Former UN Envoy Slams Arms Embargo on Houthis

Former UN Envoy Slams Arms Embargo on Houthis
Former UN Envoy Slams Arms Embargo on Houthis

The former UN envoy to Yemen told the Security Council on Monday that an arms embargo targeting Houthi forces risks impeding deliveries of desperately-needed humanitarian aid.

Moroccan diplomat Jamal Benomar delivered his final report to the 15-member council during a closed-door session held as Saudi-led coalition warplanes pounded the insurgents in southern Yemen.

“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,” Benomar told reporters after the meeting, AFP said in a report.

The diplomat resigned earlier this month after losing the support of Persian Gulf Arab countries for his mediation efforts as Houthis pushed their offensive.

Persian Gulf countries this month pushed the Security Council to adopt a resolution imposing the arms embargo as means of mounting pressure on Houthis to negotiate a political settlement.

Benomar maintained that the sides were “very close to an agreement” in the weeks leading up to the Saudi military campaign, but that the talks ran into problems over “the issue of the presidency.”

The former envoy stressed the importance of holding political negotiations that are free from foreign interference.

Benomar will be replaced by Mauritanian diplomat Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, who worked as the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen from 2012 to 2014.

The United Nations is working to re-launch peace talks but has run into hurdles over the venue for meetings, with Saudi Arabia insisting that the talks be held in Riyadh.

A Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on March 26 to push back the Houthi advance and restore Hadi’s authority, but the military operation has raised international alarm over the mounting civilian toll.

 UN Blames Israel’s Attacks

A UN inquiry has blamed Israeli security forces for seven deadly attacks on UN schools in Gaza that were used as shelters for safety during last year’s offensive.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in a statement on Monday that he deplored the attacks that killed at least 44 Palestinians and injured at least 227 others at the UN sites.

“It is a matter of the utmost gravity that those who looked to them for protection and who sought and were granted shelter there had their hopes and trust denied,” Ban added.

The independent board of inquiry also found that weaponry was found at three empty UN schools in Gaza and that in two cases Palestinian fighters “probably” fired at Israeli forces from schools.

The 2014 war was the most devastating for Gaza’s 1.8 million people, killing more than 2,200 Palestinians, mostly civilians, according to UN figures. Seventy-two people were reported killed on the Israeli side, including 66 soldiers.

In one case, the new inquiry found that a UN girls’ school was hit by 88 mortar rounds fired by the Israeli forces. Another girls’ school was also hit by direct fire from Israeli soldiers with an anti-tank projectile. A third girls’ school was hit by an Israeli missile.