Calls for end to Yemen war offer little hope for hungry children

Malnourished Ferial Elias, 2, gestures as she is being weighed at a malnutrition treatment ward at al-Thawra hospital in Hodeidah, Yemen November 3, 2018. Picture taken November 3, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad

TAIZ, Yemen (Reuters) – Lying on a dust-covered bed in a hospital ward in the Yemen city of Taiz, 10-year-old Ghazi Mohammed barely has enough energy to watch doctors and nurses examine his emaciated body.

The boy weighs 8.5 kg (18 lb), less than a third of the average weight of a child his age. He fled hunger and poverty in his mountain village last year to find only more suffering in Yemen’s third largest city Taiz.

A doctor checks malnourished Ghazi Ahmad, 10, at a hospital in Taiz, Yemen October 30, 2018. Picture taken October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub

A doctor checks malnourished Ghazi Ahmad, 10, at a hospital in Taiz, Yemen October 30, 2018. Picture taken October 30, 2018. REUTERS/Anees Mahyoub

“This shows that the humanitarian aid that comes to Yemen does not reach people who really need it. Distribution remains random,” said his doctor, Amen al-Asli.

Western powers who have for three years provided arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led coalition waging war against Houthi insurgents in Yemen are now pressing for an end to a conflict that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

The West toughened its stance after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, a critic of Saudi policy, at Riyadh’s consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2.

His death sparked a global outcry and exposed Saudi Arabia’s crackdown on dissent and aggressive foreign policy, including its role in the war in Yemen, which has been criticized by human rights groups and U.S. lawmakers.

But calls for an end to the fighting have come far too late for millions of Yemeni civilians, including children, who face acute malnutrition and hunger in a complex, multi-sided war.

A worker gives a boy bread at a Mercy charitable bakery in Sanaa, Yemen November 9, 2018. Picture taken November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

A worker gives a boy bread at a Mercy charitable bakery in Sanaa, Yemen November 9, 2018. Picture taken November 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

“They need a complete care, here in the hospital and later at home. Of course, it depends on the parents’ financial condition as malnutrition can hit the whole family,” said Youssef al-Salawi, another doctor.

In Taiz, children fighting for their lives in hospitals are traumatized by daily artillery fire, rockets, and anti-aircraft guns as Saudi-backed government forces battle the Iran-aligned Houthis along pulverized streets.

The United Nations says out of 29 million Yemenis, 22 million need some form of humanitarian assistance, almost 18 million are considered hungry and 8.4 million are severely hungry.

“We do hope that talk about getting the peace process back on track, that gives us hope, but it is very imperative for the people of Yemen that this conflict stops as soon as possible,” said Stephen Anderson, the World Food Program’s (WFP) country director in Yemen.


U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths hopes to bring the warring parties together before the end of the year.

After seizing the southern port of Aden in 2015, the coalition has made little progress. While it has air supremacy, the Houthis have proved better at guerrilla warfare.

The Houthis still control Yemen’s most populated areas, including the capital Sanaa and the port city of Hodeidah.

The Sunni Muslim alliance led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates has renewed its offensive on Hodeidah, a lifeline for millions of Yemenis, as Washington and London called for a ceasefire.

Aid groups fear an attack on Hodeidah port would disrupt its operations and endanger more civilians as it remains the main source of food imports as well as much-needed humanitarian aid.

Street fighting and air strikes resumed late on Tuesday in Hodeidah despite a lull in battles as U.N. officials visited the Red Sea city to assess food security.

A resident told Reuters calm descended on Hodeidah on Wednesday after heavy clashes and air strikes rocked the city. “It is very surprising,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Mohammed Ghobari in Aden; Writing By Aziz El Yaakoubi, Editing by Michael Georgy, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, and Angus MacSwan)

Turkey says will search consulate where Saudi journalist vanished

A still image taken from CCTV video and obtained by TRT World claims to show Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi as he arrives at Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul, Turkey Oct. 2, 2018. Reuters TV/via REUTERS.

By Ece Toksabay and Daren Butler

ANKARA (Reuters) – Turkey said on Tuesday it would search Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul where Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi vanished last week, and close ally Britain called on Riyadh to provide “urgent answers” over his disappearance.

Khashoggi was last seen one week ago entering the consulate in Istanbul to get documents related to his forthcoming marriage. His fiancee, waiting outside, said he never emerged and Turkish sources said they believe Khashoggi, a prominent critic of Saudi policies, was killed inside the mission.

Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan asked Saudi Arabia on Monday to prove its assertion that Khashoggi left the consulate, while Washington urged the kingdom to support an investigation.

Saudi Arabia has dismissed as baseless accusations that it killed or abducted Khashoggi, and on Tuesday Turkey’s state-owned Anadolu agency said Riyadh had invited Turkish experts and other officials to visit the consulate.

Britain urged the Saudi government to explain what happened. “Just met the Saudi ambassador to seek urgent answers over Jamal Khashoggi,” foreign minister Jeremy Hunt said on Twitter.

“Violence against journalists worldwide is going up and is a grave threat to freedom of expression. If media reports prove correct, we will treat the incident seriously – friendships depend on shared values,” he wrote.

Turkey’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Hami Aksoy said the investigation was “continuing intensively”. The Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations allowed for consulates to be searched by authorities of a host country with consent of the mission chief, he said.

“The consulate building will be searched in the framework of the investigation,” Aksoy said in a written statement.

There was no immediate comment on the report from the Saudi authorities.

Khashoggi left his country last year saying he feared retribution for his criticism of Saudi policy over the Yemen war and its crackdown on dissent, and since then wrote columns for the Washington Post. His disappearance sparked global concern.


U.S. President Donald Trump said on Tuesday he had not yet spoken to Saudi officials about the case. Speaking at the White House, he said he did not know anything about Khashoggi’s disappearance and that he would speak with Saudi officials at some point.

The United Nations human rights office urged both Turkey and Saudi Arabia to investigate what it called the “apparent enforced disappearance” and possible murder of Khashoggi.

“We call for cooperation between Turkey and Saudi Arabia to conduct a prompt and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Mr Khashoggi’s disappearance and to make the findings public,” U.N. human rights spokeswoman Ravina Shamdasani told a Geneva news briefing.

The two countries have such an obligation under both criminal law and international human rights law, she said.

In July, the U.N. human rights office called on Saudi Arabia to release all peaceful activists, including women held for campaigning against a ban on driving as it was being lifted.

Khashoggi was once a Saudi newspaper editor and is a familiar face on political talk shows on Arab satellite television networks. He used to advise Prince Turki al-Faisal, former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to the United States and Britain.

Human rights activists hold pictures of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

Human rights activists hold pictures of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi during a protest outside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey October 9, 2018. REUTERS/Osman Orsal

His disappearance is likely to further deepen divisions between Turkey and Saudi Arabia. Relations were already strained after Turkey sent troops to the Gulf state of Qatar last year in a show of support after its Gulf neighbors, including Saudi Arabia, imposed an embargo on Doha.

The two Turkish sources told Reuters on Saturday that Turkish authorities believe Khashoggi was deliberately killed inside the consulate, a view echoed by one of Erdogan’s advisers, Yasin Aktay, who is a friend of the Saudi journalist.

Erdogan told reporters on Sunday that authorities were examining camera footage and airport records as part of their investigation. He has also said Turkey has no documents or evidence regarding the case.

The European Union fully supports U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who called on Riyadh to investigate Khashoggi’s disappearance, EU policy chief Federica Mogherini said.

(Additional reporting by Sarah Dadouch in Istanbul, Andrew MacAskill in London and Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Writing by Dominic Evans, Editing by William Maclean)

Unpaid state salaries deepen economic pain in Yemen’s war

public workers crowd post office to receive salaries

By Noah Browning

DUBAI (Reuters) – Already suffering grievously under nearly two years of civil war, many thousands of Yemeni state workers now face destitution as their salaries have gone largely unpaid for months.

The immediate reason is a decision by the internationally-recognized government to shift Yemen’s central bank out of Sanaa, the capital city controlled by the armed Houthi movement with which it is at war.

Underlying the bank’s move to Aden, the southern port where the government is based, is a struggle for legitimacy between the two sides. The result is to deepen economic hardship when four-fifths of Yemen’s 28 million people already need some form of humanitarian aid, according to U.N. estimates.

“I sold everything I have to cover the rent and the price of the children’s school and food. I have nothing left to sell,” said Ashraf Abdullah, 38, a government employee in Sanaa.

“Salaries have become a playing card in the war, and no one cares about the fate of the people who die of starvation every day,” the father of two told Reuters.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the fighting while millions face poverty and starvation. Saudi Arabia intervened in March 2015 to back President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi after the Houthis, who are aligned to Riyadh’s regional rival Iran, pushed him out of Sanaa.

The administration in Aden says it had to move the bank in August because the Houthis had looted the funds to pay soldiers and fighters waging war against it – a charge the group denies.

It has promised to pay salaries to public servants even in the main population centers which are mostly in Houthi hands. Prime Minister Ahmed bin Dagher said it had sent off a payment on Wednesday but banking sources say this covers only December, and four months of wages remain unpaid for most employees.

The crisis has affected tens of thousands of employees in Sanaa alone, a source in the Civil Services ministry said.

It is unclear how many of the 250,000 employees registered nationwide before the Houthis seized Sanaa in 2014 have received incomplete salaries – as a large proportion in government-held areas have been paid.

Nor is the number of public workers appointed by the Houthis after their rise to power, estimated in the tens of thousands.

The government denies it is trying to undermine support for the Houthis – whom it calls “coup militia” – by impoverishing state workers living under their rule. Instead, it accuses the Houthis of obstructing the payments and insists they be the ones to disburse the funds.

“The coup militia … (is) refusing to hand over lists of employees’ salaries in institutions and government agencies in the capital Sanaa and the provinces they control,” government news agency SABA quoted an official as saying.

(For a graphic on battle for control in Yemen, click


While the Houthis still control the main towns and cities in the north and west, they have steadily lost ground to government troops backed up by thousands of Gulf Arab air strikes.

Still, the government struggles to extend its influence over the land it nominally rules. It also faces a southern secessionist movement, restive tribes and Islamic militants, while many services such as electricity and water are scarce.

In the struggle for legitimacy, both sides appear keen to deprive the other of any mantle of truly national authority which paying salaries across the battle lines would confer.

Current and retired soldiers demanding their dues have even regularly demonstrated in Aden’s streets in recent days, suggesting the non-payments may not be strictly political.

Diplomats and analysts worry about the consequences of transferring the bank away from its veteran staff in Sanaa.

“The new central bank in Aden remains unequipped – on the basis of manpower alone – to handle the duties that its predecessor institution did,” said Adam Baron, a Yemen expert at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

The new bank denies this and says it is committed to working impartially and overcoming wartime confusion to do its job.

Meanwhile, many Yemenis can no longer wait for a solution.

“This is our fifth month without a salary, and we live by borrowing from the corner store, but now they are refusing to give us anything are calling in their debt, said Abdullah Ahmed, 50, a soldier in the interior ministry. “The landlord is demanding rent for the apartment … we’re dying, not living. Every door is being closed in our faces.”

(Editing by Tom Finn and David Stamp)

Yemen’s Houthi leader says U.S. provides political cover for Saudi strikes

Saudi-led air stirke

SANAA (Reuters) – The leader of Yemen’s Iran-allied Houthi faction accused the United States of providing logistical support and political cover for Saudi-led air strikes in the 18-month Yemeni conflict.

In his first published interview since the start of the civil war, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi also told the Houthis’ quarterly magazine his group was open to a peaceful solution of the conflict, in which at least 10,000 people have died.

“The United States plays a major role in the aggression … including logistical support for air and naval strikes, providing various weapons … and providing complete political cover for the aggression, including protection from pressure by human rights groups and the United Nations,” he said.

The United States is a key ally of Saudi Arabia, which has come under fire from human rights groups over the air strikes that have repeatedly killed civilians in Yemen.

Saudi Arabia and its allies, which have intervened in the conflict in support of the exiled government of Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, see the Houthis as proxies of their archrival Iran.

The Houthis deny this and say Hadi and Saudi Arabia are pawns of the West bent on dominating their impoverished country and excluding them from power.

U.N.-sponsored talks to try to end the fighting collapsed last month and the Houthis and allied forces loyal to former Yemeni president Ali Abdullah Saleh have resumed shelling attacks into Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s large northern neighbor.

In his interview, Abdel-Malek al-Houthi said his opponents did not understand the meaning of real dialogue.

“The hurdle facing negotiations and dialogue is that the other party wants to achieve through the talks what it wanted to achieve through war, not understanding that the path of dialogue and peace is different to the path of war,” he said.

Last month U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry said he had agreed in talks in Saudi Arabia with Gulf Arab states and the United Nations on a plan to restart peace talks for Yemen with a goal of forming a unity government.

Both the Houthis and the exiled government have welcomed the idea of a return to talks since then.

(Reporting By Mohammed Ghobari; Writing By Maha El Dahan; Editing by Gareth Jones)