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'There Are Just No Words for How Bad It's Gotten': Airstrikes Continue in Yemen Amid Humanitarian Crisis

Clashes and airstrikes in Yemen continued into Tuesday, as aid agencies warned hospitals would soon be forced to close and telecommunications would be cut off due to dire fuel shortages.
April 28, 2015, 5:40pm
Imagen por Hani Mohammed/AP

Airstrikes and fighting continued in Yemen on Tuesday, further delaying the delivery of desperately needed aid into the country.

One day after the Red Cross said the humanitarian situation in the country had reached catastrophic levels, heavy clashes were reported in the eastern province of Marib, the major city of Taiz, and the southern port city of Aden.

Meanwhile, aircraft from the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which backs the exiled President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi, launched more strikes on the Iranian-allied Houthi rebels in the capital Sanaa. The attacks hit camps and weapons storage depots, sending plumes of smoke over the city, according to local residents cited by AP.

Related: 'My enemy's enemy': In Yemen chaos, al Qaeda may be the biggest winners. Read more here.

The coalition began launching strikes on the Houthis, who are allied with militias and army remnants loyal to ousted ex-ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh, on March 26 in an attempt to stop them taking over Yemen. But so far it has had little success, while being criticized for killing hundreds of civilians and apparently violating the rules of war, according to Human Rights Watch.

Aid agencies say the situation for civilians has now become desperate. Ships carrying tons of food and fuel supplies are unable to dock while they wait to be searched for weapons by coalition troops, while Houthi rebels have held up convoys of trucks. An arms embargo by the UN Security Council on the rebels and their supporters is said to be contributing to the delays.

"I warned the council that implementation of the new targeted arms embargo under the UN resolution could inadvertently restrict the flow of much-needed commercial goods and humanitarian assistance to Yemen including food, fuel and medical supplies," former UN envoy to the country Hamal Benomar said on Monday after delivering his final report to the UN Security Council, according to remarks carried by AFP. Benomar has now stepped down after unsuccessful peace talks.

Related: Air strikes, political intrigue, and al Qaeda: The UN's envoy to Yemen explains why he quit. Read more here.

Fuel, food, and medicine prices have rocketed since the fighting began, and shortages of fuel mean that hospitals will only be able to run for another week and humanitarian operations for two, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said on Monday. Meanwhile, telecommunications infrastructure could be cut in days, the Yemeni director of telecommunications told the local SABA news agency.

"It was difficult enough before, but now there are just no words for how bad it's gotten," said International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) spokeswoman Marie Claire Feghali. "It's a catastrophe, a humanitarian catastrophe."

Yemeni Human Rights Minister Izzedine al-Asbahi told a news conference in the Saudi capital Riyadh that: "The war and its results have turned Yemen back 100 years, due to the destruction of infrastructure."

The United Nations Security Council has called for an end to the fighting in a resolution that demanded that the Houthis pull back from Yemeni cities. The rebels have rejected the proposal.

The World Health Organization said deaths from the fighting had topped 1,000 in the last month and also warned that Yemen's hospitals would soon be forced to close due to critical shortages of power and oxygen. Millions have been affected by the conflict according to the UN, with 60 percent of the country's population now in need of humanitarian assistance.

Follow John Beck on Twitter: @jm_beck