Saturday, January 31, 2015

Egyptian court declares the armed wing of Hamas a ''terrorist organisation''

The Egyptian president Abdel Fatah el-Sisi held talks on Saturday with SCAF, the Supreme Command of the Egyptian army regarding the recent attacks in the Sinai.  It was decided to form a special army unit to combart terrorism, under the copmmand of Chief of Staf Osama Rushdi, who was promoted to the rank of  lieutenant-general. On the photo (from SCAF's Facebookpage) those prsent hold a moment of  silence for the 31 victims of the attacks.The attacks were the work of the Islamists of what was formerly called Bayt al-Maqdis, but El-Sisi blamed them on the Muslim Brotherhood.

A Cairo court on Saturday declared Hamas’ military wing, Al-Qassam Brigades, a terrorist organisation.
The case was brought against the group by a private plaintiff who accused the organisation of involvement in and financing of terrorist attacks inside Egypt, and of attacking army and police personnel to destabilise the country.
The court in its verdict said that papers provided by the plaintiff proved that the group were implicated in bombings in Egypt, and that the brigade's recent planning and financing of terrorist attacks show that Al-Qassam brigades and Hamas have swayed from their original cause of fighting the Israeli occupation. The court added that the group's aim is now to target Egypt's security.
The verdict by the Cairo Court of Urgent Matters stipulates that members of the group in Egypt will be labelled a "terrorist element".

Saudi king makes new appointments to strengthen his hold on power

Saudi Arabia's new King Salman, who acceded to the Saudi throne about a week ago, on Thursday reshuffled his cabinet and changed the heads of intelligence and other agencies in a move that was clearly meant to strengthen his hold on power. Top officials from the Ports Authority, the National Anti-Corruption Commission and the conservative Islamic kingdom's religious police were also among those who were replaced.
King Salman
King Salman
Salman issued more than 30 decrees. In one of them he ordered "two months' basic salary to all Saudi government civil and military employees, the Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said. Students and pensioners got similar bonuses. "Dear people: You deserve more and whatever I do will not be able to give you what you deserve," the king said later on his official Twitter account. He asked his citizens to "not forget me in your prayers".

Friday, January 30, 2015

Clay tablets testify about Babylonian Exile of the Jews

One of the clay tablets on display in the Bible Lands Museum exhibit.

A little known collection of more than 100 clay tablets in Cuneiform script, dating back to the (Jewish) Babylon Exile some 2,500 years ago, was unveiled this week, allowing a glimpse into the everyday life of one of the most ancient exile communities in the world, the newspaper Haaretz reports. Archaeologists could date the tablets to 572-477 B.C.E. The earliest tablet in the collection was written some 15 years after the First Temple’s destruction by Nebuchadnezzar, the Chaldean king of the neo-Babylonian era, who deported the Jews to Babylon. The latest was written some 60 years after the return of some of the exiles to Zion, which was enabled by Persia’s King Cyrus in 538 B.C.E.
Prof. Wayne Horowitz, one of the archaeologists who studied the tablets, says this is the most important ancient Jewish archive since the discovery of the Dead Sea Scrolls.The tablets are on display in an exhibition entitled “By the Rivers of Babylon” that opened this week in the Bible Lands Museum in Jerusalem.
The collection consists mainly of administrative certificates – sales bonds, contracts and addresses, engraved in Akkadian Cuneiform script on clay tablets. Thanks to the Babylonian custom of inscribing each document with the date, corresponding with the monarch’s years in power, the archaeologists could date the tablets to 572-477 B.C.E.

At least 27 killed in four attacks in Sinai

Islamist militants in el-Arish (Photo Reuters) 

At least 27 people, including civilians, were killed Thursday when a series of militant attacks, involving "car bombs" and  mortar rounds, struck several army and police positions in Egypt's volatile Sinai Peninsula, medical and security sources said.
A series of tweets from the Sinai Province's Twitter account claimed responsibility for each of the four attacks that took place in North Sinai and Suez provinces, in some of the worst anti-state violence Egypt has seen in months.
Ansar Bayt al-Maqdis,Egypt's most active militant group, changed its name to Sinai Province last year after swearing allegiance to Islamic State, the hardline Sunni militant group that has seized swathes of Iraq and Syria
 A source in the local ambulance services said that 105 have been injured in the attacks in the town of Al-Arish, in North Sinai, where the army is battling an Islamist insurgency that has spiked since the 2013 ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

HRW issues World Report: ''Human rights no luxury but a way to resolve crises

CIA torture report release: A detainee from Afghanistan is carried on a stretcher before being interrogated by military officials at Camp X-Ray at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Prisoner in Guantanamo Bay on his way to interrogation  The US Senate wrote a damning report about CIA torture, but nobody is persecuted. (Photo Daily Telegraph).

“Human rights violations played a major role in spawning or aggravating many of today’s crises. That is what Executive Director Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch said in his introductory essay to the
 World Report 2015, HRW's 25th, which was released Today. In it HRW reviews human rights practices in more than 90 countries. According to HRW governments make a big mistake when they ignore human rights to counter serious security challenges. Because protecting human rights and ensuring democratic accountability are key to resolving these crisis.
The rise of the Islamic State (IS or ISIS) is among those challenges that have sparked a subordination of human rights, according to HRW. But ISIS did not emerge out of nowhere. In addition to  the security vacuum left by the US invasion of Iraq, the sectarian and abusive policies of the Iraqi and Syrian governments, international indifference to them, have been important factors in fueling ISIS.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Female Genital Mutilation: First convictions in Egypt

Human Rights Watch writes: Today an Egyptian court convicted two people of carrying out female genital mutilation (FGM). These are the first convictions for FGM since Egypt criminalized the practice in 2008 but two convictions in seven years aren’t enough in a country with an endemic FGM problem, and Egyptian authorities must do more to investigate and prosecute those who carry out the procedure.
In 2013, 13-year-old Sohair al-Batea died following an FGM procedure, yet last November a court acquitted Dr. Raslan Fadl Hallawa and Sohair’s father. The appeals court on Monday reversed that verdict, convicted the doctor for manslaughter, and sentenced him to two years of imprisonment, plus three months for practicing FGM. The father, who brought Sohair to the doctor, received a three-month suspended sentence for taking his daughter to undergo FGM. The doctor's clinic will be closed for one year by court order.
FGM involves the partial or total removal of female genitalia for non-medical purposes. It interferes with the natural functioning of the body and has no known health benefits. The practice may lead to a variety of health consequences, including severe pain, shock, infection, complications during childbirth, as well as long-term gynaecological problems.

UNRWA funds dried up, forced to halt payments to Gazans who lost their homes

Beit Hanoun in Gaza (Photo Bahaa Salman)

The UN agency for Palestinian refugees said on Tuesday that it cannot afford to repair Gaza homes damaged in last year's war with Israel because donors have failed to pay. "The agency has exhausted all funding to support repairs and rental subsidies," the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) said in a statement. "$5.4 billion was pledged at the Cairo (aid) conference last October and virtually none of it has reached Gaza. This is distressing and unacceptable."
UNRWA said that the homes of more than 96,000 Palestine refugees were destroyed or damaged during the conflict. They made up the vast majority of the more than 100,000 homes that were hit during the 50-day conflict between Israel and Gaza's Islamist de facto rulers Hamas.

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Egyptian police kill woman activist

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Shaima with the flowers she was going to lay at the monument shortly before she was shot. The man next to her in the green puillover was aslo hit.  

Shaimaa al-Sabbagh, a leading member of the Egyptian ''Socialist Popular Alliance Party'', was shot dead on Saturday during a march top commemorate the uprising of 25 January 2011 in downtown Cairo. The party organized a march on Saturday afternoon from their headquarters in Hoda Shaarawy Street to Talaat Harb Square. Shaimaa, who was going to lay flowers at the monument of the fallen revolutionaries on Tahrir Square, was shot in the face with birdshot. She collapsed in the arms of her husband and was pronounced dead at the hospital. Security forces also used tear gas and arrested a number of demonstrators, including Talaat Fahmy, the party's secretary general.

Friday, January 23, 2015

King Abdallah dies, Salman new Saudi king

Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz speaks at the opening ceremony of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) summit in Mecca in this August 14, 2012 file photo. REUTERS/Hassan Ali/Files

Saudi Arabia's King Abdallah has died, state television reported early on Friday and his brother Salman became king, it said in a statement attributed to Salman.
King Salman has called on the family's Allegiance Council to pay allegiance to Muqrin as his crown prince and heir.
"His Highness Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and all members of the family and the nation mourn the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdallah bin Abdelaziz, who passed away at exactly 1 a.m. this morning," said the statement.
Abdallah, thought to have been born in 1923, had ruled Saudi Arabia as king since 2006, but had run the country as de facto regent for a decade before that after his predecessor King Fahd suffered a debilitating stroke.

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Yemen: president and government tender resignation

Yemeni Prime Minister Khalid Bahah (left) and president Abed Rabbo Mansur al-Hadi in Oktober 2014. Both tendered their resignation on Thursday. (Photo al-Sahwa) 

Yemen's president tendered his resignation Thursday after a week-long standoff with Shiite militia but the speaker of parliament refused to accept it and called an emergency session, officials said.
President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi submitted his resignation just hours after receiving the resignations of Prime Minister Khalid Bahah and his cabinet, presidential adviser Sultan al-Atwani said. Their resignations came after a week in which the Houthi militia, who have controlled much of the capital since last September, abducted a top Hadi aide, overran his palace and laid siege to the prime minister's residence for two days.
But the speaker of parliament refused to accept Hadi's resignation when it was submitted by aides and called an emergency meeting of lawmakers for Friday, a senior official told AFP.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Houthis occupy Yemen's presidential palace

Houthi fighters entered Yemen's presidential palace after a brief clash with the compound's security guards, witnesses and security sources told Reuters, a day after some of the worst battles in the capital in years.
Guards at the presidential palace housing the main office of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi said they handed over the compound to Houthi fighters after a brief clash.
 Witnesses said there was a brief clash between a Houthi force and palace guards. Witnesses also said they saw the Houthis seize armored vehicles that had been guarding the entrances to the palace.
The Houthis on Monday fought artillery battles with the army near the presidential palace, in some of the most intense fighting in Sanaa in years, and surrounded the prime minister's residence. Nine people were killed and 90 wounded before a ceasefire came into force on Monday evening.

Monday, January 19, 2015

Fierce fighting in Yemeni capital between Houthis and governmental forces

Yemen clashes
Houthi fighters in position near the presidential palace in Sanaa. (Photo Reuters) 

Fierce fighting between troops and Shia Houthi rebels has erupted in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, with the presidential palace and PM's convoy attacked. Prime Minister Khaled Bahah's motorcade was shot at after he left a meeting with the president, though no-one was hurt, the information minister said. An unknown number of people haven been killed. Bodies are lying in the streets of Sanaa.
Clashes began early on Monday in one of the most serious challenges to the government for months. The spark of the latest spasm of violence appears to be rooted in the Houthis' rejection of a draft constitution that divides the country into six federal regions. The Houthi's last year overrran the capital and many other parts of the country and Hadi and Houthis accuse each other of not implementing a UN- brokered peace deal, reached in September, that called for Hadi to form a new national unity government and reform the country's government agencies, while the Houthis would withdraw their fighters from cities they seized.
Houthis also accuse Hadi of financing and harboring al Qaeda militants. Hadi's government says the Houthis use the accusation as an excuse to seize more territory.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Israel kills seven in attack on Hezbollah in Syria, including Iranian general and son of Imad Mughniyeh

Jihad Mughniyeh at memorial service for his father
Jihad Mughniyeh with in the background his father Imad, who was killed by Israel in 2008. Jihad Mughniyyeh had been appointed Hezbollah's commander in the Quneitra area in Syria only a few months ago.

Updated. An Israeli helicopter strike in Syria killed six members of Lebanon's Hezbollah movement including the son of group's late military leader Imad Mughniyeh, an Iranian general and an important military leader of Hezbollah, sources close to Hezbollah said.  A source close to Hezbollah told AFP the killed military leader was Mohammed Issa also known as “Abu Issa,” a senior commander responsible for Hezbollah operations in Syria and Iraq. Iran confirmed Monday that a general of its elite Revolutionary Guards died in the strike.
"General Mohammad Ali Allahdadi and a number of fighters and Islamic Resistance (Hezbollah) forces were attacked by the Zionist regime's helicopters," a statement on the Guards' website said.
The four other Hezbollah casualties were identified as: “Sayyed Abbas” Abbas Ibrahim Hijazi; “Kazem” Mohammed Ali Hassan Abu al-Hassan; “Daniel” Ghazi Ali Dawi; “Ihab” Ali Hassan Ibrahim." Iran did not confirm or deny earlier reports that said six Iranians had been killed in the airstrike.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Saudi Arabia beheads woman on the street in Mecca

The authorities in Saudi Arabia on Friday publicly beheaded a woman in Islam’s holy city of Mecca. Laila Bint Abdul Muttalib Basim, a Burmese woman who resided in Saudi Arabia, was executed by sword on Monday after being dragged through the street. 
She was convicted of the sexual abuse and murder of her seven-year-old step-daughter. The video shows how the woman screamed “I did not kill. I did not kill,'' but was kept down by police officers. In another video it was seen that it took three blows to complete the execution, but that one was removed by YouTube.
Mohammed al-Saeedi, a human rights activist, told the Middle East Eye that there are two ways to execute people in Saudi Arabia. “One way is to inject the prisoner with painkillers to numb the pain and the other is without the painkiller. This woman was beheaded without painkillers – they wanted to make the pain more powerful for her.”

Prosecutor International Criminal Court opens preliminary probe into Israeli war against Gaza

Beit Hanoun, Fall 2014 (Photo Bahaa Salman)  

The International Criminal Court's prosecutor on Friday opened an initial probe to see if war crimes have been committed against Palestinians, including during last year's Gaza war. "Today the prosecutor of the International Criminal Court Fatou Bensouda opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Palestine," her office said in a statement, adding it may lead to a full-blown investigation.
 Bensouda said her office would conduct its "analysis in full independence and impartiality."
"A preliminary examination is not an investigation but a process of examining the information available in order to reach a fully informed determination on whether there is a reasonable basis to proceed with a (full) investigation," Bensouda said. Depending on her findings, Bensouda will decide at a later stage whether to launch or quash the investigation, based on the initial probe.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Since attack on Charlie Hebdo 60 Islamophobic incidents in France

French police forensic scour the scene of an explosion at a kebab shop damaged following an explosion near a mosque, in Villefranche-sur-Saone, eastern France
French police at the scene of an explosion at a kebab shop thatw as damaged following an explosion near a mosque in Villefranche-sur-Saone.

Twenty-six mosques around France have been subject to attack by firebombs, gunfire, pig heads, and grenades as Muslims are targeted with violence in the wake of the Paris attacks.
France’s National Observatory Against Islamophobia reports that since last Wednesday a total of 60 Islamophobic incidents have been recorded, with countless minor encounters believed to have gone unreported. Amongst the incidents, a mosque in Le Mans was hit with four grenades, and gunfire directed through one of its windows.
While Islamophobic incidents are nothing new, there appears to have been a marked increase in attacks in the wake of the shootings at the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Egypt will destroy an additional 1.200 homes in Rafah at the Gaza-border
Destruction in Rafah during the Egyptian operation in November 2014.

Egyptian authorities have begun implementing phase two in the flattening of large swaths of Rafah where over 2,000 families live, and the widening of the buffer zone between the Egyptian border town and the Gaza Strip.
According to Egyptian reports, the second phase involves destroying everything standing across an additional 500 meters from the border area, on top of the 500 meters already cleared several months ago. Some 1,220 homes and structures housing 2,044 families will be demolished, after nearly 800 homes and buildings were demolished in the first phase. Egypt announced it was setting up the buffer zone after 30 Egyptian soldiers were killed and dozens more wounded in an October 24 suicide bombing.

HRW: Yemeni authorities should hold security forces accountable for death of activist

Yemeni authorities should credibly and impartially investigate the apparent extrajudicial execution of a leading political activist in Aden on December 15, 2014, and bring those responsible to justice, Human Rights Watch says. Khaled al-Junaidi, 42, died from a gunshot to the back after witnesses saw members of Yemen’s Special Security Forces take him into custody in an armored vehicle.
The authorities stated that a committee was appointed to investigate the killing, but no arrests have been made. Previous investigations into alleged criminal violence by Yemen’s security forces have often failed to disclose their findings or result in prosecutions.
“The Yemeni government has an abysmal record of holding security force members accountable for serious rights abuses,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East and North Africa director. “Failing to seek justice in the killing of Khaled al-Junaidi will only fuel anti-government resentment and send a message that the security forces are beyond the reach of law.”
(Read further on site of Human Rights Watch)

Egyptian convicted to three years for making ''anti religious'' posts on Facebook

An Egyptian man who was arrested from a café in November after making “anti-religious” posts on Facebook was sentenced to three years in prison and a fine of LE1000 for “contempt of religion” on Saturday In a statement, the Association for Freedom of Thought and Expression said Karim al-Banna was arrested along with a number of other people who were also accused of using social media to propagate anti-religious sentiments.
Article 64 of the Egyptian Constitution states that “freedom of religion is absolute.” While atheism is not technically illegal under Egyptian law, “contempt of heavenly religions,” desecrating religious symbols and mocking religious rites in public are illegal. Article 160 of the penal code states that the desecration of religious symbols is punishable by up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to LE500. Article 161 assigns the same penalties for mocking a religion or religious practices.Article 98(f) states that ridiculing the Abrahamic faiths and the propagation of atheism in words, writing, or other means, is punishable by sentences of up to five years in prison and/or fines of up to LE1000.

Thursday, January 8, 2015

Toll from car bomb attack on Yemeni Police College reaches 37

Yemeni security forces remove a body from the site of a car bomb explosion outside the police academy in the capital Sanaa on Jan. 7, 2015. The attack struck as dozens of Yemenis were waiting to sign up for the police academy in central Sanaa, official news agency Saba said.
A body is removed from the place of the blast (Photo: AFP)

The toll from the attack at the Yemen Police College increased to 37 dead and 66 wounded, a security official said on Wednesday.
"Some of the victims were badly wounded and are still in intensive care units which means the death toll could rise further," Al-Qadasi, deputy police director in the capital city of Sanaa, told state media. The victims were members from the police departments lining up at the western gate to register at the college for their promotion, he said.
"Preliminary investigations showed a small pick-up laden with explosives was detonated," he said, pointing out eyewitnesses saw the driver and his accomplice ran away after they had parked the pick-up at the college.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Christian congregations in Minya cancel Christmas celebrations after murder of two policemen

A policeman was killed instantly when he in vain tried to defuse an Improvised Explosive Device. Three other were wounded by the explosion. (Photo: Aswat Masriya).

Orthodox, Catholic and Protestant congregations in Minya on Tuesday announced the cancelation of Wednesday’s Christmas celebrations in solidarity with the families of the two policemen who died earlier on Tuesday morning while protecting a church in Minya. In a statement they offered condolences to families of the Tuesday’s victims, as well as “the families of all police martyrs in the country.”
Unidentified gunmen shot the officers while they were guarding the Church of the Virgin Mary. General Osama Metwally, the security director in Minya, told the privately owned newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm (AMAY) that a state of emergency was declared in the city. Security forces are currently investigated the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the two policemen.
The attack came on Coptic Christmas Eve.

Monday, January 5, 2015

British activists launch lawsuit over Israeli attack on Mavi Marmara in 2010

Mavi Marmara
 Scotland Yard has been asked to investigate whether Israeli special forces who attacked a "peace flotilla" of ships in international waters killing 10 people committed war crimes. Lawyers acting for British activists have launched legal proceedings in the hope of prosecuting the Israeli soldiers in the UK. Evidence passed to the Metropolitan Police names five Israeli military commanders alleged to have committed war crimes when the troops they commanded stormed the flotilla which was attempting to breach Israel's blockade of Gaza in May 2010.
Lawyers representing 13 of the 34 Britons on the Turkish-registered MV Mavi Marmara, the main civilian vessel in the fleet of six ships carrying humanitarian aid and construction materials, say some of the commanders had visited Britain since the incident and said the police now had evidence which should result in their arrest if they return. Identical legislation was used to arrest the Chilean dictator General Augusto Pinochet in the UK in 1998.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

Number of casualties Gaza offensive significantly higher than previously reported

Funeral for the 26 members of the Abu Jame' family, who were killed the previous day during an Israeli attack over the Bani Suhaila neighborhood of Khan Younis, Gaza Strip, July 21, 2014. Reports indicate that 18 of the 24 killed were children of Abu Jame'  family. Israeli attacks have killed 550 Palestinians in the current offensive, most of them civilians. Basel Yazouri/
Funeral of 26 members of the Abu Jami family killed by Israel in Khan Younis on 21 Juy 2014, 18 of them were children. (Photo: 

New figures released by the Palestinian Ministry of Health to mark the end of 2014 reveal that the number of casualties from Israel's summer assault on the Gaza Strip is significantly higher than previously reported.
The ministry figures show that the total number of deaths among Palestinians in the 51-day offensive between July 7 and Aug. 28, 2014 reached 2,310, around 100 more than commonly-cited figures.
The revised toll likely includes a large number of Palestinians whose bodies were found in the rubble following the end of the Israeli bombardment, as well as dozens who have died of their wounds in hospitals in the months since the conflict's end.

Friday, January 2, 2015

Past year 2014 deadliest year in Iraq for civilians

Escape from Mosul
Inhabitants of Mosul fleeing to Kurdistan after IS took the city, June 2014. (Photo AP)

Violence in Iraq in 2014 killed at least 12,282 civilians, making it the deadliest year since the sectarian bloodshed of 2006-07, the United Nations said in a statement.
The majority of the deaths - nearly 8,500 - occurred during the second half of the year following the expansion of the Sunni Muslim Islamic State insurgency in June out of Anbar province leading to widespread clashes with security forces.
    “Yet again, the Iraqi ordinary citizen continues to suffer from violence and terrorism ... This is a very sad state of affairs,” said Nickolay Mladenov, head of the U.N. political mission in Iraq, in a statement released on Thursday.
Islamic State fighters still control roughly a third of Iraq. The army and Shi'ite and Kurdish militia continue to battle the insurgents.
The figures show that violence has not abated since 2013 when 7,818 civilians were killed, the U.N. said. The bloodshed remains below the levels seen in 2006 and 2007 when sectarian Shi'ite-Sunni killings reached their peak.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Egypt's court of cassation orders retrial of Al-Jazeera journalists

AJ Staff in Jail
Creste, Fahmi and Mohammed in court during their earlier process. (Photo Reuters)

Egypt's highest court has ordered a retrial of three jailed journalists working for Al Jazeera television, citing procedural flaws in last year's trial, defense lawyers said on Thursday. Australian Peter Greste, Canadian-Egyptian Mohamed Fahmy and Egyptian national Baher Mohamed were sentenced to seven to 10 years on charges including spreading lies to help a "terrorist organization" -- a reference to the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood.The trial was condemned by human rights groups and Western governments and prompted the United Nations to question Egypt's judicial independence. The case has also contributed to tensions between Egypt and Qatar, where Al Jazeera is based.

At least 26 people killed by suicide bomber in Yemen

A suicide bomber killed at least 26 people in central Yemen on Wednesday when he blew himself up at a cultural center where students were celebrating the Prophet Mohammad's birthday, a security official said.
At least 48 people were also wounded, including many women and children, the official said, according to state news agency Saba. The celebration, in the city of Ibb, was organized by the Houthis, the Shi'ite Muslim group that controls most of Yemen.
No one claimed responsibility for attack, but similar bombings have been carried out by al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which operates in Yemen and regards Shi'ites as heretics.
Tensions have increased in Yemen since the Houthis captured the capital Sanaa in September and expanded south and west. The Western-allied country, which shares a long border with the world's top oil exporter, Saudi Arabia, had been trying to overcome an al Qaeda threat before the Houthi advance.