UN envoy slams Houthis for shelling civilian areas
A “significant escalation of violence” in Taiz, including “intensified shelling” by Houthi militias and troops loyal to ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh, has led to the deaths and injury of scores of civilians and “significant damage to civilian infrastructure,” said the UN special envoy to Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Briefing participants in an open session of the UN Security Council on Wednesday, the envoy said violence continues on numerous fronts, deepening the suffering of the Yemeni people.
“An assessment mission carried out by humanitarian agencies in early April found that Al-Dhubab town was largely empty due to widespread destruction of infrastructure and contamination by unexploded ordnance and landmines. In Al-Mokha town, the fighting has damaged an estimated 40 percent of houses and infrastructure,” he said.
“The shelling of civilian areas and civilian infrastructure is a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” he said, adding that “ballistic missiles were fired into Saudi territory.”
The envoy lamented that “we are not close to a comprehensive agreement,” expressing “regret” that on his last trip to Yemen, the rebel delegation in Sanaa “did not meet me to discuss the framework for such an agreement.”
He expressed deep concern about recent reports from Yemen of efforts to suppress and undermine the work of journalists, human rights activists and civil society, including harassment, beatings, arbitrary detention and trials without due process.
“I am particularly worried by the sentencing to death of Yahya Al-Jubayhi, a prominent Yemeni journalist by a court run by the Houthis and (Saleh’s) General People’s Congress on April 12.
“I am also concerned by the arbitrary arrest and threats to the safety of members of the Baha’i community,” he said, according to Arab News.
The envoy added that 7 million Yemenis are at risk of starvation unless the conflict ends, a quarter of Yemenis cannot afford food at the local market, and half of the population lacks access to clean water and sanitation services, which increases the risk of the spread of infectious diseases.
“The latest outbreak of cholera led to more than 500 deaths; over 60,000 suspected cases have been reported in 19 governorates. The rapid spread of the disease was worsened by the inadequate health care system. Less than 45 percent of medical facilities are functioning, and medicines for diabetes, hypertension, cancer and other chronic diseases are in short supply,” he said.
The envoy added that he is “grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and the World Bank for organizing a conference to discuss urgent measures to support Yemen’s economy and state institutions, as well as its longer-term recovery and reconstruction.”