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Friday, May 6, 2016

Yemeni protesters demand end to the civil war

Yemenis took to the streets on Friday demanding the fighting in Yemen come to an end. Although there are peace talks in Kuwait that appeared to be making progress they are now reported to have been suspended.

Thousands protested in the city of Taiz, which has been besieged for months by rebels who residents and aid groups complain have been indiscriminately shelling the city and blocking aid deliveries. In the city of Zinjibar, occupied by Al-Qeda forces, hundreds marched to demand their withdrawal. Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula (AQAP) and the Islamic State have been able to take advantage of the chaos produced by the war to strengthen their positions. An estimated 6,200 people have been killed in the war and it has created a horrible humanitarian situation with many Yemenis displaced and lacking food and access to proper medical care. Several hospitals and clinics have been bombed by the Saudi-led bombing campaign. The Saudis have used cluster bombs in several places and are accused of bombing civilian targets.
The Yemeni Government of PM Hadi suspended direct peace talks today after the Houthi rebels with its allies seized a military base north of Sanaa, the capital, according to two members of the official delegation to the talks.
The soldiers at the Umaliqa base had refused to take sides in the war between the Houthis and the Saudi-backed government of PM Hadi. The base is in an area controlled by the Houthis. The Houthi assault killed several soldiers who were defending the base. Prior to the attack, the Houthis had tolerated the neutrality of the soldiers. The surprise attack was made at dawn. The Houthis seized a large cache of weapons.
In talking to Reuters at the peace talks in Kuwait, one member of the government delegation said: "We have suspended the sessions indefinitely to protest these military actions and continued violations of the truce." Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, the Yemeni foreign minister, and also the top government delegate to the talks said that the assault had "torpedoed" the talks. He saidon his Twitter account: "We will take the appropriate position in response to the Houthi crime at the Umaliqa base in Amran for the sake of our people and country." The Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdul-Salam dismissed the protest saying the government was wasting time and fabricating excuses to continue the war. The talks in Kuwait have been moving forward slowly since a truce declared on April 10. The truce has largely held although both sides accuse each other of violations. The Houthis accuse the Saudi-led coalition of violating the truce 4,000 times with shelling and bombing raids that raised tensions.
The UN envoy for Yemen, Ismail Cheik Ahmed, said in a press release on Saturday that the peace negotiations were off to an "encouraging start that will set the stage for a negotiated solution." Both sides have presented plans for peace and have agreed to respect UN resolutions on the conflict. He described the sessions as taking place in a positive and constructive atmosphere although he also admitted there were violations of the truce.

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