Saudi-led forces conduct mass strikes on Yemeni capital & beyond, despite US ‘calls for ceasefire’
The Saudi-led coalition has carried out a series of airstrikes against “legitimate military targets” in Sanaa and elsewhere across Yemen, several days after senior US officials somewhat hypocritically called for a ceasefire.
“Coalition aircraft targeted legitimate military positions at al-Dailami Air Base, northeast of the capital, Sanaa,” the coalition leadership said in a statement, referring to the outskirts of Yemen’s civilian international airport which remains one of the few lifelines for the war-torn country.
The coalition claimed that it targeted the launch sites of ballistic missiles and drones, noting that overall more than 12 raids were carried out across Yemen in the early hours on Friday. Insisting that no civilian infrastructure was targeted, Saudi-led forces said that Sanaa airport is still operating as usual.
So far there have been no official reports of casualties from the raids, which come in the midst of a renewed UN-led peace effort, which is this time backed by the United States. Local reports indicate that the raids are continuing.
“The time is now for a cessation of hostilities,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense James Mattis said in unison on Tuesday, seeming to break away from Washington's policy of non-interference in Yemen.
Even though the record of the US supporting the Saudis, no matter what, undermines whatever peace initiative they may now try to promote, the US officials now want UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths to meet the warring sides in Sweden next month to strike a deal, which would see an end to Saudi-led strikes against heavily populated civilian areas.
The Saudi-backed exiled Yemeni government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi reportedly agreed on Thursday to return to the negotiation table – just before the Saudi-led coalition began pounding Sanaa. The Houthis also reportedly consented to yet another ceasefire negotiation, after the previous UN-led peace effort collapsed in September when the rebel delegation was blocked from coming to Geneva for the first talks in three years.
The crisis in Yemen erupted after Shia President Ali Abdullah Saleh was deposed in 2012, but his Houthi supporters, allegedly aided by Iran, resisted and eventually seized the capital city and sent Hadi, his deputy, into exile. In March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition began airstrikes in order to prevent the reinstatement of Hadi to power, unleashing an all-out war. In response, Houthis began shelling across the border into Saudi Arabia.
More than three years of hostilities have taken a significant toll on Yemen, with both the Houthis and the coalition accused of committing various crimes. An estimated 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict. Throughout the course of the hostilities, various human rights groups have pointed to the Saudi airstrikes as responsible for a large share of civilian deaths, after their indiscriminate bombing campaign targeted marketplaces, funeral processions and weddings. The war has also left around two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relying on aid, and more than eight million at risk of starvation, amid the ongoing strict naval and aerial blockade of Yemen by the coalition.
Throughout the conflict, the US support of the coalition remained unwavering despite the fact that US-made weapons were claiming ever-increasing numbers of civilian lives. American aircraft still provide aerial refueling and intelligence to Saudi jets attacking Yemeni targets.
US lawmakers have long called on the US leadership to end America’s support for the Saudi-led coalition, but major calls only intensified in the wake of the murder of Jamal Khashoggi, the dissident Washington Post columnist killed inside the Saudi consulate in Istanbul earlier this month. Yet Donald Trump has repeatedly refused to introduce any sanctions against Riyadh, as it could jeopardize the much-touted $110 billion arms sales contract he signed with the Saudis last year.
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