UN Calls for ‘Humanitarian Pause’ in Yemen Fighting After Days of Clashes

Yemen
People search for survivors after an airstrike in Yemen.

The United Nations’ humanitarian coordinator in Yemen is calling for a pause in fighting to allow civilians caught in fighting in Sanaa to seek refuge as clashes in the capital continued for a fifth day.

U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said in a statement on Monday that dozens of people have been killed and hundreds reported injured, including civilians.

“I call on all parties to the conflict to urgently enable a humanitarian pause on Tuesday 5 December, between 10:00 a.m. and 16:00 p.m. to allow civilians to leave their homes and seek assistance and protection and to facilitate the movement of aid workers to ensure the continuity of life-saving programmes. The wounded must be afforded safe access to medical care,” Mr. McGoldrick said.

Earlier on Monday, media controlled by the Houthi rebels claimed that Ali Abdullah Saleh, who resigned under pressure in 2011, had been killed.

Videos and photographs posted on social media purported to show Houthi fighters carrying Mr. Saleh’s dead body through Sanaa, while chanting slogans. The photos indicated the former leader had suffered a serious head wound.

Mr. Saleh on Saturday said he was open to dialogue with a coalition led by Saudi Arabia that intervened in the conflict in March 2015. On Sunday, he publicly split with the Houthis, who had supported him through the conflict.

Airstrikes in Yemen’s capital

Airstrikes were reported in Sanaa on Sunday night and early Monday, with residents saying they were trapped inside their homes for hours. Witnesses also reported that the clashes that began last week between supporters of Mr. Saleh and Houthi fighters had spread to Sanaa’s streets. At least 60 people were killed by Sunday, AFP reported.

The Saudi coalition is the only party to the conflict known to carry out air raids in Sanaa.

Suze van Meegen, protection and advocacy advisor for the Norwegian Refugee Council, told The Globe Post that the organization’s operations in Sanaa are effectively at a standstill as the fighting continues.

“No one is safe in Sanaa at the moment. I can hear heavy shelling outside now and know it is too imprecise and too pervasive to guarantee that any of us are safe,” Ms. van Meegen said.

“We have been facing enormous challenges reaching the overwhelming number of people who need assistance to stay alive through the collapse of Yemen’s basic civil services. We faced enormous challenges trying to prevent people from dying of cholera while authorities in Yemen made access to them difficult. The ongoing blockade of commercial imports through Hodeida Port is beyond challenging and will inevitably result in thousands of preventable deaths. But this violence is completely paralysing humanitarian operations. We cannot move from our houses. Sanaa is in hibernation and with it, so is any chance of reaching people with food, water, healthcare or education.”

The NRC said it is calling for an immediate ceasefire. “Those with influence over parties to the conflict must take press for an urgent cessation of the violence and help bring about peaceful mediation,” Ms. van Meegen added.

One colleague was trapped in his home, which is between two checkpoints and surrounded by snipers, she said. “He and his family are sheltering in their basement, without any electricity, listening to tanks roll by outside.”

The International Committee of the Red Cross on Monday called on the parties to allow humanitarian access, including urgent medical care and other aid, as well as food and water.

“Days of brutal clashes and airstrikes have taken an immense toll on Sanaa’s fragile population,” the ICRC tweeted.

The U.N. has called the situation in Yemen the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, which has deepened since the coalition intervened in 2015. An estimated 7 million people in the country are entirely dependent on foreign aid for food, and more than 20 million, including 11 million children, urgently need humanitarian aid.