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The United Arab Emirates intercepted and destroyed two Houthi ballistic missiles targeting the Gulf country on Monday with no casualties, its defence ministry said, following a deadly attack a week earlier.

For more than six years, the Houthis have been battling a Saudi-led coalition that includes the UAE, repeatedly carrying out cross-border missile and drone attacks on Saudi Arabia, and launching an unprecedented assault on the UAE on Jan 17.

“The remnants of the intercepted ballistic missiles fell in separate areas around Abu Dhabi,” the ministry said, adding it was taking necessary protective measures against all attacks.

UAE newspaper The National cited residents reporting flashes in the sky over the capital around 4:30am.

Monday's attack was the second on UAE soil since last week's strike that hit a fuel depot in Abu Dhabi, killing three people, and causing a fire near its international airport.

Houthi-run Al Masirah television said the group would announce within hours the details of a “wide military operation” against Saudi Arabia and the UAE.

Saudi state media early on Monday said the coalition intercepted a ballistic missile, with remnants damaging workshops and vehicles in the south of the kingdom. It said late on Sunday that a ballistic missile fell in the south, injuring two foreigners and causing damage in an industrial area.

Meanwhile, Yemen rebels threatened to ramp up their attacks on the UAE after two ballistic missiles were shot down over Abu Dhabi.

The Houthis said they targeted Abu Dhabi's Al Dhafra air base as well as “vital and important” locations in the Dubai area.

The attack “achieved its objectives with high accuracy”, rebel military spokesperson Yahya Saree said in a televised statement.

“We are ready to expand the operation during the next phase and confront escalation with escalation,” he added.

The Yemen conflict is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

The United Nations, which along with the United States has struggled to engineer a ceasefire for Yemen, voiced concern over escalations and called for maximum restraint by both sides.

The Saudi-led coalition has ramped up air strikes on what it describes as Houthi targets in Yemen. At least 60 people were killed in a strike on a temporary detention centre in northern Saada province on Friday, and about 20 were killed in the Houthi-held capital of Sanaa in an operation on Tuesday.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 months after the Houthis ousted the internationally recognised government from Sanaa. The group says it is fighting a corrupt system and foreign aggression.

The UAE had largely reduced its presence in Yemen in 2019 amid a military stalemate, but Emirati-backed Yemeni forces had recently joined battles against the Houthis in key energy producing provinces in Yemen.

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.6 jolted southwestern Japan early on Saturday morning, injuring 13 people, the authorities and local media said.

No tsunami warning was issued after the quake struck with an epicentre 45 kilometres deep at 1:08am off the coast of Kyushu, the southernmost of Japan's four main islands, the Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA) said.

The quake caused shaking in Oita and Miyazaki prefectures that measured five+ on Japan's seismic intensity scale, which has a maximum of seven, the agency said.

Thirteen people were injured in nearby regions, including two people in their 80s who were seriously hurt, the Yomiuri newspaper reported, citing local authorities.

Multiple reports of damage to buildings, water pipes and roads were confirmed, said public broadcaster NHK.

No abnormalities were reported at the Ikata nuclear power plant, operated by Shikoku Electric Power, or the Sendai plant operated by Kyushu Electric Power in southern Japan, the Nuclear Regulation Authority said.

"In the past, 10 per cent to 20pc of strong earthquakes were followed by a quake of the same level, so be aware of another quake of up to five+ intensity scale in regions that experienced large jolts, for around a week," the JMA said in a statement.

UNITED NATIONS: Pakistan has urged the United Nations to brace itself for the revival of major-powers rivalry, new and old conflicts and a new arms race.

Pakistan underlined these issues at the UN General Ass­e­mbly’s (UNGA) first meeting of the new year where the assembly’s president Abdulla Shahid briefed delegates on his priorities for the resumed part of the 76th session.

Mr Shahid urged the glo­bal community to recommit to vaccine equity to defeat the Covid-19 pandemic, calling for faster production and distribution of these medicines, and the removal of barriers to roll them out.

The UNGA president’s campaign for vaccine equity has the support of about 120 member States and he plans to hold a high-level event on Feb. 25 to press for universal Covid vaccination.

Pakistan’s permanent representative to the UN, Ambassador Munir Akram assured the UNGA president that Islamabad fully supports his campaign and will collaborate with him to promote its realisation.

But he also reminded him that deliberations in the General Assembly “cannot be divorced” from the real world. “We are witnessing a world today where global tensions including between major powers have revived. New and old conflicts abound; a new arms race is underway,” he added.

The UNGA president also mentioned these issues in his remarks, urging “the global community to recommit to the principles of peace outlined in the UN Charter, to work together in the spirit of amity to address the challenges ahead.” But he focused on vaccine distribution and climate change.

The Pakistani envoy, however, underlined the issues that he said the UNGA would confront in the near future.

“The consensus on disarmament has eroded. New military alliances are being formed in various parts of the world. And sadly, the United Nations is largely absent from the rope,” he said.

“We need to consider how the United Nations can contribute to not an agenda for peace but the reconstruction of peace in this world.”

This reconstruction, he said, “must be built on the foundations that we have, the principles of the UN Charter, international law and the resolutions of the United Nations General Assembly and particularly the Security Council.”

Emphasising the need to focus on these issues, Amba­ssador Akram said: “We cannot ignore the global and multi-dimensional threats to international peace and secu­rity today and live only in hope.”

The UNGA president had stressed the importance of solidarity and fostering hope, while outlining his priorities. “We must cherish our common humanity and guard against the drivers of conflict,” he said as he identified the pandemic, nuclear proliferation, terrorism, and international strife as some of the key issues the world faced.

The Pakistani envoy, however, reminded the General Assembly’s president that a stronger United Nations was necessary not only to debate and discuss the issues but also “to translate the conscience of humanity, the words which are spoken in these halls into concrete decisions and actions.” That’s what “would be meaningful reform of the United Nations,” he added.

Ambassador Akram pointed out that the Covid 19 pandemic had reversed progress towards UN sustainable development goals by a decade or more and the existential threat of climate change further exacerbated the situation.

US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday his administration is considering re-designating Yemen's Houthi movement as an "international terrorist organisation" following drone and missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates claimed by the group.

His comment at a news conference came shortly after the Emirati Embassy said on Twitter that UAE Ambassador Yousef Al Otaiba urged the Biden administration to restore the designation in response to Monday's strikes on Abu Dhabi airport and a fuel depot.

Asked if he supported returning the Iran-aligned Houthis to the US list of foreign terrorist organisations, from which they were removed nearly a year ago, Biden replied, "The answer is, it's under consideration."

But he conceded that "it's going to be very difficult" to end the conflict pitting the Houthis against Yemen's internationally recognised government and a Saudi-led military coalition, to which the UAE belongs.

Biden's comment reflected the lack of progress toward ending the war since he launched an initiative shortly after taking office a year ago to bolster UN efforts to restart peace talks and end what the United Nations calls the world's worst humanitarian disaster.

The UAE welcomed Biden’s comment, the Emirati Embassy said on Twitter. The “case is clear — launching ballistic and cruise missiles against civilian targets, sustaining aggression, diverting aid to Yemeni people,” it said.

Saudi Arabia's ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed Al-Jaber, said on Twitter on Thursday that the United Nations and global community must not show leniency and hold the Houthi movement accountable because "it encourages other terrorist organisations to act similarly".

As part of the initiative he launched last year, Biden appointed veteran US diplomat Timothy Lenderking a special envoy. The State Department also reversed a last-minute Trump administration decision placing the Houthis on the US list of foreign terrorist groups, subjecting them to financial sanctions.

Three people were killed in Monday's drone and missile attack claimed by the Houthis.

In response, the Saudi-led coalition on Tuesday staged airstrikes on the Houthi-held capital, Sanaa, killing at least 20 people including civilians, according to Houthi media and residents — one of its deadliest attacks since 2019.

Otaiba held "broad" consultations with Biden's national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, on the situation that included discussions of the Houthi attack, a National Security Council spokesperson said.

The Emirati Embassy said that Otaiba was accompanied by the top UAE intelligence official, Ali al Shamsi.

The embassy, in a second Twitter post responding to Biden's consideration of the terrorist designation, said Otaiba pressed the case for re-designating the Houthis in his meeting with Sullivan.

Lenderking began a new mission to the Gulf on Wednesday in a bid to reinvigorate the peace process and tamp down the surge in violence, the State Department said in a statement.

The envoy "will press the parties to de-escalate militarily and seize the new year to participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process", it said.

US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin on Wednesday spoke with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan, the Pentagon said.

"Austin conveyed his condolences for the loss of life, and underscored his unwavering support for the security and defence of UAE territory against all threats," the Pentagon said.

Major international airlines cancelled flights heading to the US or changed the planes they’re using on Wednesday, the latest complication in a dispute over concerns that the new 5G mobile phone service could interfere with aircraft technology.

Carriers took widely different approaches to the brewing crisis affecting international travel, from Middle Eastern airline Emirates drastically reducing its US-bound flights to Air France saying it would fly as normal.

It wasn’t immediately clear why the airlines made those decisions — or whether they took into account that mobile carriers AT&T and Verizon agreed this week to pause the rollout of the new high-speed wireless service near key airports.

US officials had said that even with the concession, there could be some cancellations and delays because of limitations of equipment on certain planes.

Some airlines said on Wednesday they received warnings from the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) or Boeing that the plane maker’s 777 was particularly affected by the new wireless service.

It was also not clear how disruptive the cancellations would be. Several airlines said they would try to merely use different planes to maintain their schedules.

Similar mobile networks have been deployed in dozens of other countries — but there are some key differences in how the US network works that could make it more likely to cause problems for airlines.

The new 5G network uses a segment of the radio spectrum that is close to that used by radio altimeters, which measure the height of aircraft above the ground and help pilots land in low visibility. The US Federal Communications Commission (FCC), which sets a buffer between the frequency that 5G uses and the one that altimeters use, determined that it could be used safely in the vicinity of air traffic.

AT&T and Verizon have said their equipment will not interfere with aircraft electronics.

But FAA officials saw a potential problem, and telecom companies agreed to a pause on Tuesday while it is addressed.

On Wednesday, Emirates announced it would halt flights to several American cities due to “operational concerns associated with the planned deployment of 5G mobile network services in the US at certain airports”. It said it would continue flights to Los Angeles, New York and Washington.

“We are working closely with aircraft manufacturers and the relevant authorities to alleviate operational concerns, and we hope to resume our US services as soon as possible,” the state-owned airline said.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates, pulled no punches when discussing the issue. He told CNN it was “one of the most delinquent, utterly irresponsible” situations he’d ever seen as it involved a failure by the government, science and industry.

Of particular concern appears to be the Boeing 777. Emirates only flies this model and the Airbus A380 jumbo jet — and it was among one of the most affected airlines.

Japan’s All Nippon Airways said that the FAA “has indicated that radio waves from the 5G wireless service may interfere with aircraft altimeters.” It added that Boeing announced restrictions on airlines flying its 777s, and said it cancelled 20 flights over the issue to cities such as Chicago, Los Angeles and New York.

Japan Airlines similarly said that it had been informed there could be interference with the 777.

It said it will stop using the model in the continental US for now. Eight of its flights were affected on Wednesday.

Taiwan’s EVA Air also said the FAA specifically said 777s may be affected, but it did not spell out how it would adjust its schedule.

But Air France said it planned to continue flying its 777s into American airports. It did not explain why it didn’t change its aircraft as many other carriers had.

In a statement, Chicago-based Boeing Co said it would work with airlines, the FAA and others to find a solution that would allow all planes to fly safely as 5G is rolled out. It did not respond to questions about its 777.

Air India also announced on Twitter it would cancel flights to Chicago, Newark, New York and San Francisco because of the 5G issue.

But it also said it would try to use other aircraft on US routes — a course several other airlines took.

Korean Air, Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific and Austrian Airlines said they substituted different planes for flights that were scheduled to use 777s. Korean Air spokeswoman Jill Chung said the airline was also avoiding operating some kinds of 747s at affected airports. Germany’s Lufthansa also swapped out one kind of 747 for another on some US-bound flights.

British Airways cancelled several planned US-bound Boeing 777 flights and changed aircraft on others.

The FAA has said it will allow planes with accurate, reliable altimeters to operate around high-power 5G. But planes with older altimeters will not be allowed to make landings under low-visibility conditions.

Among the problems that may make the 5G rollout an issue in the US and not other countries, according to the FAA, are that American towers use a more powerful signal strength than those elsewhere, the network operates on a frequency closer to the one altimeters use, and tower antennae point up at a higher angle.

“Base stations in rural areas of the United States are permitted to emit at higher levels in comparison to other countries which may affect radio altimeter equipment accuracy and reliability,” the FAA said in December.

France, for example, reduces the power of the networks near airports.

The FCC’s chairwoman said in a statement that 5G “deployment can safely co-exist with aviation technologies in the United States, just as it does in other countries around the world.” However, Jessica Rosenworcel urged the FAA to conduct its safety checks with “both care and speed.”

The European Union Aviation Safety Agency said it was “not aware of any in-service incidents caused by 5G interference.”

“Until the 5G initiation in the US, the technical data received from EU manufacturers offers no conclusive evidence for immediate safety concerns at this time,” it said.

AT&T and Verizon spent tens of billions of dollars for the 5G spectrum known as C-Band in a government auction last year.

Choi Jong-yun, a spokeswoman of Asiana Airlines, said the company hasn’t been affected so far because it uses Airbus planes for passenger flights to the US.

However, Choi raised a new wrinkle, saying airlines have also been instructed by the FAA to avoid automatic landings at affected US airports during bad weather conditions, regardless of plane type. Asiana will redirect its planes to nearby airports during those conditions, she said.

SANAA: Eleven people were killed in coalition airstrikes on Yemen’s rebel-held capital Sanaa, a witness and medical sources told AFP Tuesday, after the insurgents launched a rare and deadly attack on the United Arab Emirates.

"Eleven people were killed. The search is still going on for survivors in the rubble," said Akram al-Ahdal, a relative of some of the victims. A medical source confirmed the death toll.

The airstrikes hit two houses, leaving them in ruins, Ahdal said. The UAE is part of the Saudi-led pro-government coalition fighting rebel forces.

The late Monday strikes came hours after Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels claimed a drone and missile attack on the UAE capital Abu Dhabi which killed three people and wounded six.

The Houthis have carried out repeated cross-border attacks against Saudi Arabia, but this is the first deadly assault acknowledged by the UAE inside its borders and claimed by the Yemeni insurgents.

HERAT: At least 12 people were killed after an earthquake hit western Afghanistan on Monday, an official said.

The victims died when roofs of their residential houses collapsed in Qadis district in the western province of Badghis, district governor Mohammad Saleh Purdel told AFP.

The shallow quake was magnitude 5.3, according to the US Geological Survey.

"Several people were also injured in today's earthquake," Purdel said, adding that the victims included women and children.

Afghanistan is already in the grip of a humanitarian disaster, worsened by the Taliban takeover of the country in August when Western countries froze international aid and access to assets held abroad.

Qadis is one of the areas worst affected by a devastating drought, benefiting little from international aid in the past 20 years.

The country is frequently hit by earthquakes, especially in the Hindu Kush mountain range, which lies near the junction of the Eurasian and Indian tectonic plates.

Earthquakes can cause significant damage to poorly built homes and buildings in impoverished Afghanistan.

In 2015, nearly 280 people were killed when a powerful 7.5-magnitude earthquake centred in the mountain range ripped across South Asia, with the bulk of the deaths in Pakistan.

In that disaster, 12 young Afghan girls were crushed to death in a stampede as they tried to flee their shaking school building.

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