Saudi Arabia and the United Nations are making an urgent plea for funding to shore up aid operations in war-torn Yemen, as some relief groups say they have been forced to stop their work even as coronavirus rips through the country.
Ahead of a pledging conference for Yemen on Tuesday, the UN said some 30 of 41 major aid programmes would close in the next few weeks without funding. Already, the global body’s World Food Programme had to cut rations in half, and UN-funded health services were reduced in 189 out of 369 hospitals nationwide.
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“It’s almost impossible to look a family in the face, to look them in the eyes and say, ‘I’m sorry but the food that you need in order to survive, we have to cut in half,'” Lise Grande, resident UN coordinator for Yemen, told The Associated Press.
Tuesday’s conference, at which the UN hopes to raise $2.4bn, will be cohosted for the first time by Saudi Arabia – a major player in Yemen’s civil war since it first unleashed a bombing campaign in 2015 to try to push back Houthi rebels who seized the northern half of the country.
Yemen sees surge in suspected coronavirus deaths (2:02)
Critics question the Saudis’ high-profile role in rallying humanitarian support even as they continue to wage a war – as do the Houthis – that has created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The air war and fighting on the ground have killed more than 100,000 people, shut down or destroyed half of Yemen’s health facilities, and driven four million Yemenis from their homes. Cholera epidemics and severe malnutrition among children have led to thousands of additional deaths.
As the war enters its sixth year with no sign of a viable ceasefire, the suffering looks set to continue.
A spokesman for the Houthis dismissed the Saudi-led conference as a “silly attempt to [gloss over] their crimes”, according to rebel-run Masirah television.
Maysaa Shuja al-Deen, a Yemeni researcher and a non-resident fellow at the Sanaa Center for Strategic Studies, said the kingdom is trying to repair its international image by changing the conversation.
Saudi Arabia “has always tried to change the narrative of the war and present itself as a backer of the legitimate government, not part of the conflict”, she said.
In past years, the kingdom had been one of the top donors for UN humanitarian aid operations in Yemen. The Saudi ambassador to Yemen, Mohammed al-Jaber, said the kingdom would allocate half a billion dollars this year to support UN programmes, including $25m for a COVID-19 response plan.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres, Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan, and Mark Lowcock, UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, will take part in the aid conference.
“We are increasingly alarmed about the situation in Yemen,” officials from UNICEF, the World Food Programme, and the World Health Organization said in a joint statement.
“We are running out of time.”
International medical charity Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has warned Yemen faces a “catastrophe” from the pandemic, its fragile healthcare system blighted by years of conflict.
The UN says COVID-19 has likely already spread through most of Yemen, while the Yemeni government has officially recorded only a few hundred cases.
The United Kingdom, a leading arms supplier to Saudi Arabia, pledged 160 million pounds ($200m) for Yemen.
“This targeted UK aid package will mean the difference between life and death for thousands of Yemenis who now also face the threat of coronavirus,” Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab said in a statement.
“Our support will help ensure families can feed themselves and access clean water and medical care,” he said.
The UN received $3.6bn in 2019 in international donations for its campaign, short of its $4.2bn goal. For its 2020 plan, it has so far received only 15 percent of the needed $3.5bn.
Saudi Arabia rebuked at UN over Jamal Khashoggi killing, abuses |NationalTribune.com
Dozens of nations condemned Saudi Arabia before the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday over serious violations and demanded accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. In a relatively rare rebuke of the oil-rich kingdom before the UN’s top rights body, Denmark’s Ambassador Carsten Staur read a statement on behalf of 29 states demanding…
Dozens of nations condemned Saudi Arabia before the UN Human Rights Council on Tuesday over serious violations and demanded accountability for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi.
In a relatively rare rebuke of the oil-rich kingdom before the UN’s top rights body, Denmark’s Ambassador Carsten Staur read a statement on behalf of 29 states demanding justice for Khashoggi, a Washington Post columnist who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in 2018 by an assassination team.
In the third joint statement to the council targeting Riyadh since the killing, the mainly European countries renewed a call for “transparency and holding all those responsible accountable”.
“We stress the need for full accountability and transparent prosecution of those involved in the killing of Jamal Khashoggi,” said Germany’s Ambassador Michael Freiherr von Ungern-Sternberg.
The Saudi journalist was lured into the Saudi consulate to handle marriage paperwork. Within minutes, the one-time royal insider turned critic was strangled and his body dismembered, according to Turkish and US officials.
A Saudi court this month handed lengthy jail terms to eight unnamed defendants and overturned five death sentences, in a ruling harshly condemned by Khashoggi’s fiancee and UN rights expert Agnes Callamard, the special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings.
Callamard, who like the CIA had previously linked Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman (MBS) to the killing, decried that top officials who allegedly ordered the murder walked free.
Tuesday’s statement, which was hailed by several human rights groups, also highlighted a wide range of other serious rights violations in Saudi Arabia.
“We remain deeply concerned by reports of torture, arbitrary detention, enforced disappearances, and detainees being denied access to essential medical treatment and contact with their families,” it said.
Staur said the countries welcomed recent reforms such as restricting flogging and the death penalty against minors, but stressed journalists, activists, and others still face persecution, detention and intimidation.
The statement also echoed the criticism voiced by UN rights chief Michelle Bachelet over the “arbitrary detention” of a number of women human rights activists in the country.
She told the opening of the council session on Monday the detained women simply requested to “be empowered to make their own choices, as equals to men”, insisting “they should be released without delay”.
Saudi Arabia’s representative hit back on Tuesday insisting “the detention of any women has nothing to do with their right to exercise the freedom of expression, but for violations of the standing laws”.
“Their rights are fully respected as detainees,” he said, adding they were guaranteed a fair trial.
Tortured and sexually harassed
Saudi Arabia has detained and put on trial a dozen female activists who long campaigned for the right to drive, which was finally granted in the kingdom two years ago.
Some of the activists allege they were tortured and sexually harassed by interrogators. Staur highlighted that at least five women’s human rights defenders arrested in 2018 remain in detention.
“We reiterate our call for the release of all political detainees and are particularly concerned about the use of the counterterrorism law and other security provisions against individuals peacefully exercising their rights,” he said.
Tuesday’s statement also urged dramatic improvements as Saudi Arabia strives to obtain a seat on the 47-member Human Rights Council.
“Council membership comes with an expectation of upholding the highest standards in the promotion and protection of human rights,” Staur said.
Germany, speaking on behalf of the European Union at the United Nations Human Rights Council, decried Saudi Arabia’s “prolonged detentions of women rights defenders”, including Loujain al-Hathloul.
John Fisher of Human Rights Watch denounced Saudi Arabia’s “brutal targeting of defenders and dissidents” and urged the release of the female activists and “others arbitrarily detained”.
Saudi Arabia tells US it wants fair solution for Palestinians |NationalTribune.com
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz spoke to United State President Donald Trump on the phone, state media reported [File: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via [AFP Photo] Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told United States President Donald Trump that the Gulf country wanted to see a fair and permanent solution for the Palestinians, which was…
Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz spoke to United State President Donald Trump on the phone, state media reported [File: Bandar Al-Jaloud/Saudi Royal Palace via [AFP Photo]
Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz told United States President Donald Trump that the Gulf country wanted to see a fair and permanent solution for the Palestinians, which was the starting point for its 2002 Arab Peace Initiative, the kingdom’s state news agency reported on Monday.
The two men spoke by phone following a US-brokered accord last month under which the United Arab Emirates agreed to become the third Arab state after Egypt and Jordan to normalise ties with Israel.
King Salman told Trump that he appreciated US efforts to support peace and that Saudi Arabia wanted to see a fair and permanent solution to the Palestinian issue based on its Arab Peace Initiative.
Under the proposal, Arab nations have offered Israel normalised ties in return for a statehood deal with the Palestinians and full Israeli withdrawal from territory captured in the 1967 Middle East war.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam and site of its holiest shrines, does not recognise Israel.
A history of Arab-Israeli normalisation
However, this month the kingdom said it would allow flights between UAE and Israel, including by Israeli aircraft, to use its airspace.
During the call, Trump told King Salman that he welcomed that decision, and that the two also discussed regional security, a White House spokesman said.
Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner, who is also a White House adviser, has said he hopes another Arab country normalises ties with within months.
No other Arab state has said so far it is considering following the UAE. Egypt and Jordan normalised ties decades ago.
King Salman’s son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, and Kushner discussed the need for the Palestinians and the Israelis to resume negotiations and reach a lasting peace after Kushner visited the UAE last month.
The UAE-Israel deal was met by overwhelming opposition among Palestinians who have condemned the move as a “stab in the back”.
On Sunday, leaders of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Hamas group met to discuss the US push for diplomatic normalisation, the movement said.
Hamas chief Ismail Haniya and Hassan Nasrallah, head of the Iran-backed Shia Hezbollah movement, stressed the “stability” of the “axis of resistance” against Israel.
Saudi Arabia condemns attacks by Yemen’s Houthis on Riyadh |NationalTribune.com
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has condemned Yemen’s Houthis for targeting the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with eight armed drones and three ballistic missiles, state news agency SPA said in a statement. The statement late on Tuesday called the attacks “terroristic acts” that target civilians and threatened the lives of hundreds of people. At least two large explosions…
Saudi Arabia’s cabinet has condemned Yemen’s Houthis for targeting the Saudi capital, Riyadh, with eight armed drones and three ballistic missiles, state news agency SPA said in a statement.
The statement late on Tuesday called the attacks “terroristic acts” that target civilians and threatened the lives of hundreds of people.
At least two large explosions were heard in Riyadh near dawn on Tuesday and smoke billowed into the sky.
The Houthis said they had hit the Saudi defence ministry and a military base, while a Saudi-led military coalition said it had shot a missile down, making no reference to targets.
There was no sign of damage to the side of the defence ministry building that is visible from the main road or to any surrounding buildings. The area was quiet on Tuesday evening, with normal traffic flows and no additional security measures.
The Houthis have repeatedly fired on Saudi Arabia during the conflict, but had not targeted Riyadh since late March, when Saudi Arabia said it shot down a missile and two residents were injured by falling debris.
Violence between the two sides has surged after the expiry last month of the six-week ceasefire prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yemen has been divided between the Saudi-backed government in the south and the Houthi movement based in the north since the Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in late 2014 and the Saudi-led coalition intervened a few months later in March 2015.
Since then, tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions have been pushed to the brink of famine, in what the United Nations has called “the world’s worst humanitarian crisis”.
Houthi military spokesman Yahya Sarea said in a televised speech that the group fired several missiles and drones, which “pounded” military headquarters and centres in Riyadh, including the defence ministry and King Salman Air Base.
Sarea said attacks were also launched against military sites in the southern Saudi cities of Najran and Jizan.
Saudi-led coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki also condemned the latest attack on Riyadh saying it was a “deliberate hostile action designed to target civilians”.
The coalition had also shot down three missiles headed towards Najran and Jizan and a number of drones, he said.
The conflict in Yemen is largely seen in the region as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran.
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