May 30-June 5: Government blocks press access; intra-coalition skirmish in Aden

Tuesday, May 30

Adam Baron of the European Council on Foreign Relations writes about the state of affairs in southern Yemen, and listed three actions that European governments can take to help stabilize Yemen. The first is reaching out to the secessionists in the south of Yemen, and recognizing them as key players in the conflict. The second is to bolster law and order in the city of Aden.Finally, Europe should increase coordination with the Gulf States on both stabilization and mediation efforts.

The Soufan Group warns that Yemen is close to collapse, due to increased violence, political instability within the pro-Hadi coalition, famine, and the ongoing cholera epidemic.

The UN also warned that the civil war--and international inaction--is leading to Yemen’s total social, economic, and political collapse. A group of 22 international and Yemeni human rights groups including the YPP have urged the UN Security Council to end its year-long inaction to bring about a cease-fire. The UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, told the Security Council that key parties are reluctant to even discuss concessions needed to end hostilities.

Reuters reports that Oman is mediating between the Houthis and the pro-government forces over a plan to resume peace talks, according to a Yemeni government official. The plans were presented by UN Special Envoy Cheikh Ahmed during last week’s regional tour, and includes confidence building measures like turning the port city of al-Hudaydah over to a neutral party, re-opening the San’a airport for civilian traffic, and resuming payment of civil servants’ salaries.

Wednesday, May 31

Just Security published a brief about the UAE’s over-reliance on Eritrea, which makes US military support for the UAE legally risky. The UAE has built a military base in Eritrea used to train, supply, and equip Yemeni fighters, and Eritrean soldiers have been embedded with UAE pro-government forces in Yemen. The UAE has also used the base to transport soldiers from Sudan and Senegal.

Thursday, June 1

The AP reports that cholera cases continue to rise, and the worst is yet to come unless more aid is delivered and the fighting stops. The UN’s $2 billion aid program for this year is less than 20% funded.

The New York Times reports that in the wake of cholera, famine, and civil war, child marriage is on the rise, as girl brides are sold into marriage for others to care for them, and the dowry used to buy food.

Reuters reports that clashes between two different factions within the pro-government coalition rocked the airport in Aden, seat of the internationally-recognized government. AP reports that despite the UAE cooperation in maintaining the government hold’s on Aden’s airport, there is tension between them and President Hadi, as UAE forces have attempted to seize the airport, the main gateway to Yemen’s second largest city. One fighter was reported killed in the latest skirmish.

Reuters reports that unknown assailants attacked an oil tanker in the Red Sea waterways off of Yemen’s coast. EU naval forces say that it is unlikely to have been pirates, but rather Houthi militants, who have attacked a few vessels off of Yemen’s Red Sea coast over the past few months.

Friday, June 2

IRIN reports that press access in Yemen is severely limited by multiple parties, including the Saudi-backed government. Months-long journeys to Yemen have been thwarted, sometimes at the last minute, regardless of visa status. The Yemeni government has banned journalists and human rights researchers from entering the country on UN chartered flights; no commercial flights are allowed to San’a airport. Local reporters are often subject to abuse. Yemen is one of the most dangerous countries for journalists.

War on the Rocks reports on the alleged presence of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Hizbullah operatives in Yemen. Iran’s support for the Shi’a Houthis has been blamed for exacerbating the conflict, ostensibly to topple Sunni regimes and replace them friendlier Shi’a ones. There are far fewer Hizbullah and IRGC operatives in Yemen than in Syria and Iraq, and they tend to keep fairly quiet about their activities there, mostly engaging in missile and military training of the Houthis.

Reuters reports that a bomb blast killed six civilians and injured 15 in a market in the town of al-Hazm, in al-Jawf Governorate. No one has taken responsibility, and the motive remains unclear.

UNICEF warns that the cholera epidemic is especially deadly to children. In just one month there were nearly 70,000 cases reported, and nearly 600 fatalities.

Al-Arabiya reports that the Saudi-led coalition welcomes the idea of handing over the port city of al-Hudaydah to a neutral party. It is currently controlled by the Houthis, and over 70% of the country’s food enters from this port.

Sunday, June 4

AFP reports that pro-government forces took the presidential palace in the city of Ta’iz, but reports are conflicting. Saudi Arabia’s official SPA news agency claims the coalition forces took the palace, but military sources on the ground say that this is premature, as their forces were closing in but had not yet taken the palace. Medics at the Houthi-held Thamar Government Hospital said 19 Houthi fighters had been killed in the past 24 hours, and military sources said 8 soldiers had died.

The UN says that there are 3,000 to 5,000 new cases of cholera in Yemen daily, and cases could double every week unless more aid is delivered. Even though free clinics are available, many Yemenis cannot afford to make the trip to them.

Monday, June 5

Kuwaiti News Agency reports that Kuwait By Your Side, a humanitarian organization, launched their campaign to enhance a water system in Yemen’s al-Dhali’ province. The project’s total cost is $500,000, and will benefit 50,000 people. Earlier, the group distributed food baskets, aid kits, and helped reconstruct schools and homes in the city.

Yemen Online reports that the UAE offered the largest medical aid to stem Yemen’s ongoing cholera epidemic, with over 50 tons of drugs distributed at Aden airport last week. Another 50 tons are expected to arrive tomorrow. The drugs are delivered to WHO, who coordinates the drugs distribution throughout the country.

Al Arabia and Asharq Al-Awsat report that Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Bahrain, Yemen, and the Maldives all cut ties with Qatar and suspended Qatar’s participation in the coalition supporting Yemeni government forces, on allegations that it helps fund terrorism, including al-Qaeda and ISIS. Yemen specifically accused Qatar of backing the Houthi rebels, along with Iran, according to Reuters. Al Jazeera reports Qatar’s response, that there is “no legitimate justification” for these allegations, and that the decision was a violation of its sovereignty. Qatari citizens have only 14 days to leave Saudi Arabia and the UAE, and the political crisis has caused havoc on markets and sent oil prices surging.

The AP reports that American University branch campuses in Qatar are operating normally, and Kuwait is taking on the role of mediator, calling on Qatar to show restraint in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and the coalition. Turkey is also trying its hand at mediation, and has spoken by telephone with Gulf leaders, as well as conferring with Russian President Putin. An Iranian official said that they can export food to Qatar by sea, to replace the food normally brought overland via the Saudi border. Saudi Arabia has also closed the local offices of Qatari-based news network Al Jazeera.

Qatar says six of its soldiers were wounded on the Saudi-Yemeni border whilst serving in a Saudi-led maneuver against the Houthis. Qatari media have also reported four soldiers’ deaths, out of a deployment of over a thousand troops either to Yemen, or stationed along the border, according to the Middle East Eye.