Over 500 killed in two weeks of chaos in Yemen – UN

Two weeks of chaos in Yemen has killed at least 519 people, many civilians and children among them, the UN announced, as Houthi rebels continue their advance against exiled President Hadi’s loyalists who are supported by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes.

Another 1,700 people have been wounded over the past two weeks, UN Under-Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs Valerie Amos, said in a statement Thursday. She voiced concern for civilians caught in the crossfire – especially after neighboring Saudi Arabia with allies launched an air-campaign last week in an effort to stop the advancement of Shiite Houthi rebels who deposed President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

“Those engaged in fighting must ensure that hospitals, schools, camps for refugees and those internally displaced and civilian infrastructure, especially in populated areas, are not targeted or used for military purposes,” Amos said in a statement.

At least 90 children have fallen victim to the conflict so far, according to Amos, while some youths are being recruited as child soldiers. Tens of thousands flee their homes and crossing to Djibouti and Somalia. To aid civilians, UN is working with the Yemen Red Crescent.

Over 40 people were reported dead in clashes and airstrikes in the port city of Aden on Thursday. Though the allied Air Force target mostly military facilities, weapon depots and infrastructure, the strikes befell on civilians too.

The coalition says its week-old air campaign is showing some success, as the operation “has excellently achieved planned goals at all levels – air, ground, and sea,” its spokesman said, according to AFP. Coalition jets engaged at the entrance of the Red Sea, the Bab el-Mandeb strait, striking a military base, officials told Reuters. Overnight air strikes were also reported on the coastal town of Shaqra.

However, amid the chaos, al-Qaeda militants stormed the center of the coastal city of Al-Mukalla and captured the local prison, setting free about 300 inmates, many of whom are militants. A provincial al-Qaeda leader Khaled Batarfi is also believed to have escaped.

he Yemeni airspace has been declared a “restricted zone” by the coalition, while ships in the region have been urged not to approach Yemen’s ports due to the ongoing military operation.

A Chinese vessel still evacuated 225 people from Aden on Thursday with armed personnel ensuring their security. Russia too was quick enough to evacuate dozens of its nationals on board two flights from Yemen. The US also evacuated its personnel from the country where for years it has engaged in drone war against al-Qaeda elements.

While battle on the ground continues, Washington is helping its main ally in the oil-rich region to defend its border with Yemen by providing drone surveillance, a US military official told AP. The US is also reportedly taking an active role in the air operations center in Riyadh to coordinate strikes by the coalition air force. According to the source, US authorized aerial refueling for Saudi warplanes in their bombing campaign against the Houthis on a condition that refueling takes place outside of Yemeni airspace.

The Houthis took power in the capital Sanaa early this year, forcing a democratically elected president Hadi, backed in 2012 by 99.8 percent of the voters as a sole candidate, to flee and set up a provisional capital in Aden. The rebels’ advancement on the port city further forced Hadi to retreat to Saudi Arabia and request an international intervention to reinstate his rule.

On Thursday, striking another heavy blow to president’s loyalists, Houthis seized the presidential palace in Aden. With some skirmishes already happening on the border, Houthis are threatening to attack Saudi Arabia, if the aerial bombardment of Yemeni territory continues.

Source: Russia Today

Envoy: UN violates principle of impartiality on Syria

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Syrian Ambassador to the UN Bashar al-Ja’afari says the United Nations was not acted impartially against the Syria crisis.

Referring to some Arabs countries as well as Turkey’s pressure on UN to impose more sanctions against the Syrian government, Ja’afari said it seems that these sanctions are not exerted by UN itself, but they are imposed by UN Security Council.

The Syrian diplomat also stated that his country has become the victim of the interference of certain countries, including Turkey and Qatar, in its internal affairs.

The Syrian envoy said now that the fact has become crystal clear, the same countries supporting the insurgents are denying their links to these groups.

He said Saudi Arabia has provided the militants in Syria with chemical weapons to carry out the deadly attack of August 21 in the Damascus suburb of Ghouta.

“The Saudi intelligence provided this chemical substance to the rebels in the neighborhood of Damascus and asked them to use it against the government and then to accuse the [Syrian] government of doing so,” Ja’afari said on Friday.

It was “something that we warned against it six months before, in an official letter circulated to the Security Council members and to the [UN] Secretary-General, dated December 17,” he added.

“Mrs. Amos is not very well briefed by her aides about how far the UN system is deeply involved in refusing this kind of irresponsible and provocative behavior by some member states,” the Syrian diplomat pointed out, adding, “We are acknowledging and saying that yes we have a humanitarian situation prevailing in the country, but we should know and say what are the root causes of this humanitarian situation.”

Syria has been gripped by deadly unrest since 2011, with the Western powers and their regional allies, especially Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey, supporting the militants operating inside Syria.
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