Houthis take over Yemeni capital Sanaa, announce ‘end of crisis’ – local media

The capital of Yemen, Sanaa is now reportedly under control of Houthi fighters, according to media citing the Interior Ministry. The Iran-backed group has allegedly retaken the city amid reports of the death of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

Saleh, who formally renounced his alliance with the Houthis on Sunday, was killed while trying to flee the capital, according to the Houthi-controlled ministry. It said their former ally “was creating chaos by working with militias of aggression” in the country, and “helping extremist militants.”


Yemen's former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. © Khaled Abdullah

Having accused the former leader of betrayal and inciting even more violence in Yemen, the ministry said the Houthi forces have “ended the crisis” and now control “all positions” of opposing militias. There have been reports that the eldest son of the ex-president Ahmad Saleh, regarded as his likely successor, has been arrested.

Heavy fighting has been ongoing in Sanaa in recent days, with the Saudi-led coalition launching strikes on Houthi positions and having bombed Sanaa’s airport. The strikes come amid reports of extreme bloodshed in Yemen’s capital after ex-president Saleh pulled out of an alliance with the Houthi rebels.

Rubble and debris can be seen in a Ruptly video documenting the aftermath of the Saudi-led coalition's attack on Sanaa International Airport on Sunday evening. The footage shows pulverized concrete, burnt-out cars and the airport's abandoned VIP lounge.

Yemen: Saudi-led coalition bombs Sanaa International Airport

The Saudi coalition, which is generously provided with munitions by the US and UK, also targeted Houthi positions west of the capital, as well as in the highlands south of Sanaa, including the hills of al-Rayyan overlooking Hadda city, according to Al Arabiya. However, on Monday, Houthis reportedly made gains against forces supporting the former president.

Yemen: Houthi fighters patrol Sanaa after blowing up home of Ali Abdullah Saleh

In 2015, a Sunni-Arab coalition led by Riyadh launched a military campaign against the Shiite Houthi rebels to prevent them from controlling Yemen. The Saudi-led operation has been a major contributor to the humanitarian disaster currently plaguing the war-torn nation. Some 20 million Yemenis, including 11 million children, are in need of urgent aid, according to the World Health Organization. The UN believes that the civilian death toll from the conflict could exceed 10,000.

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Qatar will not negotiate with Arab states until economic boycott ends – FM

Qatar says it will not negotiate with Arab states which cut diplomatic and travel ties with it earlier this month unless they reverse their measures, the country's foreign minister said.

"Qatar is under blockade, there is no negotiation. They have to lift the blockade to start negotiations," Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani told reporters in Doha, as quoted by Reuters. "Until now we didn't see any progress about lifting the blockade, which is the precondition for anything to move forward."

Turkish APC drives at their military base in Doha, Qatar June 18, 2017. © Qatar News Agency


He went on to state that Qatar "cannot just have (vague) demands such as 'the Qataris know what we want from them, they have to stop this or that, they have to be monitored by a foreign monitoring mechanism."

He said that matters which relate to the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council are subject to negotiation, referring to the body comprising Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Kuwait, and Oman.

"Anything not related to them is not subject to negotiation. No one has the right to interfere in my affairs. Al Jazeera is Qatar's affairs, Qatari foreign policy on regional issues is Qatar's affairs. And we are not going to negotiate on our own affairs," he said.

The reference to Qatar-based Al Jazeera comes after Gulf critics accused the news network of being a platform for extremists – an accusation which the channel has denied.

Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Egypt, Yemen, the Maldives, and one of Libya's three rival governments severed ties with Qatar earlier this month, over its alleged support of terrorism. Doha has adamantly denied those claims.

© Warren Little / Getty Images


Al-Thani called the move a "publicity stunt" on Monday, saying “it is unfortunate that our neighbors have chosen to invest their time and resources in a baseless propaganda campaign.”

Meanwhile, the UAE's minister of state for foreign affairs said on Monday that Arab powers plan to reveal their demands for Qatar in the coming days, and warned that sanctions imposed against Doha could last for years unless those demands are met.

"Qatar will realize that this is a new state of affairs and isolation can last years," Anwar Gargash told reporters in Paris, as quoted by Reuters.

"If they want to be isolated because of their perverted view of what their political role is, then let them be isolated. They are still in a phase of denial and anger," he said.

US President Donald Trump has supported Arab states' sanctions against Qatar, which have disrupted its main routes to import goods by land from Saudi Arabia and by sea from the UAE.

However, Qatar was able to find alternative routes in order to maintain business as usual, and al-Thani says Doha has an alternative plan in case the boycott continues.

"We have a back-up plan which depends mainly on Turkey, Kuwait and Oman," he said. "Iran has facilitated for us the sky passages for our aviation and we are cooperating with all countries that can ensure supplies for Qatar."

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‘Death to Saudi & US’: Thousands of mourners attend funeral for Tehran attack victims

Thousands have turned out to mourn the victims of the Tehran attacks, shouting "Death to Saudi Arabia" and "Death to America." It comes after Iranian leaders accused Washington and Riyadh of supporting the attacks which killed 17 people earlier this week.

Crowds gathered on the streets of the Iranian capital to shout slogans against the US, Saudi Arabia, and Israel on Friday, while reaching out to touch coffins wrapped in flags and covered in flowers.  

Earlier on Friday, Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said the attacks would only increase Tehran's hatred against the US and its "stooges" including Saudi Arabia.

The attack "will not damage the Iranian nation's determination and the obvious result is nothing except an increase in hate for the governments of the United States and their stooges in the region like Saudi (Arabia)," he said ahead of the funeral, according to state media.


Members of Iranian forces run during an attack on the Iranian parliament in central Tehran, Iran, June 7, 2017 © Omid Vahabzadeh

During the funeral, Iranian parliament speaker Ali Larijani called the US the "international" version of Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL). He also accused Washington of exchanging democracy for money, referencing a massive arms deal recently agreed between the US and Saudi Arabia.

He went on to state that anti-Iranian remarks by Saudi Arabia's foreign minister and US President Donald Trump were a "matter of disgrace."

Larijani criticized a step by the US Senate to proceed with a new set of sanctions against Iran, including its elite Revolutionary Guards. The US decision was confirmed on the same day as the Tehran attacks.

The comments come just one day after Iran's intelligence minister, Mahmoud Alavai, said investigators were working to determine whether Riyadh had a role in Wednesday's attacks, but that it was too soon to reach a conclusion. However, Iran's Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) didn't waste any time blaming Saudi Arabia for the attacks.

"This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the US president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack," a Wednesday statement from the Revolutionary Guards said, as quoted by Reuters.

IRGC Brigadier General Hossein Salami also vowed that Iran would "take revenge" for the attacks.


© ali javid

“Let there be no doubt that we will take revenge for today's attacks in Tehran, on terrorists, their affiliates and their supporters,” he said on Wednesday, as quoted by Mehr news agency.

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister was quick to reject allegations that Riyadh was involved, saying on Wednesday that the country "condemns terrorist attacks anywhere they occur and we condemn the killing of the innocent anywhere it occurs."

Meanwhile, Iran's interior ministry said Friday that a total of 41 suspects linked to the attacks have been arrested.

"With the help of security forces and families of the suspects, 41 people linked to the attacks and to Daesh (Islamic State) have been arrested in different provinces," the ministry said, according to state TV cited by Reuters.

"Lots of documents and weaponry have been seized as well," it added.

The intelligence ministry also said forces stormed multiple "safe houses" linked to IS in northwest Iran, according to state media.

Two guards, 10 government staffers, and five civilians were killed in the Wednesday attacks which targeted the country's parliament and shrine of the late founder of Iran, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. Fifty-two others were injured in the attacks, according to the Interior Ministry. IS claimed responsibility for the assaults, and threatened more against Iran's Shiite majority.

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Iran's Revolutionary Guards blame Saudis for Tehran attacks, Riyadh rejects accusation

Iran’s Revolutionary Guards have accused Saudi Arabia of masterminding the deadly attacks in Tehran on Wednesday, a claim which Riyadh has denied. Islamic State previously claimed responsibility for the attacks which killed at least 12 people.

"This terrorist attack happened only a week after the meeting between the U.S. president (Donald Trump) and the (Saudi) backward leaders who support terrorists. The fact that Islamic State has claimed responsibility proves that they were involved in the brutal attack," said the statement, as quoted by Reuters. 

Saudi Arabia's foreign minister, Adel Al-Jubeir, has denied that Riyadh was involved in the attacks.

"We condemn terrorist attacks anywhere they occur and we condemn the killing of the innocent anywhere it occurs," Jubeir said, as quoted by Reuters.

He went on to state that there is no evidence to implicate Saudi Arabia in the attacks, and that Riyadh has no knowledge of who was responsible. 

"We don’t know this. We haven’t seen the evidence," he said, reiterating Riyadh's position that Iran is the primary sponsor of terrorism around the world. 

Earlier, Brigadier General Hossein Salami, IRGC deputy commander, said that Iran will "take revenge" for the attacks.

Let there be no doubt that we will take revenge for today's attacks in Tehran, on terrorists, their affiliates and their supporters,” he said, as cited by the news agency Mehr.

© twitter.com/MehrnewsCom / Global Look Press 

Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said the attacks will make the country more united.

"Today's terrorist attacks in Tehran will make the Islamic Republic of Iran more determined in the fight against regional terrorism, extremism and violence," he said in a statement published by ISNA news agency.

"We will prove once again that we will crush the enemies' plots with more unity and more strength." 

Twelve people were reported killed and 43 injured in gun and bomb attacks in the Iranian capital. The perpetrators targeted the Iranian parliament and Ayatollah Khomeini’s shrine.

Both attacks were claimed by Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL), the jihadist organization based in Iraq and Syria. Iran supports both countries in their fight against IS.

IS also threatened Iran's majority Shiite population with more attacks, saying "the caliphate will not miss a chance to spill their blood" until Sharia law is implemented, Reuters reported.

The attacks in Tehran were the first that IS had claimed responsibility for in the Shiite Islamic republic.

The timing of the attacks, shortly after a presidential election in Iran, may indicate that the perpetrators want to cast doubt on the decision of the Iranian people to give President Hassan Rouhani a second term, Middle East expert Catherine Shakdam told RT.

Iran has just conducted quite successfully its presidential election. Everything went according to plan, it was peaceful, it was progressive,” she said.

There is a clear desire to drive a narrative of fear and to make people have a sense of insecurity and doubt their officials and how they can protect their own borders.”

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US & Saudi Arabia say it's necessary to maintain Syria whole & united – White House

The Syrian conflict must be solved through political means with the country’s unity and territorial integrity maintained, the US and Saudi Arabia has said in a joint statement released by the White House on Tuesday.

Washington and Riyadh “emphasized the importance of reaching a permanent solution to the conflict in Syria based on the Geneva declaration and Security Council resolution 2254, in order to maintain the unity and integrity of Syrian territory,” the statement read.

U.S. President Donald Trump, Saudi Arabia's King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, and arab leaders pose for a photo during Arab-Islamic-American Summit in Riyadh © Jonathan Ernst

The announcement, which summed up the discussions of US President Donald Trump’s visit to Saudi Arabia last weekend, said that after the end of hostilities, Syria must become “a country that represents the entire spectrum of the Syrian community and free from sectarian discrimination.”

The Geneva II Communique (2014) and UNSC resolution 2254 (2015) envisages a roadmap for a political solution of the Syrian conflict, urging a ceasefire, transitional government and free elections in the country.

Saudi Arabia has also backed “President Trump’s decision to launch missiles at Shayrat Airbase” Tuesday's statement said further.

The US President ordered a barrage of Tomahawk missiles fired at Syria’s Shayrat airbase in response to an alleged chemical attack in the town of Khan Shaykhun in the country’s Idlib province on April 4. Washington immediately labeled Bashar Assad’s government as the perpetrators of the attack despite Russia calling for an impartial investigation and Syria denying the charge.

“The two sides emphasized the importance that the Syrian regime adhere to the 2013 agreement to eliminate its entire stockpile of chemical weapons,” the statement read.

During Trump’s visit to the Gulf kingdom, the US President and King Salman ”agreed to boost cooperation in order to to eliminate Daesh, al-Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations,” the statement also said.

“The two leaders also reaffirmed their commitment to curb the flow of foreign fighters and cutting off funding supplies for terrorist organizations.”

Saudi Arabia had previously been blamed for backing extremists in Syria, with Hillary Clinton’s leaked emails saying the Saudis are “providing clandestine financial and logistic support to ISIL and other radical Sunni groups.”

READ MORE: Trump strikes arms deal with Saudis worth $350bn, $110bn to take effect immediately

The US has provided weapons to the so-called “moderate” rebels fighting the Syrian government with the arms often ending up in the hands of Islamic State or the al-Qaeda offshoot, Jabhat al-Nusra.

Washington and Riyadh also supported the Iraqi government’s efforts to tackle the Islamic State (IS, Daesh, formerly ISIS/ISIL) terrorist group while underlining the importance of “preserving the unity and integrity of Iraqi territory.”

Trump and the Saudi monarch then turned on Iran, saying they need to “contain Iran’s malign interference in the internal affairs of other states, instigation of sectarian strife, support of terrorism and armed proxies, and efforts to destabilize the countries in the region.”

READ MORE: US changes tactics against ISIS, working on plan with 'enthusiastic' Russians

They also said “the nuclear agreement with Iran (signed under the Obama administration) needs to be re-examined in some of its clauses,” the statement read.

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Saudi Arabia will be razed except for Mecca & Medina if it attacks Iran – defense minister

Responding to Saudi Arabia’s latest threats to take their conflict inside Iran, Tehran said it will leave nothing standing in the kingdom except for Muslim holy cities of Mecca and Medina if the Saudis do anything “ignorant,” Al-Manar reports.

© Morteza Nikoubazl

“We warn them against doing anything ignorant, but if they do something ignorant, we will leave nowhere untouched apart from Mecca and Medina,” Iranian Defense Minister Hossein Dehghan told Arabic-speaking Al-Manar channel, as cited by Reuters

“They think they can do something because they have an air force,” he added in an apparent reference to Riyadh’s bombing of Yemen, where Iran-affiliated Houthi forces are being routinely targeted by the Saudi Air Force.

Dehghan’s comment followed unusually blunt remarks by Saudi Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who said on Tuesday that any struggle for influence between Riyadh and Tehran would take place “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”

In a rare interview broadcast on multiple Saudi TV channels, the 31-year-old prince, who was named in 2015 by his father, King Salman, as successor to the throne, outlined his vision of modern-day Iran.

Making use of sectarian terms, Prince Salman said Iran is eager “to control the Islamic world” and to spread its Shiite doctrine, according to AP.

When asked if there is a mere possibility to mend ties with Iran, the prince said: “How can I come to an understanding with someone, or a regime, that has an anchoring belief built on extremist ideology?” 

The prince, who is also in charge of the Sunni kingdom’s economy, argued that the predominantly-Shiite Iran aims to reach Mecca – the holiest site for all Muslims.

Saudi Defense Minister and Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. © Fayez Nureldine

“We will not wait until the fight is inside Saudi Arabia and we will work so that the battle is on their side, inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia,” he threatened without elaborating.

Ties between regional powers Saudi Arabia and Iran have been strained since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, but tensions began to mount rapidly over the past few years.

Perhaps the most significant flare-up happened in January last year, when Riyadh executed Nimr al-Nimr, a prominent Shiite preacher. Massive demonstrations erupted in Tehran, with some protesters ransacking the Saudi embassy and setting it ablaze.

The next day, Saudi Arabia cut diplomatic ties with Iran, though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said there was no justification for the assault.

The incident took place amid the infamous Saudi intervention in Yemen aimed at restoring the power of ousted President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi.

Riyadh accuses Tehran of waging a proxy war there by arming and supplying Houthi rebels, though Iran denies the allegations. According to UN estimates, the Saudi-led invasion of Yemen killed over 13,000 civilians during the two years of the conflict.

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Sept. 11 Families Sue Saudi Arabia Over 9/11 Attacks

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Hundreds of relatives of those killed on Sept. 11 have sued Saudi Arabia, joining many others who have tried to hold the kingdom responsible for the attacks.

Like other recent actions, the lawsuit filed Monday capitalizes on last year’s decision by Congress to let victims sue Saudi Arabia.

Eight-hundred 9/11 victims’ families and 1,500 first responders filed the suit accusing the government of Saudi Arabia of knowingly providing material support and resources to al Qaeda in facilitating the attacks.

The lawsuit is the first to take direct legal action against the Saudi government. It seeks unspecified damages.

Earlier attempts to hold Saudi Arabia responsible over the past 15 years have failed. Fifteen of the 19 attackers who hijacked planes to carry out the attacks in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania were Saudis.

The 9/11 Commission report found “no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded” the attacks. But the commission also said there’s a “likelihood” that Saudi-government-sponsored charities did.

Lawyers for Saudi Arabia did not immediately comment.

Last fall, then-President Barack Obama vetoed the Justice Against Sponsors of Terrorism Act, or JASTA. The law allows terror victims to sue foreign states for any alleged involvement in attacks, which paved the way for this and similar lawsuits.

Obama opposed the law, saying U.S. citizens and corporations could be open to suits.

Congress overrode the veto.

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Obama Warned That US Weapons Would Be Used to Target Civilians

Documents reveal that diplomats warned Obama that Saudi Arabia would commit war crimes in Yemen, but the sale proceeded anyway.

Despite stern and repeated warnings from their own diplomatic staff that U.S. weaponry would almost certainly be used to commit war crimes against Yemeni citizens, the Obama Administration nevertheless approved US$1.3 billion in arms sales to Saudi Arabia, according to documents published Monday by the Reuters news agency.

RELATED: UN Calls Out Saudi Arabia for Killing Yemeni Women and Children

During the period in 2015, when the Pentagon was considering weapons sales to its longtime ally, Saudi Arabia, the State Department warned the Obama administration that the U.S. could be implicated in war crimes committed by the Saudi kingdom. The Saudis launched a coalition effort in support of embattled Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi​'s loyalists in their ongoing conflict against the country's Houthi tribe.

According to documents obtained by Reuters following a Freedom of Information Act request, Pentagon officials informed the White House of their doubts that Saudi forces would be able to target rebels without also killing civilians or destroying “critical infrastructure.” By 2015, it was already apparent to U.S. diplomats that Saudi air strikes were killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.

"The strikes are not intentionally indiscriminate but rather result from a lack of Saudi experience with dropping munitions and firing missiles," said a specialist from the State Department while meeting with human rights groups, according to the documents obtained by Reuters under a freedom of information request.

"The lack of Saudi experience is compounded by the asymmetric situation on the ground where enemy militants are not wearing uniforms and are mixed with civilian populations … Weak intelligence likely further compounds the problem," said the specialist.

Government lawyers “had their hair on fire” as civilian casualties continued to grow, after previously not concluding that support for the Saudi regime would not make the country a “co-belligerent” under international law. Human rights groups at the time warned that the administration could be complicit in war crimes.

OPINION: US Disguises Counter Revolution Plans with Saudis as Revolution

The Obama administration said it would “review” its support for the Saudi kingdom following Sunday’s U.S.-backed, Saudi-led airstrike that killed more than 140 people and injured over 500 who were attending a funeral.

In addition, intelligence publication The Intercept said that an important U.S. ally, the United Kingdom, was also aware that the Saudis were targeting civilians in Yemen. Military personnel for both the U.S. and the U.K. sit in the command center for Saudi airstrikes, the report added.

“The atrocities committed by the Saudis would have been impossible without their steadfast, aggressive support,” wrote the Intercept, who also cited statements from Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister who said that the U.K. and the U.S. “have access to lists of targets.”

The Obama administration continues to support Saudi Arabia. Since 2009, Obama has made 42 separate weapons deals with the kingdom totaling US$115 billion, according to a report from the Center for International Policy in September. The U.S. has also confirmed that it had previously sold white phosphorus, a napalm-like chemical, to the Saudis.

Over 10,000 people have been killed in the bitter conflict pitting wealthy Gulf states against the Houthi resistance, including around 4,000 civilians – the majority from Saudi airstrikes, according to U.N. estimates.

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