With diplomacy on hold, Yemen fighting intensifies

Sunday 18/09/2016
Yemeni fighter loyal to President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi standing on armed pick up truck

LONDON - With the diplomatic drive to end the 16-month-old war in Yemen all but dead, fighting be­tween the Iran-allied Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the internation­ally recognised government of Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi has intensi­fied.
Fighting on the outskirts of Taiz resulted in the death of 40 people September 15th, according to the Hadi government, in what it de­scribed as an attempt at imposing a siege on the city.
Saudi forces earlier shot down a missile fired by Houthi rebels to­wards the Khamis Mushait airbase in south-western Saudi Arabia. Re­taliatory air strikes from the Saudi-led coalition killed several Houthi leaders, local media reported.
Saudi officials, citing the firing of ballistic missiles into its terri­tory, lodged a complaint with the UN Security Council over what it described as Iran’s continued smuggling of weapons to militias in Yemen.
A report submitted by Saudi UN Ambassador Abdullah bin Yahya al-Maalami charged that Tehran’s actions violated Security Council Resolution 2216 and demanded the international community stop it from sending weapons. He also emphasised the kingdom’s right to defend itself.
The complaint said Saudi Arabia had been subjected to “abrupt at­tacks” by Houthi rebels and sup­porters loyal to deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh. Maalami said ballistic missiles fired from Yemen resulted in the killing of hundreds of civilians, damage to the infra­structure, including schools and hospitals, in the southern Saudi cit­ies of Najran and Jazan.
The Saudi ambassador also said the kingdom was targeted with nearly 30 ballistic missiles, which included an Iranian-made Zelzal 3, launched at Najran on August 31st.
Maalami cited several instances in which foreign naval forces inter­cepted Houthi militia-bound ves­sels laden with weapons shipped from Iran.
“The kingdom confirms its right to take the appropriate measures to confront the threats posed by the Houthis and Saleh forces who are financed by Iran and that it would spare no effort to protect its secu­rity and integrity, Yemen and the region according to the UN charter and the international law,” Maalami added.
In what could be the start of new diplomatic drive, the Saudi-led coa­lition allowed Houthi negotiators stranded in Oman since the col­lapse of talks in August to return to Yemen.
The negotiators will be return­ing with a comprehensive ceasefire proposal put together by the United States, which is providing the Hou­this the plane ride home, according to Reuters.
Officials in Washington said the plan was an extension of the ef­forts US Secretary of State John Kerry initiated in Jeddah. Kerry in late August said he had agreed in talks with Gulf Arab states and the United Nations on a plan to restart peace talks on Yemen with a goal of forming a unity government.
The war in Yemen began after Shia Houthis and their allies over­ran Sana’a in September 2014, eventually seizing most of the country and leading to Hadi fleeing to Saudi Arabia.
An Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia and supported by the Unit­ed States and Britain, began an air campaign against the rebels in March 2015. Arab coalition ground troops later entered the fight. Ac­cording to UN estimates, more than 6,600 people have been killed since the start of the fighting, with 2.8 million people displaced.