June 27-July 3: IS attacks kill dozens, Kuwait talks adjourn for Eid

Monday, June 27Three bomb attacks by the Islamic State group on Yemeni government forces killed 38 and wounded 24 in Mukalla on Monday, according to medics and security sources.

The first explosion occurred as an attacker detonated his suicide vest at a checkpoint near Mukalla, while the second blast was from a car bomb at the city’s military intelligence headquarters. The last was an improvised explosive device which went off as soldiers were preparing to break fast for Ramadan.

Representatives from the Houthi delegation and the Hadi government announced plans to suspend talks in Kuwait in time for Eid al-Fitr, the end of the holy month of Ramadan. They will reportedly return to talks in mid-July.

One of the negotiators, a minister in Hadi’s government said "the return to the talks is meant to save face after reaching a deadlock."

The deadlock he is likely referring to is the refusal of the Houthis to meet the demands of the Hadi government and UN Security Resolution 2216 which would require them to relinquish their seized weapons and territory before a unity government is formed.

Tuesday, June 28 A Saudi-led airstrike in Houthi-controlled Ta’iz killed upwards of 25 people, including at least 10 civilians, according to security officials. The strike also wounded eight civilians. Most of the victims were shoppers or storekeepers in the area.

A report by Reuters explains how the UAE’s role in Yemen has evolved from targeting the Houthis to implementing what some see as an effective new strategy in counterterrorism. The UAE has apparently proven itself to be one of America's most important allies in fighting Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

“Retired General Anthony Zinni, former chief of U.S. Central Command, told Reuters the UAE was ‘a top military’ in the region and ‘exponentially more capable than its size might indicate...It has also shown the ability to hang in there despite casualties ... (The UAE) has proven its willingness to fight alongside the U.S. and coalitions.’”

Wednesday, June 29 Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International are calling for the removal of Saudi Arabia from the United Nations Human Rights Council due to the country’s “gross and systematic violations of human rights.” The groups accuse Saudi Arabia of obstructing justice for possible war crimes and demand that the country’s membership be revoked until it ends its “unlawful attacks in Yemen.”

Both groups, among a number of other organizations, have documented violations of humanitarian and international law committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, including the targeting of civilian areas and the use of internationally-banned cluster bombs.

Peace talks in Kuwait, which started two months ago, adjourned for two weeks for Eid al-Fitr, and are set to resume on July 15.

"The two delegations will use the coming two weeks to meet their respective leaderships," UN Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement.

"(They) will then return to Kuwait with practical recommendations on how to implement the necessary mechanisms that will enable them to sign a peace accord and thus end the conflict in Yemen."

Thursday, June 30 In response to the demand by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International that Saudi Arabia be suspended from the UN’s Human Rights Council, Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the council Faisal Trad said that his country is “keen” to abide by international law and assist humanitarian organizations.

"With regard to Yemen, Saudi Arabia and the coalition (are) keen to abide by international humanitarian law and apply the highest international rules of engagement which corresponds with international regulations," Ambassador Trad wrote.

Saudi Arabia was recently charged in a UN report with being the group responsible for the highest number of child deaths in Yemen in the past year, but was quickly removed after Saudi officials threatened to withdraw funding from UN-sponsored programs if it was not taken off the blacklist.

The Houthis and Hadi’s government have exchanged a total of more than 700 prisoners, including more than 50 children, since the start of the peace talks two months ago, the UN special envoy for Yemen said. Most of these prisoner exchanges have been coordinated by local and tribal officials. Details of each exchange, including the number released by each side, was not provided.

Friday, July 1 The Obama administration released on Friday internal estimates showing that up to 116 civilians have been killed during US strikes against suspected terrorists in the past seven years. The estimates, which have not previously been released, include strikes by manned and unmanned aircraft outside combat zones, such as Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, and Libya. Estimates by independent organizations of civilian casualties as a result of such strikes place the death toll much higher.

The number of civilians killed in strikes in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan were not announced by the government. Between 2,372 and 2,581 so-called “combatants” were killed in the non-combat zones over the same period.

The report comes as security officials and Yemeni tribesmen say that at least three suspected al-Qaeda militants were killed in a drone strike in Shabwa on Thursday.

Saturday, July 2 Seven Houthi fighters and three pro-government forces were killed in clashes in Nihm district, east of San’a, according to security officials.

Houthi-run Yemen News Agency said the violence erupted when Houthi forces "repulsed an attempt by pro-government forces to advance to Yam Mount, east of Nihm district.”

Al Jazeera reports on the 200,000 civilians impacted by the 15-month-long Houthi siege on Ta’iz. The city is experiencing a severe shortage of food, water, fuel, and medical supplies. Thirty-seven out of the 40 hospitals in Ta’iz have been forced to close and aid organizations say they are regularly prevented from delivering essential supplies to the city.

Sunday, July 3 Mareb Press reports that Yemen’s government has announced that, in the case of the Kuwait talks failing, peace will be imposed by force. Meanwhile, a prominent member of the Houthi delegation foresees a military escalation in the coming days.

“Spokesman for the Yemeni government Rajeh Badi said in an interview with Al Jazeera that the Houthi militias and forces loyal to ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh only understand the language of force, adding that the Yemeni government realized that the Houthis only came to Kuwait to legitimize the coup.”

A member of the Houthi delegation reportedly expects the military escalation during Eid al-Fitr, which would "aim to undo the progress of the Kuwait talks."