October 31-November 6: Parties tentatively consider peace deal under mounting pressure to end conflict

Monday, October 31At least 10,000 children in Yemen have died from preventable diseases since the war began in March 2015-- one of many disturbing statistics included in a recent statement by UNOCHA. The press release was also a plea to all parties to end the bloodshed and find an immediate political solution.

“Repeatedly over the past 19 months, the people of Yemen have been robbed of their lives, their hope and their right to live in dignity. Thousands have been killed, tens of thousands have been injured, more than three million have been forced to leave their homes, and seven million suffer the daily anxiety of not knowing where their next meal might come from.”

State department spokesperson John Kirby said in a daily press briefing that there are still no updates on the Saudi investigation into the October 8 funeral bombing, in which hundreds of civilians were killed or injured. “[The Saudis] acknowledged that mistakes had been made. But they are still working through that, and we look forward to hearing from them as they learn more and uncover more lessons learned about what happened there. So I don’t have an update...even if I did, it wouldn’t be for me to speak to it. It would be for the Saudi Government to speak to.”

A statement by US Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power called for an “immediate progress on three fronts [in Yemen]: an immediate cessation of hostilities; a humanitarian surge, the likes of which we haven’t seen in Yemen for the life of this conflict; and a prompt return to political talks.”

Reuters reports on Yemen’s north-south divide and the possibility of the country’s post-war fracture. As long as parties to the conflict cannot find a path to peace, let alone a path to a unified government, Yemen’s future remains uncertain.

"We realize that they have their own interests in supporting us because our forces are effective against the Houthis," a southern politician told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "They are worried that a break-up of Yemen into two states on their borders will lead to instability, but we know that separation is the only way to make a just peace."

A few Arabic language outlets reports on clashes in southeastern Ta'iz, which resulted in the deaths of ten Houthi fighters and one pro-government soldier.

The World Food Programme's Muhannad Hadi recently returned from Yemen, and describes in an interview with NPR the scenes of devastation and famine that he was faced with.

“The state of Yemen is broken...They feel that they are dying in silence. And they feel that they have been forgotten by the entire world.”

The report includes comments from former US ambassador to Yemen Barbara Bodine, who says the reason the US got involved with the war in Yemen was to facilitate the Iran deal, which Saudi Arabia clearly objected to.

“This is how we got into this. We need the Saudis for the Iran deal. Nobody anticipated this would last 18 months. No one anticipated the level of carnage...Now we are complicit in a fragile state being turned into a shattered state.”

VICE News also published a report on Yemen’s impending famine, including interviews with medical staff on the ground.

Tuesday, November 1 In a daily press briefing with state department spokesperson John Kirby, one journalist asked about the seemingly contradictory position of the US government on the war in Yemen; as the US assists the Saudi-led coalition yet claims to be seeking a peaceful political solution to the conflict. Kirby responded, stating repeatedly that the US is “on the side squarely of the Yemeni people,” but justified the coalition’s intervention by saying that “the Saudi Government has a right to defend itself and they are under attack almost every day from across that border. They have a right to defend themselves.”

Al Omgy Exchange, a firm accused of carrying out financial transactions with AQAP, has been placed on the US Treasury Department’s list of groups aiding terrorist organizations. Said Salih Abd-Rabbuh al-Omgy and Muhammad Salih Abd-Rubbuh al-Omgy are on the list as well for allowing AQAP to disperse funding throughout Yemen and receive deposits, including extortion payments from Yemeni businesses.

Monday’s comments by Samantha Powers at the UN have sparked criticism from US representative Ted Lieu and humanitarian organizations, who have pointed out US hypocrisy when it comes to condemning violence in Yemen.

"Ambassador Power's remarks, calling for an end to unlawful strikes that kill civilians and hit protected civilian objects, are certainly welcome. But the U.S. has repeatedly failed to acknowledge its own role providing vital support to those airstrikes by refueling coalition planes and continuing to supply Saudi Arabia with U.S. weapons," says Priyanka Motaparthy, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch.

Wednesday, November 2 Houthi forces have reportedly displaced 150 families from their homes near Ta’iz since clashes between the rebels and pro-government forces escalated on Monday.

Fifty families were evicted from the towns of al-Dayh and al-Rawd, west of Ta’iz, while 100 others were forced to leave al-Silw district in the east.

RT interviewed Catherine Shakdam, the Director of Programs at Shafaqna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies, to learn more about Saudi Arabia’s military goals in Yemen and the sources of funding that allow the conflict to continue.

Thursday, November 3 Time outlines four important points about the war in Yemen, including the impending humanitarian crisis, America’s role in the conflict, and the economic and political impact that will remain far into the future.

Coalition spokesperson Ahmed al-Asiri was interviewed by the BBC, where he listed reasons that Saudi Arabia is not to be blamed for the catastrophic situation in Yemen, adding that “Saudi Arabia will not allow Yemen to deteriorate into ‘a failed state like Libya.’”

Assailants of last Tuesday’s suspected piracy attack in the Red Sea were found to be carrying a “substantial amount of explosives,” the vessel’s owner says, raising suspicions that the incident was an attempted suicide attack.

The shipping company stated that "While the intentions of the attackers and the use of the explosives is unknown, the investigation findings indicate that the explosives would have been sufficient to have caused significant damage to the vessel...It appears, however, that when the skiff was approximately 20m (meters) from the vessel, the explosives detonated, destroying the skiff and ending the attack."

Whatever the motives were for the attack, increased fears of piracy in Red Sea shipping lanes will tighten delivery of critical fuel and supplies to Yemen.

Representative Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) sent a letter to Defense Secretary Ash Carter and Secretary of State John Kerry to inquire about an official’s recent comment that US support for the coalition does not include target selection and review.

“I find it deeply troubling that the U.S. apparently has no advanced knowledge of what targets will be struck by jets that are refueled by U.S. personnel with U.S. tankers,” Lieu wrote.

“The U.S. would appear to be violating LOAC and international standards by engaging in such direct military operations if U.S. personnel are not aware if targets are civilians or military, if the loss of life and property are disproportional, or if the operation is even militarily necessary...U.S. personnel are now at legal risk of being investigated and potentially prosecuted for committing war crimes.”

An anonymous senior diplomat at the United Nations told Reuters that Saudi Arabia appeared broadly to accept a peace plan initiative and had encouraged Hadi to do so as well.

"As far as I'm aware the Saudis have accepted the roadmap ... they have certainly done a very good job behind the scenes of encouraging Hadi to get closer on the spectrum of accepting it than he previously was," said the diplomat.

A reporter from The Intercept asked Saudi Ambassador to the US Prince Abdullah al-Saud if the kingdom will continue to use cluster bombs in Yemen, to which the ambassador replied, “This is like the question, ‘Will you stop beating your wife?’” He added that he was “not a politician,” and said that Saudi Arabia will continue to bomb the Houthis “no matter what it takes.”

Al Jazeera reports that thousands of Yemenis protested in Aden against the new peace plan proposed by UN Envoy Ould Cheikh Ahmed, citing its support of the rebels “power grab.” Photos from the protests, however, appear to show participants waving the flag of South Yemen, with signs promoting a path to southern independence.

The founder of a pro-southern independence group, Salah Haydara, spoke with Aden Al Ghad and explained the southern movement’s presence at these demonstrations. Haydara said that southerners support the legitimate government as long as it is in the interest of southern independence, adding “There is no legitimacy without the legitimacy of the southern people.”

Nasser al-Sakkaf reports on the uptick of robberies in Yemen’s cities, a result of the desperate situation that many citizens find themselves in.

One prisoner that al-Sakkaf interviewed said that he had “sold most of the equipment and furniture in my house, including the bottle of propane and the beds. My children were starving to death so I had only two choices: either to beg or to steal.”

Friday, November 4 The US Department of State announced that Secretary John Kerry will travel to Muscat on November 14 to meet with Sultan Qaboos and Foreign Minister Yusuf bin Alawi “to discuss Yemen and efforts to reach a peaceful settlement to the conflict there.  The Secretary will then travel to Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, on November 15 to meet with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed to discuss challenges facing the region.”

Yemen’s ousted president Saleh, now allied with the Houthis, has reportedly welcomed a peace plan proposed by the UN, commenting on social media that it is a “good basis for negotiations."

Abdullah al-Ibbi, who lost 27 members of his family during a Saudi airstrike on his home, spoke to the BBC about his devastating loss and his attempts to recover.

"Sometimes I sleep two, three hours and then I wake up and stay up until morning... I remember my children and my home...Our lives were humble but it was a quiet life, a good life, we were happy...we lost everything."

Maia Baldauf, the program and reporting officer for Mercy Corps in Yemen, writes for Huffington Post to describe life in San’a under airstrikes and raise awareness about the desperately-needed food and medical aid that millions of Yemenis are lacking.

“Currently, over 14 million people ― more than half the population ― are unsure of how they will provide food for themselves. More than 19 million people lack access to safe water. Some 3 million young children and pregnant and nursing women are acutely malnourished or in need of services to prevent acute malnutrition...The world needs to understand this is one of the most massive humanitarian crises in the world.”

The Boston Globe examines America’s role in Yemen’s war, both as a potential peacemaker and as a current supplier for many of the weapons used in Saudi Arabia’s continued airstrikes.

Saturday, November 5 The Huffington Post reports that Nujood Ali, the subject of the film, “I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced,” had met Hillary Clinton on a few occasions. The now 19-year-old has stated that she believes a Clinton presidency would mean a more peaceful Yemen.

“The moment I heard that she would be nominated as U.S. president, I thought things would definitely improve in Yemen. For sure.”

Hillary Clinton's position on the conflict in Yemen was subject to scrutiny last week when her national security advisor Michael Morell advocated for the US military to board Iranian vessels in international waters to demonstrate support for the Saudi coalition, a move that would be considered an act of war.

Vince Cable, a former Cabinet minister, says the UK defense ministry misinformed him about weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, leading the former business secretary to sign off on arms transfers. Cable said he was given assurances the UK would be granted oversight of where British-made weapons were used.

"My very clear understanding was that the equipment would be supplied to Saudi Arabia on the very clear basis that British personnel would have oversight of what the Saudi air force was doing, on the same basis as the Americans."

Overwhelming evidence indicates that both American and British-made weapons have been used in the commission of war crimes in Yemen.

Sunday, November 6 Wallead Yusuf Pitts Luqman, an American held in Yemen by Houthi forces for a year and a half, was released to Oman, according to a statement by US Secretary of State John Kerry.

Kerry thanked Oman’s Sultan Qaboos, adding, “We also recognize this positive gesture by the Houthis.”

Mareb Press reports that a Houthi delegation traveled from San’a to Muscat on Sunday. The reasons behind the visit are unclear, but is likely related to a recently proposed peace deal. US Secretary of State John Kerry will also be arriving in Muscat on November 14 to speak with officials.

An editorial in the Guardian calls for an end to Yemen’s war and a block of continued weapons transfers to Saudi Arabia. The article points out the absurdity and hypocrisy of American and British policy in the conflict:

“Half of the $115bn (£92bn) worth of weapons sales agreed under the Obama administration are still in the pipeline. Meanwhile, its ambassador to the UN, Samantha Power, has urged Riyadh to halt indiscriminate strikes. The UK, which has licensed £3.3bn worth of sales since the Yemen conflict began, boasts of increasing aid by £37m. The pledge would be laughable if it was not so shameful. By August, the damage caused by war already stood at an estimated $14bn. The aid will go only a short way to repairing that – and no sum can restore lost limbs or revive the dead.”