Following last month’s failed peace talks in Geneva, the past week started with renewed efforts by UN special envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed to achieve a humanitarian pause during the holy month of Ramadan. Last week the envoy met with the exiled government in the Saudi capital Riyadh, where a seven-point proposal was tendered; on Sunday Ahmed arrived in Sanʻa to discuss the proposal with Houthi and GPC leaders.
But a Scud missile, which was fired late on Tuesday night at a Saudi airbase outside Riyadh, added new tension to the process of the political negations. Saudi forces have traded missile attacks across the border with Houthi-Saleh units, which have also carried out hit-and-run assaults on Saudi military sites outside Jaizan and Najran cities near the boundary. The Houthi leadership reportedly refused the exiled government’s first cease-fire proposal, which called for the deployment of regional observers.
Toward the end of the week, the UN—along with both US State Department and EU officials—attempted to put pressure on Saudi Arabia to reach a deal. But Saudi airstrikes intensified in several cities, where dozens of civilians have been killed, a move that was seen as a Saudi response to the UN-backed efforts. The capital Sanʻa has since been hit by heavier bombardment, after a lull of nearly five days. On Monday, a Saudi airstrike reportedly hit a public market in Lahj, just north of Aden, killing 45 civilians and injuring dozens more.
Over the weekend, Houthi delegates in the Omani capital, Muscat, met with the UN envoy; “a humanitarian pause was discussed,” according to press accounts. On Sunday, the Houthi supporters in Sanʻa staged a mass rally, condemning “the Saudi aggression and the UN’s careless position on the humanitarian situation,” hours after Special Envoy Ahmed arrived at the city’s international airport.
While the Houthis mull over forming a new government or a presidential council, Saleh’s GPC party and the Yemeni Socialist Party have both refused such a move.