Operation Restoring Hope

April 23-30: Humanitarian situation worsens as war drags on

Over the last week, the press coverage has again spotlighted the countrywide humanitarian crisis as the Saudi warplanes above and the fierce battles on the ground continue to rage on in several of Yemen’s largest cities. Early last week, the second phase of the Saudi-led aerial campaign began, part of what the Saudis have dubbed “Operation Restoring Hope.” Two days later, the airstrikes resumed in the capital Sanʻa, and by the end of the week they hit a residential area to the northeast of the capital, killing at least 13 civilians. The runways of Sanʻa Airport, the country’s last operating airport, have been repeatedly hit in the face of the worsening humanitarian crisis. Aid agencies lost this only usable route and urgent flights for stranded Yemenis were put on hold. More than 5,000 Yemenis have reportedly been stranded abroad indefinitely.

As airstrikes and civil conflict continue, Yemenis are running out of necessary supplies, in desperate need of food, fuel and water. More than 1,200 people have been killed in the last month, while 300,000 have been internally displaced since the start of the conflict [editor’s note: roughly the same number again were already displaced before the current war started]. Three cities were declared “disaster areas,” while seven others are facing horrific humanitarian situations.

Across Yemen, at least 23 hospitals have been attacked, and 30 schools damaged or occupied by fighters of the warring parties, according to UNICEF. All schools and universities in the capital Sanʻa are still on hold.

Among several main cities, three have been witnessing the fiercest clashes between pro-Houthi/Saleh forces and their opponents over the few past weeks: Aden, Taʻiz and Marib.

In the southern port city of Aden, more than 50 people were killed last week. A two-hour respite was called for by aid workers so that bodies could be carted away in Khormaksar, where hundreds of families are trapped with scarce food and water, while electricity and fuel supplies are almost gone.

In the central city of Taʻiz, fighting has been intensified amid airstrikes as air cover for the pro-Hadi local fighters, while weapons were being airdropped for them to fend off their opponents.

In Marib, like in Taʻiz, pro-Hadi forces along with armed tribesmen are being given air cover while trying to fight off the pro-Houthi/Saleh forces that have surrounded the city from three sides [editor’s note: the term “pro-Hadi” is applied in some sources to forces in various parts of the country, but in fact things are not so clear-cut. In Taʻiz the forces opposing the Houthi-Saleh coalition seem to be mainly military units aligned with General ‘Ali Muhsin al-Ahmar and tribal levies associated with the Islah party. In Aden, by contrast, most of the resistance comes from locally-formed militias, most of which are tied to the Southern Movement. In Marib, local tribes are fighting the Houthi-Saleh forces to defend their own territory, but have no particular loyalty to the Hadi regime].

While the Houthis insist they will not return to dialogue unless “the Saudi aggression is completely stopped,” Yemeni political factions will reportedly hold a conference in Riyadh within two weeks.