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45,000 Yemenis displaced by battles around Mokha: UN

Yemen, the only country in the Arabian Peninsula which is signatory to the Refugee Convention, is also home to 278,000 refugees from nearby countries including Somalia and Ethiopia, according to the UNHCR.

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DUBAI: Fighting around Yemen’s port of Mokha has forced some 45,000 people from their homes, a UN official said Wednesday, with many facing continued uncertainty and the threat of further displacement.

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Shabia Mantoo, the Yemen spokeswoman for refugee agency UNHCR, told AFP that data compiled by her the agency and the UN Migration Agency (IOM) showed 45,000 people had been displaced in the last few weeks from Mokha and the nearby town of Dhubab.

Fighting has intensified in recent weeks in the southwest of Yemen, where forces loyal to President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi are battling to retake large parts of the country seized by Iran-backed Shiite Houthi rebels.

Loyalist troops took Mokha on February 10 and announced they aimed to push north and take the country’s main Red Sea port of Hodeida next.

Mantoo said many of those fleeing the fighting around Mokha made their way north to Ibb district and to Hodeida province.

“Eight thousand people have been displaced from Mokha and Dhubab to Hodeida alone, many of them with literally nothing but the clothes on their backs,” Mantoo said.

Two major concerns now are how to maintain access to the area and where the displaced will go if the fighting reaches Hodeida.

“The whole country is suffering from multiple displacement,” Mantoo said. “People move from one place to another, because eventually it gets just as bad.”

The UN estimates three million people have been displaced across Yemen.

The Houthi insurgents launched a deadly counter-offensive after losing control of Mokha last month but were overpowered as government troops consolidated their grip on the area, inching a few kilometers north and east.

The Houthis, allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, continue to control most of Yemen’s 450 kilometer (280 mile) Red Sea coast, the capital Sanaa and much of the northern highlands.

The new figure on internally displaced persons marks a sharp rise from UNHCR data released on February 10, which reported 34,000 people displaced in the fighting since January around Mokha and Dhubab, located in the southwestern Taiz governorate.

UN mediation efforts and seven cease-fire accords have failed to end the conflict, which has left more than 7,500 dead and 40,000 people wounded.

UN humanitarian aid chief Stephen O’Brien on Monday warned the impoverished country now also faces a “serious risk of famine.”

Yemen, the only country in the Arabian Peninsula which is signatory to the Refugee Convention, is also home to 278,000 refugees from nearby countries including Somalia and Ethiopia, according to the UNHCR.

As of February 1, the agency had received just over $700,000 of the nearly $100 million needed for its operational response to the crisis this year.

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Middle East

Italy backs stronger ties, enhanced dialogue with Qatar

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Qatar Italy

Rome, June 22 (IANS/AKI) Italy’s Foreign Minister Enzo Moavero Milanesi on Friday said that his country wanted to strengthen bilateral relations and to deepen dialogue with Qatar.

He was speaking at a meeting with his Qatar counterpart Mohammed Bin Abdulrahman Bin Jassim al-Thani here.

“During cordial discussions, Minister Moavero Milanesi confirmed the Italian government’s commitment to intensifying political dialogue and bilateral relations in the economic and trade spheres as well as in terms of cultural cooperation,” said a Foreign Ministry statement.

The talks between Milanesi and al-Thani also covered key regional issues including turmoil-wracked Libya, the migration crisis and war-torn Syria, the statement said.

“A detailed exchange of views also took place on the Gulf diplomatic crisis in respect of which Minister Milanesi reiterated Italy’s support for a negotiated solution based on dialogue between the various sides,” the statement added.

Qatar has been locked in a bitter year-long rift with a Saudi-led alliance including the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt which abruptly severed ties with Qatar in June last year, accusing it of supporting terrorism and of backing Iran.

Qatar claims the blockade is an attack on its sovereignty and punishment for pursuing an independent foreign policy. Diplomatic efforts led by Kuwait and the US to end the rancorous dispute have so far stalled.

At a meeting in Brussels with al-Thani on Thursday, the European Union’s Foreign Policy chief Federica Mogherini underlined the bloc’s continued support for “an intra-Gulf mediated solution and Kuwait’s mediation in this regard,” the European Commission said in a statement.

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Middle East

Gaza protests : 4 killed, 618 injured

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists and TV crew in eastern Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators brought down an Israeli drone carrying a camera used to film demonstrators in eastern Gaza City.

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Gaza protests

Jerusalem, June 9 (IANS) Four Palestinian protesters were killed and 618 others wounded by Israeli soldiers on Friday during clashes near the Israel-Gaza border, officials said.

Ashraf al-Qedra, the Health Ministry spokesman in Gaza, said Zeyad al-Briem, 25, and Haytham al-Jammal, 15, were killed in east of Khan Younis in southern Gaza Strip, while Emad Darabieh, 26, was shot dead in east of Jabalia in northern Gaza.

Meanwhile, Yousef al-Faseeh, 29, was killed in east of Gaza City, Xinhua reported.

Among the injured Palestinians, 117 were hit with live gunshots, 60 with tear gas inhalation, and 77 by bullets shrapnels or tear gas canisters, said al-Qedra.

The clashes, which broke out on Friday afternoon, were part of the 11th Friday “Great March of Return” held by Palestinians in Gaza since March 30. More than 120 Palestinians have been killed so far.

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The Palestinian organisers called the latest rally “the Friday of the One-million-men March for Jerusalem”.

Local media reported that thousands of Palestinian demonstrators joined the protests at five different spots in eastern Gaza.

Hundreds of kites carrying Molotov cocktails flown by demonstrators landed on Israeli agricultural fields and caused large fires.

Eyewitnesses said Israeli soldiers fired tear gas at journalists and TV crew in eastern Gaza. Palestinian demonstrators brought down an Israeli drone carrying a camera used to film demonstrators in eastern Gaza City.

Five journalists were injured, including AFP photographer Mohamed al-Baba, who was shot in his right foot, and a cameraman working for the al-Aqsa Radio of Hamas, who was hit with a tear gas canister in his back, the Health Ministry in Gaza said.

The Ministry also accused Israeli soldiers of firing tear gas at the medical workers who were treating the injured protesters.

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Middle East

Israel begins building marine barrier with Gaza

Israel claims Hamas constructs these tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

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Avigdor Liberman

Jerusalem, May 28 (IANS) Israel’s Defence Minister on Sunday announced that construction had begun on a marine barrier with the Gaza Strip extending into the Mediterranean Sea.

Avigdor Liberman said in a statement that the barrier aimed to prevent any attempts by Palestinians in Gaza to enter Israeli territory through the sea, Efe news reported.

“This is an additional setback for Hamas, which has lost another strategic capability that it has invested massive amounts in developing. We will continue to protect the citizens of Israel with might and sophistication,” Liberman said.

The barrier is to consist of three layers, one of which is to be underwater, and is expected to be completed within a year, the statement added.

During Israel’s 2014 assault on Gaza, members of the military wing of Hamas, the Palestinian Islamist movement that governs the Gaza Strip, managed to swim to Israeli territory and launch an attack on a Israeli army installation before being killed.

Israeli authorities are also constructing an underground barrier beneath the Gaza-Israel boundary to stop Hamas from digging tunnels into Israeli territory.

Israel claims Hamas constructs these tunnels to attack Israeli civilians.

An independent inquiry into the 2014 war in Gaza by the UN Human Rights Council concluded that “the tunnels were only used to conduct attacks directed at IDF (Israeli army) positions in Israel in the vicinity of the Green Line, which are legitimate military targets.”

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