US designation of Houthis as terrorists harms Saudi Arabia, not Iran & will only cause more suffering for Yemen

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By Robert Inlakesh, a political analyst, journalist, and documentary filmmaker currently based in London, UK. He has reported from and lived in the occupied Palestinian territories and currently works with Quds News and Press TV. Director of ‘Steal of the Century: Trump’s Palestine-Israel Catastrophe’. Follow him on Twitter @falasteen47

Despite claims from US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo that Iran will be affected by the move to register Yemen’s Ansarallah (Houthis) as a terrorist organization, the decision may in reality have the opposite effect.

The Trump administration announced this week that they would register Yemen’s Ansarallah Movement as a terrorist organization, amid fears from the UN of derailing peace talks between the group and the Saudi-Emirati-backed opposition government. 

As Yemen is currently facing the largest humanitarian crisis on the planet, roughly 80 percent of the country’s population is in desperate need of aid in order to survive. According to UNICEF 12 million children are in need of humanitarian assistance, two million of which face extreme starvation. This untold suffering of the Yemeni people will now likely increase and not to the slightest detriment of Iran, but rather the US’ ally Saudi Arabia.

Many players factor into the war in Yemen, with the Ansarallah governing the most significant block of the country and holding the capital city of Sanaa. After the removal of former Yemeni President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi from his position of power by Ansarallah in 2015, Saudi Arabia and other Arab regimes launched a war to reinstall him as president. The US and Britain backed the Saudi-led coalition to depose the Ansarallah from its newly acquired control of the capital and surrounding territory, but have until now failed to meet that aim.

Hadi had fled Yemen and with Saudi backing was granted power to form a government based in the southern city of Aden, also receiving international recognition branding him the legitimate president of Yemen. Despite this, even in Aden, the UAE backed Southern Transitional Council (STC) had contested this power. In April of last year the STC declared their own autonomous rule in southern Yemen, leading to an escalation of violence. In December however, the STC accepted joining the internationally backed, anti-Houthi, “Unity government” led by President Hadi.

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Whilst the so-called ‘unity government’ has been formed, it cannot be considered as a be-all end-all solution for Yemen’s brutal war, as Ansarallah still remains the biggest player in Yemen, in terms of its military power and control of vital territory. Ansarallah has not been included in the newly formed ‘unity government’ and the US’ decision to register the group as a terrorist organization, will, according to the UN, derail peace talks from going ahead between the group and its Saudi-backed opposition.

The so-called threat of Iran to the Persian-Gulf Arab States has played one of the biggest roles in allowing for the war in Yemen to continue, pushing the regimes to pursue alternative trade routes, negating the Iranian controlled Strait of Hormuz. 

On top of all of this, the designation does not even benefit the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA). A prolonged military conflict, instead of a negotiated peace settlement with Ansarallah will further drain the resources of Saudi-backed forces on the battlefield, as well as mean an escalation of attacks on mainland Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabia has pursued what was supposed to be a simple military solution, with logistical, diplomatic and military support of the West, for almost six years and has failed. In reality the very opposite of a KSA victory has transpired, with Ansarallah only having grown stronger, gaining more territory, inflicting embarrassing defeats upon Saudi forces and their proxies and garnering more concrete support from its primary ally Iran.

Despite Ansarallah having condemned the designation announcement, its military wing is likely to use this moment as a justification for further offensive actions in its favor. As a registered terrorist organization, it would be nearly impossible for an officially diplomatically achieved settlement to be reached and hence will push the Saudi-Emirati-backed forces opposing the group to engage in the only remaining solution. The same solution that has completely failed them since the start of the war in 2015.

Mike Pompeo said in a press release that “the designations are also intended to advance efforts to achieve a peaceful, sovereign, and united Yemen that is both free from Iranian interference and at peace with its neighbors.”

However, despite the hardline rhetoric, this terrorist designation will have about as little effect on Iran, as the designation of Gaza’s Hamas has had. If anything, the added pressure placed on Saudi Arabia to end its war internationally, as well as the military might of the Houthis’ cruise-missile strikes on its infrastructure, will perhaps give Iran favorable leverage over the KSA.

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Caitlin Johnstone: FYI Trump’s latest Yemen move is far worse than the Capitol riot

What is clear now is that this move will increase the suffering of the Yemeni civilian population, pushing Saudi Arabia to engage in the sole option remaining, a military one. The results of which will usher in an even higher civilian death toll, in a country which is on the brink of famine and is experiencing a cholera epidemic. 

With the incoming Joe Biden administration reportedly open to entering back into the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA), this step could not be more vital for securing future stability in Yemen. The Houthis are backed by their Iranian allies and a renewal of the nuclear deal, including within talks during the process of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council), could ensure that the Gulf backed anti-Houthi elements in Yemen secure their own interests in the region and hence have no need to pursue war in Yemen based upon financial incentive. This would ultimately kill two birds with one stone for Biden, paving the way for peace with both Iran and Yemen.

Trump seems to be throwing as many hurdles as possible at the incoming Biden administration in order to prevent this from occurring. The impact the designation of the Ansarallah as a terrorist group will mean that if Joe Biden wishes to truly pursue peace in Yemen, he must reverse the registration of the group. On top of this, the outgoing sanctions on Iran, administered by President Trump, will have to be rolled back and the military threats of Trump must be abandoned. If not, Yemen will become an even bigger bloodbath and the US’ Saudi allies will cede even more territory to the Houthis.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Caitlin Johnstone: FYI Trump’s latest Yemen move is far worse than the Capitol riot

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By Caitlin Johnstone, an independent journalist based in Melbourne, Australia. Her website is here and you can follow her on Twitter @caitoz

While the Capitol riot is being hysterically compared to Pearl Harbor and Kristallnacht by the political/media class, the Trump administration has done something far, far worse that is receiving far, far less attention.

The US State Department has officially announced its intention to designate Yemen’s Houthis as a terrorist group, as many had previously warned. Humanitarian organizations have been condemning the move as it will make it more difficult to provide aid to a population that is already being brutalized by the worst mass atrocity in the entire world, a Saudi-led atrocity which could not occur without the help of the Western power alliance.

We are already seeing some effects of this designation.

We are ceasing all operations in the United States for the time being, as well as putting a temporary halt to our intended plans for humanitarian fundraising.Let it be known that the Trump Administration just criminalized foreign humanitarian aid to #Yemen. pic.twitter.com/uUDEgEu9hP

— Yemen Solidarity Council (@YSCouncil) January 11, 2021

Antiwar’s Dave DeCamp reports the following:

The terror designation will hamper the efforts of international charities that deliver food to Houthi-controlled areas, where 70 percent of Yemen’s population lives and malnutrition is the most widespread.

Aid agencies fear their work in north Yemen will now be criminalized since the Houthis are the authority they have to deal with and make transactions with. US terror designations open up sanctions on any individuals or entities that do business with those Washington brands as terrorists.

Pompeo said exemptions would be made for humanitarian goods. But any additional roadblocks for aid agencies will cause more suffering in Yemen since the situation is so dire. “Even with exemptions, the operation will be compromised,” said Janti Soeripto, the president of Save the Children, according to AP News.

The United Nations conservatively estimates that some 233,000 Yemenis have been killed in the war between the Houthis and the US-backed Saudi-led coalition, mostly from what it calls “indirect causes.” Those indirect causes would be disease and starvation resulting from what UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres calls “the worst famine the world has seen for decades.”

When people hear the word “famine” they usually think of mass hunger caused by droughts or other naturally occurring phenomena, but in reality the starvation deaths we are seeing in Yemen (a huge percentage of which are children under the age of five) are caused by something that is no more natural than the starvation deaths you’d see in a medieval siege. They are the result of the Saudi coalition’s use of blockades and its deliberate targeting of farms, fishing boats, marketplaces, food storage sites, and cholera treatment centers with airstrikes aimed at making the Houthi-controlled parts of Yemen so weak and miserable that they break.

In other words, the US and its allies have been helping Saudi Arabia deliberately kill children and other civilians on a mass scale in order to achieve a political goal. Which would of course be a perfect example of any standard definition of terrorism. The unfathomably savage and bloodthirsty US empire designating the Houthis as a terrorist organization is the least funny joke that has ever been told.

The Trump administration has just designated Yemen's Houthis as a terrorist organization while facilitating the worst mass atrocity on this planet in the Saudi-led assault on Yemen. Here's an article I wrote about this depraved move last month:https://t.co/Tqno1XO4jk

— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) January 11, 2021

This move is quantifiably far, far worse than anything Trump could possibly have done to incite the Capitol riot, as it will kill far, far more people, yet the mass media fixate on one news story while virtually ignoring the other. This is because the Capitol riot story feeds into partisan narratives and manufactures consent for authoritarian domestic terrorism laws, while the Yemen story highlights the depravity of US imperialism. The plutocrat-owned media does not exist to give you a truthful representation of the world, it exists to keep the wheels of the empire rolling along.

There’s a weird taboo against saying some things are worse than other things, especially when it involves things the mass media tell us are of cataclysmic significance. People shriek “Why are you minimizing the Capitol raid?” and “Why are you comparing them! It’s not a pissing contest!” This is stupid. All things are not equal to all other things, and figuring out the ways in which news coverage is disproportionate and not reflective of reality is a very important part of making sense of the world.

So now Americans are being fed a steady diet of narratives about the threat Trump’s radicalized base poses to people of color, while ignoring the fact that Trump is currently implementing policies which facilitate the butchery of people of color. Only difference is the latter is hidden behind geographical remoteness, and is far more egregious.

Americans Only Care About America. Their Rulers Only Care About World Domination."The story of Kanye and Kim's divorce is going to generate more news media views than the entirety of the Yemen war since it began."https://t.co/D9QuQSOrPW

— Caitlin Johnstone ⏳ (@caitoz) January 6, 2021

It matters that the mass media do not cover news stories with an accurate degree of proportion. It matters that they keep the public’s gaze diverted from the horrors of empire while radically distorting their sense of reality. This isn’t some idle “contrarian take”. This matters.

In the last couple of centuries we’ve progressed all the way from expecting our leaders to murder brown-skinned people while saying racist things to expecting our leaders to murder brown-skinned people while condemning racism. The murder hasn’t changed, and the racism hasn’t really changed either. All that’s changed is the norms of how it is put into practice.

This matters.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.

Saudi proposes framework to end standoff between allies in southern Yemen

June 18, 2020 / 8:58 AM / Updated 12 minutes agoSaudi proposes framework to end standoff between allies in southern Yemen

DUBAI (Reuters) – Saudi Arabia has proposed a framework to end the latest standoff in southern Yemen between nominal allies under a Saudi-led coalition, three sources said, as violence escalates with the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in the north of the country.

FILE PHOTO: The emblem of the STC is seen between weapons held by Yemeni government soldiers at the headquarters of the separatist Southern Transitional Council in Ataq, Yemen August 27, 2019. REUTERS/Ali Owidha/File Photo

Previous clashes between Yemen’s Saudi-backed government and the Southern Transitional Council (STC), a separatist group, have complicated U.N. efforts to end Yemen’s ruinous conflict and protect its fractured health sector from COVID-19.

The STC in April declared self-rule in Aden, interim seat of the Riyadh-backed government, and in other southern regions, risking reigniting violence between the two sides, both members of the anti-Houthi alliance.

Three sources with knowledge said Riyadh submitted a proposal, seen by Reuters, to implement a power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia last November but which stalled.

It calls for a ceasefire in Abyan province and for STC to rescind emergency rule. Thereafter Saudi-backed President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi would appoint a governor and security head for Aden, and name a premier to form a cabinet that includes the STC.

The STC would then remove its forces from Aden and redeploy in Abyan, following which the new government would be formed.

Mistrust remains an obstacle to Riyadh’s attempts to prevent another front in the multifaceted war it seeks to exit, goals that have gained urgency ahead of its hosting of a G20 summit in November and as Yemen struggles with a coronavirus outbreak.

Two of the sources told Reuters the STC, which is backed by coalition partner the United Arab Emirates, wants the cabinet formed before moving its forces.

Hadi’s government was ousted by the Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene. The war, which has caused the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, has been in stalemate for years.

Riyadh late last year launched indirect talks with the Houthis, who say they are fighting a corrupt system. The conflict is seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.

Factbox: U.N. programmes in Yemen at risk of going broke

June 2, 2020 / 5:00 AM / in 3 hoursFactbox: U.N. programmes in Yemen at risk of going broke

DUBAI (Reuters) – The United Nations said ahead of a pledging conference for Yemen on Tuesday that 30 of 41 major aid programmes in the war-torn country would close in the next few weeks without funding.

Of some 20 million Yemenis who are food insecure, nearly 10 million are acutely food insecure.

More than 3.6 million Yemenis have been diplaced by conflict. Disease is rife and the United Nations says the health system has effectively collapsed.

Programme reductions had already started in some areas, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Lise Grande, told Reuters:

** The World Food Programme, which feeds more than 12 million Yemenis a month, in April halved rations in northern areas. It needs funding for existing operations and to ramp back up operations in the north.

** One week before the first COVID-19 case was announced in Yemen on April 10, the World Health Organisation was forced to suspend payments to 10,000 health workers.

** Programmes for pregnant and lactating women are being shut in 140 healthcare facilities.

** Immunization programs are being suspended.

** Fifty-one primary healthcare clinics have closed.

Depending on the amount of money raised, Grande said more cuts or closures could follow:

** Basic health services provided at 189 hospitals and 200 primary healthcare units could be lost.

** Some 6.5 million people including those in areas with cholera could lose water and sanitation services.

** Nutrition programmes for 2 million malnourished children would have to be shut.

Missile attack on Yemen army base in Marib kills seven: sources

May 27, 2020 / 7:50 AM / Updated an hour agoMissile attack on Yemen army base in Marib kills seven: sources

ADEN (Reuters) – Houthi fighters in Yemen fired missiles at a military base of the Saudi-backed government in Marib province, northeast of the capital Sanaa, on Tuesday, killing seven people including relatives of the chief of staff, three military sources said.

The assault took place after the expiry of a one-month ceasefire announced on April 24 by the Saudi-led coalition that is battling the Iran-aligned movement and which was prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

There was no immediate claim from the Houthis, who despite the truce have continued their advance on Marib city, leading the coalition to launch air strikes in response.

The sources said Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sagheer bin Aziz survived Tuesday’s attack. One of his sons and a nephew, both officers, were killed along with five others, the sources said. Another of his sons confirmed this on Twitter.

The United Nations has been trying to hold virtual talks between the warring parties to forge a permanent ceasefire, agree a coordinated coronavirus response and restart peace talks stalled since late 2018.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) said on Friday that the novel coronavirus is spreading throughout the country, which has limited testing capabilities and whose malnourished population has among the world’s lowest immunity levels to disease.

Yemen has been divided between the Saudi-backed government in the south and the Houthi movement based in the north since the group ousted the government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014, prompting the coalition to intervene a few months later.

The government has reported 249 infections with 48 deaths from the virus while the Houthis, who hold most large population centres, announced four cases with one death, all in Sanaa.

OCHA has said actual numbers are much higher and that Yemen’s war-ravaged health system has in effect collapsed.

UK-flagged tanker repulses pirate attack in Gulf of Aden, ship manager says

May 17, 2020 / 3:27 PM / Updated 2 hours agoUK-flagged tanker repulses pirate attack in Gulf of Aden, ship manager saysLisa Barrington, Jonathan Saul

DUBAI/LONDON (Reuters) – Armed pirates attacked a British-flagged chemical tanker in the Gulf of Aden on Sunday but were repulsed, the ship’s manager Stolt Tankers said.

The pirates approached the Stolt Apal in two speedboats some 75 nautical miles off Yemen, it said, in one of the most important trade routes for oil heading from the Middle East to Europe.

“After multiple warning shots were fired by the armed guard team aboard Stolt Apal, the skiffs opened fire on the ship. The armed guard team returned fire, disabling one skiff and ending the pursuit,” a company spokesman told Reuters in emailed comments.

“A coalition warship (also) responded and Stolt Apal has resumed her voyage,” the spokesman said.

He did not specify which coalition was meant, but maritime security sources said the vessel had been sailing through a transit corridor patrolled by international naval forces due to the high risk of attack.

The spokesman said the ship’s bridge had sustained minor damage from bullets but that there were no injuries. None of the ship’s cargo was damaged.

British officials were not immediately available for comment.

Stolt Tankers is a subsidiary of Norwegian listed Stolt-Nielsen.

Merchant ships have been attacked in recent years in the Gulf of Aden and the Bab al-Mandab waterway by armed gangs as well as militant groups such as Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.

A Saudi-led Sunni Muslim military coalition has in the past accused Yemen’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which it has been battling for five years, of trying to attack vessels off the coast of Yemen with unmanned boats laden with explosives.

Maritime security firm Dryad Global said it was the ninth reported incident in the Gulf of Aden this year.

The United Kingdom Maritime Trade Operations (UKMTO) naval authority says in a warning notice on its website that it advises vessels in the area “to exercise extreme caution”.

Pirates attack tanker Stolt Apal off Yemen, ship’s manager says

May 17, 2020 / 6:34 PM / Updated 3 hours agoPirates attack tanker Stolt Apal off Yemen, ship's manager says

DUBAI (Reuters) – Stolt Tankers said its vessel the Stolt Apal was attacked by pirates 75 nautical miles off Yemen’s coast on Sunday.

Stolt Tankers said six armed pirates approached the vessel in two speedboats.

“After multiple warning shots were fired by the armed guard team aboard Stolt Apal, the skiffs opened fire on the ship. The armed guard team returned fire, disabling one skiff and ending the pursuit,” Stolt Tankers said.

“The bridge area sustained minor damage from bullets but there were no injuries, no pollution and no cargo impacted on Stolt Apal. A coalition warship responded and Stolt Apal has resumed her voyage.”

Yemen declares Aden an ‘infested’ city as coronavirus spreads, clashes erupt

May 11, 2020 / 2:19 AM / Updated 41 minutes agoYemen declares Aden an 'infested' city as coronavirus spreads, clashes eruptMohammed Ghobari

ADEN (Reuters) – Yemeni authorities declared Aden, interim seat of the Saudi-backed government, an “infested” city on Monday after the number of coronavirus cases there jumped and clashes erupted elsewhere in the south between separatists and government forces.

A five-year war has shattered Yemen’s health system, pushed millions to the brink of famine and divided the country between the internationally recognised government and the Houthi group that ousted it from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says there is a full-blown transmission of the virus in Yemen, with the disease spreading undetected among a population with some of the lowest levels of immunity to disease compared with other states.

Testing capabilities are inadequate but the WHO has also urged local authorities to transparently report confirmed cases.

The Aden-based national coronavirus committee late on Sunday announced 17 new COVID-19 cases, 10 of them in the southern port city, to raise the total count in areas under the Saudi-backed government’s control to 51 with eight deaths.

The Iran-aligned Houthi movement, which controls Sanaa and most large urban centres, has reported two cases, with one death. The Aden-based government has accused Houthi authorities of covering up an outbreak in Sanaa, an accusation they deny.

The committee said Aden had been declared an “infested city” due to the spread of the coronavirus and other diseases already rife in the country after recent flooding. It said movement from Aden to other regions was barred, except for transport of goods.

“The administrative and political situation in Aden is also hampering efforts to combat the coronavirus and this should be remedied so relevant entities can carry out their duties,” the committee said on its Twitter account.

The separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) on April 25 declared self-rule in Aden and other southern regions, threatening to renew a conflict with the Saudi-backed government in Yemen’s multifaceted war.

STC and the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi are both part of the anti-Houthi coalition led by Saudi Arabia, but they clashed last year until Riyadh brokered a deal in November.

Residents reported shelling early on Monday in Abyan province. STC said its fighters were attacked by government forces. There was no immediate comment from the Hadi government.

MIGRANT CONCERN

The Western-backed coalition intervened in March 2015 to restore Hadi’s government to power in Sanaa, but the conflict, largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran, has been in stalemate for years.

More than 100,000 have been killed since 2015 and some 80% of the population, or 24 million, rely on aid while some 10 million face hunger

The coalition on April 24 extended by one month a nationwide ceasefire prompted by the coronavirus outbreak as the United Nations seeks to hold virtual talks to agree a permanent truce, coordinate coronavirus efforts and restart peace talks.

The Houthis, who say they are fighting a corrupt system, have not formally accepted the truce though violence has abated.

The WHO late on Saturday ordered a pause in staff activity in main Houthi-held areas, citing “credible threats” to staff, but reversed the directive on Sunday, according to a document seen by Reuters and confirmed by the organisation.

The suspension was prompted by accusations from Houthi officials that the first coronavirus case announced in Sanaa, a Somali man found dead in a hotel, was brought to the capital by the WHO. A Houthi official on Sunday tweeted a retraction.

The United Nations on Sunday voiced concern that migrants are being stigmatized as “transmitters of disease”, saying in a statement that some have been forced to move to frontlines and desert areas with no essential services.

Yemen has long been a transit point for migrants and refugees from the Horn of Africa trying to reach Gulf states.

Yemen records first coronavirus case in Taiz province as virus spreads

May 2, 2020 / 8:01 AM / Updated an hour agoYemen records first coronavirus case in Taiz province as virus spreadsMohammed Ghobari

ADEN (Reuters) – Yemen reported the first case of the novel coronavirus in a third province late on Friday, raising the number of diagnosed infections to seven with two deaths in one of the world’s most vulnerable countries.

The United Nations says it fears the virus could be spreading undetected in the country where a five-year war has shattered health systems and left millions acutely malnourished.

The emergency coronavirus committee said in a Twitter post that a 40-year-old man was diagnosed with the infection in the southwestern Taiz governorate, the region’s first case.

“The patient is receiving care at a quarantine centre and measures have been taken by the monitoring teams and the health department for those who interacted with him,” it added.

A report issued by Yemen’s disease early warning system, seen by Reuters, identified the man as Ehab Mahyoub and said he came to Taiz by car with his family on April 27 from the southern port of Aden, where he worked at a jewellery store. It said he first experienced symptoms two days earlier.

Authorities received a call on April 30 from a local at Taiz fishing market reporting the suspected case and Mayhoub was taken to Joumhuriya hospital, the report said.

It said 10 people in close contact with him, mostly relatives, appeared in good health and were told to self-isolate at home.

Yemen recorded its first case of COVID-19 in southern Hadharamout province on April 10. On Wednesday, it announced five infections in Aden, with two deaths.

The poor country is already grappling with the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis caused by the war between a Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi group that ousted the government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014.

The World Health Organisation has said it fears the worst about the COVID-19 impact in Yemen as its population has some of the lowest levels of immunity and most acute vulnerability to disease compared with other countries.

Around 80% of the population, or 24 million people, rely on humanitarian aid and 10 million are at risk of starvation. Disease is rife and some like dengue fever share the same symptoms as the novel coronavirus, making it harder to detect.

Yemen is split into rival power centres. On Wednesday the Aden-based government’s emergency coronavirus committee voiced concern that Houthi officials were not admitting to a coronavirus outbreak in Sanaa. The group’s health authorities said all suspected cases there had tested negative for COVID-19.

Houthi authorities sent a letter to the U.N. humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, dated April 30 and seen by Reuters, requesting at least 250,000 swab and 100,000 polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests and 15 PCR testing devices.

Yemeni authorities have upgraded 37 hospitals across the country with makeshift coronavirus wings but there is a shortage of testing kits, ventilators and hospital beds.

Saudi-led coalition in Yemen calls for end to escalation in south

April 27, 2020 / 1:19 AM / Updated 2 hours agoSaudi-led coalition in Yemen calls for end to escalation in south

RIYADH (Reuters) – The Saudi-led coalition engaged in Yemen on Monday urged a leading separatist group that declared self-rule in the south to rescind its move, saying it was an “escalatory action” at a time all parties should focus on confronting the novel coronavirus.

The move by the separatist Southern Transitional Council (STC) threatens to renew conflict between the STC and the Saudi-backed government, nominal allies under the coalition, even as the United Nations tries to secure a permanent nationwide ceasefire over the coronavirus pandemic.

Yemen’s internationally recognised government warned of “catastrophic consequences” after the STC on Sunday declared emergency rule in southern governorates including Aden, interim seat of the government that was ousted from power in the capital, Sanaa, by the Houthi group in late 2014.

“The Coalition urges an immediate end to any steps contrary to the Riyadh Agreement, and work rapidly toward its implementation,” the alliance said in a statement, referring to a power-sharing deal brokered by Saudi Arabia in November.

It voiced support for the Saudi-backed government and said implementation of the deal would form a “competent government” based in Aden to tackle the novel coronavirus, recent flooding and other economic and developmental challenges.

Yemen has been mired in violence since the coalition intervened in March 2015 on Hadi’s side. There has been military stalemate for years and the Houthis hold most big urban centres.

The STC, which is backed by Riyadh’s main coalition partner the United Arab Emirates, has long sought self-rule in the south and accuses Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi’s government of mismanagement and corruption, a charge it denies.

The UAE, which shares the STC’s distrust of an Islamist party in Hadi’s government, reduced its presence in Yemen last year but maintains sway via southern fighters it backs.

The UAE is against the STC’s unilateral move, its minister of state for foreign affairs Anwar Gargash said on Monday, adding that “frustration” with the Riyadh agreement’s delay was no justification.

The Riyadh agreement ended a previous stand-off between the separatists and the government last year.

The UAE has confidence in Saudi Arabia’s commitment to implement the agreement, which could pave the way for the next stage of a political solution for Yemen, Gargash said.

The Saudi-led coalition has announced a unilateral truce prompted by a U.N. plea to focus on the coronavirus pandemic. The Houthis have not accepted it and violence has continued.

While Yemen has reported only one confirmed COVID-19 case, aid groups fear a catastrophe if it spreads among a malnourished population in a country with a shattered health system.

The United Nations is trying to convene virtual talks on the truce, coordinated coronavirus efforts and confidence-building steps to restart negotiations to end the war that has killed more than 100,000.

Saudi-led coalition announces one-month extension of Yemen ceasefire

April 24, 2020 / 10:42 AM / Updated 2 hours agoSaudi-led coalition announces one-month extension of Yemen ceasefire

DUBAI (Reuters) – The Saudi-led coalition on Friday said it was extending a unilateral ceasefire in Yemen by one month to support efforts to contain the coronavirus pandemic, the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA) reported, citing a coalition spokesman.

A two-week ceasefire announced by the coalition that is battling the Iran-aligned Houthi group in Yemen expired on Thursday without leading to a permanent truce.

The Houthi group did not accept the coalition’s previous ceasefire announcement and violence has continued in several provinces, raising fears that the war will grind on and shatter Yemen’s already weakened ability to combat the coronavirus.

The Houthis ousted the internationally recognized Saudi-backed government from power in the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014. They want a lifting of air and sea blockades imposed by the coalition to the regions they control before agreeing to a ceasefire, sources have told Reuters.

“The coalition’s command reaffirms that there is still an opportunity to focus all efforts in order to achieve a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire,” coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Maliki was quoted as saying by the SPA.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres last month called for ceasefires in conflicts across the world to allow countries to focus on the COVID-19 pandemic.

While Yemen has reported only one confirmed case of the novel coronavirus, aid groups fear a catastrophic outbreak should the virus spread among an acutely malnourished population in a country without adequate testing capabilities.

(This story corrects paragraph 4 to show blockades are to Houthi-controlled regions)