​UN envoy to Yemen resigns as civilian hardships mount

United Nations (UN) envoy to Yemen Jamal Benomar (Reuters / Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

The UN is to choose a new envoy to Yemen after Jamal Benomar resigned amid criticism from Saudi Arabia. Civilian suffering is mounting in the country, with hundreds killed and tens of thousands fleeing for their lives.

Benomar, a Moroccan
diplomat who was tasked to facilitate power transition in the
country in 2011 after the Arab Spring uprising, “has
expressed an interest in moving on to another assignment,”

the UN announced on Wednesday. It said his successor would be
named soon. Reuters cites an anonymous UN official as saying that
Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed will replace

The diplomat stepped down under pressure from some Middle East
players, particularly Saudi Ararbia, who said his peacemaking
effort was a failure. On March 26, the Saudis launched a bombing
campaign against Yemeni Shia Houthi rebels, who allied with
former Yemen president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, and took control of
large swathes of the country.

Saleh’s successor, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, who was elected for a
two-year term in 2012, formally resigned in January only to
withdraw his resignation after fleeing the Yemeni capital in
February. He went to Saudi Arabia and requested its military
assistance to fight against the Houthis.

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Saudi airstrikes and street battles between rebels and Hadi
loyalists have killed at least 364 civilians, UN High
Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad al-Hussein announced this
week. The bombings damaged or destroyed dozens of public
buildings, including hospitals, schools, airports and mosques.

Over 121,000 Yemenis have been internally displaced by the
hostilities, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of
Humanitarian Affairs.

“Humanitarian partners are providing assistance, including
water, sanitation and health services, but the response is
constrained by continued high insecurity due to airstrikes and
fighting on the ground,”
the office’s spokesman Jens Laerke

Riyadh insists that its bombing campaign will continue, saying it
has been rather successful.

“It has been very-very successful. In fact, it is proceeding
beyond its initial goals,”
Adel al-Jubeir, Saudi Ambassador
to the US told the media. “Our friends in the US have been
very supportive in terms of intelligence and logistics, and for
that we are very appreciative. I have not heard any US official
tell me that the operations were not proceeding well.”

In the Yemeni capital of Sanaa protesters picketed the UN
embassy, calling for an end to the Saudi bombings.

“Our country is being destroyed. And they are giving the
right to Saudis to continue their attack on Yemen. From the
beginning it was unreasonable,”
human rights activist
Amatsalam Naji, who participated in the protest, told RT. “If
they want to attack a person or a group they can go to them
directly, but not attack the whole country.”

The UN Security Council voted for an arms embargo against the
Houthis, but failed to call for an end to the Saudi campaign.

The hostilities in Yemen have damaged the already fragile economy
of the poorest Arab country. Sanaa has been suffering from
regular blackouts. The Yemeni natural gas company, a subsidiary
of the French oil giant Total, shut down its operation in the
oil-rich central Shabwa province this week.

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