February 14-20: new UN appeal; prominent Houthi leaders reportedly killed

Sunday February 14thA Saudi-led coalition air strike on a sewing workshop in San’a on Sunday killed at least two people, including a 14-year-old boy, and wounded 15, according to the shop’s owner. Houthi forces reported a death toll of 11 from the strike.

Human Rights Watch released a report on Sunday detailing the Saudi-led coalition’s use of internationally banned cluster munitions in Yemen. The munitions were manufactured in the United States and recently transferred to Saudi Arabia despite evidence that they do not meet US standards for weapons exports and have resulted in a number of civilian casualties.

Monday February 15th Mareb Press reported that the Houthi government has blocked access to most news and social media websites in Yemen, with Saba News being one of the few accessible sites. This comes as part of a larger crackdown by the Houthis on perceived opposition outlets since the rebel group seized control of San’a a year ago.

The World Food Programme announced on Monday that it managed to deliver much-needed food for 18,000 people in the Al-Qahirah area of Ta’iz on Saturday. The UN warned that residents of Ta’iz, one of ten Yemeni governorates facing an emergency-level food shortage, are in desperate need of external assistance.

Al Arabiya news reported that 59 Houthi fighters have been killed in recent Saudi-led airstrikes and clashes in Ta’iz, Marib, and eastern San’a. Those killed are said to include prominent Houthi leaders Yahya Al-Mutawakkil Taha and Yahya Zafran.

Tuesday February 16th The World Food Programme (WFP) announced on Tuesday that the humanitarian IT equipment that Saudi Arabia stopped from entering Yemen on one of its chartered ships last week, fearing it was meant for the Houthi militia, belonged to the UN. The organization said it was carrying a cargo of humanitarian relief supplies bound for the Houthi-controlled port of Hodeida, but was diverted by the coalition to the Saudi port of Jizan on February 11th.

Governor of Aden Aidarus al-Zubaidi and security director Shalal Ali Shayyeh escaped an assassination attempt when gunmen opened fire on their convoy in Aden on Tuesday, a security official said. Three of the gunmen were killed in an exchange of fire.

Armed men in Ta’iz fatally shot journalist Ahmed al-Shaibani on Tuesday. Al-Shaibani, who worked for the independent Yaman News website and state-run Yemen TV, was killed while reporting on fighting in Ta’iz by Houthi gunmen.

Wednesday February 17th In response to Saudi Arabia advising aid organizations to leave Houthi-controlled areas, Human Rights Watch released a statement saying that the warnings do not absolve the Saudi-led coalition from the legal obligation to protect humanitarian personnel and facilities from attack.

UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs Stephen O’Brien announced that the Yemen Humanitarian Response Plan will be launched on Thursday to raise some $1.8 billion required to save millions of Yemenis from humanitarian catastrophe.

A suicide bomber killed at least 10 recruits at an army camp run by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government in Buraiqah, Aden on Wednesday, medical sources and an official said. Al Arabiya reports that IS claimed responsibility for the attack in a statement circulated on Twitter.

A US federal judge ruled on Wednesday that the State Department wrongfully seized the passport of Mosed Shaye Omar, a naturalized US citizen, when he went to Yemen in 2013 to help his daughter apply for a US passport. The 64-year-old was accused of immigration fraud at the US embassy in San’a where he was detained, interrogated, deprived of food and water for a day, and coerced into signing a false confession. Shaye Omar is one of a number of Yemeni-Americans who have been subjected to similar treatment.

Thursday February 18th Amnesty says that financial figures from British-based defence contractor BAE reveal that the company’s net gain last year of close to £1 billion is due to sales made to the Royal Saudi Air Force, which has been bombing civilian targets in Yemen in violation of international humanitarian law.

Saturday February 20th Al Qaeda militants took control of the southern town of Ahwar on Saturday after clashing with Popular Resistance forces, killing three of them. The group controls several other towns in Abyan and Shabwah. However, local sources reported that, after taking control of government buildings in Ahwar, AQAP’s forces were confronted by armed tribesmen. AQAP reportedly pulled out of the town in exchange for promise of safe passage. A senior commander of the Southern Resistance, Shaykh Mazen al-Aqrabi was killed in Aden along with his bodyguard after two gunmen, presumably belonging to al Qaeda, opened fire on them.