March 22-28: cholera cases spike, detainees' families protest at home and abroad

Friday, March 22

The warring parties in Yemen have arbitrarily and illegally detained or disappeared thousands of civilians. The government and the Houthis agreed in principle to a prisoner swap last year in Stockholm, but the process has been stalled. In a feature by Al Jazeera, family members of detainees are calling for the prisoner swaps to finally materialize.

In regard to Germany’s arms embargo on Saudi Arabia, Chancellor Angela Merkel remarked that Germany risked being seen as “an unreliable defense partner” if the embargo is extended. France and Britain, who continue arms sales to Saudi Arabia, rely on German parts and are also being affected by the embargo.

A report found that in areas of conflict, diarrhea and other diseases related to poor sanitation caused more deaths than violence from the conflict itself. Access to clean water sources has become increasingly rare throughout Yemen, and specifically in active conflict zones, where warring parties frequently destroy or restrict access to supplies.   

Saturday, March 23

The Saudi-led coalition launched attacks on Houthi camps in San’a. The raids were intended to target the rebels’ stockpile of drones.

Sunday, March 24

Protesters gathered at the UN headquarters in Geneva to bring attention to conflict between the Houthis and civilians in Hajjah. The protesters urged the international community to put more pressure on the Houthis.

Monday, March 25

Overnight clashes in Hudaydah were the heaviest the port city has seen since the beginning of the local ceasefire. This comes as the UN observer team chief was expected to convene both sides in order to launch newly agreed-upon steps towards disengagement.

The Saudi-led coalition and the UN have signed an agreement to reinforce the protection of children in Yemen. The agreement will focus on preventive action and services for child survivors. Moreover, there will be a commitment by the coalition to improve protections of children.

There is a sharp increase in the number of suspected cholera cases, which are likely due to early rains. Moreover, deteriorating conditions, poor maintenance of sewage disposal, and the use of contaminated water are exacerbating the problem. The recent spike is concentrated in six provinces, including Hudaydah and San’a.

In a letter to UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, opposition leaders from the Labour Party, SNP, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, and the Green Party challenged the UK’s arms sales to the Saudi-led coalition. The joint letter states that the government is profiting off of the conflict through their arms sales.

SPA reports that Yemen’s economy lost close to $50 billion over the course of the war. In the last five years, growth was negative in all sectors and economic activity declined. Losses do not include the destruction of infrastructure.

In southern Yemen, Al-Khaleej Online reports that al-Rayyan International Airport in Mukalla, Hadhramawt has not reopened due to the UAE’s desire to maintain a military headquarters within it. The UAE are accused of exploiting the airport and using it as a secret prison. The airport remained closed after al-Qaeda militants were expelled from the area.

The  rivalry between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates over the island of Socotra is back in the news. Socotra is of strategic importance because it is located at the entrance of the Gulf of Aden, which leads to the Bab al-Mandab Strait, which is an important shipping lane. Critics of the UAE saw their previous involvement on the island as an attempt to occupy it.

Clashes were reported today by al-Masdar Online between AQAP and IS in the Yakla area of al-Baydha province. According to the article, AQAP members supported by local tribesmen seized weapons, military equipment and funds from IS and freed thirty soldiers loyal to the Hadi government during the fighting.  

According to al-Masdar Online, the Abu al-Abbas brigades in Ta’iz, which have ties to AQAP and receive funding and equipment from the UAE, closed a number of streets in the Old City today. The militia has been fighting rival fighting groups, including those affiliated with the Islah Party, since helping to liberate parts of the city from the Houthis. The governor of Ta’iz recently announced his intention to disarm unaccountable militias, which has exacerbated local fighting.

Tuesday, March 26

Twenty detainees held without charges in Mukalla, Hadhramawt Governorate were acquitted and released without trials after protests by the detainees’ families.

Ghalib Sultan, Ta’iz’s Islah party leader, was photographed with Yahya al-Houthi at a Houthi rally in San’a.

Houthi media reports pro-Houthi demonstrations in Ta’iz and Sa’dah today, on the anniversary of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen. Today is the fourth anniversary of Saudi-led intervention in the war.

Al-Masdar Online reports that Houthi forces are indiscriminately shelling civilian areas in the district of Qarishiyah, al-Baydha province.

Wednesday, March 27

The UAE is supporting local forces to counter al-Qaeda militants in Shabwah province, as part of a campaign called “White Mountains.”

A hospital supported by Save the Children in northern Yemen was hit in an airstrike. The strike, which was carried out by the Saudi-led coalition, killed at least seven people, five of which were children.

The Labour Party wants clarification on the UK’s role in Yemen following a report that British special forces soldiers were involved on the ground.

Al Jazeera reports that the majority of Yemenis can not afford healthcare, and even when money is available there are not enough supplies. The war has destroyed half of Yemen’s hospitals and clinics. This has contributed to many Yemenis dying in their homes without treatment.

Thursday, March 28

A spokesman for the US State Department is calling for a transparent investigation into the airstrike that killed seven people including four children at a hospital in a rural area about sixty miles from Sa’dah.

The UN special envoy to Yemen believes that withdrawal from Hudaydah will occur, it will just be a slow process. Martin Griffiths stated that the number of casualties in the port has decreased by fifty percent since the ceasefire came into effect. Civilian casualties elsewhere in Yemen have increased.