Ye­men raids in­ten­sify as UN call to ex­tend truce ig­nored

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

ADEN: The pro-gov­ern­ment Arab coali­tion yes­ter­day stepped up air strikes on Iran-backed rebels in Ye­men and clashes raged on the ground as war­ring par­ties ig­nored a UN call to re­new a frag­ile cease­fire. The 72-hour cease­fire took ef­fect just be­fore mid­night (2100 GMT) Wed­nes­day to al­low aid de­liv­er­ies in Ye­men, whose war has killed thou­sands of peo­ple and left mil­lions home­less and hun­gry. It of­fi­cially ended at mid­night Satur­day.

UN spe­cial envoy to Ye­men, Is­mail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had ap­pealed for a re­newal of the cease­fire, say­ing hu­man­i­tar­ian aid had dur­ing the truce reached ar­eas that were ear­lier in­ac­ces­si­ble. But Ye­meni For­eign Min­is­ter Ab­dul­malek Al-Mekhlafi shrugged off the call as “use­less”, ac­cus­ing the rebels of ig­nor­ing the cease­fire. The truce was the sixth at­tempt since the Saudi-led coali­tion in­ter­vened in March last year to sup­port the gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi after Houthi rebels and their al­lies over­ran much of the im­pov­er­ished coun­try.

Ahmed urged “all par­ties to agree to its ex­ten­sion for at least an­other re­new­able 72 hours”, in a state­ment posted on the envoy’s Facebook page shortly be­fore it ex­pired. The cease­fire was “largely hold­ing de­spite re­ported vi­o­la­tions from both sides in sev­eral ar­eas”, he said. “We noted over the last days that food and hu­man­i­tar­ian sup­plies were pro­vided to sev­eral affected neigh­bor­hoods and that UN per­son­nel were able to reach ar­eas that were pre­vi­ously in­ac­ces­si­ble. We would like to build on this and we aim for a wider out­reach in the next few days,” he added.

Cross-border shelling

But shortly after the ap­peal, coali­tion war­planes yes­ter­day pounded po­si­tions in Sanaa of the Shi­ite rebels and their al­lies, rene­gade troops loyal to for­mer pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials and rebel me­dia said. Rebel-con­trolled sa­banews.net web­site counted nine air strikes on the cap­i­tal yes­ter­day. The dawn raids also hit po­si­tions in Marib, east of the rebel-held cap­i­tal, and the southwestern prov­ince of Taez, the of­fi­cials said. The in­ten­sity of air raids by the Saudi-led coali­tion had eased dur­ing the cease­fire.

“An ex­ten­sion (of the truce) would be use­less, be­cause even if we ac­cept it, the other party does not make any com­mit­ment to re­spect the cease­fire,” Mekhlafi told AFP. “We re­spect the UN envoy’s call for an ex­ten­sion, but in ef­fect, there was no truce due to the vi­o­la­tions” by the rebels, the for­eign min­is­ter said. Fight­ing on the ground was show­ing no signs of abat­ing. Fierce clashes raged in north­ern re­gions along the bor­ders with Saudi Ara­bia over the week­end, killing at least 10 rebels and four Ye­meni sol­diers, mil­i­tary of­fi­cials said.

Saudi civil de­fense also re­ported cross-border bomb­ing which wounded a Ye­meni resident of the southwestern city of Na­jran. Later yes­ter­day, it said that more shelling from Ye­men dam­aged two homes in the king­dom’s Jazan re­gion with­out caus­ing ca­su­al­ties. The UN envoy said Fri­day he was li­ais­ing with the par­ties in an at­tempt to ex­tend the cease­fire in or­der “to cre­ate a con­ducive en­vi­ron­ment for a long-last­ing peace” in Ye­men.

Nearly 6,900 peo­ple have been killed in the con­flict, more than half of them civil­ians, while an ad­di­tional three mil­lion are dis­placed and mil­lions more need food aid. Hadi’s gov­ern­ment said yes­ter­day that nine peo­ple had died of cholera in sec­ond city Aden as the in­fec­tious dis­ease spread across the war-torn coun­try. The last cease­fire at­tempt be­gan in April and col­lapsed as UN-bro­kered peace talks hosted by Kuwait broke down in Au­gust. — AFP

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