Yemen's Houthi rebels said air raids conducted by the Western-backed Saudi-UAE-led military coalition killed more than 30 civilians Saturday just one day after the rebels said they shot down a Saudi jet fighter with a surface-to-air missile. The United Nations confirmed Saturday's death toll.
The Houthis said women and children were among the dead, and the coalition acknowledged the "possibility of collateral damage" during their search-and-rescue mission for the downed plane.
The conflict began in 2015 after the Houthis, who are backed by Iran, forced out former Yemeni President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, prompting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates to support loyalist forces. Since then, Lise Grande, the U.N.'s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said there's been little done to protect the Yemeni people.
"So many people are being killed in Yemen — it's a tragedy and it's unjustified," she said in light of the most recent attacks. "Under international humanitarian law parties which resort to force are obligated to protect civilians. Five years into this conflict and belligerents are still failing to uphold this responsibility. It's shocking." Read more at AlJazeera and BBC. Tim O'Donnell
United Arab Emirates-backed southern Yemeni separatists known as the Southern Transitional Council have reportedly seized the presidential palace and other important sites in Aden, effectively wresting control of the port city from Yemen's internationally-backed government.
The seizure prompted the Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthis in Yemen's civil war to call for a ceasefire, which reportedly held overnight. The Yemeni government described the seizure as "a coup against institutions of the internationally recognized government." While the government and the southern separatists are nominally allies, that partnership has begun to fracture as the two sides maintain rival agendas for Yemen's future.
The separatists reportedly believe that Islamist forces within the coalition have strengthened due to Saudi support and could take over the south, which could even allow Al Qaeda to make a comeback in the region. The separatists also believe that the larger conflict with the Houthis in the northern and western regions of the country means that Yemen can't emerge from the conflict as a unified country, no matter the outcome, BBC reports.
The infighting threatens to open a new front in Yemen's five-year civil war, which has killed tens of thousands of people and pushed the country to the brink of famine. Tim O'Donnell