What’s happening in Yemen today
4.16.2015 edition: UN Ambassador resigns, Saleh seeks safe passage again, photographer captures life under the bombs
By the Reported.ly Team
Faces of Yemen #37. CC-licensed photo by Richard Messenger on Flickr, April 2007.
We are creating a daily rundown of events in Yemen as Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes against Houthis that began March 26 continue. The Houthi militia has been fighting the Yemeni government for nearly a decade, and in recent months has made enormous gains across the country, including capturing the capital, Sana’a.
For an explanation of what happened in the first few days of the military action, read our synopsis.
Update 4:31 p.m. (11:31 p.m. GMT)
Yemen’s new VP: No dialogue with Houthis
Khaled Bahah was just appointed vice president. In his first press conference he said there are no plans to speak to the Houthis until the killings end.
“Our message to the Yemeni people is to give priority to reason and dialogue and stand united behind our project for a civil state. But this requires the Houthis to implement all international resolutions and halt the deliberate killing of civilians.”
No talks with Houthis before 'killings' end, says Yemen's new VP
Yemen's newly-appointed vice president, Khaled Bahah, said Thursday that there would be no dialogue with the Houthis…www.middleeasteye.net
Coalition has no plans to specifically attack Al Qaeda
At a press briefing, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said the coalition is not specifically targeting Al-Qaeda or ISIS sites, as that’s not part of the mission’s goal.
The U.S. on Al-Qaeda in Yemen
The State Department said they cannot confirm reports that AQAP has made gains in Yemen amid airstrikes. Acting State Department spokesperson Marie Harf said she doesn’t believe AQAP is taking advantage of the instability in the country to gain more ground for themselves.
The full exchange:
QUESTION: I’m — just today, al-Qaida’s affiliate, AQAP, has made some significant gains in southern Yemen. They’ve taken over an airport; they’ve taken over a port and an oil depot. And I’m wondering, given that, are you concerned at all that the strikes against the Houthis by the Saudi coalition are actually helping al-Qaida expand its territory?
MS HARF: I think in general, Matt, the security situation or lack of security situation on the ground in Yemen has given space for AQAP to operate, certainly. I mean, they’ve had space for a while to operate there, but the security situation caused by the Houthi and former President Saleh’s actions — taking over of territory, forcing the government out — physically out — has led to the security situation on the ground there. So I would actually attribute it to the opposite from what you just did.
QUESTION: Well —
MS HARF: That this is because of the situation that the Houthis and President Saleh created with their actions that have destabilized the country and led to a situation where AQAP can start to take more territory.
Now, we can’t confirm some of those reports about the airport. There’re a little conflicting reports. I’ve seen them, certainly.
Note: Citizen reports of airstrikes and the resulting impact on their lives have been tough for us to confirm. Use your best judgement.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said Aden has received aid, and that the coalition and People’s Committees are working together to find Houthi targets and get aid in.
Whil the coalition said that fighting near Sana’a has quieted, many residents are still in the dark.
Many residents still report continued airstrikes in Sana’a.
The WHO said they’re continuing to deliver aid to the area.
Yesterday’s unconfirmed reports of fighting in Taiz were validated by the coalition.
The Red Cross says they’ve obtained a ceasefire, though we’re still hearing of some fighting.
Update 9:32 a.m. ET (4:32 p.m. GMT)
UN ambassador to Yemen resigns
The United Nations ambassador to Yemen, Moroccan diplomat Jamal Benomar has resigned, having “expressed an interest in moving on to another assignment.” The New York Times reported that President Hadi’s government in-exile had refused to take part in talks mediated by Benomar, who had served in his post since 2011. Late last month, Benomar had publicly expressed doubts that either the Houthis or Hadi would succeed in controlling Yemen.
HRW: airstrikes show “cruel disregard for civilians”
Human Rights Watch director Kenneth Roth called for an investigation into the killing of 31 people at a dairy factory in Hodeida on March 31. HRW interviewed factory workers, and called the attack possibly “indiscriminate or disproportionate, in violation of the laws of war.”
Saleh negotiates for safe passage, again
Al Jazeera reports that Yemen’s former President Ali Abdullah Saleh is seeking safe passage out of the country for himself and his family, claiming that he has no part in the conflict, or connection with the Houthis. Leaked phone conversations last January allegedly implicated Saleh in collusion with the Houthis. “Noting with concern the destabilizing actions taken by the former President,” a recent UN Resolution imposed sanctions on Saleh’s son. Saleh had been granted immunity in 2012, as part of a U.S.-backed deal to step down.
Democratic activism eclipsed by conflict
In a New York Times op-ed, Yemeni activist Bushra al-Maqtari paints a nightmarish picture of the path Yemen is heading down, rejecting the Saudi-led intervention, and calling for pressure on both Saudi Arabia and Iran.
“Like other democratic activists, I am in a third group — one that has been rendered nearly invisible. We reject external military intervention absolutely. We also reject the Houthis’ coup and their vengeful campaign against Yemenis in the north and the south. Our brief hope for a peaceful democratic transition [..] has given way to despair. [..] The outside world seems like a usurer, trading our blood as if it were a commodity like oil.”
On the frontlines of Taiz protests in 2011, al-Maqtari was persecuted by Islamic clerics for calling attention on her city’s plight.
Young photographer strives to capture life, not war
Sana’a native, and erstwhile street photographer in Boston, Thana Faroq has been uploading beautiful photos of everyday life outside the war, in her “Everyday Yemen” project on Twitter and Facebook.
In recent days, Thana has been challenged by the conflict, and its’ impact on Yemenis’ daily lives.
Al Qaeda seizes airport
Having entrenched in Mukalla earlier this month, AQAP gained control of the Riyan airport today, according to sources quoted by AP. As al-Maqtari and many other commentators have repeatedly warned, Al Qaeda seems poised to become the biggest winners out of the Yemeni conflict.