June 16-22: Geneva talks fail, IS kills civilians in Sanʻa

News coverage over the past week has been dominated by the UN-sponsored talks in Geneva, which yielded no tangible results. Bombings attributed to local affiliates of the Islamic State have also drawn the attention. The failure of Geneva talks, which wrapped up on Friday, seemed to be well predicted in the local press coverage. On Tuesday, UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed opened the preliminary consultations with the conflicting parties after the Houthi-led delegates from Sanʻa were finally able to arrive in Geneva. But the delegates from Riyadh (representing the Hadi regime in exile) and Sanʻa refused to meet in one place; the talks were conducted with the two groups in separate rooms. In the end, mediators failed to come up with the hoped-for seven-point statement, which would have included a ceasefire during the holy month of Ramadan.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led airstrikes continued to hit several cities across the country as the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces continued to advance in the adjacent governorates of Marib and al-Jawf.

On Saturday, hours after the Geneva talks came to an end, airstrikes hit the runways of Sanʻa International Airport and al-Dailami Airbase in the capital, which was seen as a way of preventing the Houthi-led delegates from returning to Sanʻa. On Sunday, Sirah Fortress in Aden and the Great Dam of Marib were both hit by Saudi airstrikes.

Although the airstrikes were providing air cover for the so-called “popular resistance” fighters over the past week, the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces claimed to have captured three tribal encampments—Nakhla, al-Suhail, and Labant—out of five spread alongside the capital city of the oil-rich province of Marib. Moreover, clashes continued to rage in the southern cities of Aden, al-Dhaliʻ and Lahj as well as the central cities of Taʻiz and al-Baydha.

Meanwhile, the self-proclaimed Sanʻa-based branch of the Islamic State has resurfaced, having been quiet since its devestating March attack on mosques frequented by Houthi loyalists (among others). On the eve of Ramadan (Wednesday), four car bombs simultaneously targeted two Sanʻa mosques, the Houthi Political Bureau, and the house of a leading member of Ansar Allah. On Saturday, the same group allegedly carried out another car bomb attack on a mosque in the Old City of Sanʻa, killing at least two people.