The U.N.'s special envoy for Yemen expressed deep concern Thursday about an escalation of violence in the country while also welcoming a pledge by a Saudi-led coalition to allow access to humanitarian aid at a key port.
Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed condemned Tuesday's Houthi rebel ballistic missile attack on Saudi Arabia, saying it was "an escalation that hinders peace efforts in Yemen."
After the rebels fired a missile at the Riyadh airport in November, Saudi Arabia put in place an air and sea blockade in Yemen for several weeks, saying the move was necessary to prevent shipments of arms from reaching the rebels.
The coalition said Wednesday that despite the new missile attack, the Houthi-controlled Hodeida port will remain open for 30 days in order to allow for shipments of food and other relief materials.
Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital of Sana'a in late 2014, forcing the country's internationally recognized president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, to flee to Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi-led coalition responded in March 2015 responded by launching its operation to fight back against the rebels on behalf of Hadi's government. Since then, the World Health Organization says health facilities have reported more than 8,700 conflict-related deaths and 50,000 injuries.
Humanitarian organizations have repeatedly called attention to the effects of the conflict on civilians in Yemen, where the United Nations says three million people have been forced from their homes.
On Thursday, the International Red Cross said there are one million suspected cases of cholera in Yemen, and that more than 80 percent of Yemenis lack food, fuel, clean water and access to healthcare.
Ahmed reiterated there is no military solution for the Yemeni conflict and said he is boosting his efforts to contact the warring sides and prepare for resuming a political process.