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Yemeni government confirms participation at peace talks

The government backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries has said it will send delegates to UN-backed peace talks. The last set of peace talks in September failed after Houthi rebels failed to show up. The Saudi Arabia-backed government of Yemen confirmed on Monday that it would take part in peace talks sponsored by the United Nations. The government also called on the UN to "pressure" Yemen's Houthi rebels to attend the talks without conditions. The announcement coincided with a speech by Saudi Arabia's King Salman in which he reiterated his country's support for the UN efforts to end the war. The Iran-backed Houthis have fought a three-and-a-half-year-war with the Yemeni government and an alliance of Arab countries led by Saudi Arabia UN envoy Martin Griffiths is set to travel to Yemen finalize arrangements for peace talks in Sweden. Both sides had previously given "firm assurances" to him that they would attend. On Sunday, Houthi leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi called on rebel fighters to stop attacks against the Saudi-led coalition and said the group was ready for a ceasefire. Attempts to hold peace talks in September failed after Houthi representatives failed to show up. Fighting has intensified recently around the port city of Hodeida, sparking fears that millions could face starvation in the event of a blockade. More than 10,000 people have died in the war, according to official figures, but activists say the actual death toll could be far higher.

The government backed by Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries has said it will send delegates to UN-backed peace talks. The last set of peace talks in September failed after Houthi rebels failed to show up. The Saudi Arabia-backed government of Yemen confirmed on Monday that it would take part in peace talks sponsored by the United Nations. The government ... Read More »

In Yemen’s war, locals struggle to stay neutral

Ever more Yemenis are siding with the Saudi coalition or Houthis to safeguard a salary and a semblance of protection. But some are determined to stay neutral, despite the obstacles they face. Mat Nashed reports. On the morning of October 6, Rahab* was hauled away from a student demonstration in the heart of Yemen's capital, Sanaa. Like her peers, she was fed up with soaring food prices and a lack of basic services, so she joined the protests against the Houthis who control the capital. The violent militia, which belongs to the Shiite offshoot Zaidi Islam, crushed the demonstration within minutes. "When the [Houthis] took me, I thought I was never coming back [home]," said Rahab, a 20-year-old activist. "Most of the protesters with me were women. The [Houthis] released us at night, but only after we signed a pledge not to protest again." Civilians in Sanaa are trapped between the repressive rule of the Houthis and the indiscriminate offensive of the Saudi-led coalition. The latter seeks to dislodge the former and reinstate the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. But Saudi Arabia's war has caused millions of Yemenis to starve by restricting imports and suspending salaries of more than a million civil servants in Houthi-held areas. The Houthis are reportedly exacerbating the crisis by kidnapping people for ransom. To survive, more people are picking sides in the war to earn a living or secure an exit from the country. But Rahab and others refuse to do so, leaving them with few advantages and little protection. "There are many other women who escaped [from Sanaa] to the city of Marib and I think many of them will be part of the Saudi alliance soon. But I'm also against Saudi Arabia's aggression," Rahab told DW. Fighting to survive The war has brought Sanaa to its knees and Yemenis are divided over who to blame. Residents say the city barely has electricity, pushing most people to burn coal or rely on solar energy for power. Fuel is also in short supply, but food and water are scarcer. Rami*, 29, said that the Houthis and the Saudi-coalition are equally responsible for ruining the city. "I hate them all. There are hardly any jobs in Sanaa unless you have personal connections with a political faction," he told DW. "Civilians are starving, and I hear that many people are stealing to feed their families now." Fighting appears to be the only source of reliable income, giving Saudi Arabia an advantage. Several people told DW that the Saudis lure fighters away from the Houthis by paying in their own currency, which is much stronger than the Yemeni rial. But Rami says that he would smuggle himself into Saudi Arabia before picking up arms. For now, he survives by selling plastic bags to shops that sell khat, which is an amphetamine-like stimulant that many Yemenis chew. "I hardly make money, but I will never fight. People have to allow themselves to be brainwashed to fight, but neither my friends nor I can do that," said Rami. Adam Baron, a visiting fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations in London, adds that people who are politically active have little space in Yemen to remain neutral. He says that false allegations can land people in jail and that the Houthis often detain perceived opponents. "People are putting each other in a box, so more people are thinking that they should just choose a side to get some benefits," Baron told DW. Neither the Saudi coalition nor the Houthis have attempted to safeguard civilians. As the former starves the country, the latter profiteers from the dire humanitarian crisis. Human Rights Watch (HRW) has reported that the Houthis are holding opponents and perceived opponents hostage in secret prisons, where many are beaten with iron rods, whips and assault rifles. Many of the hostages are journalists and activists who have little to no affiliation with factions in the war. "In almost all cases the families of victims were asked to pay a ransom to secure the release of their loved ones, but many of these people are already very poor," Kristine Beckerle, the Yemen researcher for HRW, told DW. "It's awful because the Houthi leadership knows that [hostage-taking] is happening and they can stop it if they want." Rahab, the activist from the demonstration, considers herself lucky that she was released so soon. But since she's been warned, the consequences could be more severe if she protests again. For now, she focuses on aiding her people, and says that her community trusts her because she doesn't belong to any political or religious faction. With winter coming, her main priority is organizing an online group of volunteers to donate and distribute clothes to poorer Yemenis. Despite her best efforts, she remains pessimistic about the future. "Children, women and the elderly are dying daily, and all sides are accountable for the bloodshed," she said. "The war is also taking a psychological and emotional toll on me. It's not easy to watch an entire society die."

Ever more Yemenis are siding with the Saudi coalition or Houthis to safeguard a salary and a semblance of protection. But some are determined to stay neutral, despite the obstacles they face. Mat Nashed reports. On the morning of October 6, Rahab* was hauled away from a student demonstration in the heart of Yemen’s capital, Sanaa. Like her peers, she ... Read More »

Suspected Saudi airstrike on Yemen school kills at least 10 children

At least 10 children have been killed in a suspected Saudi airstrike on a school in Yemen, a week after the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks. The attack is likely to draw renewed criticism of the Saudi air campaign. At least 10 children were killed and 21 wounded in an airstrike in northern Yemen on Saturday, aid group Doctors Without Borders has said, in an attack Houthi rebels blamed on a Saudi-led military coalition. The airstrike hit a school in the Houthi heartland in Saada as coalition warplanes bombed multiple targets across the country. They came a week after the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks between the internationally recognized government in exile and rebels. The airstrike on the school is likely to draw renewed condemnation of the more than year-long Saudi-led air campaign, which is supported by the United States and United Kingdom through weapons sales, intelligence and logistics support. There was no immediate comment from the coalition. A Saudi-led coalition of Arab states intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore power to internationally recognized President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi. He was forced to flee the country after Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh took over the capital, Sanaa, and other parts of the country in September 2014. Despite the coalition campaign, Hadi's forces on the ground have failed to dislodge Houthis from large parts of the country, including the capital. Houthis convene parliament Separately on Saturday, the Houthis and Saleh loyalists convened parliament in Sanaa for the first time in nearly two years in defiance of the Saudi-based Hadi, who called the parliamentary session "invalid." The session was attended by nearly 150 parliamentarians who approved a ruling council set up last month. According to the constitution, more than half of lawmakers must be present for a quorum. Several lawmakers have fled the country or been killed since fighting erupted, raising questions over the quorum and validity of the vote, as detailed in a tweet by Yemen-based journalist Hakim Almasmari. The conflict has killed at least 6,400 people and displaced nearly 2.5 million, turning what was already the Arab world's poorest country into a humanitarian disaster. Nearly 80 percent of the population is in need of humanitarian assistance. The fighting has also opened up room for al-Qaeda and the so-called "Islamic State" to operate. Saudi Arabia accuses its regional rival Iran of backing the Shiite Houthi rebels, charges they deny. Riyadh is concerned Iran is trying to carve out a sphere of influence on its border, while detractors of Saudi arguments point to real Houthi grievances and domestic factors for the conflict.

At least 10 children have been killed in a suspected Saudi airstrike on a school in Yemen, a week after the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks. The attack is likely to draw renewed criticism of the Saudi air campaign. At least 10 children were killed and 21 wounded in an airstrike in northern Yemen on Saturday, aid group Doctors Without ... Read More »

IS suicide bombers kill dozens of army recruits in Yemen’s provisional capital Aden

The blasts occurred at a military base in the provisional capital of Aden - dozens were injured in the attack. The UN says 2.8 million Yemenis have been displaced since the fighting began. A pair of suicide bomb attacks Monday killed at least 40 people and injured dozens more in Aden, Yemen's provisional capital. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility for the attack, which began when a suicide bomber killed at least 34 new army recruits who had gathered at the Badr base in Aden's Khormaksar district. IS issued a statement online, saying one of its fighters detonated an explosives belt among "apostate soldiers" at a recruitment center, followed by the bombing at a gate of the Badr base. A local resident described the attack scene as "horrible," saying body parts had been blown dozens of yards (meters) away. "They came to complete the procedure of their recruitment and receive their first salary," he said, speaking of the young men who had gathered outside the army center. The second attack, inside the army base, killed seven more people. Conflicting reports put the number of wounded at 38 and 60. The European Union condemned the attacks in a statement, saying they "highlight the importance of restoring peace and the rule of law throughout the country." Attacks come amid peace talks The attack came on a day when the government resumed peace talks with the country's original rebels. Houthi militants, supported by Iran, overran the capital of Sanaa last year, forcing President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia. Hadi subsequently returned to establish a provisional capital in the port city of Aden. Saudi Arabia lead an Arab coalition that began a bombing campaign in Yemen in March 2015. Their aim had been to oust Houthi rebels and pave the way for a return to power of President Hadi. Despite a fierce and at times indescriminate air campaign, the Houthi rebels could not be routed, forcing the two sides to the negotiating table. More than 6,400 people have been killed in the fighting, and 2.8 million have been displaced, according to the United Nations. The world body says 82 percent of Yemen's population is in need of aid. With much of the country left ungoverned IS militants moved in to fill the vacuum, but they have been competing with Houthi rebels and al-Qaida jihadists, who have long been present in Yemen. A peace agreement with Houthi rebels, which is far from imminent would diminish the violence, but it would by no means bring peace to a country situated at the heal of the Arabian peninsula. IS also launched a series of deadly bombings in Syria on Monday, killing almost 150 people. The attacks occurred in coastal cities, which had considered safe territories under government control.

The blasts occurred at a military base in the provisional capital of Aden – dozens were injured in the attack. The UN says 2.8 million Yemenis have been displaced since the fighting began. A pair of suicide bomb attacks Monday killed at least 40 people and injured dozens more in Aden, Yemen’s provisional capital. The Islamic State (IS) claimed responsibility ... Read More »

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