The United Nations is calling for all parties in the fighting in Yemen to suspend operations as the civilian toll on lives lost and people displaced continues to grow.
Martin Griffiths, the U.N.’s Special Envoy, is trying to get the peace efforts restarted between the Saudi-led coalition that is supporting the Yemeni government and the Iranian-funded Houthi rebels trying to overthrow the country.
“Last week I issued a public call for a freeze on military activities. Today, I am reiterating that call for an immediate and unconditional freeze… Yemen simply cannot wait,” Griffiths said in a statement in the city of Marib.
“Yemen is, in my view, at a critical juncture: we will either silence the guns and resume the political process, or we will slip back into a large-scale conflict,” he added.
“Marib has been a haven for hundreds of thousands of displaced Yemenis. Just last week, thousands of families arrived here fleeing fighting in Al-Jawf. The parties need to ensure that Marib will remain a haven [and not be] the next epicenter of the war. Fighting needs to stop now. Military adventurism and the quest for territorial gains are futile. They will only drag Yemen to many more years of conflict.”
On Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition led an operation against Houthi targets in Yemen’s port district, Salif, Saudi state TV reported.
The coalition released a statement saying it had destroyed sites used to assemble and launch explosive-laden boats and drones that pose a threat to maritime shipping lanes in the Red Sea’s Bab al-Mandeb strait.
The fighting in al-Jawf province in the past few weeks has intensified. As a result, nearly 70,000 civilians have been displaced according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). After a lull in the fighting since January, there was hope that a permanent de-escalation of violence could be possible. Such hopes have been dashed, at least for the foreseeable future, as the Houthi rebel group took the provincial capital of al-Hazem last week after heavy fighting with government troops.
The Saudis, who had cut back on their airstrikes, have resumed their relentless bombing campaign which has killed thousands of civilians. This resulted in fresh Houthi missile attacks on Saudi Arabia itself and in retaliatory airstrikes by the Saudi Air Force.
The Saudi coalition entered the war in 2015 to try and restore the ousted Sanaa government. The coalition has come under widespread international criticism for its thousands of airstrikes that have indiscriminately targeted civilians, hospitals, schools, and markets.
The loss of al-Hazem is a big blow to the Yemeni government as the Houthi rebels now threaten the oil-rich area of Marib.
The International Committee of the Red Cross is trying to cope with what the United Nations termed the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. “The ICRC and the Yemen Red Crescent Society have helped around 70,000 people, or 10,000 families, by providing food, tents, blankets, jerrycans, basins and hygiene kits,” the organization said in a statement on Saturday.
But they added that “in Al-Jawf governorate, increased clashes have hampered efforts to help patients and those in need.”