Earlier this month, International Crisis Group began publishing a series of briefings entitled “Instruments of Pain: Conflict and Famine,” which calls attention to and examines the unfolding famines in Yemen, South Sudan, Nigeria and Somalia. The first of these briefings focuses on Yemen and the roots of Yemen’s food crisis in the ongoing conflict. Crisis Group calls for a halt to the plans for an assault on the Port of Hudaydah by the Saudi-led coalition and emphasizes that all parties to the conflict must enable the central bank to address the growing financial problems in the country, which must ultimately be solved by a ceasefire and a lasting political solution to the conflict.
This episode includes the first two installments in a new recurring feature we're calling the Wartime Journal. We’ve asked contributors in different parts of Yemen to record audio journal entries for us, conveying their own personal experience of Yemen’s ongoing war. Our first journal entry comes from Yemen’s capital, San’a.
Monday, September 12UN humanitarian coordinator Jamie McGoldrick says that he is deeply disturbed by “unrelenting attacks on civilians and on civilian infrastructure throughout Yemen by all parties to the conflict,” after Saturday’s coalition airstrike on a well in Arhab district killed 30 civilians.
Pro-government fighters are growing increasingly frustrated by the coalition’s inability to pay their salaries. Some soldiers are now being granted a few weeks leave from the army to find paid work elsewhere.
“The coalition had promised each recruit a minimum of about $270 a month — the prewar salary of a university professor with a master’s degree. But once on the front lines, according to several officers, most of the young men found themselves penniless for months on end.”
Three soldiers in Qatar’s armed forces were killed during operations in Yemen on Monday. Doha News later reported the soldiers’ names, but noted that their nationalities are unknown, as Qatar’s army includes soldiers from other countries.
According to Al Jazeera, Qatar has sent 1,000 ground troops to Yemen to support the coalition.
Tuesday, September 13 More shocking images of starving, emaciated Yemeni children are being circulated, drawing some attention to the country's critical food shortages. ABC and other outlets published these pictures along with statements from aid organizations.
“Out of the 1.5 million children who are suffering from malnutrition, according to UNICEF, 370,000 suffer from severe acute malnutrition, a life-threatening condition that requires urgent treatment.”
The Saudi-led coalition bombed an industrial site in San’a, targeting plants making pipes and building materials. The coalition claims the plant was being used to manufacture missile parts. The managing director of an Italian company affiliated with the factory says that the strike caused a fire that destroyed half the premises and resulted in several million dollars worth of damage. There were no casualties.
A US drone strike in Bayda province on Tuesday killed five suspected members of al-Qaeda, according to Yemeni security officials and a tribal chief. The alleged militants were traveling by car in the town of Rada.
Wednesday, September 14 Military sources told AFP that 12 Houthi fighters and three pro-government fighters were killed during fighting in Lahj and Ta’iz provinces, including clashes in a mountainous area in southwestern Yemen near the Bab al-Mandeb strait.
Thursday, September 15 Houthi forces have seized two oil tankers at the port of al-Hudaydah due to a payment dispute earlier this month. The two ships, owned by Singaporean company Ocean Tankers, have been held at the Red Sea port for months, according to Reuters. The seizure stems from a disagreement between Yemen Oil and Gas Company and CruGas, the company’s regular supplier. The seizure could disrupt the import of fuel and other essential goods to Yemen if companies see the country as too risky to trade with.
Forty fighters, including 27 Houthis and 13 pro-government forces, were killed during clashes near Ta’iz, says spokesperson for the government forces Colonel Sadeq al-Hassani. AFP reported the comments by the spokesperson, but the death toll could not be independently verified.
An important piece in the Guardian outlines a division in British parliament over arms sales to Saudi Arabia. Crispin Blunt, the Conservative chairman of the foreign affairs select committee, blocked a vote on the suspension of weapons sales to the kingdom after two select committees issued a joint report calling for an inquiry into alleged war crimes committed by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen.
The committee says Saudi Arabia is “obstructing efforts to investigate the alleged violations,” adding that sales by the UK may have “the effect of conferring legitimacy” on Saudi Arabia’s actions.
Doctors Without Borders issued a statement on increased fighting in Yemen and the impact it has on civilian access to healthcare. The resumption of intense airstrikes across the country means that seeking medical care is now much more hazardous.
“The indirect victims of conflict are numerous. They include people who are unable to access medical facilities for treatment – for example, patients requiring blood transfusions or women requiring emergency caesarean sections. Even where a medical facility is functioning, it will likely lack the capacity to provide medical care due to shortages of key supplies, personnel or medicine, or have no fuel to run its generator. Some health facilities are simply too dangerous to reach, so people have to make do without.”
In Thursday’s press briefing, deputy spokesperson for the US state department Mark Toner addressed reports that Under Secretary of Political Affairs Tom Shannon met with Houthi representatives in Muscat this week to present a US proposal of a cessation of hostilities. Although Toner did not confirm Shannon’s travel to Muscat, the spokesperson said that the proposal is part of efforts by Secretary of State John Kerry to forge an agreement between the warring parties.
Friday, September 16 A survey conducted by human rights advocates and published in the Guardian shows that one in three Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen have hit civilian sites, such as schools and hospitals. Despite these findings, which support the accusation that the coalition is in violation of humanitarian law, the UK government is unlikely to suspend its arms sales to the kingdom. Since the war began in March 2015, the UK has sold 3.3 billion pounds worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia.
Al-Hudaydah’s residents, especially children, are facing famine and a lack of essential medical aid due to the ongoing war and blockade. In June, the UN listed the coastal city as the area of Yemen with “the highest malnutrition prevalence.”
“Here you won’t find a school, a medical center ... drinking water is from the wells. They are already deprived of everything,” said Ibrahim al-Kaali, a local social worker.
Yemen’s al-Islah party renounced the Muslim Brotherhood in a statement posted on its Facebook page: “No organizational or political relations link us to the international organization of Muslim Brotherhood, especially that the priorities of al-Islah as a political party are patriotic, and all the efforts exerted with its Yemeni partners lie in ending Yemen’s current crisis…”
A leader of al-Islah told Asharq al-Awsat that there has been “political confusion” in the region regarding the party’s connection with the Muslim Brotherhood.
A source close to the Houthi negotiating team in Oman says that US Under Secretary of Political Affairs Tom Shannon presented a proposal for a ceasefire in Yemen to Houthi representatives last week. The source did not disclose details of the proposal, but the US state department says it is an “extension of efforts” made by Kerry last month.
The Houthi negotiating team has been stuck in Oman since leaving Kuwait negotiations in early August. The group was prevented from returning to San'a by the Saudi-led coalition, which controls Yemen’s airspace. Saudi authorities say, however, that they will now allow the team to return to the capital.
Saturday, September 17 Hadi’s exiled government says that it will not enter into another round of peace talks with the Houthis until there are “clear assurances” that the governing council in San’a, formed by the Houthis and former president Saleh, has been dissolved.
Sunday, September 18 Hadi has ordered the relocation of the headquarters of the Central Bank of Yemen from San’a to Aden and has appointed Finance Minister Monasser al-Quaiti as the bank’s new head. The move is an attempt by Hadi’s exiled government to regain control over the country’s most important financial institution.
Last month, the government requested that international financial institutions prevent bank officials from accessing funds overseas, in the hopes of putting economic pressure on the Houthis. Restricted access to funds would also impact millions of Yemeni citizens, including teachers and doctors.