By Tim Nanns
The humanitarian crisis in Yemen is deepening, especially in the besieged port town of Aden, prompting proposals for a limited ceasefire by Russia and the Red Cross. Despite that, air strikes and fierce fighting continue.
Russia’s delegation at the UN Security Council (UNSC) circulated a draft resolution on Saturday in an emergency meeting to enforce humanitarian pauses in the air strikes. This would allow evacuations and the delivery of aid shipments.
Dina Kawar, Jordanian envoy to the UN and current holder of the UNSC presidency, said that “the council members need time to reflect on the Russian proposal”, making a quick decision unlikely.
Meanwhile, the Red Cross called for a 24 hour ceasefire on Saturday to allow medical aid and other necessary goods to flow in, ensuring the civilian population’s survival. Robert Mardini, the Red Cross’ head of operations in the Middle East, urged to allow relief supplies as well as medical personnel in, because “otherwise, put starkly, many more people will die”.
In addition to that, the Red Cross stated it had 48 tons of medicines and surgical kits at the ready to be shipped to Yemen as soon as there was an opportunity to do so. They further pressed the rivalling parties to allow the supplies in, citing international humanitarian law under which safe passage for civilians, medical supplies and personnel needs to be guaranteed.
The situation, particularly in Adem, is apparently deteriorating since the city is the site of major fighting between the Houthi militia and its allies, and the loyalists of president Hadi. According to Reuters news agency, electricity and water have been cut off for two days, with the humanitarian situation worsening farther. The Red Cross described the situation, saying Aden’s streets were “strewn with dead bodies, and people are afraid to leave their homes”.
Egyptian President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi denied comparisons between Egypt’s 1962 intervention in Yemen, after a meeting with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces. Al-Sisi stated that Egypt was also “moving in a political context to avoid losses”. He also again stressed the importance of the Bab El-Mandab Strait for Egyptian and Arab security.
At a press conference Saturday, spokesperson for the Saudi-led coalition Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri said that Egyptians and other foreign nationals were to be evacuated on Sunday. He declined, however, to comment on media reports that Saudi Special Forces were operating inside Aden.
Saudi airplanes meanwhile parachuted more weapon supplies into Aden to aid the resistance against the Houthis militias. Their advance has been slowed down by massive air strikes and the supplies that are being parachuted in since Friday. The air strikes now focus mainly on Houthi military bases, on Sana’a and on the direct support of Hadi’s last stronghold, the port town of Aden.
A family of nine are said to have been killed by air strikes on Friday night according to Reuters. They died in a village close to an air force base near the capital Sana’a, with the air force base likely to have been the intended target of the strike. Among the dead were six children. This has not been the first incident where civilians became targets of air strikes.
The security situation in other parts of Yemen is meanwhile deteriorating further with Al-Qaeda fighters having taken over the eastern port town of Mukalla according to Reuters. A tribal alliance entered the town on Saturday to drive them out again.
According to UN relief coordinator Valerie Amos, in a statement published by the UN on Thursday, so far “some 519 people have been killed and nearly 1,700 injured in the past two weeks”.
The Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen has been going on for nearly two weeks, and has so far failed to stop the Houthi advance with Aden about to fall and great parts of the country erupting in chaos, benefiting tribal alliances as much as terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda.