf", the circumambulation of the Kaaba, a large structure in Mecca’s Grand Mosque towards which Muslims around the world pray.

The Kaaba is draped in a black cloth embroidered in gold with Koranic verses and known as the kiswa, which is changed each year during the pilgrimage.

Pilgrims were brought inside the mosque in small batches, walking along paths marked on the floor, in sharp contrast to the normal sea of humanity that swirls around the Kaaba during hajj.

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