Yemen faces new threat of deadly diphtheria outbreak: Aid groups

At highest risk are children, who account for many of the more than 280 suspected diphtheria cases and 33 associated deaths reported as of Tuesday, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

Most of the cases and deaths involved children who had not been immunized against the disease, a contagious and potentially fatal bacterial infection that spreads easily, WHO said.

“Left unchecked, diphtheria can cause devastating epidemics, mainly affecting children,” Tarik Jasarevic, a WHO spokesman, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by email.

The diphtheria spread is inevitable in Yemen due to low vaccination rates, lack of access to medical care and so many people moving around and coming in contact with those infected, said WHO and officials with Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF).

Saudi aggression has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than two million others.

Diphtheria spreads as easily as the common cold through sneezing, coughing or even talking, according to health officials.

Yemen also is battling a cholera epidemic that has infected about one million people. The epidemic, which worsened this past April, has caused more than 2,000 deaths, WHO said in October.

Diphtheria could be more fatal than cholera, especially among unvaccinated children under 5 years old, according to MSF.

As many as two in five diphtheria cases end in death, MSF said.

“There is the potential for a larger-scale outbreak of diphtheria, given that not everyone has been vaccinated,” said Marc Poncin, emergency coordinator in Yemen for the medical charity, also by email.

Calling it “very worrisome,” Caroline Boustany, an aid worker with the International Rescue Committee, told the Foundation: “We have a spike in cases of a very easily preventable disease.”

Yemen also faces soaring food prices and fuel shortages, and some 8.4 million Yemenis are considered to be a step away from famine, the United Nations said on Monday.

The Saudi blockade impact limited supplies of desperately needed fuel, food and medicine, aid officials say.

“Even for patients who want to seek treatment, the blockade on fuel and consequent surge in prices means that they cannot afford to travel to the very few health centers still operational,” said Poncin of MSF.



<div>Israeli Arab protesters chant 'Jerusalem al-Quds capital of Palestine'</div>

The demonstrators, among them Arab members of the Israeli parliament, rallied outside the US embassy in Tel Aviv on Tuesday night.

Carrying Palestinian flags, the protesters chanted slogans such as, “Trump, Israel, Jerusalem is Arab. Jerusalem is Muslim,” “capital of Palestine,” “Trump=new Balfour,” referring to the 1917 Balfour Declaration that paved the way for the creation of Israeli entity.

They also carried signs and banners reading, “The United States is the snake itself,” “Trump’s decision violates international law,” “Hands off al-Quds” and “America isolated itself from the international community.”

Tuesday’s event was organized by the Higher Arab Monitoring Committee, an independent political organization that coordinates the activities of various Israeli Arab bodies.

Trump sparked international outrage last week by declaring that Washington was recognizing Jerusalem al-Quds as the “capital” of Israel and that he had instructed his administration to begin the process of moving the American embassy from Tel Aviv to the holy city.

The entire Jerusalem al-Quds is currently under Israel’s control, while the regime also claims the city’s eastern part, which hosts the third holiest Muslim site. The city has been designated as “occupied” under international law since the 1967 Arab War, which Palestinians want as the capital of their future state.

Speaking at the Tel Aviv demonstration, Israeli Arab lawmker Aida Touma-Suleiman said Trump’s declaration is a “rude intervention in the region” and leads to “further disaster.”

“This decision clarifies for us further that the US is not a neutral player in making peace. The US is an ally of the Israeli occupation,” she said.

Ahmad Tibi, another Israeli Arab lawmaker, said, “Trump is totally adapting the narrative of the occupation. Mr Trump is proving that the White House and himself are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”

“We are here to say that al-Quds is the capital of Palestine and that the United States is no more a player in the so-called ultimate deal, which became, ultimate slap in the face,” he added.

Former Israeli MP Ibrahim Sarsour also accused the US president of “endangering” people in the region, urging him to change his controversial policy and act in line with international law.

Another ex-Israeli lawmaker, Taleb el-Sana, warned that Trump’s “unacceptable” move “makes obstacles in the peace process and he has no right to declare that Jerusalem belongs to Israel. Jerusalem [al-Quds] is an issue for negotiations between Palestinians and Israel.”

The occupied territories witnessed several protests this week in the fallout of the US president’s al-Quds decision.

Anger in Berlin

Separately on Tuesday, some 200 people gathered in front of the Berlin Central Station in the German capital on Tuesday to condemn Trump’s announcement.

They carried placards reading, “Freedom for Palestine,” and “Defend the right to pray. Save al-Aqsa Mosque.”

The demonstrators held the Tel Aviv regime responsible for the latest violent clashes between Palestinians and Israeli forces, which has left four Palestinians dead and over 1,700 others injured.



Iran’s Velayati warns against US intention to create new chaos in Iraq, Syria

Speaking to the source, Velayati highlighted the arrogant nature of the US and said whether they want it or not, the Americans should leave the Middle East because there is no reason for their continued presence in the region.

He said they have come to the region “without any invitation” and are seeking to establish their dominance.

The senior official further said the US is trying to create another chaos in Iraq and Syria, particularly in Syria’s northern city of Raqqa.

Back on October 20, the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) announced that they had fully cleared Raqqa from ISIS with the support of the US. The US-led alliance confirmed this report a few hours later and US President Donald Trump called the operation to free the city a "critical breakthrough" and claimed that a "transition into a new phase" would follow it.

However, an official source at the Syrian Foreign and Expatriates Ministry said that Damascus considers, and will consider, Raqqa an occupied city until it comes under the control of the Syrian army.

The source said that Syria considers the United States’ claims about the liberation of Raqqa city from ISIS as lies aiming to divert international public opinion from the crimes committed by this alliance in Raqqa province.

Syria has been gripped by civil war since March 2011 with various terrorist groups currently controlling parts of it.

According to a report by the Syrian Center for Policy Research, the conflict has claimed the lives of over 470,000 people, injured 1.9 million others, and displaced nearly half of the country’s pre-war population of about 23 million within or beyond its borders.



Baghdad needs Tehran experience for post-war reconstruction: Iraqi politician

'Iraq needs to utilize the precious expertise possessed by Iran, especially those experiences acquired by Iran in the post-war years in the reconstruction area,' Humam Hamoudi said.

'The Islamic Republic of Iran from the very outset has been supportive of the democratic process in Iraq,' Hamoudi added.

'Iran as well has played a very important role in reconstructing Iraq and addressing issues related to supplying natural gas and electrical power to the country,' Hamoudi said.

The Iraqi politician went on to say that Iranian investors and businessmen are welcomed in the country.

Hamoudi then praised the positive role played in the fight against terrorists in Iraq by Commander of Iran's Quds Force General Qasem Soleimani, describing the achievement made by the Iranian General as a kind message to the people of Iraq.

'What General Soleimani did alongside the Iraqi Army and popular forces showed the kindness and love of the Iranian people for the people in Iraq,' he said.

'General Soleimani demonstrated that the Iranian people are standing by the Iraqis devotedly,' Hamoudi said.



Saudi warplanes target 3 Yemeni provinces; 24 people killed

Early on Wednesday, Saudi jets targeted the headquarters of Yemen’s military police in the Shu’aub district of Sana’a, killing 12 people and injuring 80 others, Yemen’s al-Masirah TV reported.

The report said the aircraft had carried out seven rounds of bombings against the facility. It identified some of the casualties as prisoners held as part of criminal investigations.

Separately, Saudi planes pounded Sahar District in the northwestern Yemeni province of Sa’ada, injuring four civilians. One of the casualties later died of the injuries.

A Saudi strike also hit a vehicle in Maqbanah District of the southwestern Yemeni province of Ta’izz, leaving 11 people dead.

The kingdom and a group of its allies have been bombing Yemen since 2015 to put its former Riyadh-friendly government back in the saddle. More than 12,000 have died since the war began.

Now, more than eight million Yemenis are on the verge of starvation, making the country the scene of, what the UN calls, the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called last Sunday for an end to the “stupid war,” which has also the firm backing of the United States and Britain.

Saudi still choking up Yemen ports

Meanwhile, the head of the US government’s aid agency said on Tuesday that there were no signs that a Saudi blockade of the ports had eased to let in aid consignments.

“Unfortunately, I can’t tell you there has been an easing of the blockade,” said USAID administrator Mark Green.

He said he was “deeply concerned on so many fronts” about the crisis in Yemen, but in particular the failure to get fuel into the country so people have access to clean water.

“That means a number of communities are either without clean water or will be very shortly, and in both cases that is a terrible concern from the cholera perspective and the survival perspective,” he added.

 A rampant cholera outbreak, exacerbated by the devastation of the country's health infrastructure, has killed more than 2,000 in Yemen.


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