AT LEAST nine Yemenis were killed late last week as Saudi-led military aircraft carried out a string of airstrikes against an area in Yemen’s south western province of Ta’izz.
Local sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told the Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the warplanes had struck a petroleum derivatives plant in the Mawiyah district of the province on Friday afternoon, leaving nine people dead and several others injured.
Earlier, Saudi-backed militiamen loyal to Yemen’s former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi lobbed a barrage of mortar shells at a vegetable oil extraction workshop at Kilo 16 area of al-Hali district in the strategic western Yemeni province of Hudaydah.
There were no immediate reports about the extent of damage caused and possible casualties.
Meanwhile, scores of Saudi-paid militiamen were also killed and injured when Yemeni army soldiers, backed by allied fighters from Popular Committees, mounted a surprise attack in the Khabb wa ash Sha’af district of the country’s northern province of al-Jawf.
Separately, Yemeni troops and their allies struck the positions of Saudi soldiers and their mercenaries in the Rabuah area of the kingdom’s southern border region of Asir.
At the same time at least four civilians have been killed, and eleven others injured, in a Saudi airstrike in Yemen’s north western province of Hajjah.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
The US-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organisation, estimates that the Saudi-led war has claimed the lives of over 60,000 Yemenis since January 2016.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The United Nations (UN) says over 24 million Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid, including 10 million suffering from extreme levels of hunger.
- Meanwhile, Oman has warned that any war in the Middle East could be harmful to the entire world, saying it is making efforts to reduce spiralling tensions between Iran and the USA.
‘We and other parties seek to calm tensions between Washington and Tehran,’ Omani State Minister for Foreign Affairs Yusuf bin Alawi bin Abdullah said in a statement on Friday.
‘A war could harm the whole world, and both the American and Iranian sides are ‘‘aware of the dangers’’.’
Located just across the Strait of Hormuz from the Iranian territory at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, Oman has maintained friendly ties with Iran through successive crises in the region.
The cordial Tehran-Muscat relations have at times allowed the small but strategic sultanate to play an important mediating role, including with the United States.
Oman played a positive role in the preliminary nuclear negotiations between Iran and the P5+1 group of countries, and hosted several rounds of the talks that ultimately led to a landmark 2015 deal between Iran and major world powers, including the US.
The United States remarkably stoked tensions with Iran in May 2018 when US President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the nuclear accord, officially known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), and re-imposed harsh sanctions against the Islamic Republic in defiance of global criticisms.
The tensions saw a sharp rise on the first anniversary of Washington’s exit from the deal as the US moved to ratchet up the pressure on Iran by tightening its oil sanctions and building up its military presence in the region.
Additionally to that, the US says it is deploying an aircraft carrier strike group and a bomber task force to the Middle East in what it is calling a ‘clear and unmistakable’ message to Iran.
Washington has also further increased the pressure on Iran, sending military reinforcements, including the USS Abraham Lincoln aircraft carrier strike group, a squadron of B-52 bombers, and a battery of patriot missiles, to the Middle East.
In an exclusive interview with the CNN broadcast last Tuesday, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif warned that the United States is ‘playing a very, very dangerous game’ by beefing up its military presence in the region.
Minister Zarif says the US is ‘playing a very, very dangerous game’ by building up its military presence in the region.
‘Having all these military assets in a small waterway is in and of itself prone to accident, particularly when you have people who are interested in accidents. So extreme prudence is required and the United States is playing a very, very dangerous game,’ the Iranian foreign minister said.
Then last Thursday the Pentagon confirmed it is considering sending additional US troops to the Middle East as a way to ‘bolster protection for American forces there’.
Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan has confirmed that the Pentagon is considering deploying additional American troops to the Middle East.
‘What we’re looking at is: Are there things that we can do to enhance force protection in the Middle East?’ Shanahan said while speaking to reporters outside the Pentagon. ‘It may involve sending additional troops.’
However, American officials have on many occasions gone back on their markedly belligerent rhetoric by either asserting they are not seeking war with the Islamic Republic or alleging that the ‘Iranian threat’ has been put on hold.
But the US movements have raised concerns, even among its allies, that the brinksmanship with Tehran could lead to a dangerous miscalculation.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said last Tuesday that his country is set to send delegations to the US and Iran to help ‘halt tension’ between the two sides amid growing concerns over a military conflict.
The Iraqi prime minister says that Baghdad will send delegations to Washington and Tehran to help ‘halt tension’ between the two sides.
‘Iraq has high-level contacts (with both parties), and its vision is very close to that of the European Union, which seeks to settle the crisis in the region,’ Abdul Mahdi said at a weekly press briefing in the capital Baghdad.
- Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has reportedly pledged to continue supporting Sudan’s military transition council if Khartoum agrees to keep its forces in Yemen.
Bin Salman and General Mohamed Hamdan Dagalo, who goes by the nickname Hemedti, reached the agreement as they met in the Saudi city of Jeddah on Friday.
Last month, Sudan’s military announced that it had unseated Bashir and proceeded to imprison him. It then set up the Transitional Military Council (TMC) to rule the country and promised to hand over the power after elections.
But protests, the pressure of which forced Bashir out, have continued in Sudan, with people demanding that more civilians be on the council than military figures during the transition period.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have pledged $3 billion to Sudan, where protesters demand that the ruling junta hand power to civilians.
But Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have announced their support for the transitional military council. They have also expressed support for measures taken by the council following Bashir’s ouster.
Last Tuesday, the leading Sudanese protest group Sudanese Professionals Association (SPA) called for a general strike as the ruling generals in the country refused to grant a demand for the establishment of a civilian-majority transitional body.
The SPA said that after two late-night negotiation sessions with the army generals, they failed to reach an agreement as the army was still insisting on directing the transition and keeping a military majority on the council.
Sudan, under Bashir, had forged close relations with Saudi Arabia after renouncing ties with Iran.