Yemen conflict: UN mulls calls for ‘humanitarian pause’


Yemenis stand amid the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in a village near Sanaa, Yemen, 4 April 2015

The United Nations Security Council is considering Russia’s call for a pause in Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen.

The council’s president, Dina Kawar, who is also Jordan’s UN ambassador, said members needed time to “reflect on the proposal”.

The air strikes against Houthi rebels continued for an 11th night on Saturday.

The Red Cross has called for a 24-hour ceasefire to bring in desperately needed medical supplies.

It says medical teams and rescuers must have access to Aden, a stronghold of those loyal to President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi, or more civilians will die.

“Strewn with dead bodies”

Following intensified fighting, the charity reports a dire situation, with the streets of the city “strewn with dead bodies” and the wounded “streaming” into hospitals and clinics.

The Houthis have made significant advances over the past two weeks, forcing President Hadi to flee the country from Aden and a Saudi-led Arab coalition to mount airstrikes.

In the past few days Shia Houthi rebels pushed through to the heart of Aden using tanks and armoured vehicles. They were repelled from the presidential palace by loyalists supported by Saudi airstrikes and weapon drops.

Armed Yemeni supporters of the separatist Southern Movement hold a position during clashes with Shiite Houthi rebels in the Mansura district of the southern Yemeni port city of Aden. 4 April 2015
Aden has emerged as a key battleground between Houthi rebels and President Hadi’s supporters

On Friday, Russia presented the draft resolution to an emergency session of the UN Security Council in New York. It calls for “regular and obligatory” breaks in the bombings to allow the evacuation of foreigners caught up in the fighting.

The draft, however, makes no mention of a halt to fighting by the Houthis.

It also demands “rapid, safe and unhindered humanitarian access to ensure that humanitarian assistance reaches people in need”.

Meetings on Saturday led to nothing concrete but Ms Kawar said she “[hoped] that by Monday we can come up with something”.

‘More will die’

Over the past two weeks, fighting in Yemen has left more than 500 people dead and about 1,700 wounded, UN humanitarian chief Valerie Amos said.

Robert Mardini, head of operations for the International Committee of the Red Cross in the Middle East, said: “Our relief supplies and surgical personnel must be allowed to enter the country and safely reach the worst-affected places to provide help.”

“Otherwise, put starkly, many more people will die.

“For the wounded, their chances of survival depend on action within hours, not days,” he added.

Locals dig graves for the victims of an airstrike allegedly carried out by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Houthi rebels' positions in the village of Hajer Akash, Sanaa, Yemen, 04 April 2015
Civilians have been caught up by shelling and airstrikes from both Houthi rebels and the Saudi-led coalition

The Red Cross says it has 48 tonnes of medical equipment to treat up to 3,000 people, ready to leave pending clearance.

Britain’s deputy UN ambassador Peter Wilson expressed regret for civilian casualties but said Britain would carry on supporting Saudi-led military action against the Houthi rebels.

The Houthis are also supported by troops loyal to the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was ousted in the Arab Spring protests.

Meanwhile, armed tribesmen pledging to restore security have entered the south-eastern city of Mukalla taken over by al-Qaeda militants at the end of last week, Reuters news agency reported.



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