DUBAI: The UN envoy to Yemen said he was “alarmed” over the escalation of violence after a rebel drone attack on the country’s largest air base killed six loyalist soldiers.
In tweets posted overnight Thursday Martin Griffiths urged all parties to Yemen’s protracted conflict to exercise restraint.
The Shiite Houthi rebels said they carried out the strike which hit a military parade at Al-Anad air base, in government-held Lahij province some 60 kilometers north of Yemen’s second city Aden.
Six loyalist soldiers were killed and at least 12 people wounded, including top commanders, medics said.
Yemen’s Deputy Foreign Minister Mohammad Al-Hadrami on Thursday meanwhile said that repeated violations by the Houthi militia were obstructing peace efforts in Yemen.
Al-Hadrami stressed during his meeting with Junaid Munir, the US Deputy Ambassador to Yemen, the need for the international community, the UN and the Yemen peace process sponsors to condemn the infractions and to have a firm position against the Houthis’ non-compliance.
The attack comes as the UN, which brokered several agreements between the rebels and the Saudi-backed government at talks in Sweden last month, is desperately seeking to relaunch negotiations for an end to four years of devastating conflict.
Griffiths tweeted that he was “alarmed by today’s (Thursday) escalation of violence in Yemen.”
يناشد المبعوث الخاص أطراف الصراع العمل على خلق مناخ موات للحفاظ على الزخم الإيجابي الناتج عن مشاورات السويد وعن استئناف عملية السلام اليمنية. #اليمن
— OSE_Yemen (@OSE_Yemen) January 10, 2019
He urged “all parties to the conflict to exercise restraint and refrain from further escalation” and to “create a conducive environment to maintain the positive momentum generated” in Sweden.
The UN was hoping last month’s talks in Sweden would help launch formal peace talks between Yemen’s warring parties.
Thursday’s attack is likely to create a new obstacle for those efforts.
The Houthis said in November they were halting drone and missile attacks on Saudi Arabia and the Yemeni government forces. However, the Saudi-led Arab coalition has reported several attempted missile attacks iin recent weeks, and accused the Houthis of committing numerous violations of the Hodeidah agreement.
In Sweden, the warring sides agreed truce deals for the key rebel-held aid port of Hodeidah and for battleground third city Taiz.
The Houthis last month claimed to have pulled out of Hodeidah port in compliance with the pact, but the UN had expressed doubts until other concerned parties have made verified the credibility of such move.
The drone strike drew condemnation from the UAE, a key contributor to the Saudi-led military coalition fighting the rebels.
The “murderous drone attack tells you everything you need about the Houthis. Peace negotiations are a tactic to them, not a commitment,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash tweeted.
“464 cease-fire violations, 36 killed & 318 wounded since (Sweden) agreement. The international community must increase pressure,” he said, blaming the Houthis for the slow progress of peace efforts.
The war between the Houthis and loyalist troops escalated in March 2015, when President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi fled into Saudi exile, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to intervene.
The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people and pushed some 14 million Yemenis to the brink of famine in the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.