July 25-31: Hadi’s government threatens to withdraw from talks, Houthis reject UN peace deal

Monday, July 25Last week, the UK’s Foreign Office released corrections to a multitude of previous claims that the government had concluded that Saudi Arabia has not breached international humanitarian law in Yemen. The corrections state that the government is, in fact, unable to assess whether breaches have taken place. Due to these corrections, Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson is facing calls to change UK policy and back an investigation into Saudi Arabia’s likely war crimes in Yemen.

Some Arab leaders met for the 2016 Arab League Summit in Mauritania to discuss the region’s crises, including the war in Yemen. The summit was poorly attended, however, and was cut short to one day. President Hadi was one of the few leaders in attendance. He spoke about Yemen’s conflict, calling the continued air strikes on Yemen “a spark of hope,” and explained that the only way towards peace is for the Houthis to abide by UN Security Resolution 2216, requiring them to hand in their arms and withdraw from seized territory.

Tuesday, July 26 Saudi jets launched airstrikes today against the Houthis after rebel forces crossed the Saudi border on Monday and killed five border guards. Al-Arabiya reported that “tens of Houthi” fighters were killed in the subsequent aerial attacks. The Houthi attacks reportedly led to eight hours of clashes between tribesmen and Saudi forces.

Amnesty International is calling on warring parties to allow “full and unfettered access” to organizations providing much-needed aid to Yemenis suffering from a lack of food, fuel, and medical treatment. Some areas that are in the most desperate need of aid are unable to receive supplies, due to both Houthi restrictions and the Saudi-led coalition’s refusal to coordinate with aid groups.

“Humanitarian organizations are already struggling to cope with destroyed infrastructure and dangerous working conditions, and it is absurd that the delivery of aid is hinging on the coalition’s ad-hoc rules – people’s lives are on the line,” said Lama Fakih, Senior Crisis Advisor at Amnesty International.

Pro-government forces captured the village of al-Sarari from the Houthis after intense fighting for three days. Following the clashes, Houthi outlets claimed that pro-government fighters were committing war crimes by killing and arresting dozens of civilians and destroying the mosque of Sheikh Jamal ad-Deen. Many of these claims appear to be unsubstantiated.

Wednesday, July 27 The lives of 4,400 Yemenis with renal failure are at risk due to a lack of medical supplies. Patients need three dialysis sessions per week, but these has been reduced to two for many patients because of the scarcity of supplies. Medecins Sans Frontieres is calling on international organizations to provide Yemen’s dialysis centers with the critical supplies that could save these patients’ lives.

“There are treatment facilities in the country and there are adequate numbers of trained staff,” says William Turner, MSF head of mission in Yemen. “The imperative now is for these centres to receive regular medical supplies so they can continue to provide reliable lifesaving treatment. The war has crippled the health system’s financial ability to import the necessary supplies, making the need for external support of the highest priority.”

Thursday, July 28 The UN is calling for a humanitarian truce in Ta’iz to allow aid to be delivered and for those wounded to be evacuated. The call comes following heavy fighting in the province.

“It is unacceptable to hold civilian populations hostage and deprived of humanitarian assistance in pursuit of political and military gains. All parties who violate international humanitarian law must remember that they could be held to account,” says Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen.

The Houthis and Saleh announced that they will establish a governing council to run Yemen, claiming that the deal would be open to all sides, allowing rival parties to “join this national agreement actively.” Hadi and UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed are condemning the move as destructive to peace talks and in violation of UN resolution 2216, which requires the Houthis "to refrain from further unilateral actions that could undermine the political transition in Yemen.” Saba News reports that the Houthi spokesman says the new agreement will have no impact on the Kuwait talks.

According to a statement released by the Houthis, the new council would entail a rotating leadership including a president and a deputy from each ally and manage state affairs on the basis of the existing constitution.

Friday, July 29 Saudi Arabia denies accusations by humanitarian groups that the coalition is blocking aid access to Yemenis.

"The coalition is not imposing a siege or an economic boycott on Yemeni territory," the coalition said in a statement in SPA state news agency, adding that it "is fulfilling its duties towards implementing UN resolutions that aim to prevent weapons and ammunitions" from reaching Yemen.

UK Chancellor and former foreign secretary Philip Hammond is now facing calls for a Commons motion of contempt after issuing a statement claiming that the Saudi-led coalition was been shown to be in compliance with international humanitarian law in Yemen. His answers, and those of other MPs, were shown to be false as no proper assessment of the coalition’s actions had been conducted.

Saturday, July 30 There were reports that Hadi’s government withdrew from the Kuwait talks in response to plans by the Houthis and former president Saleh to form a coalition administration, which was seen as an attempt to legitimize Houthi rule. Spokesperson for UN chief Ban Ki-moon said this decision by the Houthis “was not in line with the peace process and endangered the substantial progress made during the Kuwait talks."

An important piece in the New York Times describes what happens to those imprisoned in Guantanamo for years without trial or charge. Many of them have no affiliation with militant groups, yet some remain in custody for over a decade only to one day be transferred to a country completely foreign to them to rebuild their lives.

UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed proposed an extension to the peace talks after Hadi’s government threatened to withdraw. Kuwait announced the week before that the delegations had two weeks to reach a deal before Kuwait would no longer host them. Al Arabiya English reported that the warring parties may reconvene in Oman.

Sunday, July 31 Hadi’s delegation reportedly accepted a UN peace deal largely based on their government's original demands--requiring the Houthis to withdraw from seized territories and hand in their weapons. The Houthis rejected the agreement, demanding that a unity government be formed first. The peace deal stipulates that a political dialogue between the parties would only take place 45 days after the Houthis give up their weapons and territory.