Yemen’s Health Ministry has announced that a total of 951 people,died and 3,943 others were wounded in the nearly month-long first phase of the Saudi military aggression against Yemen.
Among the dead are 143 children and 95 women.
A spokesman for the Yemeni Health Ministry announced the casualty figures in a press conference on Wednesday.
On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia began its second phase of military operations against Yemen after conducting weeks of strikes across the country.
The new phase, the so-called “Restoring Hope,” would be aimed at commencing political talks and delivering aid, and a mixture of political, diplomatic and military efforts, according to a Saudi military statement.
The Saudi Defense Ministry announced on Tuesday that it had ended the so-called “Decisive Storm,” which had begun on March 26, saying the airstrikes successfully removed “threats to Saudi Arabia’s security and that of neighboring countries.”
Yemen’s dismissal of Saudi claims
A member of Yemen’s Supreme Revolutionary Council rejected Riyadh’s claims, saying the decision by Saudi Arabia to end its military operation in Yemen means “the failure of unleashed aggression.”
The Houthi Ansarullah movement said a day prior to the halt that Saudi officials wrongly believe that the kingdom is capable of bringing the Yemenis to their knees by bombarding civilians and killing innocents.
The leader of the movement, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi (pictured above), on April 19 condemned the Saudi strikes, describing Riyadh’s move to target the Yemeni people as “silly and unacceptable.”
Al-Houti also said that the US is directing the Saudi attacks on Yemen, noting that the Americans choose the targets for the Saudi regime to destroy, and “Israel supports the aggression and is happy with the aggression.”
The Houthi leader added that the aggressors, Saudi Arabia, the US and Israel, are killing innocent Yemeni people and are targeting Yemen’s infrastructure by destroying mosques, schools, markets, and other places.
Al-Houti said, “The goal of Saudi Arabia is to enable al-Qaeda to seize control of Yemen,” as well as to humiliate the Yemeni people, describing the aggressors as “greedy.”
Yemeni civilians and security forces search for survivors at the site of a Saudi air strike near Sana'a Airport, March 26, 2015. (© AFP)
The humanitarian situation in Yemen has rapidly deteriorated during the Saudi operation. UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klaauw has warned that the current crisis, triggered following the Saudi aggression against the country, is among the largest in the world, adding that 16 million Yemenis need humanitarian assistance to meet their most basic needs.
Thousands of Yemenis have fled the country to other states, including Djibouti, where more than 4,200 people from the impoverished Arab country have reportedly sought shelter.
UN Security Council resolution
The Saudi decision to halt the strikes came a day after Riyadh dismissed a call by United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on April 17 for an immediate “ceasefire.”
The UN Security Council (UNSC) on April 14 approved a resolution to impose an arms embargo against the Ansarullah fighters in addition to asset freeze and a travel ban against al-Houthi.
The UNSC resolution also demanded, among other things, that the popular committees backed by Houthi Ansarullah movement pull back from the seized territories, including the capital, Sana’a.
Destruction caused by Saudi air strikes in Yemen (© AFP)
Real Saudi motive
Saudi Arabia’s air campaign against the Ansarullah fighters of the Houthi movement started on March 26 - without a United Nations mandate - in a bid to restore power to the country’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The Houthis say Hadi lost his legitimacy as president of the country after he escaped the capital in February.
Hadi fled his home in Sana’a on February 21 after weeks under effective house arrest and went to Aden, Yemen’s second largest city, where he officially withdrew his resignation and highlighted his intention to resume duties. He later fled to Saudi Arabia.
The Houthis say Hadi’s government failed to properly run the affairs of the country and contain the growing wave of corruption and terror.