For five days, residents of war-torn Yemen received humanitarian aid during a cease-fire of the ground-based fighting in the conflict between a network of nations under leadership from Saudi Arabia and the Houthis, a Shiite minority rebel group. The Houthis are the same group responsible for removing the nation’s president earlier this year. However, Yemen’s cease-fire, and the badly needed aid that came along with it, ended as airstrikes resumed hours ago.
In March, a coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, began airstrikes against the Houthis. The group controls the nation’s capital, Sanaa, as well as several other cities. Fighting increased before the cease-fire, and there were more than one dozen airstrikes during the weekend of May 9 and 10. According to Saudi officials, the five-day pause in hostilities was scheduled to start May 12 at 11 p.m. local time (4 p.m. EST) and end on May 17. The cease-fire was designed to allow humanitarian aid into the country.
At first. the Shiite forces refused to agree to honor the cease-fire, despite the fact that Houthi-appointed Yemeni military spokesman, Kaleb Luqman, said his forces tentatively agreed with the proposed pause according to the country’s rebel-run news bureau. However, on Sunday, right before the pause in conflict was due to expire, the Army, much of which is aligned with the Houthi forces, welcomed a request from the United Nations (U.N.) envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, for the cease-fire to continue so that aid could reach more areas. Ahmed has not as yet made the multiple-day visit to the country that he discussed during the time leading up to the cease-fire. He still hopes to soon “sit down with different Yemeni parties to reach a political solution.”
Towards that end, he attended the opening of a conference of several Yemeni groups in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. The conference’s purpose was to talk about ways of ending Yemen’s political turmoil. There, he again appealed for a longer cease-fire in Yemen instead of having it conclude at the original time.
However, this time it was the Saudi-led coalition that did not grant his request. Additionally, residents report that, despite the supposed pause, occasional fighting continued. At least 15 people were killed overnight between Saturday and Sunday in the cities of Taiz and Dhalea.
Residents welcomed a break in the bombings and aircraft fire, which has killed 828 civilians so far, and forced another approximately 450,000 from their homes, according to the UN. People stocked up on what supplies and fuel could be found. Those that could afford the fare used the cease-fire as an opportunity to board flights headed abroad.
Humanitarian aid organizations found it as difficult as expected to get relief supplies to large parts of the country’s 25 million citizens because of the short time span in which the cease-fire allowed them to work in safety. The aid workers’ efforts were further hampered by damage to key points to which medical supplies, food and fuel could be delivered.
In the final hours before the cease-fire ended, getting humanitarian help to the port city of Aden was especially vital. It has seen some of the worst fighting of the conflict. Over 1,000 total deaths had been reported by area medics. Furthermore, several thousand of Aden’s residents were forced to flee their homes and join the country’s refugees due to the impact of street-to-street fighting. Today, Yemen’s citizens are once again frightened about the future as this particular cease-fire ended with no real plan to bring peace to the country in the long-term.
By Martina Robinson
CNN-Yemen: More violence ahead of humanitarian pause
CNN: Aid groups rush to help civilians in Yemen as end of truce looms
Reuters: Saudi-led alliance resumes air strikes on Yemen
Channel 4 News: Yemen conflict: a frantic race to get food into Aden
Photo Courtesy of Franco Pecchio’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License