Calls for ceasefire ignored, fighting in Yemen escalates

Nearly 200 fighters from both sides have been killed in recent battles in and around Hodeidah.
Wednesday 07/11/2018
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks during an interview in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths speaks during an interview in Abu Dhabi. (Reuters)

LONDON - Fighting in Yemen continued despite a call from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for a cessation of hostilities.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government carried out air strikes November 2 on a Houthi-controlled base near the Sana’a International Airport and Yemeni pro-government forces renewed an operation on Hodeidah.

Nearly 200 fighters from both sides have been killed in recent battles in and around Hodeidah. Yemeni pro-government media reporting that forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi were making gains against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels in northern and eastern parts of the city.

Warplanes belonging to the Saudi-led coalition backing the government carried out intense air strikes on the Houthi militia in eastern Hodeidah, Al-Masdar News reported on November 5. The pro-government news site quoted local sources as saying the Houthis had blocked the main highway leading to the city’s northern entrance and forced who had attempted to flee the fighting to return.

The report said one person was killed and seven others injured after a mortar shell fell on a factory during the clashes.

Anti-Houthi forces tried to retake Hodeidah in June but the operation was halted after the UN appealed to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to allow for peace efforts. A renewed drive to recapture Hodeidah began in September after UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths was unable to get negotiators to talks in Geneva.

The latest engagement comes after Hadi’s government and the Houthis had reacted positively to international calls for a ceasefire. Pompeo and US Defence Secretary James Mattis both called for a ceasefire in Yemen and political talks to end the conflict, suggestions endorsed by the British and French governments.

However, with the military escalation since then, the Houthis blamed the United States for the situation.

“We regard the military escalation as proof of the disingenuousness of American calls for an immediate halt to the fighting, which are no more than an attempt by the United States to pose itself as a neutral mediator while it is [in fact] the true leader of the war,” Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, the head of the rebels’ interim Supreme Revolutionary Committee, said on Twitter November 4.

“It has become normal that a military escalation would follow any US call for peace,” the statement added.

Arab analysts also questioned the seriousness of the international calls for a ceasefire.

“When pressures from civil society and human rights organisations in Europe and the United States increase, we see a Western stance from time to time calling for a stop to the war in Yemen,” said Yemeni political analyst Ali al-Bukhaiti. “I believe these statements are meant for domestic consumption in these Western countries.”

He said the countries were not exerting serious pressure to stop the war.

Neither the agenda nor the venue of the UN-sponsored talks scheduled for November has been announced.

Yemeni Foreign Minister Khaled al-Yamani told pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat said “there is no pressure in regard of stopping military operations aimed at liberating Yemeni cities” and that the Hadi government had not received details from Griffiths regarding the talks.