Houthis block UN aid chief’s passage

Houthi child soldiers hold weapons during a demonstration in Sanaa in this March 13, 2015 photo. (Reuters)
Updated 01 March 2017

Houthis block UN aid chief’s passage

ADEN: UN aid chief Stephen O’Brien was “denied passage” on Tuesday to Yemen’s third largest city Taiz where government loyalists are besieged by Iran-backed Houthi rebels, a UN statement said.
“O’Brien’s convoy was denied passage at the final checkpoint before crossing the frontline” into Taiz, said a statement by the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
He was denied access to the flashpoint city “despite having received assurance of safe passage by all parties,” the statement said.
OCHA did not name the party that prevented O’Brien’s convoy from proceeding. But the route from the north to Taiz is controlled by the rebels and their allies.
“After being denied access, the convoy returned to the safe ground to continue negotiating access with the authorities controlling the final checkpoint, but to no avail,” OCHA said.
“O’Brien was extremely disappointed that humanitarian efforts to reach people in need were once again thwarted by parties to a conflict, especially at a time when millions of Yemenis are severely food insecure and face the risk of famine,” it added.
A local official told AFP earlier that O’Brien was stopped at a rebel checkpoint in Hizran, 15 km northwest of Taiz, while the government-run news agency Saba accused Houthis of opening fire at his convoy.
In a statement to Saba, the government said the rebels blocked O’Brien’s access to Taiz to “prevent the truth about the situation in the city, including a suffocating siege... from reaching the world.”
Meanwhile, the UN said nearly 1,500 children have been recruited in the Yemen war mostly by the Houthis, since March 2015.
The UN has verified the recruitment of 1,476 children, all boys, between March 26, 2015 and Jan. 31, 2017, said a statement by the spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), Ravina Shamdasani.
“The numbers are likely to be much higher as most families are not willing to talk about the recruitment of their children, for fear of reprisals,” she said.
“Just last week, we received new reports of children who were recruited without the knowledge of their families,” she said, adding that children under 18 are either being “misled or attracted by promises of financial rewards or social status.”
“We remind all parties to the conflict that the recruitment and use of children in armed conflict is strictly forbidden by international human rights law and international humanitarian law,” said Shamdasani.
The recruitment of children under 15 “may amount to a war crime,” she added. “We urge them to immediately release such children.”
Separately, rights group Amnesty International accused the Houthis of “actively recruiting boys as young as 15.” It cited witnesses speaking of financial incentives to families, including monthly salaries ranging between $80 and $120 for every family of a child “martyr.”
“It is appalling that Houthi forces are taking children away from their parents and their homes, stripping them of their childhood to put them in the line of fire where they could die,” said Samah Hadid, deputy director at Amnesty’s Beirut regional office.
Amnesty documented the cases of four boys taken in mid-February, saying that their families later received news that their sons were at an unnamed location on the border.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said Yemen has food reserves for only two to four months, bringing it to the brink of famine.

Dozens killed in Houthi attack on camp in Yemen’s Marib

Updated 1 min ago

Dozens killed in Houthi attack on camp in Yemen’s Marib

  • Reports say nearly 30 military personnel killed

MARIB, Yemen: Iranian-backed Houthi militia attacked a military training camp in the Yemeni city of Marib on Saturday, killing at least 60 people, according to reports.

Al-Ekhbariya quoted sources as saying the attack was carried out with ballistic missiles and drones.

Earlier on Saturday, medical sources in Yemen confirmed to Reuters nearly 30 military personnel had been killed.

The strike follows a similar attack in November last year, when Houthi militants fired a missile at the headquarters of the Arab coalition fighting to support the internationally-recognized government of Yemen, which killed seven Yemeni soldiers and injured at least 12.

An Arab coalition has been figting the Houthi militia since 2015, backing forces of the internationally-recognized government.

The Houthis have been subject to a separate arms embargo since 2015, while Iran has repeatedly denied supplying weapons to the Houthis.