Fighting rages on Yemen's Red Sea coast

Fighting rages on Yemen's Red Sea coast
Fierce battles between the Saudi-led coalition and rebels rages along Yemen's Red Sea coast, after a UN-led inquiry into human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law is scrapped.
3 min read
05 October, 2015
The UN says over 2,000 civilians have been killed since March [Getty]

Fierce battles raged between pro-government fighters clashing with Houthi rebels and allied military units along Yemen's Red Sea coast Sunday, Yemeni security officials said.

The officials said the fighting took place between Bab al-Mandab — the strategic entrance to the Red Sea — and the port city of Mokha. They said the Saudi-led coalition is attempting to clear a path for the pro-government fighters toward Mokha.

Medical officials in nearby Taiz said at least 14 dead bodies from Houthi forces arrived from the front lines. Houthi officials said the rebels have destroyed six opposing tanks and killed multiple pro-government fighters.

Four civilians were shot dead near the front lines, security officials said, adding that it was not clear which side was the source of the gunfire.

On Saturday, Yemen's Prime Minister Khaled Bahah visited an area near Bab al-Mandab after pro-government fighters pushed rebel forces out of the immediate area.

Meanwhile Saleh al-Samad, the head of the Houthi political council, said his group would carry out a "strong escalation" in the coming days, in a statement published by Yemen's Houthi-controlled state news agency.

The Houthis have controlled the area near the strait for several months. They have been in control of the capital Sanaa since last September and are at war with the internationally recognised government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists.

The UN says at least 2,355 civilians have been killed in fighting in Yemen since March, when a Saudi-led coalition began launching airstrikes against the Houthis and their allied army units.

UN-led inquiry scrapped

A Western-backed resolution had called for a UN investigation into the rights abuses committed during Yemen's ongoing conflict, but it was withdrawn due to protests from Saudi Arabia, Human Rights Watch said.

The Dutch-drafted UN rights council resolution, co-sponsored by Germany and six other European states, called for UN rights chief Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein "to dispatch a mission... to monitor and report on the situation of human rights in Yemen".

It called for the probe to focus on "abuse of human rights and violations of international humanitarian law since September 2014."

But the council announced late last week that the Dutch text had been withdrawn and that the draft that was set for adoption last Friday was a Saudi proposal which does not include a call for an inquiry.

"It's truly a missed opportunity," said Philippe Dam of Human Rights Watch. "What explains it? It was Saudi Arabia's total opposition", to the resolution.

The decision to scrap the call for a UN-led inquiry was driven "by the preference of the British and the Americans for consensus," said Dam, who was an observer to the negotiations on the Dutch draft.

He added that Britain and the US faced a choice "between justice and the strategic alliance with Saudi Arabia", which remains a major supplier of oil to the West.