By ELLIS SIMANI ———-
At a recent U.N. security council meeting, the U.S. called for an end to Saudi airstrikes in Yemen, though Washington continues to provide arms and military support to forces in Saudi Arabia.
Nearly 10,000 Yemenis, almost half of them citizens, have been killed since the conflict erupted in March 2015, when the Houthi rebel group captured Yemen’s capital and largest city, Sanaa, and demanded that the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi be overthrown.
Since then, some 6,900 people have been killed in the conflict, more than half of them civilians, The Guardian estimates. Additionally, the paper reports that almost 3 million Yemenis have been displaced, with many more in need of food aid.
This past August, the conflict reached Saudi Arabian soil when a missile launched from Yemen landed in a busy commercial area in the city of Najran. The attack was apparently carried out by Houthi militants in northern Yemen.
The attack was retaliation for several deadly airstrikes by the Saudi military coalition that killed 35 individuals days before, 17 of whom were in a hospital at the time, the New York Times reported.
“They are destroying our nation day and night,” a spokesman for the Houthi-supported army in Yemen, Brig. Gen. Sharaf Luqman, told the Times. “When they strike us, we are forced to launch missiles. So it’s missiles versus warplanes.”
Saudi Arabia and other allies in the Gulf have backed Hadi while Iran has provided critical support to the Houthis.
This isn’t the first time that Western forces have called for an end to the violence in Yemen. Over six cease-fires have been declared over the past year and a half since the conflict started. None of the agreements have been honored by either side.
The most recent call for peace occurred Oct. 16, when the U.N. announced that a 72-hour cease-fire would be put into effect Oct. 19, subject to renewal upon completion.
Though both sides agreed to the truce, The New Arab newspaper and website reported that “they [both] covertly mobilized their forces, preparing for more incursions and expansion.” Soon after, the attacks resumed with Saudi Arabian coalition warplanes attacking Shia rebel positions in the Yemeni capital.
State Department spokesman Sam Kirby spoke on the issue at a department briefing on Oct. 24, pleading for both sides to adhere to the U.N.’s call for peace.
“We continue to urge all sides to abide by and extend the renewable 72-hour cessation of hostilities and to refrain from acts that will further escalate the situation in Yemen,” Kirby said. “This cessation, if it’s given time to hold, will allow urgently needed humanitarian aid to be delivered to all Yemenis, including in difficult places like Taiz and Sa’dah.”
The continuing attacks will make it difficult for key resources such as food and water to be distributed to the thousands of suffering families across the small, impoverished country.
Children often face the worst ramifications of the conflict, being disproportionately affected by the frequent attacks on civilians.
“Airstrikes that hit schools, hospitals and other civilian objects have to stop. In many cases, these strikes have damaged key infrastructure that is essential to delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen,” said Samantha Power, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N.
After 19 months of fighting, it was impossible for any solution to the problem to come through military action, Power said.
Many question the sincerity of her words, however, as it remains clear where U.S. allegiance lies in the conflict.
“The U.S. ambassador’s call for an end to indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen would be more compelling if the U.S. didn’t provide Saudi Arabia with some of the weapons that end up being used in these strikes,” said Louis Charbonneau, the U.N. director of Human Rights Watch.
(Written by Ellis Simani; Nov. 3, 2011)