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Saudi-led airstrikes hit Yemeni capital after departure of UN envoy

By LIU XUAN | China Daily | Updated: 2018-06-07 10:03
Yemenis are standing in the rubble of a destroyed house in the aftermath of a reported air strike by the Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni capital Sanaa on June 6, 2018. [Photo/VCG]

'Fruitful' talks end amid anxiety over potential attack on port city

Dialogue is the only way to solve the current crisis in Yemen, a Chinese expert said, as the Saudi Arabia-led coalition launched airstrikes on the Yemeni capital Sanaa on Tuesday evening, hours after United Nations special envoy Martin Griffiths left the rebel-held city.

The airstrikes hit the densely populated neighborhood of al-Jiraf, north of Sanaa, and Hadda in the south of the capital, according to the Houthi-controlled Saba news agency and residents.

Officials said a building near a school was hit in Hadda and two other buildings were bombed in al-Jiraf. While there were no official reports of casualties, residents on social media reported many injuries among civilians.

Analyst Adel al-Assar of Sanaa-based daily newspaper Althawra said "the airstrikes are a sign of no deal".

Zou Zhiqiang, a researcher from the Middle East Studies Institute of Shanghai International Studies University, said the Saudi-led coalition wanted to use airstrikes to suppress and weaken the Houthis in an effort to get more of the initiative in future peace talks.

Hodeidah is the only lifeline for imports and humanitarian aid to northern Yemen, which is under control of Iranianallied Houthi movement, according to Xinhua.

International humanitarian agencies have warned that an assault on Hodeidah would be a major disaster to the densely populated port city and would block aid supplies to more than 20 million people.

Griffiths left Sanaa on Tuesday after three days of talks, telling reporters that discussions with Houthi officials were "fruitful", while he declined to answer questions about any deal to hand over Hodeidah port to the UN.

"I have heard from many experts of their grave anxiety about an attack on Hodeidah and the significant and avoidable humanitarian consequences that would ensue. I am also concerned about the impact of such an attack on the political process," Griffiths said.

On Monday, Griffiths met Houthi top official Mahdi al-Mashat, president of Houthi Supreme Political Council, to discuss the possibility of returning to the negotiation table with the government of exiled President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Al-Mashat told Griffiths that "any papers presented at the negotiation table should provide for ending the foreign presence in Yemen", in reference to the Saudi-led coalition forces backing Hadi's government.

According to Saba, Mashat also told Griffiths that "respecting sovereignty and independence of countries should be a starting point for any political process and negotiations in Yemen".

Zou said all the parties know that fighting will not solve the problem and are willing to talk, but a compromise is unlikely, as both the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition have their own perspectives.

"The Houthi side has occupied the capital and large areas of the country and does not want to give up control or give ground to Hadi's government," he said. "The Saudi-led coalition, meanwhile, wants the Houthis to recognize the legitimacy of Hadi and his office, withdraw from its later-occupied area, and participate in the coalition government to share its power."

The death toll has topped 100 people from both Houthi rebels and forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition over the past three days in battles a few kilometers from Hodeidah.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to roll back Houthi rebel gains and to restore Hadi to Sanaa.

Zou said eventually peace talks will and must be the solution to the crisis, whether it is through the UN or other channels.

Xinhua contributed to this story.

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