Iranian fighters caught among Houthi militias/Khaled Abu Toameh: Palestinians: A Rare Voice of Sanity

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Yemen: Iranian fighters caught among Houthi militias, says Aden governor
Sana’a and Riyadh, Asharq Al-Awsat—The governor of Yemen’s southern Aden province revealed on Wednesday that Iranian fighters have been caught among the Houthi militias currently in control of large parts of Yemen. Naif Al-Bakri told Asharq Al-Awsat forces loyal to Yemen’s internationally recognized President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi “have taken hostage a number of Iranians and fighters from other nationalities” following their recent victories in the Aden, Lahj, and Abyan provinces. Bakri added that “among the hostages and those killed are several specialists, fighters, and military cadres” from different nationalities including Iran and that the hostages were currently being questioned. Recent reports from Aden and elsewhere in the country have suggested the presence of Iranian fighters among the Houthis, with fighters from the Popular Resistance telling Asharq Al-Awsat in recent weeks they had found Iranian-marked weapons and supplies in Houthi positions vacated by the group. Several sources have also told Asharq Al-Awsat in recent months that Iranian operatives including military experts have been present in Yemen’s capital Sana’a, which the Houthis currently control. The latest revelation by Aden’s governor would, however, if true be the first time direct proof has been uncovered of an Iranian presence among Houthis ranks in Yemen. The Houthis, backed by Iran and ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, have been in control of Sana’a since September of 2014 and launched a coup in February this year deposing President Hadi and the country’s government. After a month-long house arrest imposed on him by the Houthis, Hadi fled to Aden and then Saudi Arabia in March and requested the Kingdom and its Arab allies intervene with military force in the country in order to restore political legitimacy in the country. The Saudi-led air campaign against the Houthis in Yemen began on March 26. The campaign was briefly paused from Sunday evening due to a five-day ceasefire declared by the Saudi-led coalition to allow humanitarian supplies to reach Yemenis caught up in the conflict, which in addition to the strikes has also seen fierce fighting on the ground between the Houthis and Hadi loyalists. However, the airstrikes quickly resumed after the Houthis broke the terms of the truce and continued military action and targeting civilians throughout the country as the ceasefire began. A previous ceasefire offer from the Arab coalition was extended to the Houthis in May, but the group again resumed hostile activities just as the truce began, leading the coalition to resume airstrikes. The coalition said in a statement last week that it reserved the right to restart airstrikes should the Houthis fail to respect the current ceasefire. On Wednesday the coalition said it had launched a series of air raids on Houthi militias and forces loyal to Saleh in the Houthis’ northern stronghold of Saada. Fighting also continues on the ground between Hadi loyalists and Houthis militias for the strategic Al-Anad Airbase, some 35 miles (60 kilometers) north of Aden, in the southern Lahj province. Fahd Al-Zayabi contributed additional reporting to this article.

Yemeni forces seize Houthi positions in Aden
By Mohammed Mukhashaf and Mohammed Ghobari | Reuters, Sanaa/Aden/Thursday, 30 July 2015/Yemeni forces backed up by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have recaptured positions on the outskirts of Aden used by the Houthi group to fire rockets into the southern port city, local officials said on Thursday. Forces loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, which retook Aden from the Iran-allied Houthis on July 17, seized the town of Muthalath al-Ilm, at Aden’s eastern entrance. The fighters, who call themselves the Southern Resistance forces, also recaptured neighborhoods to the north of Aden from the Houthis, including Ya’wala, Al-Basateen and Qariat al-Falahi, the officials said. They said the two sides were still fighting in al-Houta, the capital of the southern province of Lahj, 30 km (20 miles) from Aden, where clashes have persisted for several days.Saudi air raids also targetted locations across the south, including Dhalea and Aland airbase, Houthi media Saba News reported quoting a security source at Yemen’s interior ministry. An Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been carrying out air strikes in Yemen since March in an effort to drive back the Houthis, who are aligned with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and fight alongside his forces. The four-month-old war is rooted in political strains that escalated last year when the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, and pushed out Hadi, a U.S. ally. Nearly 4,000 people have been killed and more than 1.2 million displaced, the United Nations says. A five-day truce put forward by the Saudi side to allow delivery of aid that began on Sunday ended almost immediately, with resistance fighters accusing the Houthis flouting the deal. More than 6 million people in Yemen are on the verge of starvation, Oxfam said on Tuesday. Also on Thursday, residents and local officials said four suspected members of the al Qaeda affiliated Ansar al-Sharia militant group were killed in an overnight air strike by an unmanned aircraft, or drone, in the southern province of Abyan.

Palestinians: A Rare Voice of Sanity
Khaled Abu Toameh/Gatestone Institute/July 30, 2015
http://www.gatestoneinstitute.org/6236/palestinians-sanity
While many in the international community and media hold Israel fully responsible for the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Abrash offers a completely different perspective. Referring to widespread corruption under the Palestinian Authority (PA) in the West Bank, the former Palestinian minister reveals that Palestinian academic institutions, including universities and colleges, have become “commercial projects for granting certificates that have no scientific value or content.” This is a voice that is rarely given a platform in mainstream media outlets in the West, whose journalists continue to focus almost entirely on stories that reflect negatively on Israel. Western journalists based in the Middle East tend to ignore Palestinians who are critical of the PA or Hamas, because such criticism does not fit the narrative according to which Israel is solely responsible for all the bad things that happen to the Palestinians.
Abrash’s criticism of Hamas and the PA — whom he openly holds responsible for the suffering of their people — actually reflects the widespread sentiment among Palestinians. Over the past few years, a growing number of Palestinians have come to realize that their leaders have failed them again and again and are now aware that both Hamas and the PA, as corrupt as ever, are hindering efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip. It is almost unheard of for a prominent Palestinian figure to hold the Palestinian Authority (PA) and Hamas equally responsible for corruption and abuse of power. Dr. Ibrahim Abrash, a former Palestinian Minister of Culture from the Gaza Strip, recently surprised many Palestinians by publishing an article that included a scathing attack on both the PA and Hamas, holding them responsible for the continued suffering of their people. In his article, Dr. Abrash also holds the two Palestinian parties responsible for the delay in rebuilding thousands of houses that were destroyed or damaged in the Gaza Strip during last year’s military conflict between Israel and Hamas. He points out that Hamas and the PA have been holding each other responsible for the suffering of Palestinians. “Sometimes, they also put all the blame on Israel for all that is happening in the Gaza Strip,” he said.
Referring to the ongoing power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, which reached its peak with the violent takeover by Hamas of the entire Gaza Strip in the summer of 2007, Dr. Abrash accused the two rival parties of exploiting their dispute to cover up corruption in vital sectors of Palestinian society.
“In light of the division [between the PA-controlled West Bank and Hamas-run Gaza], corruption and absence of accountability have become widespread,” Dr. Abrash wrote. “This division has led to the collapse of the political system and the system of values, and an increase in corruption. This has also allowed many opportunists and hypocrites to reach important positions, where they do anything they want without being held accountable.”J’Accuse. Dr. Ibrahim Abrash, a former Palestinian Minister of Culture (left), accuses Palestinian Authority and Hamas officials of corruption, extortion, opportunism and hypocrisy. Pictured in the middle is PA President Mahmoud Abbas, and at right Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh. And while many in the international community and media continue to hold Israel fully responsible for the plight of the Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, Dr. Abrash offers a completely different perspective.
Noting that the Palestinians of the Gaza Strip have fallen victim to the power struggle between Hamas and the Palestinian Authority, he says that no one today knows who is supposed to be helping the people living there. “The interests of the people have been lost as result of the two parties’ rivalry,” Dr. Abrash said. “No one knows who is in charge of the people’s needs in the Gaza Strip — Hamas, which is the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip, or the Palestinian Authority and its national consensus government. Or is it UNRWA and the donors who are responsible? Or is it the sole responsibility of Israel as an occupation state? To whom should the people direct their complaints?” Referring to widespread corruption under the PA in the West Bank, the former Palestinian minister reveals that Palestinian academic institutions, including universities and colleges, have become “commercial projects for granting certificates that have no scientific value or content.”
Dr. Abrash points out that no one knows whether universities and colleges in the Gaza Strip are subject to the supervision of the Ministry of Education in the West Bank or the Gaza Strip. He also blasts the PA’s Ministry of Civilian Affairs for exploiting and extorting Palestinians who seek travel permits, especially those wishing to leave the Gaza Strip. He goes on to hold Hamas responsible for “harassing” Palestinians who wish to leave the Gaza Strip through the Erez border crossing (to Israel). Dr. Abrash claims that some Palestinians are forced to pay bribes to Palestinian officials to obtain a travel permit.
“Many people have been subjected to blackmail and procrastination [by Palestinian officials] after Israel eased travel restrictions at the Bet Hanoun [Erez] border crossing,” he said. “But the people are afraid to complain, out of fear that they would be denied travel permits in the future. What is happening at the border crossing has created favoritism and bribery.”Dr. Abrash concludes his article with a rhetorical question: “Isn’t it shameful and irritating that while Israel has been issuing travel permits for those with special needs, some influential [Palestinian] officials are placing obstacles? Until when will they continue to manipulate and blackmail the people of the Gaza Strip?”Dr. Abrash’s article represents a rare voice of sanity among Palestinians. This is a voice that does not blame all the miseries of Palestinians on Israel alone and holds the Palestinians leadership also responsible for the continued suffering of their people.
However, this is a voice that is rarely given a platform in mainstream media outlets in the West, whose journalists continue to focus almost entirely on stories that reflect negatively on Israel. Western journalists based in the Middle East tend to ignore Palestinians who are critical of the Palestinian Authority or Hamas. That is because such criticism does not fit the narrative according to which Israel is solely responsible for all the bad things that happen to the Palestinians. Dr. Abrash’s criticism of Hamas and the PA — whom he openly holds responsible for the suffering of their people — actually reflects the widespread sentiment among Palestinians. Over the past few years, a growing number of Palestinians have come to realize that their leaders have failed them again and again. Today, many Palestinians are aware of the fact that both Hamas and the PA are responsible for hindering efforts to rebuild the Gaza Strip and that the two parties are as corrupt as ever. But when will the international community and media wake up and comprehend what many Palestinians came to understand years ago, namely that the real tragedy of the Palestinian people has been — and remains — bad and irresponsible leadership? Unfortunately, this is unlikely to happen as long as the world continues to see Israel as the villain.