The Latest: France sees risks, opportunities in Yemen chaos
SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The Latest on developments in the war in Yemen, following the killing of former president by the country’s Shiite rebels (all times local):
France’s U.N. ambassador says the latest developments in Yemen “create a period of maximal risks” and dangers on the humanitarian and military front — but also a chance for “new opportunities to boost the political process in the country.”
Francois Delattre spoke to reporters before heading into the Security Council Tuesday to hear a long scheduled closed briefing by U.N. special envoy for Yemen, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.
Delattre said the first priority following the escalation in fighting and the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh “is to silence weapons and to allow complete and immediate humanitarian access in all Yemen and all its ports and airports.”
Sweden’s deputy U.N. ambassador Carl Skau and Britain’s deputy U.N. ambassador Jonathan Allen echoed the call for an end to fighting and the opening of the port of Hodeida and Sanaa airport to deliver aid to Yemenis in desperate need.
Skau stressed that military “logic” must not take over so the parties can get back to the negotiating table.
The head of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard says a plot against Yemen’s Shiite rebels was “nipped in the bud,” apparently referring to the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The rebels killed Saleh on Monday, days after he broke off his alliance with them against a Saudi-led coalition. Iran supports the rebels, known as Houthis, but denies arming them.
Iran’s semi-official ISNA news agency quoted Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari on Tuesday as saying that Saudi Arabia, “on behalf of the U.S. and the Zionist regime (Israel), has a very important role in creating insecurity” in the Middle East.
Yemen’s civil war has emerged as one of the main battlegrounds in the Saudi-Iranian rivalry for regional influence.
Yemeni rebels deny they have detained the sons of slain former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Mohamed Ali al-Houthi, a rebel leader, said in a speech Tuesday that “some sons” of Saleh have been hospitalized, without providing further details.
The Iranian-backed rebels, known as Houthis, killed Saleh on Monday, days after their alliance with him broke down amid clashes in the capital, Sanaa. It was not immediately clear if the rebels would allow Saleh’s family to hold a funeral later in the day.
Speaking before a gathering of supporters, al-Houthi says: “We knew that they were deceived... we hadn’t hoped for what happened.”
A top U.N. humanitarian aid official says Yemen’s capital came under at least 25 airstrikes overnight, although fighting has now subsided after a five-day wave of deadly violence.
Jamie McGoldrick of U.N. aid agency OCHA says civilians in Sanaa are “emerging from their houses after five days being locked down, basically prisoners,” to seek safety, medical care, fresh water and other survival needs.
He says that “at the same time, people are bracing themselves for more.” McGoldrick spoke to reporters in Geneva by phone on Tuesday from the Yemeni capital.
McGoldrick said aid providers like OCHA were “locked down in basements or in compounds” during the fighting. He cited accounts of snipers firing upon ambulances, pregnant women with health issues not able to go to hospitals, and armored vehicles roaming the streets over the five-day span.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says that as many as 234 people have been killed in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, in street fighting this month between the country’s Shiite rebels and the supporters of the slain former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The ICRC said on Tuesday that another 400 people have been wounded in the clashes, which first erupted last week as the alliance between the rebels and Saleh’s followers crumbled.
It’s not clear how many civilians are among the dead.
The casualty tolls provided by the ICRC are separate from those sustained in airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition which is waging war on the rebels, known as Houthis. The ICRC didn’t provide a toll from the near-daily airstrikes.
Meanwhile, Doctors Without Borders said patients were evacuated from a hospital in the northern province of Hajja, which is under Houthi control, after it came under airstrikes on Sunday.
Steve Purbrick, MSF’s coordinator in Hajja, described the attack as a “deliberate disregard for medical facilities” that endangered the lives of patients and medical staff, and compromised “the care MSF can provide in the midst of intense fighting.”
The killing of Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh by the country’s Shiite rebels as their alliance crumbled has thrown the nearly three-year civil war into unpredictable new chaos.
A video circulating online on Monday showed Saleh’s body with a gaping head wound dumped in a pickup truck by rebels — a grisly end recalling that of longtime strongman Saleh’s contemporary, Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, in 2011.
Saleh’s slaying likely gives the rebels the upper hand in the dayslong fighting for the country’s capital, Sanaa.
It also shatters hopes by Yemen’s Saudi-backed government that Saleh’s recent split with the Iranian-backed rebels, known as Houthis, would have weakened them and given the government and the Saudi coalition backing a chance for a turning point in the stalemated war that has brought humanitarian disaster.