Civilians in Yemen are suffering from the Saudis’ bombardment. A cease-fire is expected to bring relief. At the same time, Sanaa is asking for ground troops.
Fighters in Aden celebrate the attack on a Huthis position. Photo: reuters
Six weeks after airstrikes began against Shiite Huthi rebels in Yemen, Saudi Arabia has offered a five-day humanitarian ceasefire. But implementation of the offer would depend on "the Huthis also fully complying," Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Dschubair said Thursday at a joint press conference with his U.S. counterpart John Kerry in Riyadh. The cease-fire is intended to allow the transport of aid supplies to the suffering population.
"The cease-fire will take effect soon, but the details still need to be discussed," Kerry said, without giving a date. He urged the Huthis and their supporters to join the initiative. "They should not let this opportunity to address the needs of the population pass," he added. Reactions from the insurgents were not initially available.
In Yemen, Iran-backed Huthi rebels are fighting supporters of President Abed Rabbo Mansur Hadi, who fled to Riyadh. A Saudi Arabia-led military alliance has been bombing Huthi positions and weapons caches since March 26. Fighting and airstrikes have killed 646 civilians and injured 1,364 others since then, according to U.N. figures.
Kerry had arrived in Riyadh on Wednesday and met with King Salman and Yemeni President Hadi, among others. The Saudi side said the U.S. secretary of state had proposed the "humanitarian cease-fire" to the monarch. Saudi Arabia also wants to invite all Yemeni parties to the conflict to a conference, Kerry told the press.
Attack on Aden port district
Saudi airstrikes were somewhat successful in halting the Huthis’ advance on the southern port metropolis of Aden. However, many civilians were also hit. The bombing of airports and the blockade of Yemeni ports also cut off food and fuel supplies to residents of the poorest Arab country. International aid organizations speak of an approaching humanitarian catastrophe.
Most recently, the civil war threatened to escalate. On Wednesday, the Huthis advanced on the port district of Aden and fired shells at boats carrying refugees. Dozens of people died, eyewitnesses reported. Yemen’s ambassador to the UN, who is loyal to Hadi, addressed the UN Security Council in New York the same day, urging the body to send ground troops. The point was to "save Yemen, especially Aden and (the southern city of) Tais," he wrote.
The conflict also came to a dangerous head in the northern border area with Saudi Arabia, the Huthis’ heartland. The insurgents shelled the Saudi border town of Najran with rockets and grenades. Nine Saudis were killed there in the attacks over the past two days. Riyadh responded to the attacks with airstrikes on the Huthi stronghold of Saada. According to local reports, 34 people were killed.