Hundreds of Thousands in Yemen March in Support of Houthis

Hundreds of Thousands in Yemen March in Support of Houthis ... 20/08/2016 Military

Keywords:#2015, #AP, #Aden, #Ali_Abdullah_Saleh, #Allah, #Amnesty_International, #Ansar_Allah, #Arab, #Arab_Spring, #Arabia, #Arabic, #Arms, #Bahrain, #Ban_Ki-moon, #Britain, #Children, #Djibouti, #Egypt, #Emirates, #Ethiopia, #Genocide, #Guardian, #Houthi, #Houthis, #Human_Rights, #Human_Rights_Watch, #Humanitarian, #IDP, #Iranian, #January, #Jordan, #Kuwait, #Legal, #London, #MSF, #Mansur_Hadi, #Morocco, #Muslim, #Nations, #OHCHR, #Oman, #Oxfam, #Pakistan, #President, #Qatar, #Red_Crescent, #Red_Sea, #Saturday, #Saudi, #Saudi_Arabia, #Saudi_Arabian-led_intervention_in_Yemen, #Secretary_General, #Secretary-General, #Security_Council, #September, #Somalia, #Sudan, #Tasnim,, #The_Guardian, #U.N, #UK, #UN_High_Commissioner_for_Human_Rights, #UN_Security_Council, #UNESCO, #US, #USA, #United_Arab_Emirates, #United_Nations, #United_States, #Western, #World_Heritage, #World_Heritage_Site, #Yemen, #Yemeni

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Hundreds of thousands of Yemenis marched on Saturday in support of Houthi movement and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Saturday march in the Houthi-held capital, Sana'a, was in support of a new combined governing council the Houthis and Saleh announced late last month, AP reported.
The former government and the United Nations rejected the council.
Yemen's war pits troops and militiamen loyal to the fugitive former government, backed by a Saudi-led coalition, against the Houthis and Saleh loyalists.
The Houthis captured Sana'a in 2014, and the US-backed coalition began its offensive against them in March 2015.
Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen
The Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen began in 2015 to influence the outcome of the Yemeni Civil War. Saudi Arabia, spearheading a coalition of nine Arab states, began carrying out airstrikes in neighbouring Yemen and imposing an aerial and naval blockade on 26 March, heralding a military intervention codenamed Operation Decisive Storm (Arabic: عملية عاصفة الحزم‎‎ `Amaliyyat `Āṣifat al-Ḥazm).
The intervention began in response to requests for assistance from the internationally recognized but domestically contested Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. The request was due to an offensive by the Houthis, an armed religious-political movement, aimed at its provisional capital of Aden. President Hadi fled Aden, left the country and went to Saudi Arabia as the coalition launched airstrikes against the Houthis and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was deposed in the 2011 Arab Spring uprisings but later switched sides and aligned himself with the Houthi revolutionaries.
Fighter jets from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, Sudan, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain also took part in the operation. Djibouti and Somalia made its airspace, territorial waters and military bases available to the coalition. The United States provided intelligence and logistical support, including search-and-rescue for downed coalition pilots. It also accelerated the sale of weapons to coalition states. US and Britain have deployed their military personnel in the command and control centre responsible for Saudi-led air strikes on Yemen, having access to lists of targets. Pakistan was called on by Saudi Arabia to join the coalition, but its parliament voted to maintain neutrality.
The intervention has received widespread criticism and had a dramatic worsening effect on the humanitarian situation, that reached the level of a "humanitarian disaster" or "humanitarian catastrophe". After the Saudi-led coalition declared the entire Saada Governorate a military target, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen said, air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on Saada city in Yemen were in breach of international law. On 1 July UN declared for Yemen a "level-three" emergency – the highest UN emergency level – for a period of six months. A September report by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that by the end of June 2015 almost two-thirds of civilians killed in the Yemeni conflict since March 26 had died as a result of airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. On 24 August, the UN special representative of the secretary-general for children and armed conflict said, that the majority (73%) of the hundreds of children killed in Yemen since the escalation of hostilities in late March 2015 were victims of Saudi coalition-led airstrikes. The UK, which is "working alongside" Saudi bomb targeters in the war, has also continued arm sales, saying it will stop supplying weapons if Saudi Arabia is found to have breached humanitarian laws. Human rights groups repeatedly blamed the Saudi-led military coalition for killing civilians and destroying health centers and other infrastructure with airstrikes. According to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights "a disproportionate amount of attacks on civilians appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led military coalition forces." Human Rights Watch criticized the UN Security Council repeatedly for "remaining almost silent on coalition abuses". In January 2016 an unpublished United Nations panel investigating the Saudi-led bombing campaign in Yemen uncovered "widespread and systematic" attacks on civilian targets in violation of international humanitarian law, calling UN Security Council up for an international commission of inquiry. Saudi Arabia had previously objected to an inquiry being set up, and had not been supported by Western governments. In February 2016 the Secretary-General of the UN (UNSG) Ban Ki-moon raised strong concerns over continued Saudi-led airstrikes, saying that "coalition air strikes in particular continue to strike hospitals, schools, mosques and civilian infrastructures" in Yemen. He urged States that are signatories to the Arms Trade Treaty to "control arms flows to actors that may use them in ways that breach of international humanitarian law".
The de facto blockade left 78% (20 million) of the Yemeni population in urgent need of food, water and medical aid. Aid ships are allowed, but the bulk of commercial shipping, on which the country relies, is blocked. In one occasion, coalition jets prevented an Iranian Red Crescent plane from landing by bombing Sana'a International Airport's (SIA) runway, which blocked aid delivery via air. As of 10 December, more than 2,500,000 people had been internally displaced by the fighting. Many countries evacuated more than 23,000 foreign citizens from Yemen. More than 168,000 people fled Yemen for Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan and Oman.
On 21 April 2015, the Saudi-led military coalition announced an end to Operation Decisive Storm, saying the intervention's focus would "shift from military operations to the political process". The kingdom and its coalition partners said they would be launching political and peace efforts, which they called Operation Restoring Hope (Arabic: عملية إعادة الأمل‎‎ `Amaliyyat 'I`ādat al-'Amal). However, the coalition did not rule out using force, saying it would respond to threats and prevent Houthi militants from operating within Yemen. Airstrikes and shelling continued under Restoring Hope, including air attacks destroying the main runway at SIA. The UNESCO Director-General repeatedly condemned the destructions by air strikes on the UNESCO World Heritage Site Old City of Sana'a and other heavily populated areas. The UN warned in June that the country's architectural and archeological treasures were at risk, and added the Old City of Sana'a and Old Walled City of Shibam to the List of World Heritage in Danger in July.
Reports of war crimes
Airstrikes in Yemen apparently violating the laws of war (selection)
HRW investigation of 10 Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, that took place between 11 April and 30 August 2015. HRW found either no evident military target or the attack failed to distinguish civilians from military objectives, in apparent violation of the laws of war.
On April 13, 2015, HRW wrote that some airstrikes were in apparent violation of the laws of war, such as the 30 March attack on a displaced-persons camp in Mazraq that struck a medical facility and a market. Other incidents noted by HRW that had been deemed as indiscriminate or disproportionate or "in violation of the laws of war" were: a strike on a dairy factory outside the Red Sea port of Hodaida (31 civilian deaths); a strike that destroyed a humanitarian aid warehouse of the international aid organization Oxfam in Saada; and the coalition's blockade that kept out fuel. On 30 June 2015, HRW reported that several airstrikes were in clear violation of international law. The report confirmed 59 (including 14 women and 35 children) civilian deaths in Saada between 6 April and 11 May. The report also highlighted attacks on 6 civilian homes as well as five markets that were deliberate attacks.
In February 2016, Amnesty International (AI) reported that it had investigated the circumstances and impact of more than 30 air strikes of the Saudi Arabia-led coalition forces in Sana'a, Hodeidah, Hajjah and Sa'da. They believed that the coalition was intentionally striking civilian targets. On April 24, 2015, Amnesty International said that airstrikes hit five densely populated areas (Sa'dah, Sana'a, Hodeidah, Hajjah and Ibb), and "raise concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law." Their research indicates that there were at least 97 civilian deaths, including 33 children, and 157 civilians were wounded.
According to Farea Al-Muslim, direct war crimes were committed during the conflict; for example, an IDP camp was hit by a Saudi airstrike, while Houthis sometimes prevented aid workers from giving aid. The UN and human rights groups discussed the possibility that war crimes may have been committed by Saudi Arabia during the air campaign.
U.S. Representative Ted Lieu has criticized the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen: "Some of these strikes look like war crimes to me, and I want to get answers as to why the U.S. appears to be assisting in the execution of war crimes in Yemen."
Declaring the entire governorate Sa'ada a military target
U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Johannes van der Klaauw, said that coalition airstrikes on Sa'ada city, where many civilians were trapped, were in breach of international humanitarian law. Van der Klaauw also said that coalition strikes had targeted schools and hospitals, in breach of international law.
Save the Children's Country Director in Yemen, Edward Santiago, said that the "indiscriminate attacks after the dropping of leaflets urging civilians to leave Sa'ada raises concerns about the possible pattern being established in breach of International Humanitarian Law."
Attacks on facilities run by aid organizations
Since the Saudi-led coalition began military operations against Ansar Allah on 26 March 2015, Saudi-led coalition airstrikes unlawfully struck hospitals and other facilities run by aid organizations, according to Human Rights Watch. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical facilities in Yemen were attacked four times in three months. On 26 October 2015, HRW documented six Saudi-led airstrikes which bombed a MSF hospital in Haydan district (Sa'dah Governorate), wounding two patients. An Saudi-led coalition airstrike then hit a MSF mobile clinic on 2 December 2015, in Al Houban district (Taizz). Eight people were wounded, including two MSF staff members, and one other civilian nearby was killed. On 10 January 2016, six people were killed and seven wounded when a hospital in Sa'ada was hit by a projectile. MSF said it could not confirm whether the hospital was hit in an air strike by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition, or by a rocket fired from the ground, and at least one other landed nearby. On 21 January 2016, an MSF ambulance was hit by an airstrike. Seven people were killed and dozens were wounded.
The Saudi embassy in London, in early February 2016, advised United Nations and other aid organizations to move their offices and staff away from "regions where the Houthi militias and their supporters are active and in areas where there are military operations" to "protect the international organizations and their employees."
The UN refused to pull out the humanitarian aid workers and protested against the Saudi demands. On 7 February 2016, the UN humanitarian chief Stephen O'Brien wrote to Saudi Arabia's UN Ambassador Abdallah al-Mouallimi, pointing out that Saudi Arabia is obligated under international law to permit access, and has "duty of care obligations under the conduct of military operations for all civilians, including humanitarian workers."
HRW declared, on 17 February 2016, that Saudi Arabia's warnings to stay away were insufficient to fulfil their legal obligations to protect aid stations and their occupants. James Ross, Legal and Policy Director at HRW, said: "A warning is no justification for an unlawful airstrike. They can't shift the blame for shirking their responsibility onto aid agencies that are struggling to address a deepening crisis."
After an air-strike on an MSF hospital in the Hajjah province on 15 August 2016, MSF announced the pulling of their staff from Saada and Hajjah provinces affecting 6 facilities. The group also complained that the results of previous investigations into hospital bombings by the Saudi-led coalition were never shared.
Usage of cluster munitions
In early May 2015, Human Rights Watch accused Saudi Arabia of using US-supplied cluster munitions on at least two occasions. The Saudi military acknowledged using CBU-105 bombs, but it claimed they were only employed against armoured vehicles and not in population centers. In an earlier statement, Saudi Arabia had denied that the Saudi-led military coalition was using cluster bombs, according to HRW.
Internationally outlawed cluster bombs supplied by the USA were used by the Saudi-led military coalition and wounded civilians despite evidence of civilian casualties, based on multiple reports issued by HRW.
On 8 January 2016, the UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced that Saudi coalition use of cluster munitions could be a war crime. HRW condemned the Saudi-led coalition for the attacks saying: "The coalition's repeated use of cluster bombs in the middle of a crowded city suggests an intent to harm civilians, which is a war crime. These outrageous attacks show that the coalition seems less concerned than ever about sparing civilians from war's horrors". A week later, Amnesty International published new evidence that appeared to confirm reports of coalition forces using US-made cluster munitions on Sana'a on 6 January 2016.
Calls for international independent investigations
A UN panel of experts said in a report for the UN Security Council in January 2016, which was leaked to The Guardian, that the Saudi-led coalition had undertaken 119 sorties in Yemen that violated international humanitarian law. The panel said it had "documented that the coalition had conducted airstrikes targeting civilians and civilian objects, in violation of international humanitarian law, including camps for internally displaced persons and refugees; civilian gatherings, including weddings; civilian vehicles, including buses; civilian residential areas; medical facilities; schools; mosques; markets, factories and food storage warehouses; and other essential civilian infrastructure, such as the airport in Sana'a, the port in Hudaydah and domestic transit routes". The report said: "Many attacks involved multiple airstrikes on multiple civilian objects. Of the 119 sorties, the panel identified 146 targeted objects. The panel also documented three alleged cases of civilians fleeing residential bombings and being chased and shot at by helicopters". While the UN experts were not allowed on the ground in Yemen, they studied satellite imagery of cities before and after attacks, that showed "extensive damage to residential areas and civilian objects". The UN panel concluded that "civilians are disproportionately affected" by the fighting and deplored tactics that "constitute the prohibited use of starvation as a method of warfare." The report said: "The coalition's targeting of civilians through airstrikes, either by bombing residential neighbourhoods or by treating the entire cities of Sa'dah and Maran as military targets, is a grave violation of the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. In certain cases, the panel found such violations to have been conducted in a widespread and systematic manner." The report called for an international commission, set up by the Security Council, that should "investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such violations". Saudi Arabia had previously objected to an inquiry being set up.
Five days after the release of UN Panel of Experts report on Yemen, on January 31, 2016, the Saudi-led Arab coalition announced it had formed "an independent team of experts in international humanitarian law and weapons to assess the incidents and investigate the rules of engagement". The coalition said the objective was to "develop a clear and comprehensive report on each incident with the conclusions, lessons learned, recommendations and measures that should be taken" to spare civilians.
On 16 February 2016, Adama Dieng, the U.N.'s Special Adviser on the Prevention of Genocide, and Jennifer Welsh, the Special Adviser on the Responsibility to Protect, said in a joint statement: "We now expect that commitments by the Yemeni authorities and by Saudi Arabia to conduct credible and independent investigations into all alleged violations and provide reparations to victims will be swiftly implemented. It is imperative that the international community also gives immediate consideration to the most effective means of supporting this goal, including the possibility of establishing an international independent and impartial mechanism to support accountability in Yemen".
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