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Saturday, July 18, 2015

Saudi Arabia claims it did not agree to a ceasefire in Yemen

The UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said that he was "very much disappointed" by the failure of a ceasefire that was supposed to begin on Friday and last until the end of Ramadan.
Saudi officials claim they did not agree to a ceasefire in the first place. The Saudis renewed bombings just hours after the ceasefire was to take effect. The Houthis have been renewing attacks since as well.
In the latest attacks, the Saudis bombed Sawan, a slum residential area in Sanaa near a military base. Reports by local officials claim at least 25 civilians were killed and 50 wounded. Hospital officials report there were women and children among the casualties. The attacks appear to have actually missed the military base itself. Sawan was just one of dozens of targets in 10 different provinces throughout Monday. The Houthis resumed battle as well in several cities including a significant offensive into a suburb of Aden which the rebels appear to have taken. Houthi mortar fire in Aden is reported to have set a refinery ablaze with an official telling Reuters: "We are trying to put out the fire. The shelling targeted the tanks where we were storing diesel and fuel for local consumption in Aden. The damage is going to be very big."
In spite of Ki-moon's disappointment that there have now been three days of bombing and clashes since the truce was declared, UN spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, said: "Obviously the secretary-general is very, very much disappointed. We've not lost hope and the discussions are ongoing." Dujarric also said that the UN envoy to Yemen, Ould Cheikh Ahmed, had received the commitments he thought were necessary to announce the ceasefire. He said all parties should honour their commitments. It appears that at least one party denies they made any commitment in the first place. Ahmed had contacted Saudi officials and Hadi, the president in exile, had assured him he would accept the truce and inform the Arab coalition of his support. Hadi's response is a change in policy since earlier he refused a temporary ceasefire unless Houthis withdrew from territory they occupied and laid down their arms. A humanitarian pause is absolutely essential to help relieve the humanitarian disaster the continued conflict and ceaseless bombing campaign have inflicted upon the Yemenis. The UN is continuing contacts at different levels in an attempt to secure a ceasefire still.
The Saudis are nowhere near their stated objective of restoring the Hadi government to power. He has little support in Yemen. Radical Islamists including Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula(AQAP) are thriving in the resulting chaos. AQAP in alliance with Sunni tribes has extended its power even seizing Mukalla the capital of a province. The Islamic State has carried out deadly attacks in Sanaa, the capital.
The Saudi-led bombing campaign began back in March. The campaign has not resulted in the Houthis losing any significant amount of territory. Of late, they appear to have even made gains in Aden. The Houthi rebels are Shia and are supported by Iran. The majority in Yemen are Sunni. Both Iran and the rebels would like to see a political settlement with a government that the Houthis could support. On their own , the Houthis will probably be unable to rule. Even now they depend upon the support of troops loyal to former president Saleh, who is allied with the Houthis, in spite of the fact that when he was in power he persecuted them.

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