August 22-28: Kerry announces new plan for peace, exiled government targets CBY

Monday, August 22A joint report by UNHCR and the International Organization for Migration says that over 3,154,000 Yemenis have been displaced across the country as a result of the war in Yemen. The news release reports that due to the escalating conflict and worsening humanitarian conditions, displacement across the country has seen an increase of about seven percent since April, with 152,009 individuals fleeing from violence during this period.

The Control Arms Coalition said that Britain, the US, and France are in violation of the 2014 Arms Trade Treaty, which bans the export of weapons that disproportionately result in the death of civilians and the commission of other war crimes.

"It is extremely concerning that many transfers are still continuing, in particular the governments of the United States, the UK and France have authorized and are continuing to export very large quantities of weapons, including explosive weapons, bombs which are being used daily against civilians in Yemen," said Anna MacDonald, director of the Control Arms Coalition.

The Guardian tells the stories of victims of recent Saudi airstrikes and outlines the implications that these strikes have for Yemen’s conflict. San’a-based political analyst Hisham Al-Omeisy said airstrikes in recent weeks had become more indiscriminate. He added that while the Houthis were “guilty of hijacking and mismanaging the state”, it was the Saudi-led coalition that had “held the whole nation hostage to the current conflict and [had] been collectively and indiscriminately punishing.”

Congressman Ted Lieu and other American lawmakers have been pushing the Obama administration to suspend its support of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen due to the heavy civilian death toll. Speaking to The Intercept, Lieu explained his opposition to US involvement in the war: “You can’t kill children, newlyweds, doctors and patients — those are exempt targets under the law of war, and the coalition has been repeatedly striking civilians...So it is very disturbing to me. It is even worse that the U.S. is aiding this coalition.”

Tuesday, August 23 Deputy chief executive of Oxfam GB, Penny Lawrence, says that the UK government has switched from being an “enthusiastic backer” of the Arms Trade Treaty to being “one of the most significant violators.” In the past year, the UK licensed 3.3 billion pounds worth of arms to Saudi Arabia while the Saudi-led coalition has continued to bomb civilian targets.

“UK arms and military support are fuelling a brutal war in Yemen, harming the very people the Arms Trade Treaty is designed to protect. Schools, hospitals and homes have been bombed in contravention of the rules of war,” says Lawrence.

ABC show Foreign Correspondent aired an episode on the war in Yemen, and specifically the impact it has on Yemen’s children. Reporter Sophie McNeill visits Yemen’s hospitals to hear from the patients, their families, and the staff. The show includes an interview with a man who lost 18 members of his family, including his five-year-old daughter, in a coalition airstrike on a wedding party.

Wednesday, August 24 Yemen’s government-in-exile is now targeting the country’s central bank, cutting it off from the rest of the world as a way to put economic pressure on the Houthis. This move inevitably puts more pressure on Yemeni citizens as well, blocking their access to desperately-needed food imports. Yemen’s central bank is considered one of the country’s last stable institutions, and has done a remarkable job of managing Yemen’s economy and currency, given the circumstances.

According to Farea al-Muslimi, an analyst with the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, action against the central bank would cut "the only artery" holding the country together.

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Saudi Arabia to hold talks with the kingdom's officials and other Gulf leaders on the situation in Yemen and the stalled peace process.

Thursday, August 25 Kerry said during a press conference in Jeddah that there is a new plan to end the war in Yemen, which includes Houthis in a unity government in exchange for their transferring of arms to a third party. Kerry called the approach “fair and sensible”. He pledged $189 million of new US aid and criticized the international community’s response to the crisis in Yemen. 

Full press conference in Arabic here.

UN human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, is calling for an independent international investigation into a series of violations in Yemen. Hussein said in a statement today that Yemenis are suffering "unbearably [without] any form of accountability and justice, while those responsible for the violations and abuses against them enjoy impunity". However, the UN declined to accuse either side of war crimes, saying that it was for a national or international court to decide.

A spokesperson for the Red Cross based in Yemen says that the death toll of the 17-month-long war is so extensive that the organization has began to donate morgues.

“The hospitals were not able to cope,” said spokesperson Rima Kamal. “You could have more than 20 dead people brought into one hospital on one single day. The morgue capacity at a regular hospital is not equipped to handle this influx of dead bodies.”

Friday, August 26 CNN featured an important piece by Peter Salisbury on Kerry’s visit and press conference in Jeddah. The secretary of state failed to address in any detail recent Saudi airstrikes on an MSF hospital, a school, and a food factory, all of which incurred civilian casualties.

“The Houthis and Saleh, it needs to be repeated, are almost certainly committing war crimes in Yemen, according to human rights groups. With this in mind the Saudis, Yemenis opposed to the coup, and indeed Western officials, find it difficult to understand why so much attention is being paid to the Saudis' worst excesses. They aren't the bad guys, the argument goes. But this attitude contains a serious moral hazard: why should rogue states and rebel groups like the Houthis feel accountable for their actions if an ally of two of the UN's most influential member states is not also held to account for its actions or at least reined in?”

Saba news agency reported that 11 civilians were killed in Saudi airstrikes in Sa'dah. The outlet said that two houses in the district of Baqam were destroyed in an overnight raid. Rescue efforts were delayed due to fears of subsequent strikes as fighter jets continued to circle the area.

In response to comments by Secretary of State John Kerry, who said he was "deeply troubled" by images of Iranian-supplied missiles positioned along the Saudi-Yemen border by the Houthis, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said such statements were "baseless accusations."

Saturday, August 27

Yemen's government in exile said it welcomed a plan agreed upon by Gulf, US, and UN officials to restart peace talks with the goal of forming a unity government. Unlike the previous proposed deal that would have required the Houthis to hand in their weapons and withdraw from seized territory prior to a political settlement, Kerry suggested the prospective deal could move ahead in parallel.

Sunday, August 28 Following the exiled government's response to a possible peace deal to end Yemen's war, the Houthis also released a statement saying they are prepared to restart negotiations provided that the Saudi-led coalition stops airstrikes and lifts its blockade of Houthi-held territories.