September 5-11: Increased fighting before Eid, senators push ahead with joint resolution

Monday, September 5Houthi forces raided the San’a office of Al-Saeedah TV channel on September 4th, abducting its director, Mukhdar al-Qadasi. Some outlets are reporting that al-Qadasi was transported to a police station in al-Hasbah area of northern San’a. Although Al-Saeedah is primarily an entertainment channel, it occasionally includes news reports and political programs. The raiding of Al-Saeedah comes amidst a wider crackdown on journalists and news outlets in Yemen.

During a bilateral meeting at a G20 summit in Hangzhou, China, Prime Minister Theresa May voiced her concerns to Saudi leaders about civilian casualties in Yemen. Meanwhile, international humanitarian organizations are putting pressure on the UK to halt arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Official government figures show that the UK is the second largest arms dealer in the world, with many of the sales contributing to deadly conflicts in the Middle East. Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, however, defended the weapons deals, saying that violations of humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia have not been proven.

Following a visit to Baghdad by a Houthi delegation last Monday, Yemen’s exiled government requested a clarification of Iraq’s position on the governing council recently formed by the Houthis and Saleh’s GPC. Houthi spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam said that Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi and Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jaafari have recognised the governing council, while the Yemeni government said it considers the visit “a violation of UN Security Council resolution 2216.” 

Prosecutors are alleging that Brazilian weapons manufacturer, Forjas Taurus, sold guns to a Yemeni arms trafficker who funnelled them into the ongoing war, in violation of international sanctions. Two former executives of the company were charged in May with shipping thousands of handguns to smuggler Fares Mohammed Hassan Mana'a in 2013. The available details of the case are outlined in a report by Reuters.

Aden’s oil refinery resumed operations on Sunday after being shut for more than a year. Although the refinery is operating at half of its previous capacity, it will now be able to supply power stations in Aden, a city hit with severe power cuts due to the war.

Tuesday, September 6 US Central Command released a statement on three separate strikes carried out in Shabwa province between August 24th and September 4th. The statement claims that 13 members of al-Qaeda were killed and one injured in these strikes.

In an exclusive interview with the Telegraph, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called for continued British support for the war in Yemen as a means to protect the West from terror attacks launched by AQAP. The minister defended the war as “legitimate”, saying that “many of the claims being made about civilian casualties are not accurate.” Al-Jubeir added that post-Brexit Britain will see the forging of new trade relations with Saudi Arabia, "including more than $2 trillion worth of investment opportunities."

More than 60 lawmakers in the US House are fighting to delay the sale of $1.15 billion worth of weapons and military equipment to Saudi Arabia. Due to numerous accusations of war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, the bipartisan group is asking that the White House withdraw its request for congressional approval of the sale until Congress has an opportunity to debate the arms transfer.

Wednesday, September 7 Yemen’s Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi told the German Council on Foreign Relations that the international community needs to step up its support of the campaign against the Houthis. "Above all, we need more pressure on the militias so that they take part in the peace process,” al-Mekhlafi added.

The UK Committees on Arms Export Controls say that it is highly likely that British-made weapons have been used to violate international humanitarian law in Yemen. Members of Parliament are calling on the government to halt weapons sales to Saudi Arabia until violations have been investigated.

The Guardian compiled a list of six major coalition airstrikes in Yemen since January. These strikes resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and include attacks on an MSF hospital, a school, a food factory, and a crowded market.

National Counterterrorism Center chief Nick Rasmussen said at a security symposium in D.C. that the United States is struggling to contain al-Qaeda in Yemen. As reported by the Washington Times, “the biggest hurdle facing the American intelligence officials is their lack of visibility into the war-torn nation.” Rasmussen’s comments come after Tuesday’s report by CentCom that claims that US strikes in Yemen “continue to diminish AQAP's presence in the region.”

Thursday, September 8 US Senators Chris Murphy, Al Franken, Rand Paul, and Mike Lee introduced a joint resolution of disapproval to block the sale of $1.15 billion worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia.

“In Yemen, a Saudi coalition of fighters is unjustly killing civilians while at the same time not doing enough to address terrorism. This is dangerous for the Middle East, for our other allies, and for our nation, which is why I’m helping to introduce this bipartisan resolution,” said Franken (D-Minn.).

The introduction of the joint resolution allows Senators Paul, Murphy, Franken, and Lee, along with other members of Congress, to force a vote on blocking the Saudi arms sale.

Robert Fisk writes for the Independent about Saudi Arabia’s urgent, yet underreported, financial crisis that has been preventing the government from paying construction companies and foreign workers. As Fisk reports, the downfall of the Saudi economy is frequently attributed to the sharp drop in oil prices, but those wishing to understand the shift in the kingdom’s economy should also look to the “wasteful and hopeless war in Yemen.”

Three former soldiers involved in a US drone program have decided to support Yemeni man Faisal bin Ali Jaber in his lawsuit against President Obama and other US officials. Jaber filed the suit to find out the truth behind the covert 2012 US drone strike that killed his nephew and brother-in-law. Following the strike, Jaber said he was handed a plastic bag by Yemeni government officials with $100,000 in freshly minted $100 bills.

“Jaber, who appealed the lower court ruling on Aug. 22, said in an interview he has not spent the $100,000 and does not want more money from the U.S. government. He wants an apology.”

A Saudi airstrike on a residential building in Amran city north of San’a killed nine civilians, including four children. “Residents said the building was struck three times while an adjacent but empty school was hit twice. No one was hurt in the school which was empty as the school year has yet to start.”

The United Nations Security Council is urging parties to Yemen’s conflict to recommit to a cessation of hostilities and to immediately resume talks “without preconditions and in good faith with the UN Special Envoy.”

Human Rights Watch is calling on the Houthis and forces allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh to immediately cease using land mines, which have killed at least 18 people in Ta’iz in one year alone.

“In June, Dr. Suhail al-Dabhani, general director at Taizz’s al-Rawda Hospital, told HRW that since late April, the hospital had treated 50 people – 30 men, 8 women, and 12 children – who had one or more limbs amputated and who he believed had been wounded by landmines.”

Friday, September 9 Among the millions of people displaced from Syria, thousands fled to Yemen in search of relative stability and a more secure economy. Now those refugees are being subjected to a second war in their new home.

Many Syrians in Yemen have become destitute and hope to seek refuge in Europe, but most will stay in Yemen - and without any aid to speak of.”

“We will never return and see anything beautiful; our situation is like our Yemeni brothers, because our country is at war and here there is also war. War doesn't forgive." one Syrian refugee in Yemen told Deutsche Welle.

Crystal van Leeuwen, an MSF nurse who recently returned from seven months in Yemen, writes about the state of healthcare in the country.

“Healthcare in Yemen has suffered, whether it’s preventative healthcare such as vaccination programs for children, primary and secondary healthcare, or tertiary care such as treatment for cancer or chronic diseases. The healthcare infrastructure itself has also been heavily affected by the war. Throughout Yemen, hospitals and medical centres are not being afforded the protection they have under international humanitarian law. Many hospitals and health centres have been damaged or destroyed by airstrikes, shelling or shooting.”

Sunday, September 11 Coalition warplanes targeted workers drilling for water in the Arhab area north of San’a, killing a total of 21 civilians in two separate airstrikes. The first airstrike killed four workers. When locals rushed to the scene to help the victims, the warplanes struck again, killing over 11. Residents say the coalition may have mistook the drilling machine for a rocket launcher, causing them to target the site. Coalition spokesman General Ahmed al-Asseri said "all operations in the area were targeting Houthi positions and members."

Ten soldiers were killed and 14 others wounded when a suicide bomber drove a car into an army position near a police station in Abyan province. The attack is suspected to have been carried out by al-Qaeda.

Mareb Press reports that the Saudi-led coalition has prevented the Houthi delegation from returning to San’a for the fourth time since peace talks ended in Kuwait a month ago. The delegation remains stuck in Oman and some fear that this move by the coalition will discourage Houthi participation in future peace talks.