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Saudi airstrikes hammer Yemen after truce ends

22 May 2015


Under attack: anti-Houthi fighters on the streets of Aden

Under attack: anti-Houthi fighters on the streets of Aden

THE five-day humanitarian truce in Yemen has ended with a resumption of Saudi Arabian-led air strikes on the country. The truce was barely observed on the ground, and only limited quantities of essential supplies were able to reach the millions of desperately needy people in one of the poorest countries in the world.

The United Nations said on Tuesday that 1850 people had been killed in the latest violence in Yemen, and that half a million more had been driven from their homes.

The Ismaili Shia Houthi forces, harnessed to the military forces of rebel Yemeni military units loyal to the former President, Ali Abdullah Saleh, continue to hold the capital, Sana'a, and are consolidating their grip in and around other cities, including Aden.

Weeks of street fighting have taken a heavy toll on the city's infrastructure: tens of thousands of buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Among the properties hit during an airstrike was the Church of the Immaculate Conception, in al-Maala district. The adjoining presbytery was also destroyed, but the buildings were empty at the time.

Christ Church, Aden, has not escaped unscathed. The Bishop in Cyprus & the Gulf, the Rt Revd Michael Lewis, said last week that "all the windows of Christ Church, its associated clinic, and the guesthouse have been blown out as a result of blast waves from sustained shelling on the mountain that dominates our compound in Tawahi. But we are told that all our staff are safe so far, and for that we thank God."

Bishop Lewis went on to describe conditions in Aden as "terrible - lack of fuel means a lack of electricity and telecommunications. Even basic movement around the large city has become hugely difficult. Food is limited, and money to buy it even more so."

He said that the Yemeni administrator of Christ Church was "very thankful for the many prayers that he knows have been made for him, for all who work at Ras Morbat, and for the people of Aden and the Yemen as a whole - a country sorely abused by those with the power, if they chose to use, to promote the common good to the glory of God."

Church leaders around the world are urging Christians to pray for the people of Yemen, and for an end to hostilities. But thus far the Houthis and their allies have rejected calls for all parties in the conflict to hold peace talks in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Nor have the Saudis responded to calls from the United Nations and the United States for the humanitarian truce to be extended to construct a possible platform for wider negotiations.

As temperatures rise to summer levels, the suffering of the Yemeni people is bound to increase, in the absence of a radical diplomatic initiative to end the fighting. Oxfam's assessment is that "nearly half the population does not have enough to eat. . . Children [are] increasingly suffering from malnutrition. . . The blockade and the ongoing violence have reduced food imports to about a third of what the country needs."

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