By Tim Nanns
Airstrikes on a Yemeni refugee camp near Haradh Tuesday sparked strong UN condemnation, while Saudi Arabia continued clashes with Houthi Shi’a fighters on the border between the two countries.
Meanwhile, UNICEF called upon the rival parties to do “all in their power to keep children safe”, after stating that at least 62 children were killed since the beginning of the airstrikes.
The airstrikes on the refugee camp that occurred on Monday along with other attacks against hospitals and other civilian institutions have killed “dozens” of civilians. It has led to UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, stating that he “roundly condemn[s] all attacks on hospitals and other medical facilities, which have a special protected status under international law”.
Yemeni Foreign Minister Riyadh Yaseen reiterated, in an interview with Al-Arabiya TV station, earlier calls for a ground offensive as soon as possible. The spokesperson for the Saudi-led military coalition, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, stated on Tuesday that a ground operation would only take place if necessary. Asseri also talked of “limited ground operations”, but that it was not a given that full blown ground operations would occur.
Asseri’s statement came on Tuesday after a day of fierce clashes on the Saudi -Yemeni border, which Reuters news agency has described as the “heaviest exchange of cross-border fire since the start of a Saudi-led air offensive”. Coalition air strikes and fighting continues, hitting military and civilian targets. Among the latter, a factory likely hit by airstrikes in the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, left at least 25 workers dead, while shelling by the Houthi militia on Aden reportedly killed 26 overnight.
Also on Tuesday, Reuters reported the Houthis seized a coastal military base overlooking the Bab El-Mandeb strait, which is especially important for oil exports and the naval traffic running through the Suez channel. The move may spark further Egyptian involvement in the ongoing conflict since the fares gathered by Egypt through the Suez channel are among its most important sources of foreign currency. President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi meanwhile called upon the Houthis in a speech on Tuesday to withdraw after unconfirmed reports on Monday said Egyptian warships were involved in the shelling of a Houthi military convoy.
The attacks by the Saudi-led coalition started on Wednesday last week after the Houthi militia, purportedly backed by Iran, forced Yemen’s President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi to flee his interim capital Aden. He had relocated when the Houthi rebels took over Sana’a earlier this year. Saudi Arabia accuses Iran of trying to expand its influence in the Middle East by its involvement in Yemen, Iraq and Syria while Saudi Arabia itself is involved in sponsoring rebel groups in Syria and now actively intervenes in Yemen.