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The Yemen ceasefire and international delusion about the realities of the war

Al-Qaeda fighters carrying weapons in Yemen [File photo]
Al-Qaeda fighters carrying weapons in Yemen [File photo]

Another ceasefire was officially implemented in Yemen on 10 April at 9pm GMT, in the run-up to the Kuwait peace talks due on 18 April. There are sporadic pockets of hope for a political solution to the conflict, but those are generally in conjunction with the military situation on the ground. What has been especially worrying about this ceasefire is that the violations happened so quickly; so quickly, in fact, that it can be questioned whether the ceasefire actually started in the first place.

According to a statement I received from the Centre for Human Development in Taiz, within the first hour of the ceasefire the Houthi and Saleh militias bombed the strategic 35 Armoured Brigade and began shelling residential areas. By the second hour, civilians were reported to be injured, with attacks intensified as shelling continued, including around a hospital in Al-Rawdah neighbourhood. Attacks continued throughout the night, provoking local resistance forces to retaliate.

Other provinces have not been unaffected by this. Within the first 48 hours of the ceasefire, a total of 153 ceasefire violations by the Houthi and Saleh forces were recorded across the country. The violations have not only been recorded in Taiz, which is still being besieged, but also in other provinces. Through the first night of the ceasefire, clashes in Marib and, further north, in Al-Jawf continued, including the firing of a ballistic missile in Marib which was intercepted by aerial support from the coalition. On Wednesday, General Zaid Houri, a senior officer in the Yemeni forces, was killed by sniper fire from Houthi/Saleh forces in north-western Sana’a.

Many locals have interpreted this as a message by the Houthis and Saleh that, yet again, they are not ready to disarm, thus further deteriorating the pretext of trust for the peace talks. Despite this, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdel Salem gave a statement to Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, stressing the Houthis’ intention to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and claiming that they are looking forward to a permanent solution to the conflict in Yemen.

On Thursday afternoon, local sources reported the killing of Bashir Shahra in the city of Ibb after Houthi and Saleh militias fired at his home during their continuous shelling of residential areas.

It is undeniable that the early violations which then provoked the retaliation from the other parties to the conflict have perpetuated the political rift in the lead-up to the peace talks. Trust has always been a problem during peace talks, with the last UN-sponsored talks not going much past trust-building exercises and then failing at a prisoner swap, which was something that the tribes managed to conduct instead.

The other problematic element of the ceasefire is that even if it was implemented properly without violations, it only meant that the physical violence would be halted. For most parts of the country, this would be ideal because it means that aid would be able to move more easily and aid workers would be able to work without fear of attack around the infrastructure which has crumbled as a result of the war. The ceasefire does not, though, mean a temporary end to any sieges imposed; the Houthi/Saleh siege of Taiz is ongoing and there are still around half a million people without adequate access to food, water and medical supplies. According to local sources, Al-Wazi’iyah District in Taiz, with a population of more than 75,000 people, has seen significant destruction. So far, 28 villages have been destroyed by Houthi and Saleh forces; 5,000 families and 35,000 people are now displaced as a result; 30 houses have been looted or completely destroyed; 50 people have been kidnapped; 100 have been killed; and around 300 are injured. To them, the damage has already been done. They are homeless, traumatised, injured; their families have been broken and are starving. If the ceasefire was implemented properly, there would have been a temporary halt in violence, but the international community does not seem to understand that a temporary ceasefire is not enough. The world forgets that temporary pockets of peace in Yemen should not be seen as an international achievement; ongoing peace in Yemen is a fundamental right and it is the responsibility of the international community to fulfil that right with a committed sense of urgency.

Having experienced peace talks through 2015, the political elite in Yemen know very well that there needs to be healthy pre-conditions to the talks. They know that trust is important and everyone understands that there is a humanitarian catastrophe induced by war games that can only be stopped by them being fully dedicated to stopping the war and working on civil peace-building and development.

The international community’s role in ensuring that a ceasefire stays in place shows how distant everyone seems to be from the situation on the ground; although in some areas a ceasefire does help, even if minimally, it is not enough. It is easily forgotten that the domestic political situation in Yemen is what defines the military and humanitarian situation on the ground. The fact that the international community does not look at the conflict through this lens and is quick to label any perceived step forward as a progression and success in ending the war is not only egotistic and lazy, but is also delusional; it is contributing to the further destruction of what was once known as “happy Arabia” simply because the prime cause of this tragedy is being ignored.

Another ceasefire was officially implemented in Yemen on 10 April at 9pm GMT, in the run-up to the Kuwait peace talks due on 18 April. There are sporadic pockets of hope for a political solution to the conflict, but those are generally in conjunction with the military situation on the ground. What has been especially worrying about this ceasefire is that the violations happened so quickly; so quickly, in fact, that it can be questioned whether the ceasefire actually started in the first place.

According to a statement I received from the Centre for Human Development in Taiz, within the first hour of the ceasefire the Houthi and Saleh militias bombed the strategic 35 Armoured Brigade and began shelling residential areas. By the second hour, civilians were reported to be injured, with attacks intensified as shelling continued, including around a hospital in Al-Rawdah neighbourhood. Attacks continued throughout the night, provoking local resistance forces to retaliate.

Other provinces have not been unaffected by this. Within the first 48 hours of the ceasefire, a total of 153 ceasefire violations by the Houthi and Saleh forces were recorded across the country. The violations have not only been recorded in Taiz, which is still being besieged, but also in other provinces. Through the first night of the ceasefire, clashes in Marib and, further north, in Al-Jawf continued, including the firing of a ballistic missile in Marib which was intercepted by aerial support from the coalition. On Wednesday, General Zaid Houri, a senior officer in the Yemeni forces, was killed by sniper fire from Houthi/Saleh forces in north-western Sana’a.

Many locals have interpreted this as a message by the Houthis and Saleh that, yet again, they are not ready to disarm, thus further deteriorating the pretext of trust for the peace talks. Despite this, Houthi spokesperson Mohammed Abdel Salem gave a statement to Saudi newspaper Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, stressing the Houthis’ intention to implement UN Security Council Resolution 2216 and claiming that they are looking forward to a permanent solution to the conflict in Yemen.

On Thursday afternoon, local sources reported the killing of Bashir Shahra in the city of Ibb after Houthi and Saleh militias fired at his home during their continuous shelling of residential areas.

It is undeniable that the early violations which then provoked the retaliation from the other parties to the conflict have perpetuated the political rift in the lead-up to the peace talks. Trust has always been a problem during peace talks, with the last UN-sponsored talks not going much past trust-building exercises and then failing at a prisoner swap, which was something that the tribes managed to conduct instead.

The other problematic element of the ceasefire is that even if it was implemented properly without violations, it only meant that the physical violence would be halted. For most parts of the country, this would be ideal because it means that aid would be able to move more easily and aid workers would be able to work without fear of attack around the infrastructure which has crumbled as a result of the war. The ceasefire does not, though, mean a temporary end to any sieges imposed; the Houthi/Saleh siege of Taiz is ongoing and there are still around half a million people without adequate access to food, water and medical supplies. According to local sources, Al-Wazi’iyah District in Taiz, with a population of more than 75,000 people, has seen significant destruction. So far, 28 villages have been destroyed by Houthi and Saleh forces; 5,000 families and 35,000 people are now displaced as a result; 30 houses have been looted or completely destroyed; 50 people have been kidnapped; 100 have been killed; and around 300 are injured. To them, the damage has already been done. They are homeless, traumatised, injured; their families have been broken and are starving. If the ceasefire was implemented properly, there would have been a temporary halt in violence, but the international community does not seem to understand that a temporary ceasefire is not enough. The world forgets that temporary pockets of peace in Yemen should not be seen as an international achievement; ongoing peace in Yemen is a fundamental right and it is the responsibility of the international community to fulfil that right with a committed sense of urgency.

Having experienced peace talks through 2015, the political elite in Yemen know very well that there needs to be healthy pre-conditions to the talks. They know that trust is important and everyone understands that there is a humanitarian catastrophe induced by war games that can only be stopped by them being fully dedicated to stopping the war and working on civil peace-building and development.

The international community’s role in ensuring that a ceasefire stays in place shows how distant everyone seems to be from the situation on the ground; although in some areas a ceasefire does help, even if minimally, it is not enough. It is easily forgotten that the domestic political situation in Yemen is what defines the military and humanitarian situation on the ground. The fact that the international community does not look at the conflict through this lens and is quick to label any perceived step forward as a progression and success in ending the war is not only egotistic and lazy, but is also delusional; it is contributing to the further destruction of what was once known as “happy Arabia” simply because the prime cause of this tragedy is being ignored.

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