Yemen Truce A Step Toward Broader Peace Deal – UN Envoy

A protester holds a Yemeni flag-themed placard in Parliament Square in London on July 5, 2020, as she demonstrates against the continued conflict in Yemen. - Yemen has been locked in conflict since the Huthis took control of Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north. The crisis escalated when the Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year to support Yemen's internationally-recognised government. Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced in what the United Nations has called the world's worst humanitarian disaster. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)
A protester holds a Yemeni flag-themed placard in Parliament Square in London on July 5, 2020, as she demonstrates against the continued conflict in Yemen. – Yemen has been locked in conflict since the Huthis took control of Sanaa in 2014 and went on to seize much of the north.  disaster. (Photo by JUSTIN TALLIS / AFP)

A renewed two-month truce in war-torn Yemen that has given the population a sense of normalisation is the first step toward a broader peace settlement, the United Nations special envoy said Friday.

The truce “has delivered some humanitarian respite to the population that is unprecedented in terms of the history of the conflict, and from that point of view, it also provides us with scope and breathing space for engaging on a political settlement”, Swedish diplomat Hans Grundberg told AFP in an interview.

“The truce is the first step towards a broader settlement,” he said on the sidelines of the Yemen International Forum in Stockholm, a conference attended by Yemeni political actors, experts and representatives of a host of civil society organisations.

The Yemeni government and Huthi rebels agreed earlier this month to extend the truce which went into effect in April and significantly reduced the intensity of fighting in a conflict the UN says has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands and left millions on the brink of famine.

The country has been gripped by conflict since the Iran-backed Huthi rebels took control of the capital Sanaa in 2014, triggering a Saudi-led military intervention in support of the beleaguered government the following year.

Under the truce, commercial flights have resumed from Sanaa airport to Amman and Cairo and oil tankers have been able to dock in the lifeline port of Hodeida, which is in rebel hands, in an attempt to ease fuel shortages.

“The truce provides us with steps that normalise life in certain small areas for the Yemeni population, and that I think is both important, but also symbolic,” Grundberg said.

“The obvious wish that I have is that this normalisation, not only on the airport but on all other issues that we’re engaging on, continues”.

A provision in the truce agreement for the rebels to ease their siege of Yemen’s third-biggest city Taez has yet to be implemented, and the government has demanded roads to the city be opened.

“We have been engaging in direct negotiations for the last two weeks in Yemen on this issue,” Grundberg said.

He said there had been “steps forward” but provided no time frame for a possible resolution to the issue.

“We have seen both sides coming with proposals to us, wanting to see a solution on the matter”, but “we haven’t reached a solution on the matter yet”.

“Right now we have a proposal on the table that I do hope can deliver.”

First Commercial Flight In 6 Years Leaves Yemen’s Rebel-Held Capital

Technical and service staff surround the first Yemen Airways flight in six years on the tarmac of Sanaa airport in the Yemeni capital, on May 16, 2022. – (Photo by MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP)

 

The first commercial flight in nearly six years took off from Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Monday, a major step forward in a peace process that has provided rare relief from conflict.

The Yemenia plane carrying 126 passengers, including hospital patients needing treatment abroad and their relatives, took off from Sanaa for the Jordanian capital Amman just after 9:00 am (0600 GMT), AFP journalists saw.

Before take-off, the plane with red-and-blue tail livery taxied through an honour guard of two fire trucks spraying jets of water. It landed in Amman before 0900 GMT.

Sanaa’s airport has been closed to commercial traffic since August 2016 because of air strikes by the Saudi-led military coalition, who are fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

“I’m so happy with the opening of Sanaa airport,” said Lutfiyah, a wheelchair-bound passenger who did not want to give her full name. “Today is a day of celebration, and I hope that it remains open.”

Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been wracked with war since the coalition stepped in to support the government in 2015, a year after the Huthis seized control of the capital.

According to UN figures, more than 150,000 people have died in the violence and millions have been displaced, creating the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

But a truce has been in place since April 2, coinciding with the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Five days after it took effect, Yemen’s Saudi-based president handed his powers to a leadership council tasked with holding peace talks with the rebels.

– ‘Stepping stone towards peace’ –

Resuming flights from Sanaa, working to reopen roads to the rebel-besieged city of Taez and allowing fuel tankers into the Huthi-held port of Hodeida — a lifeline for Yemen — were all part of the truce agreement.

UN special envoy Hans Grundberg called Monday’s flight an “important and long-awaited step”. The agreement provides for two return flights to Amman and Cairo.

“I hope this provides some relief to the Yemenis who need to seek medical treatment abroad, pursue education and business opportunities, or reunite with loved ones,” he said in a statement.

While fuel tankers have docked in Hodeida and flights have now resumed from Sanaa, the main routes into Taez remain cut off.

Erin Hutchinson, Yemen country director for the Norwegian Refugee Council aid agency, called the flight “a stepping stone towards a lasting peace for Yemen”.

“The long overdue reopening of the airport was one of the major objectives of the truce,” she said in a statement.

“If the parties to the conflict continue to work together to operate regular flights in and out of Sanaa, they can help save thousands of lives, prevent premature deaths, and support the country’s economy.”

The inaugural flight under the truce was planned for April 24 from Sanaa to Amman but had to be scrapped after Yemenia said it did not receive the necessary permits.

Each side blamed the other for the hold-up, while the United Nations called for a quick resolution to the impasse.

Last week Yemen’s government said it would allow citizens in rebel-held areas to travel on Huthi-issued passports, removing a barrier to the flights.

The government has agreed “during the armistice period to allow the Yemeni people who were held hostage to the (Huthis) the opportunity to travel through Sanaa airport, with passports issued by Huthi-controlled areas,” a Yemeni official told AFP.

12 ‘Hurt’ In Yemen Rebel Drone Attack On Saudi Airport

Yemeni pro-government fighters man a position near al-Muhsam camp during fighting to drive the pro-Iran Huthi rebels from the area of Harad, in Yemen’s Hajjah province on February 4, 2022. Dozens of Yemeni pro-government fighters have been killed in a new offensive to take a rebel-held city, loyalist sources said, following a surge in violence including missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates. AFP

 

Twelve people were injured by falling debris Thursday as the Saudi military blew up a Yemeni rebel drone targeting an airport close to the border, officials said.

Fragments fell to the ground after the interception of the drone over Abha International Airport, which has previously been targeted in similar assaults by the Iran-backed insurgents.

The Huthis claimed responsibility for the attack in a tweet, saying they had targeted an airport “used for military action against Yemen” and warning citizens to “stay away” from such sites.

The United States was quick to condemn the attack, and pledged to work with Saudi Arabia to hold the Huthis “accountable”.

The Huthis, fighting a Saudi-led coalition since 2015, have frequently launched drone attacks at targets in the kingdom including airports and oil installations.

In recent weeks, they have also launched deadly cross-border attacks for the first time against fellow coalition member, the United Arab Emirates, after suffering a series of battlefield defeats at the hands of UAE-trained pro-government forces.

“Saudi defence forces destroyed a drone launched towards Abha International Airport,” the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA) said.

The SPA said “12 civilians” were hurt when the unmanned aircraft was intercepted, including citizens of Bangladesh, India, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka, as well as two Saudis.

‘War Crime’

In response, the Saudi-led coalition said it would strike positions from which the Huthis launch drones in Sanaa, the rebel-held capital of Yemen.

“We ask civilians in Sanaa to evacuate civilian sites used for military purposes for the next 72 hours,” it said, quoted by SPA.

“As a result of the interception process, some shrapnel of the drone was scattered after its interception inside the internal perimeter of the airport,” coalition spokesman Brigadier General Turki al-Maliki told SPA.

He said Abha was a “civilian airport that is protected under international humanitarian law” and accused the rebels of a “war crime”.

President Joe Biden’s national security advisor Jake Sullivan said the “United States strongly condemns today’s terrorist attack”.

On Wednesday, Biden reaffirmed in a phone call with Saudi King Salman the “US commitment to support Saudi Arabia in the defence of its people and territory” from Huthi attacks.

UAE on Alert

Border provinces of Saudi Arabia have come under frequent drone or missile attack by the rebels, in what the Huthis say is retaliation for a deadly bombing campaign carried out by coalition aircraft against rebel-held areas.

Most have been safely intercepted by Saudi air defences, but in late December an attack on Jizan province on the Red Sea coast saw two people killed and seven wounded.

In December, the coalition said the Huthis had fired more than 400 ballistic missiles and launched over 850 attack drones at Saudi Arabia in the past seven years, killing a total of 59 civilians.

The UAE has also been on alert since a drone and missile attack killed three oil workers in Abu Dhabi on January 17.

The attack was the first deadly assault on the UAE claimed by the Huthis, opening a new phase in the Yemeni war and puncturing the Gulf state’s image as a regional safe haven.

The UAE-trained Giants Brigades has this year inflicted heavy losses on the Huthis, disrupting their efforts to seize Marib city, the government’s last major stronghold in the rebel-dominated north.

Yemen’s civil war broke out in 2014 when the Huthis seized Sanaa, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene the following year to prop up the internationally recognised government.

Hundreds of thousands of people have been killed directly or indirectly in the conflict, while millions have been displaced in what the UN calls the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis.

On Thursday, the Norwegian Refugee Council said civilian deaths and injuries in the war have almost doubled since UN human rights monitors were controversially removed in October.

“The removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations,” NRC’s Yemen country director Erin Hutchinson said.

Dozens Killed As Fighting Rages Around Yemen City

Fighters affiliated with Yemen’s separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) man a position as they deploy amid tensions in the southern port city of Aden, on February 3, 2022, after Washington announced sending a warship and fighter jets to help defend its Gulf allies as conflict with Yemeni rebels intensifies. (Photo by Saleh Al-OBEIDI / AFP)

 

Dozens of Yemeni pro-government fighters have been killed in a new offensive to take a rebel-held city, loyalist sources said on Tuesday, following a surge in violence including missile attacks on the United Arab Emirates.

Thirty-two soldiers have died and at least 100 have been wounded in three days of fighting to drive the Iran-backed rebels from Haradh, north of the capital Sanaa and near the Saudi border, the sources said.

Yemen has been embroiled in a civil war between the government — supported by a Saudi-led military coalition — and the Iran-backed Huthis, who control much of the north, since 2014.

The latest clashes come after the Huthi rebels, after suffering territorial defeats to UAE-trained troops, killed three oil workers in a series of drone and missile attacks on Abu Dhabi.

Fighting was still raging around Haradh on Tuesday, the pro-government sources said, adding that the loyalists have besieged the area but are yet to seize the city.

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One loyalist source said at least 56 rebels were killed in the fighting and accompanying coalition air strikes. The Huthis rarely report casualties in their ranks.

The Yemeni conflict has intensified in recent weeks, with the coalition and loyalist forces launching a series of offensives to recover territory lost to the rebels further south.

Meanwhile, the Huthis have stepped up their missile and drone attacks on neighbouring Saudi Arabia and have launched similar assaults on the United Arab Emirates, a member of the military coalition.

– Drone attacks –

General Frank McKenzie, commander of the US Central Command who is in Abu Dhabi as part of efforts to bolster UAE defences, said US forces were looking at ways to combat the rebel’s low-tech, low-flying drones, which are notoriously hard to spot and intercept.

“We are working with our partners here in the region and with the industry back in the United States to develop solutions that would work against drones,” McKenzie told the official WAM news agency.

“We would like to work against drones what we call ‘left of launch’, (which means) before they can be launched… And if you can’t do that, you will certainly be able to shoot them down as they reach their intended target.

“In all of those areas we’re working with our friends internationally as well as with industries in the United States to become more effective at that.”

The UAE has also used the US-built THAAD (Terminal High Altitude Area Defence) system to combat rebel missiles, while Abu Dhabi-based US forces fired Patriot interceptors to help thwart one attack.

Meanwhile the US has sent a guided-missile destroyer, the USS Cole, and will dispatch a squadron of fighter jets to help fend off attacks on the wealthy Gulf country.

The USS Cole, targeted in a deadly Al-Qaeda bombing in Yemen in 2000, will “patrol the waters of the UAE”, while the state-of-the-art F-22 fighter jets will arrive “over the next week or so”, McKenzie said.

The rebel attacks on the UAE have added a new dimension to Yemen’s long-running war, which has killed hundreds of thousands directly or indirectly and displaced millions.

The war began in 2014 when the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene in support of the internationally recognised government the following year.

With millions living on the brink of famine, the UN calls Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

AFP

UN Praises ‘Positive’ Talks With Yemen Sides On Ageing Oil Tanker

In this file photo taken on September 23, 2019 the United Nations flag is seen during the Climate Action Summit 2019 at the United Nations General Assembly Hall. Ludovic MARIN / AFP

 

The UN’s humanitarian coordinator for war-torn Yemen said he held constructive talks with government officials and Huthi rebels over dealing with the threat posed by a rusting oil tanker abandoned offshore.

Experts warn of the risk of a major environmental disaster posed by the 45-year-old FSO Safer, which lacks both power and a functioning fire fighting system while volatile gases are thought to be building up inside.

“The risk of imminent catastrophe is very real,” stressed the UN’s David Gressly in a statement Saturday. “We need to translate the good will being shown by all interlocutors into action as soon as possible.”

But he praised talks he held last week with all sides in the Yemen conflict on a “UN-coordinated proposal to mitigate the threat”.

“In our very positive discussions, the government officials confirmed that they support the UN-coordinated proposal to shift the million barrels of oil onboard the vessel to another ship,” said Gressly.

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“I also held very constructive discussions” with Huthi rebels, he said, adding that “they also agreed in principle on how to move forward with the UN-coordinated proposal”.

Gressly said he was also having talks with countries interested in backing the project, according to the statement, but did not elaborate on that issue.

Environmental group Greenpeace last week warned that the Safer, moored for years off Yemen’s western port of Hodeida “with its toxic cargo of crude oil,” posed a “grave threat” to millions in the impoverished country.

Greenpeace said an oil spill would prevent access to Yemen’s main ports of Hodeida and Salif, affecting food aid supplies for up to 8.4 million people.

It also said that desalination plants on the coast could be affected, which would interrupt the drinking water supply for about 10 million people.

Yemeni fisheries would likely shut down and ecosystems in the Red Sea would be destroyed, Greenpeace added, with the impact possibly reaching Djibouti, Eritrea and Saudi Arabia.

The Huthis — who have been battling the government since 2014 — have insisted the UN team conducts maintenance work, but the world body says it must be allowed to assess the site first before carrying out any work.

Yemen’s grinding conflict has killed hundred of thousands directly or indirectly and left millions on the brink of famine, according to the UN.

UAE Intercepts Yemen Rebel Missile As Israeli President Visits

This image grab from footage released by the UAE Ministry of Defence on January 31, 2022 reportedly shows the destruction of a missile launch site operated by the Huthis in Al-Jawf in northern Yemen. (Photo by UAE Defence Ministry / AFP)

 

The United Arab Emirates shot down a ballistic missile fired by Yemen’s Huthi rebels during a visit by Israel’s president Monday, the latest attack to rattle the Middle East financial hub.

Nobody was hurt in the early-hours attack, the third in consecutive weeks on the wealthy Gulf nation that is part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen’s Iran-backed insurgents.

“Air defence forces… intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile launched by the Huthi terrorist group at the UAE,” the ministry said, according to the official WAM news agency.

It said fragments of debris fell “outside of populated areas”, without giving further details.

The ministry said it responded by destroying the missile launch site in Yemen’s northern Al-Jawf region, releasing black-and-white footage of the explosion.

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The latest rebel missile was fired as Isaac Herzog makes the first visit to the UAE by an Israeli president, after the countries established diplomatic ties under the 2020 Abraham Accords.

Herzog, who met Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahyan on Sunday, visited Dubai’s Expo 2020 site on Monday. He was also due to hold talks with the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum.

Herzog will “continue his visit as planned”, his office said, as the United States condemned the Huthi attack.

“While Israel’s president is visiting the UAE to build bridges and promote stability across the region, the Huthis continue to launch attacks that threaten civilians,” State Department spokesman Ned Price tweeted.

– Spate of attacks –

Monday’s attack was the latest in a series against the Emirates.

Three oil workers were killed in a drone-and-missile attack on Abu Dhabi on January 17 — the first deadly assault in the UAE claimed by the Huthis — and two ballistic missiles were intercepted over the capital a week later.

The attacks, which follow a spike in hostilities in Yemen, have raised Gulf tensions further at a time when international talks over Iran’s nuclear programme are floundering and have helped push oil prices to seven-year highs.

The Iran-backed Huthis began attacking UAE interests after a series of defeats on the ground in Yemen, inflicted by the UAE-trained Giants Brigade militia.

In early January, the rebels seized a UAE-flagged ship in the Red Sea, saying it was carrying weapons — a claim denied by the Emirates.

– Warning of more assaults –

Rebel military spokesman Yahya Saree said the rebels targeted Abu Dhabi with a number of ballistic missiles and Dubai with multiple drones.

He also warned “citizens, residents and companies to stay away from… vital facilities as they are at risk of being targeted in the coming period”.

The UAE’s defence ministry said it blew up the launch site at 12:50 am UAE time (2050 GMT), exactly 30 minutes after the missile was intercepted.

The Emirates affirms its “full readiness to deal with any threats” and will “take all necessary measures to protect the UAE from any attacks”, it added.

The UAE authorities said that the incident had no impact on air traffic, with flight operations proceeding normally.

A senior Emirati official last week vowed that Huthi attacks will not become a “new normal” for the Gulf country, a trade, business and tourism centre and a major oil exporter.

The UAE withdrew its troops from Yemen in 2019 but remains an influential player. It also hosts American troops and is one of the world’s biggest arms buyers.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

The conflict has killed hundreds of thousands of people directly or indirectly and left millions on the brink of famine, according to the United Nations which calls it the world’s worst humanitarian catastrophe.

Five Dead As Rebel Missile Hits Yemen City – Medic

The Yemeni flag

 

Five people were killed Wednesday and 23 others wounded when Yemeni rebels fired a ballistic missile at the strategic northern city of Marib, a medical source said.

The medic said that “two soldiers and three civilians were killed” in the strike, which the Huthis claimed on Twitter.

Marib, in an oil-rich province of the same name, is the government’s last northern stronghold, and the Iran-backed Huthi rebels have been fighting to seize it for months.

A pro-government military source also said a ballistic missile shot by the Huthis landed in the city.

The attack comes a day after pro-government fighters from a United Arab Emirates-trained militia said they expelled the Huthis from Harib, a district south of Marib.

The clashes are part of a major escalation in the seven-year war after the Huthis, following a series of territorial defeats, launched a deadly drone-and-missile attack on the UAE last week.

The Huthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting a Saudi-led military intervention — supported by arms sales from the US, France and Britain — the following year.

Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict, which the United Nations has labelled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Wednesday’s attack on Marib also came two days after the insurgents’ latest missile attack on the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, and more than a week after three people were killed in the first deadly attack on UAE soil claimed by Huthis and acknowledged by the Emiratis.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been battling the rebels, in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government.

Saudi Arabia accuses regional rival Iran of providing military support to Yemen’s Huthi rebels, especially missiles and rockets, claims that Tehran denies.

Also Wednesday, rights group Amnesty International said the Saudi-led coalition “used a precision-guided munition made in the United States” in a strike that hit a Yemeni prison last week.

The attack in rebel-held Saada left at least 70 people dead and wounded more than 100, Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said on Friday.

The coalition denied being behind the attack.

But Amnesty said its arms experts used “photos of the remnants of the weapon” to identify a GBU-12 500-pound “laser-guided bomb used in the attack”.

“The USA and other arms-supplying states must immediately halt transfers of arms, equipment, and military assistance to all parties involved in the conflict in Yemen,” Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty International’s deputy regional director, said in a statement.

UAE Clamps Down On Social Media Footage Of Yemen Rebel Attack

Yemeni pro-government fighters removed the remains of a plane from the district of Harib on January 25, 2022, after Yemen’s Huthi rebels were expelled from the key battleground district by UAE-trained Giants Brigade fighters.

 

 

The United Arab Emirates’ top prosecutor Wednesday summoned several people who had shared on social media footage of a Yemeni rebel attack on Abu Dhabi, the state news agency said.

The Huthi rebels fired ballistic missiles on the Emirates’ capital Monday amid escalated fighting with the Saudi-led coalition that has been battling them and of which the UAE is a part.

“The Public Prosecution has met with several individuals who circulated a social media video that showed defence forces intercepting Huthi terrorist attacks against critical facilities in the UAE,” said state news agency WAM.

The prosecutor’s office warned social media users that “such videos threaten vital and military facilities in the country and national security and stability”.

Top prosecutor Hamad al-Shamsi said the state would “take the appropriate legal action against related crimes”, without specifying the measures or penalties, said WAM.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015 to prop up the internationally recognised government after the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa months earlier.

Hundreds of thousands have been killed and millions displaced in the conflict which the United Nations has labelled the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

On Monday, Abu Dhabi announced that its defence forces had intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles fired by the Huthis. No casualties were recorded.

The attack came a week after the Huthis killed three people in a drone and missile assault on Abu Dhabi — the first deadly attack on UAE soil claimed by Huthis and acknowledged by the Emiratis.

The attack triggered a volley of deadly coalition airstrikes on Yemen, while Huthis, in turn, threatened to escalate their attack on the Emirates.

Yemen Rebels Lose Key District After Missile Attack On UAE

A picture taken on January 23, 2022, shows the skyline of the Emirate of Dubai with Burj Al Arab (L) and Burj Khalifa (R).
Giuseppe CACACE / AFP

 

 

Yemen’s Huthi rebels were driven out of a key district by the United Arab Emirates-trained Giants Brigade, the militia said Tuesday, a day after the insurgents’ latest missile attack on Abu Dhabi.

The Iran-backed Huthis lost Harib district south of Marib, the strategically vital northern city they have been fighting to topple for months.

The Giants Brigade said “hundreds were killed and wounded on both sides” in battles that lasted for more than two weeks and also secured the neighbouring governorate of Shabwa. There was no immediate comment from the Huthis.

“We thank the Arab coalition for their support for our operations in Shabwa, which were crowned with complete success,” a Giants Brigade statement said.

The clashes are part of a major escalation in the seven-year war after the Huthis, following a series of territorial defeats, launched a deadly drone-and-missile attack on the UAE last week.

The Saudi-led pro-government coalition that includes the UAE hit back with a volley of air strikes, one of which killed at least three children and plunged Yemen into a four-day internet outage.

Internet services were restored early on Tuesday, a web monitor and AFP correspondents said.

On Monday, the rebels renewed their attack on Abu Dhabi as two ballistic missiles were intercepted over the city, scattering debris.

US forces based at the capital’s Al Dhafra air base fired Patriot missiles to help repel the attack, while some of them also scrambled to bunkers, US officials said.

– ‘Troubling escalation’ –
The UAE, which pulled most of its troops out of Yemen in 2019 but maintains support and training for pro-government forces, warned of a “thorough and comprehensive response” to the latest barrage.

“The UAE reserves the right to respond against these terrorist attacks and such blatant criminal escalation,” a foreign ministry statement said, adding that the Huthis targeted “civil areas”.

Two people were injured in southern Saudi Arabia by further rebel missile attacks on Monday.

US State Department spokesman Ned Price called the Huthi attacks and coalition air strikes “a troubling escalation”.

US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan also met with envoys to the UAE and Saudi Arabia to “discuss ongoing Huthi attacks against civilian targets that have resulted in civilian casualties in both countries”, the White House said in a statement on Monday.

The rebels warned of further attacks on the UAE after their latest missile strike was repelled. Three oil workers died in their initial salvo on January 17.

Recent developments have sent regional tensions soaring and further complicated the intractable Yemen conflict that is being fought on several fronts.

More than 150,000 people have been killed and millions displaced in the impoverished country, according to the United Nations which calls it the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

Saudi-Led Coalition Denies Yemen Prison Air Strike That Killed 70

This image grab from a handout video made available by the Ansarullah Media centre on January 21, 2022 shows destruction at a prison in the Huthi rebel stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen after it was hit in an air strike leaving many dead or wounded. Ansarullah media center / AFP
This image grab from a handout video made available by the Ansarullah Media centre on January 21, 2022 shows destruction at a prison in the Huthi rebel stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen after it was hit in an air strike leaving many dead or wounded. Ansarullah media center / AFP

 

The Saudi-led coalition on Saturday denied carrying out an air strike on a prison in Yemen’s rebel-held north that aid groups said killed at least 70 people, including migrants, women and children.

Claims the military coalition ordered the raid, which reduced buildings to rubble and left rescuers scrabbling for survivors with their bare hands, were “groundless”, the alliance said.

The attack, which coincided with a coalition strike on Hodeida that killed three children and knocked out the impoverished country’s internet, was condemned by the United Nations secretary-general.

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But “these claims adopted by the militia are baseless and unfounded”, said coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki, referring to the Iran-backed Huthi insurgents.

The latest violence in Yemen’s intractable, seven-year war came after the Huthis claimed their first deadly attack on Abu Dhabi, capital of coalition partner the United Arab Emirates, on Monday.

This week has witnessed a dramatic upswing in the conflict that has already killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, creating what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The rebels seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led intervention — supported by the US, France and Britain — in March 2015. It was intended to last just a few weeks.

The internet blackout, which went into its second day on Saturday according to web monitor NetBlocks, complicated rescue work and media reporting as information slowed to a trickle.

Unverified footage released by the Huthis revealed gruesome scenes at the bombed-out prison facility as rescue workers scrabbled to dig out bodies and mangled corpses were placed in piles.

‘Horrific act of violence’

Eight aid agencies operating in Yemen said in a joint statement that the prison in Saada, the rebels’ home base, was used as a holding centre for migrants, who made up many of the casualties.

They said they were “horrified by the news that more than 70 people, including migrants, women and children, have been killed… in a blatant disregard for civilian lives”.

Hospitals were overwhelmed as hundreds of casualties flooded in, aid workers said.

“It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence,” said Ahmed Mahat, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission in Yemen.

The strikes came after the Huthis took the seven-year war into a new phase by claiming the drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people on Monday.

The UAE threatened reprisals after the attack, which was the first deadly assault it has acknowledged inside its borders that was claimed by the Huthis.

Meeting on Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks” on Abu Dhabi, but the council’s Norwegian presidency also denounced the strikes on Yemen.

In a later statement, the UN chief Antonio Guterres “reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law”.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called for “all parties to the conflict to de-escalate” and “abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law”.

However, the Huthis warned foreign companies to leave the “unsafe” UAE, a veiled threat of revenge attacks after Friday’s strikes.

“We advise the foreign companies in Emirates to leave because they invest in an unsafe country and the rulers of this country continue in their aggression against Yemen,” tweeted military spokesperson Yahya Saree.

 

AFP

Air Strike On Yemen Prison Leaves At Least 70 Dead

This image grab from a handout video made available by the Ansarullah Media centre on January 21, 2022 shows destruction at a prison in the Huthi rebel stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen after it was hit in an air strike leaving many dead or wounded. Ansarullah media center / AFP
This image grab from a handout video made available by the Ansarullah Media centre on January 21, 2022 shows destruction at a prison in the Huthi rebel stronghold of Saada in northern Yemen after it was hit in an air strike leaving many dead or wounded. Ansarullah media center / AFP

 

At least 70 people were killed in an air strike on a prison as Yemen’s long-running conflict suffered a dramatic escalation Friday that drew condemnation from UN chief Antonio Guterres.

The Huthi rebels released gruesome video footage showing bodies in the rubble and mangled corpses from the attack, which levelled buildings at the prison in their northern heartland of Saada.

Further south in the port city of Hodeida, at least three children died when air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit a telecommunications facility as they played nearby, Save the Children said. Yemen also suffered a country-wide internet blackout.

READ ALSO: 14 Dead As Coalition Bombs Yemen After UAE Attack

“The children were reportedly playing on a nearby football field when missiles struck,” Save the Children said.

Eight aid agencies operating in Yemen said in a joint statement they were “horrified by the news that more than 70 people, including migrants, women and children, have been killed… in a blatant disregard for civilian lives”.

They said the prison in Saada was used as a holding centre for migrants, who made up many of the casualties.

‘Proportionate response’

But the United Arab Emirates insisted that it and other coalition members remained committed to “proportionate” responses to Huthi attacks.

“The coalition undertakes to abide by international law and proportionate response in all its military operations,” UAE ambassador to the United Nations Lana Nusseibeh said.

The strikes came after the Huthis took the seven-year war into a new phase by claiming a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people on Monday.

They came as the UN Security Council met to discuss that attack at the UAE’s request.

The council unanimously condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks” by the Yemeni rebels, but in a statement before the meeting the council’s Norwegian presidency also strongly condemned the latest violence.

“It’s not acceptable,” Norwegian ambassador Mona Juul said of the strikes, calling for “de-escalation and restraint”.

In a later statement, the UN said Guterres “reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law.”

Aid workers said hospitals in Saada were overwhelmed after the prison attack, with one receiving 70 dead and 138 wounded, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Two other hospitals have received “many wounded” and as night fell, the rubble was still being searched, the aid agency said.

‘Horrific act’

Ahmed Mahat, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission in Yemen, said: “There are many bodies still at the scene of the air strike, many missing people.”

“It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence.”

The coalition claimed the attack in Hodeida, a lifeline port for the shattered country, but did not say it had carried out any strikes on Saada.

Saudi Arabia’s state news agency said the coalition carried out “precision air strikes… to destroy the capabilities of the Huthi militia in Hodeida”.

It said Saudi air defences destroyed a missile fired from Saada on Friday towards Khamis Mushait, site of a major Saudi air base.

Global internet watchdog NetBlocks reported a “nation-scale collapse of internet connectivity”.

AFP correspondents in Hodeida and Sanaa confirmed the outage. Save the Children said it would hamper its operating capacity.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis descended from their base in Saada to overrun the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks after the UAE-backed Giants Brigade drove the rebels out of Shabwa province, undermining their months-long campaign to take the key city of Marib further north.

On January 3, the Huthis hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged ship in the Red Sea, prompting a warning from the coalition that it would target rebel-held ports.

And on Monday, they claimed a long-range attack that struck oil facilities and the airport in the UAE capital Abu Dhabi, killing two Indians and a Pakistani, and wounding six other people.

The attack — the first deadly assault acknowledged by the UAE inside its borders and claimed by the Huthis — opened up a new front in Yemen’s war and sent regional tensions soaring.

In retaliation, the coalition carried out air strikes against rebel-held Sanaa that killed 14 people.

Yemen’s civil war has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many close to famine in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

 

AFP

14 Dead As Coalition Bombs Yemen After UAE Attack

Yemenis inspect the damage following overnight air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Huthi rebel-held capital Sanaa, on January 18, 2022. MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP
Yemenis inspect the damage following overnight air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition targeting the Huthi rebel-held capital Sanaa, on January 18, 2022. MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP

 

The UAE, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Iran-backed rebels, had vowed a tough response to Monday’s attack, the first deadly assault acknowledged inside its borders and claimed by the Yemeni insurgents.

The attack on the renowned Middle East safe haven of UAE, which opened a new front in the seven-year war, followed a surge in fighting in Yemen including battles between the rebels and UAE-trained troops.

Crude prices soared to seven-year highs partly because of the Abu Dhabi attacks, which exploded fuel tanks near storage facilities of oil giant ADNOC. The Huthis later warned UAE residents to avoid “vital installations”.

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Yemen, whose nearly seven-year-old war has killed hundreds of thousands, occupies a strategic position on the Red Sea, a vital conduit for oil from the resource-rich Gulf.

After the attacks, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohamed bin Zayed agreed in a phone call to “jointly stand up to these acts of aggression”, UAE state media said.

‘No end in sight’

The Abu Dhabi attack marked a new phase in the Yemen war and further reduced hopes of any resolution to the conflict, which has displaced millions in what was already the Arabian peninsula’s poorest country.

The United States pledged to hold the Huthis accountable, while Britain, France and the European Union also condemned the assault.

The targeting of Abu Dhabi followed intense clashes in Yemen, including advances by the UAE-trained Giants Brigade, who drove the rebels out of Shabwa province.

The defeat dealt a blow to the Huthis’ months-long campaign to capture neighbouring Marib, the government’s last stronghold in the north.

Earlier this month, the Huthis hijacked the UAE-flagged Rwabee in the Red Sea, charging that it was carrying military equipment — a claim disputed by the coalition and the UAE.

The ship’s 11 international crew are being held captive.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

The conflict has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many on the brink of famine in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The UN has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

“There is no end in sight for the Yemen war,” Elisabeth Kendall, a researcher at the University of Oxford’s Pembroke College, told AFP.

“Rather, the conflict is escalating and new fronts are opening up, both domestically and now regionally.”

AFP