April 13-18: Parliament convenes in Sey'un, civilians flee Kushar as Houthi raids continue

Saturday, April 13

For the first time since the war began, Yemen’s parliament held a session with a quorum of members participating; President Hadi was in attendance. The purpose of this session was to fill parliamentary positions and focus on ways to combat the Houthis. However, this is difficult as elections have not been held since 2009, and many pre-war parliamentarians remain in San’a, where the Houthi administration also claims the support of the legislature. It is unlikely that this parliament will make any significant contribution to the peace process.

Sunday, April 14

The Washington Post is reporting that the Islamic State and al-Qaeda are in a deadly contest for territory, recruits, and influence in Yemen. Clashes are occurring and fighting has escalated in central Baydha province between Yemeni tribal forces that are aligned with the two groups. Elisabeth Kendall, a Yemen expert at Oxford University, states that the feud is “linked to local territorial and power rivalries.”

Monday, April 15

It is reported that French weapons “may have been used to commit war crimes” in Yemen by the Saudi-led coalition. France has previously said that French-made weapons were only used defensively, but they have not responded to these  specific allegations yet. Moreover, Amnesty International is urging France to immediately suspend all arms transfers to Yemen.

UN Special Envoy Martin Griffiths said that the Houthis and the Yemeni government have agreed on terms for troop withdrawal from parts of of al-Hudaydah. Thus far, withdrawal from the port and city has been delayed multiple times since the limited ceasefire and redeployment agreement was signed in Sweden last year. Britain is saying that “stronger measures” must be taken if implementation fails. Although the ceasefire decreased fighting in the governorate, violence continues and “the stakes are too high” to let the situation continue as it is, according to UK diplomats.

Confrontations occurred last night between Houthi militias and government forces in the Hamak front in al-Dhali’ province, reports al-Masdar Online. SPA reports that the Yemeni army killed 70 Houthi militants and wounded 20 . The number of coalition casualties was not reported.

Three-year-old Ahmad Abdel-Rahman Hamid’s body was found bearing evidence of torture today in southeastern Ta’iz province, ten days after his abduction, according to al-Masdar Online. A wave of similar crimes has swept the area over the last two months, the article reports.

A series of tweets and an article from al-Masdar online highlight a rising trend of militarization, weapons trade, assassinations, and murders around the city of Aden. The article discusses weapons proliferation in the area and a number of recent civilian murders; although local security forces appear to be well aware of the arms markets in the city, al-Masdar reports that there are no efforts to control the sale of weapons and ammunition. The article also discusses the role of the UAE in allowing the weapons trade to flourish in the city, noting that the UAE may benefit from this state of affairs. Many of those assassinated in Aden in the absence of security enforcement have been members of the Islah party, which the UAE opposes due to their ties with the Muslim Brotherhood. Politically motivated assassinations, revenge killings, and other recent murders in Aden have all been enabled by the ease of purchasing weapons in the city, al-Masdar emphasizes.

Tuesday, April 16

President Donald Trump vetoed S.J.Res.7, which would have ended US military support for the war in Yemen. Supporters of the bill are calling the decision a “missed opportunity.” It is unlikely that Congress will be able to override the veto, but other legislation concerning US involvement in Yemen is likely to move ahead soon.

Al-Masdar reports that Houthi forces raided a number of civilian homes in the villages of Bani Sa’id in Kushar district of Hajjah Governorate, where the Houthis have battled tribal resistance and killed numerous civilians in recent months. The Houthis reportedly kidnapped 17 civilians; the raids and abductions sparked a new wave of displacement, as locals fled the area.

Wednesday, April 17

Kuwait’s deputy foreign minister at the Arab-Russian Forum in Moscow stated that he looked forward to the role of Russia in addressing the challenges that affect the region, specifically citing the war in Yemen.

In regard to President Trump’s veto of S.J.Res.7, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash praised the decision as “timely and strategic,” and sees Trump’s support for the coalition as a “positive signal.”

Thursday, April 18

Following reports that French weapons were being used in the war in Yemen, the French armed forces minister refuted these claims and stated that French weapons were not being used offensively or against civilians to her knowledge.

The Special Envoy to Yemen is saying withdrawal from the port of Hudaydah could occur within weeks. Martin Griffiths said that he has received the formal acceptance to implement the first phase of withdrawal from the coalition and Houthis. Troop withdrawal was originally supposed to begin on January 7th.

Yemeni women want to be included in the UN-led peace process. Muna Luqman, a long-time activist and co-founder of the Women Solidarity Network, states that women’s roles in the peace building process are ridiculed and that women continue to be excluded by all parties.

Yemen’s reconvened parliament is drafting a bill that would designate the Houthis as a “terrorist group.” Members of the Yemeni parliament are skeptical of the implementation of the new agreement to withdraw troops from Hudaydah and condemn all actions by the Houthis.

The number of suspected cholera cases in Ta’iz province has increased to over 10,000, reports al-Masdar Online.

The Mothers of Abductees Association declared April 18 the “Day of the Abductee” to draw attention to the issues of abduction and arbitrary detention in Yemen.

Al-Masdar Online reports that the Houthis have detained 20 aid workers employed by a French NGO in Bani Qais, Hajjah, interrogating them and confiscating their passports. The relief workers were attempting to reach displaced people in the area; the Houthis are reportedly preventing foreign aid workers from accessing those displaced by violence in Kushar and neighboring districts.

Arab News reports that Turkey has frozen the assets of three senior Houthi leaders, ‘Abd al-Malik al-Houthi, ‘Abd al-Khaliq al-Houthi, and Abdullah Yahya al-Hakim (also known as Abu ‘Ali). Experts are saying that these actions should have been carried out years ago in accordance with UN sanctions, and they are uncertain about Turkey’s real intention.