February 1-7: Coalition illegally diverts US arms to non-state forces, agreement on Hudaydah withdrawal may be near

Friday, February 1

The Daily Beast interviewed two ex-detainees who were held in the UAE’s prisons in southern Yemen. The report indicates that there was American involvement in the torture that occurred in the prisons. The Pentagon acknowledge that US military personnel operate in the prisons, but deny any knowledge of torture or abuse.

European representative for Yemen’s Southern Transitional Council, Ahmed bin Fareed, believes the inclusion of the South is crucial to peace talks. Citing the central role of Southern forces in the fight against the Houthis, Fareed writes that “without genuine inclusion and participation of all key legitimate actors, it is inconceivable that our constituency would accept the terms of a settlement that excludes them.”

Yemenis on social media are calling for justice after the Houthis sentenced Asmaa al-Omeissy and two others to death, in addition to being detained and tortured, because of their alleged association with the coalition. Amnesty International states that the Houthis are using the judiciary to settle political scores.

Sunday, February 3

Al-Masdar Online reports that a civilian was killed by Houthi shelling today in southern Hudaydah governorate. Additionally, two women and two children were killed by Houthi shelling of an IDP camp today in Hajjah governorate; the report states that this is the second attack by the group on this camp.

Monday, February 4

An outbreak of the swine flu was recently detected, with 419 reported cases and 86 deaths so far. Health centers are running out of medicine and many people are unable to access health centers because of the war.

Reporter Fuad Rajeh reports that the Houthis will try Yemen country manager of Saferworld, Awfa Al-Naami, on charges of “harming national security.” Al-Naami was detained on Monday, January 28.

Graham Jones, Labour MP and the most senior parliamentarian overseeing Britain’s arms control regime, stated that NGO’s claims about civilian deaths in Yemen from airstrikes were exaggerated. He also claimed that the primary blame for the war was with Iran and that NGOs misunderstand the region’s problems.

Faculty at Hadhramawt University are protesting because the university has not upheld its  financial obligations. The faculty have previously gone on strike but their demands have thus far been ignored.

Clashes broke out in the Old City of Aden today between pro-government forces and an unspecified group of gunmen, according to Aden al-Ghad.

Tuesday, February 5

Amnesty International accused the United Arab Emirates of supplying unaccountable militias with weapons purchased from western states, including the United States. Some of these militias have ties to AQAP or other extremist groups. The transfer of US arms to third parties violates the end-use agreements mandated by all US arms sales. The YPP raised the issue of illegal arms diversion with State and Defense Department officials in April 2018, but officials denied any knowledge of such practices.

An investigation by CNN found that the Saudi-led coalition has transferred US-manufactured weapons to unaccountable third parties. In doing so, US-manufactured weapons have come into the possession of extremist groups and Iranian-backed rebels. A US defense official confirmed there was an ongoing investigation following CNN’s reports.

Houthi-run news channel al-Masirah says that the Houthi delegation in Amman have proposed a prisoner release of 400 individuals from both parties to the conflict, and are waiting on a response from Riyadh. This proposal comes despite the agreement by both parties to release all prisoners as part of the recent Stockholm Agreements.

In San’a, Mothers of Abductees protested outside the Houthi detention center where a number of civilians are being held. The association claims that the Houthis are denying medical access to the prisoners. They are appealing to the UN and the UN special envoy to secure their release.  

Wednesday, February 6

The House Foreign Affairs Committee voted to send the war powers resolution, H.J.Res.37, to the full chamber of a vote. The resolution would require President Trump to withdraw US forces from the war in Yemen. A companion bill passed the Senate last December, and has been reintroduced in the upper chamber as well. The House Rules Committee will consider the bill shortly; a vote on the House floor is expected within the month.

Government forces reopened  the Dhubab Road, the primary entrance to the city of Ta’iz, after it had been blocked by a rival local militia. Most other entrances into the city are still blocked by Houthi forces, which have maintained a siege on the city since 2015. The Dhubab entrance is crucial to the survival of the city’s inhabitants; it is often closed by militias as part of the ongoing power struggles between anti-Houthi groups.

Oxfam reports that Yemen’s food shortage has left  1.1 million childbearing women malnourished and that there is evidence that child marriage is rising so families can buy food.

According to al-Masdar Online, the real estate sector in Yemen is experiencing an unusual boom, in contrast with other sectors of the Yemeni economy. According to the article, this may be due to a large number of Yemeni expatriates returning from Saudi Arabia, as well as money laundering operations and internal displacement of Yemenis from Houthi-controlled areas to those controlled by the government.

Saudi Arabia’s King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center (KSRelief), launched projects to create and support jobs in the Tarim area of Wadi Hadhramawt. KSRelief has been criticized by NGOs in the past for placing restrictions and conditions on aid funding, in violation of UN requirements.

Thursday, February 7

Senators Menendez (D-NJ) and Young (R-IN) announced a new resolution, the “Saudi Arabia Accountability and Yemen Act of 2019.” The bill would prohibit arms transfers to Saudi Arabia, prohibit refueling of coalition aircraft, require the US government to present a strategy for ending the war in Yemen, and place sanctions on individuals responsible for blocking humanitarian aid, among other measures.

Following three days of talks, Yemen’s warring parties have reached a preliminary compromise regarding the ceasefire in Hudaydah. The compromise will undergo further consultation, and talks are expected to continue next week in order to finalize details. The UN did not give further information on the agreement.

Negotiations over the UN-sponsored prisoner exchange between the warring parties in Yemen could drag on for months. Both parties have failed to recognize or confirm all of the prisoners named on their opponents’ lists.

Southern news outlet Aden al-Ghad reports that the Houthis are using their all-female auxiliary force, the Zaynabiyat, to abduct women in San’a, a practice which has increased over the past few days.

Al-Masdar Online reports that according to local sources, Houthi gunmen attacked a village in central al-Baydha province, abducting a number of people.