Pro-government and rebel armed groups in Yemen have accused each other of breaking the U.N.-mediated ceasefire just hours after it came into effect Tuesday. All sides in the conflict are accused of committing human rights violations.
There were reports of Saudi-led airstrikes Wednesday in the capital Sana’a and ground fighting in the southern city of Taiz. Both sides blamed each other for breaking the ceasefire.
Speaking Tuesday at the start of peace talks in Switzerland, U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed appealed for compromise.
He said, “Yemen is being eaten up by fire from all sides as a result of the violence and the armed conflict in the country. And here we repeat again: the only solution is a political solution, and the violence must stop.”
For months Yemen has been spiraling toward all out civil war between Iran-backed Houthi rebels and forces loyal to the president.
A Saudi-led coalition of Gulf Arab forces, aided by the United States, has been carrying strikes against the Houthis since March.
Nearly 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting. Doctor Ahmed Shadoul of the World Health Organization said the humanitarian situation was catastrophic, with civilians living under a state of siege.
“There are unfortunately about 2.5 million displaced [who] have been around in different areas in not a well prepared living situation, and this in itself, is a high risk area of mosquito breeding, of outbreaks of malaria, outbreaks of dengue [fever],” said Shadoul.
Human rights groups have accused the Saudi-led coalition of attacking civilian targets. Riyadh, and its backers, deny targeting civilians.
Amnesty International’s James Lynch said at least five airstrikes since August have struck schools.
“Six-thousand-five-hundred children were attending these schools. And all of them have had their education severely disrupted as a result. Schools should be a safe space for children and for civilian life. In some of these cases these schools were targeted more than once and struck on repeated days,” he said.
Saudi Arabia has not responded to Amnesty’s allegations.
The peace talks are due to last a week, but rivals on the ground are not disarming.
Yemen’s prime minister claimed Wednesday several of what he called "resistance" groups are being merged into one unified force to take on the Houthis.