Air strikes hit elite Yemen forces, Geneva truce talks break off
SANAA/GENEVA – Saudi-led warplanes bombed elite Republican Guard forces allied with the dominant Houthi faction in Yemen’s conflict on Friday, residents said, and UN-sponsored ceasefire talks broke off without a deal to end nearly three months of fighting.
More than 2,600 people have been killed since an Arab alliance led by Saudi Arabia launched air strikes to try to stop the Iranian-backed Houthis from completing a takeover of Yemen and to try to reinstate exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Residents said they heard three air raids on the al-Sawad camp, in a southern suburb of the capital Sanaa where the command of the Republican Guards allied with former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and the Houthis is based, early on Friday.
Three air strikes were also reported in the Khawlan region, southeast of Sanaa, six on a camp that houses the Houthi-allied 115th Infantry Brigade in the al-Hazm district of al-Jouf province, and three more on Houthi positions on the outskirts of the embattled southern port city of Aden.
Residents gave no details on casualties, but the Houthis reported that nine civilians were killed in air strikes on the Razeh district of the northern province of Saada, the Houthis’ traditional stronghold bordering on Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis, who hail from the Zaydi branch of Shi’ite Islam, swept out of Saada and seized Sanaa in September before advancing into central and south Yemen including Aden, forcing Hadi’s government into exile in Saudi Arabia.
The group denies drawing military support from Shi’ite Iran and says it is waging a campaign against state corruption and Sunni Muslim al Qaeda militants who gained strength in the south during a 2011 uprising that spread anarchy and ousted Saleh.
Saudi Arabia, the world’s top oil exporter, intervened militarily out of concern for what it sees as a growing Iranian sway in the Arabian Peninsula, but the coalition has yet to significantly reverse Houthi territorial gains.
NO HEADWAY IN GENEVA TALKS AFTER FIVE DAYS
In Geneva, Hadi’s foreign minister said the “proximity talks” involving factions who refuse to sit at the same table made no headway after five days of UN shuttle diplomacy among the sides, but promised more discussions in the future.
“We really came here with a big hope and still we are optimistic that we will go into a peaceful solution for Yemen under the umbrella of the United Nations,” Reyad Yassin Abdulla told reporters.
“But unfortunately the Houthi delegation did not allow us to really reach all progress as we expected. This is not getting as much success as we hoped but it doesn’t mean that we have failed.”
But Adbulla later told Reuters that there was no date for a second round of talks overseen by UN Special Envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who called a news conference for later on Friday.
Ould Cheikh Ahmed shuttled between various Yemeni factions, including representatives of the Houthis, Saleh’s General People’s Congress party and Hadi’s allies, trying to coax them towards agreeable terms for a ceasefire.
Hadi’s government has demanded that the Houthis quit cities seized since last September as a precondition for a ceasefire.
Yahya Duwaid of Saleh’s General People’s Congress said:
“We had reason to be hopeful and optimistic for the meetings today, and we listened to the UN proposals today, but unfortunately, what they were proposing was not of the standard that we were looking for.”
The United Nations on Friday launched a revised humanitarian appeal of $1.6 billion for Yemen this year.
“We have a humanitarian catastrophe on our hands, we have 21 million people in desperate need of aid. We are talking about children going hungry,” UN spokesman Ahmed Fawzi said. –Reuters