November 21-27: Little hope for renewed ceasefire as airstrikes and clashes resume

Monday, November 21Last week’s 48-hour ceasefire ended midday on Monday and will not be renewed, according to the Saudi-led coalition. Both the coalition and the Houthis claim violations were committed by the other side. Although airstrikes were briefly halted in the capital, Ta’iz continued to experience fighting.

Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asseri claimed that there were 563 breaches inside Yemen and 163 across the border in Saudi Arabia. He told AFP that "There is no respect [for the truce], only violations...There have been more people killed in Taiz and more attacks with surface-to-surface missiles, so automatically the conditions are not there [for an extension]."

A spokesman for Houthi-allied forces, Brigadier General Sharaf Luqman said that coalition fighter jets "and their mercenaries" had been responsible for 114 violations over two days, dropping cluster weapons and shelling areas near the Saudi border.

Mohammed Rafik Naji, a Yemeni man living in New York City, was arrested and charged for attempting to provide support to the Islamic State group

According to the criminal complaint, in March 2015, Naji flew to Turkey to join Islamic State in Yemen. He returned to New York in September 2015, flying from Djibouti.

Tuesday, November 22 At least 19 people were killed in clashes between pro-government and Houthi forces near Ta’iz and the coastal town of Midi.

Warning of the deadly fighting in Ta’iz, ICRC head in Yemen Alexandre Faite said that "Sniper fire and indiscriminate shelling has trapped civilians. Dead bodies are in the streets and people are unable to attend to their most basic needs. The situation is desperate.”

Unnamed security sources revealed to Reuters details of weapons stockpiles that the Houthis are believed to have access to, many of them Soviet-era missiles. The arms include Scud missiles, shorter-range Tochka and anti-ship missiles, and unguided Grad and Katyusha rockets, along with homemade rockets.

The UN peace plan has called for the Houthis to relinquish these weapons and if the rebels do not comply there is a concern that the group will become “a permanently armed enclave.”

"When the Houthis seized (the capital) Sanaa, they assumed total control of state institutions, key posts in the army and all the missiles," a senior Yemeni security official said."Relinquishing the security apparatus will be the most important step toward what the country needs most - putting the state back together.”

An article in The Week discusses the US role in the war in Yemen and what president-elect Trump will need to do to end the conflict.

“...the United States does not have to continue exacerbating the situation. It's an immoral and unjust war on a population that does not threaten the United States.”

“First, [Trump] should try an aggressive push to get Saudi Arabia to drop its support for Hadi and reduce their expectations for shaping and controlling a post-war government in Yemen. If the Saudis do not want to do that, the U.S. can and should cease all military support operations for Saudi Arabia in the war zone.”

Colonel Abdul Rahim Aldhalaa was shot and killed (link includes disturbing photos) by a suspected member of the Islamic State in Aden’s Mansourah district, near Aldhalaa’s home. The execution-style killing was filmed by the assailant with a headcam.

Wednesday, November 23 Amnesty International reports that anti-Houthi forces in Ta’iz have been harassing and intimidating hospital staff, demanding priority treatment and medical supplies while attempting to punish facilities that have provided care to Houthi fighters. The latest incident involved Popular Resistance forces raiding and shutting down al-Thawra hospital, the biggest public hospital in Ta’iz, apparently in retaliation for staff providing emergency medical treatment to three injured Houthi fighters. The assailants also tried to drag the two surviving fighters out of intensive care and recovery units, but were prevented by medical staff.

“Hundreds of times [anti-Houthi fighters] threatened us and interfered with the hospital’s administration and our decision-making. When we stand up to them, they threaten us with being killed,” said an administrative worker who was detained by pro-government gunmen.

The forces have also set up military positions near al-Thawra hospital, despite pleas of doctors and civilians to not do so. The proximity of tanks and military equipment makes the hospital a more likely target for Houthi fire.

Rima Kamal, the Communication Coordinator and Spokesperson for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, writes about the human suffering that she witnessed during her year in Yemen, including a Ta’iz resident named Saddam who is now forced to beg on the streets after losing his home and family.

“During recent fighting...Saddam’s house was shelled while he and his family were sheltering inside. His wife and only daughter were severely injured in the bombardment and, unable to escape, forced to endure a slow and painful death. Saddam had desperately wanted to take them to the hospital, but he would have had to carry them on a donkey amidst sniper bullets and shelling.”

A Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Hajjah province killed 12 civilians traveling in a pickup truck to a local market. There was no immediate comment from the coalition as to why the truck was targeted.

Stephen Twigg, chair of the UK’s international development select committee, speaks to the Guardian about trade, the refugee crisis, and British arms sales to Saudi Arabia that are used in Yemen.

“...while the UK has a fine record of delivering humanitarian aid in many cases, the trouble in Yemen is that a significant part of that aid is relieving a situation that is a consequence of an armed conflict, where we are arming one side of that conflict. There needs to be an independent United Nations investigation of alleged violations of international humanitarian law by both sides. In the meantime we shouldn’t be selling arms to Saudi Arabia that might be used in Yemen.”

Thursday, November 24 Yemen’s port of al-Hudaydah was once the source for 70 percent of the country’s food supplies and humanitarian aid. That amount is now cut in half due to the conflict, which early on saw the Saudi-led coalition destroy the port’s vital equipment. The lack of imports means not only a shortage of critical food and aid, but also an absence of work, exacerbating al-Hudaydah’s emergency food situation.

Saturday, November 26 The Houthis have managed to hold on to Yemen’s capital, but the city is suffering greatly and presents challenges that the Houthis are not prepared to tackle. In a recent trip to San’a, New York Times’ journalists saw that the rebels’ insurgency “forged the group into a strong fighting force but gave it few skilled politicians, intellectuals or technocrats.”

Houthi spokesman Sharaf Luqman acknowledged these difficulties, saying that the front lines had scarcely moved in the past year.

“We have lost everything, our infrastructure, and we have nothing left to lose,” he said. “Now it is a long war of attrition.”

Sunday, November 27 Chief of staff of the Iran’s armed forces Hossein Baqeri commented that his country may seek to set up naval bases in Yemen and Syria, saying “We need distant bases, and it may become possible one day to have bases on the shores of Yemen or Syria, or bases on islands or floating (bases)...Is having distant bases less than nuclear technology? I say it is worth dozens of times more."

Saleh al-Samad, the Houthis' political council chief, responded in a statement on Facebook that "Not one inch of Yemen's land or waters will be forfeited to any foreign party...whether a friend or an enemy."

Former president Ali Abdullah Saleh submitted a request to the UN Security Council to leave Yemen to visit Cuba and pay his respects to the recently deceased Fidel Castro and his family.

"President Ali Abdullah Saleh...has requested the United Nations Security Council to grant him permission to travel to the Republic of Cuba and to Fidel Castro's family on the passing of the great revolutionary icon of Cuba, the last of the twentieth century's heroes and the pioneer of the liberation movements who fought against imperialism and retrograde feudalism," said a statement on the Facebook page of Saleh's GPC party.