Six weeks after a Saudi-led coalition announced the end of its bombings against Shiite rebels in Yemen, the campaign continues to claim civilian lives by the day.
In March, when the bombing began, analysts warned it was “not immediately clear” how Saudi Arabia planned to achieve its goal of restoring deposed President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power. When the Saudis declared April 21 they had “eliminated the threat” the rebels posed to Saudi Arabia, they continued to target rebels areas, fomenting chaos that has forced over one million Yemeni civilians to leave their homes. (RELATED: Saudis Ignore US, Ignore Iran, Continue Pulverizing Yemen)
When the rebels, known as Houthis, announced Thursday they would join U.N.-brokered peace talks with the exiled former government, they also reported that the airstrikes had killed 58 people in the space of two days. While that claim could not be independently confirmed, the U.N.’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs has verified 1,160 civilian deaths since the bombings began.
The Houthis, whose religious affiliation is Shiite, are widely linked to Saudi Arabia’s geopolitical rivals in Iran. Since taking over the capital in Sanaa, they have taken hostages from the United States and France. The American hostage, journalist Casey Coombs, was released after American officials negotiated for his freedom with Houthi leaders in Oman.
Meanwhile, other groups including al-Qaida and Islamic State have taken advantage of the country’s instability to consolidate their stake in the country. Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, the franchise that contains much of the terrorist network’s core leadership, has collaborated with local security officials to enforce its own rules in local towns. Islamic State has also taken credit for bombing a Shiite mosque. (RELATED: Al-Qaida’s Latest Move Is A Jihad On Drugs)
Saudi Arabia and its allies have not targeted al-Qaida or ISIS in Yemen.
Yemen is the Arab world’s poorest country. Over half of all Yemenis lack sufficient access to food and water, a problem that the latest clashes have only exacerbated.
The U.N. managed to broker a five-day ceasefire early in the conflict, for the delivery of food, medicine and other humanitarian goods. It has tried and failed to secure another, as recent weeks have made it clear the bombings are not imminently ending.
The next round of peace talks is tentatively scheduled for June 14.
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