Yemen sees no sign of cease-fire despite UN appeals amid COVID-19 crisis

Yemeni fighters loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi wait in their pick-up trucks on a road in the Sirwah area, in Marib province on April 9, 2016. [Xinhua]
Yemeni fighters loyal to exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi wait in their pick-up trucks on a road in the Sirwah area, in Marib province on April 9, 2016. [Xinhua]

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ Middle East envoys on Saturday launched a joint appeal for the cessation of hostilities and dialogue in Yemen amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

On March 23, Guterres himself launched an appeal for an immediate global cease-fire, urging all warring parties to pull back from hostilities, put aside mistrust and animosity, and silence their guns.

On April 8, the Saudi-led Arab coalition announced a two-week cease-fire in Yemen, starting from the second day. The cease-fire could be extended as part of efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

But military operations and sporadic attacks are still taking place between Yemen’s government forces and the Houthi rebels in different areas of the impoverished Arab country.

In northern Yemen, intense battles on Saturday rocked Saada Province which is considered the main bastion of the Houthi rebel group despite the truce announced by the Saudi-led coalition.

According to the state-run Saba News Agency, the Houthi militias continued to violate the cease-fire and carried out attacks against military positions belonging to the government’s army forces.

The government forces responded to the attacks launched by the Houthis in Saada, and clashes ensued between the two sides leaving nearly 38 rebels killed, according to Saba.

Yemeni military experts believe that both of the warring factions are not really willing to positively deal with the appeals of the United Nations.

Ali Bin Hadi, a retired military official and expert, told Xinhua that there are no positive indications that fighting in Yemen will even cease temporarily.

“The warring factions in Yemen only react and respond positively with the cease-fire calls through their media outlets but on the ground is something else,” said the expert based in Aden.

“Fighting will not cease in Yemen even for humanitarian reasons and both sides will keep in exchanging accusations about ceasefire violations,” he said.

In the central province of al-Bayda, fighting witnessed an escalation between the two warring rivals over the control of key areas in the province.

During the past days, the Yemeni government brought heavy army forces backed by armored vehicles to al-Bayda and began an operation to capture areas from the Houthis stationed there.

“The Yemeni parties are deliberately ignoring the calls for a cease-fire because they don’t care about the citizens’ suffering if coronavirus spreads,” said Mohammed Yahya, a strategic military expert.

“Fighting will be definitely stopped only if the international community deals strictly with the leaders in Yemen and takes a tough line with the other external supporters of Yemen’s factions,” he noted.

According to the Houthi media outlets, the Houthi leaders vowed “to launch an attack on Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in response to the Saudi acts of aggression against Yemenis.”

Yemen has been locked in a civil war since late 2014 when the Houthis seized control of much of the country’s north and forced the Saudi-backed government of Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the capital Sanaa.

Over the past five years, Saudi Arabia has been leading an Arab military coalition against the Houthis in Yemen in support of Hadi’s internationally-recognized government. Enditem

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