AL-MUKALLA, YEMEN: UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths has urged the country’s warring factions to put an end to escalating military operations in Marib, Jawf and other contested areas.
“I once again urge the parties to de-escalate, give peace a chance, and continue to engage constructively with the UN efforts to reach an agreement,” Griffiths said in a statement on Sunday. “I hope they will refrain from the misguided quest for territorial gain, which can only bring more violence and suffering to Yemen.”
He added that the escalation contradicted the Yemeni parties’ commitments to set the stage for successful peace talks that could lead to ending the war.
Without naming the Houthis, who have escalated military attacks on the central city of Marib, the UN envoy said that Marib should be spared from the conflict as it hosted thousands of internally displaced people, as well as vital gas and oil resources.
“This military escalation is unjustified and runs counter to the hopes of Yemeni men and women for peace. It makes the daily struggle for survival in Yemen even harder and impedes efforts to respond to the COVID-19 outbreak devastating the country.”
Thousands of people have been killed or injured during the latest escalation of violence that started in January, when a Houthi missile and drone attack killed more than 110 soldiers in Marib, army commanders said.
In another brief statement, the UN envoy expressed his concern about clashes on the remote Yemeni island of Socotra that led to a separatist takeover of the island.
He urged the Yemeni government and the separatist Southern Transitional Council to immediately implement the Riyadh Agreement that Saudi Arabia brokered last year to defuse tension between both sides.
“Deeply concerned by the tensions in Socotra and the taking over of state institutions by force. I call on the Government of Yemen and the Southern Transitional Council to swiftly implement the Riyadh Agreement under KSA auspices.”
Responding to the calls for de-escalation, Yemeni army spokesman Brig. Gen. Abdu Abdullah Majili said that Griffiths should direct his criticism and appeals to the Houthis who had never adhered to truces and were attacking Marib.
“The Iran-backed Houthis should be blamed for the escalation,” Majili told Arab News from the city by phone. “The national army unilaterally stopped fighting in Ramadan. The Houthi militia did not comply with it and continued attacking us.”
Fighting has raged in the past 24 hours, as the Yemeni army pushes to recapture strategic locations in Jawf, Marib and Al-Bayda that fell to the Houthis in the last couple of months.
In the central province of Al Bayda an explosives-laden drone fired by the Houthis on Sunday landed at a gathering of Yemeni government soldiers, killing four of them and injuring several others as troops battled to drive Houthis out from Qania, according to a soldier. “The targeted soldiers are from the Abu Esha tribe and were heading to Qania battlefield when the drone hit them,” he told Arab News, preferring to remain anonymous.
Yemen’s Defense Ministry said that troops and allied tribesmen killed and injured dozens of Houthis in Qania as Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeted rebel gatherings and military reinforcements.
Also in Al-Bayda, tribal leader Yasser Al-Awadhi, who led an uprising against Houthis in the province, said that 16 tribesmen had been killed and 70 injured in the continued fighting with Houthis in Radman. Tensions have been building up since early last month, when the Houthis refused to punish local fighters who had killed a woman.
Media reports said that the Houthis heavily shelled villages in Radman before storming them after clashing with the tribesmen. Al-Awadhi and his tribesmen are thought to be leading the fighting from Al-Bayda’s Qania after fleeing their homes.