Hodeida fighting threatens peace efforts, warns UN

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized government have been engaged in heavy fighting with Houthi insurgents since Friday, violating the truce agreed under the Stockholm Agreement. (AFP/File)
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Updated 08 October 2020

Hodeida fighting threatens peace efforts, warns UN

  • Griffiths has been pushing to convince the warring parties to put a nationwide cease-fire in place ahead of comprehensive peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the war

AL-MUKALLA: The United Nations Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths has urged warring factions in Yemen to stop fighting in the western city of Hodeida immediately, warning that they risk undermining the Stockholm Agreement and his continuing efforts to reach a peaceful deal.

“This military escalation not only constitutes a violation of the Hodeida cease-fire agreement, but it runs against the spirit of the ongoing UN-facilitated negotiations that aim to achieve a nationwide cease-fire, humanitarian and economic measures and the resumption of the political process," Griffiths said in a statement on Thursday.

“I have been engaging with all sides. I call on them to immediately stop the fighting, respect the commitments they made under the Stockholm agreement, and engage with UNMHA’s joint implementation mechanisms,” he said, referring to the UN Mission to Support the Hodeidah Agreement.

Forces loyal to the internationally recognized government have been engaged in heavy fighting with Houthi insurgents since Friday, violating the truce agreed under the Stockholm Agreement.

Griffiths has been pushing to convince the warring parties to put a nationwide cease-fire in place ahead of comprehensive peace talks aimed at reaching an agreement to end the war.

The latest round of fighting broke out on Friday in Hays and Al-Durihim districts when the Houthis launched a major assault on government troops with the aim of breaking a siege on pockets of their forces and seizing control of new areas, local army commanders and state media said. Two days later, fighting broke out in other contested areas in the city of Hodeida, during which the army and the Houthis traded heavy fire that rocked the city.

“Huge explosions as if the war has just started,” Dr. Ashawaq Mahram, a physician from Hodeida city, wrote on Twitter on Wednesday.

Unilateral truce

Shortly after the Griffiths’ appeal, army commanders told Arab News that they had received orders to stop fighting in Hodeida. “Government forces were ordered to show restraint in response to the UN call,” said Abdurrahman Hajari, a military commander of Tehama Resistance, a unit battling Houthis in Hodeida, adding that the Houthis continued shelling government forces in Hodeida on Thursday.

“The Houthis have never adhered to any truce. The Houthis are amassing huge forces along the western coast,” Hajari said.

Also on Thursday, the pro-government Joint Forces said in a statement that hundreds of Houthis, including high-ranking field commanders, have been killed or wounded in Hodeida, adding that the Joint Forces had foiled consecutive Houthi attempts to advance in the province.

Under the Stockholm Agreement, the Yemeni government agreed in 2018 to halt a major military offensive on Houthi-controlled Hodeida, including its seaport, provided the Houthis withdrew from the port and deposited revenues in the central bank in the city. Government troops have been stationed in Al-Khamseen and Sanaa streets, east of Hodeida, since 2018.

In March, the Yemeni government suspended participation in the Redeployment Coordination Committee (RCC) in Hodeida after a Houthi sniper gunned down a government soldier.

Hundreds of people have been killed since late 2018 in sporadic fighting between the two parties. Yemeni government officials link the escalation in fighting by the Houthis to heavy setbacks that they suffered on other battlefields, including the northern province of Jouf.

Government troops recently announced that they had seized control of a strategic military base in Jouf and pushed deep into Houthi-controlled areas in the province. Foreign Minister Mohammed Al-Hadrami told official media that the Houthis had intensified attacks in Hodeida to compensate for setbacks in Al-Bayda, Marib and Jouf.
 

 


Turkey’s new coronavirus figures confirm experts’ worst fears

Updated 35 min 46 sec ago

Turkey’s new coronavirus figures confirm experts’ worst fears

  • Turkish Medical Association has been warning for months that the government’s previous figures were concealing the graveness of the spread

ANKARA, Turkey: When Turkey changed the way it reports daily COVID-19 infections, it confirmed what medical groups and opposition parties have long suspected – that the country is faced with an alarming surge of cases that is fast exhausting the Turkish health system.
In an about-face, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government this week resumed reporting all positive coronavirus tests – not just the number of patients being treated for symptoms – pushing the number of daily cases to above 30,000. With the new data, the country jumped from being one of the least-affected countries in Europe to one of the worst-hit.
That came as no surprise to the Turkish Medical Association, which has been warning for months that the government’s previous figures were concealing the graveness of the spread and that the lack of transparency was contributing to the surge. The group maintains, however, that the ministry’s figures are still low compared with its estimate of at least 50,000 new infections per day.
No country can report exact numbers on the spread of the disease since many asymptomatic cases go undetected, but the previous way of counting made Turkey look relatively well-off in international comparisons, with daily new cases far below those reported in European countries including Italy, Britain and France.
That changed Wednesday as Turkey’s daily caseload almost quadrupled from about 7,400 to 28,300.
The country’s hospitals are overstretched, medical staff are burned out and contract tracers, who were once credited for keeping the outbreak under check, are struggling to track transmissions, Sebnem Korur Fincanci, who heads the association, told The Associated Press.
“It’s the perfect storm,” said Fincanci, whose group has come under attack from Erdogan and his nationalist allies for questioning the government’s figures and its response to the outbreak.
Even though the health minister has put the ICU bed occupancy rate at 70 percent, Ebru Kiraner, who heads the Istanbul-based Intensive Care Nurses’ Association, says intensive care unit beds in Istanbul’s hospitals are almost full, with doctors scrambling to find room for critically ill patients.
There is a shortage of nurses and the existing nursing staff is exhausted, she added.
“ICU nurses have not been able to return to their normal lives since March,” she told the AP. “Their children have not seen their mask-less faces in months.”
Erdogan said, however, there was “no problem” concerning the hospitals’ capacities. He blamed the surge on the public’s failure to wear masks, which is mandatory, and to abide by social distancing rules.
Demonstrating the seriousness of the outbreak, Turkey last month suspended leave for health care workers and temporarily banned resignations and early retirements during the pandemic. Similar bans were also put in place for three months in March.
The official daily COVID-19 deaths have also steadily risen to record numbers, reaching 13,373 on Saturday with 182 new deaths, in a reversal of fortune for the country that had been praised for managing to keep fatalities low. But those record numbers remain disputed too.
Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu said 186 people had died of infectious diseases in the city on Nov. 22 – a day on which the government announced just 139 COVID-19 deaths for the whole of the country. The mayor also said around 450 burials are taking place daily in the city of 15 million compared with the average 180-200 recorded in November the previous year.
“We can only beat the outbreak through a process that is transparent,” said Imamoglu, who is from Turkey’s main opposition party. “Russia and Germany have announced a high death toll. Did Germany lose its shine? Did Russia collapse?”
Health Minister Fahrettin Koca has rejected Imamoglu’s claims, saying: “I want to underline that all of the figures I am providing are accurate.”
Last week, Erdogan announced a series of restrictions in a bid to contain the contagion without impacting the already weakened economy or business activity. Opposition parties denounced them as “half-baked.” He introduced curfews for the first time since June, but limited them to weekend evenings, closed down restaurants and cafes except for takeout services and restricted the opening hours of malls, shops and hairdressers.
Both Fincanci and Kiraner said the measures don’t go far enough to contain transmissions.
“We need a total lockdown of at least two weeks, if not four weeks which science considers to be the most ideal amount,” Fincanci said.
Koca has said that the number of seriously ill patients and fatalities is on the rise and said some cities including Istanbul and Izmir are experiencing their “third peak.”
Turkey would wait, however, for two weeks to see the results of the weekend curfews and other restrictions before considering stricter lockdowns, he said.