As Death Toll and Chaos Mount in Yemen, Red Cross Calls for Ceasefire

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As Death Toll and Chaos Mount in Yemen, Red Cross Calls for Ceasefire

'The streets of Aden are strewn with dead bodies, and people are afraid to leave their homes,' says Red Cross

A Houthi fighter mans a weapon on a patrol truck as he guards the site of a demonstration against Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, in Sanaa April 3, 2015. (Photo: Reuters/Mohamed al-Sayaghi)

Amid ongoing Saudi-led airstrikes—including a bombing Friday that killed at least nine people from the same Yemeni family—the United Nations is considering calls for a ceasefire in Yemen to allow urgent humanitarian aid deliveries and evacuation of civilians.

And on Sunday, Reuters cited a senior Houthi member who said the Houthis "are ready to sit down for peace talks as long as a Saudi-led air campaign is halted and the negotiations are overseen by 'non-aggressive' parties."

Warplanes and ships from a Saudi-led coalition have been bombing the Iran-allied Houthi forces for 11 days.

However, as Juan Cole notes, the airstrikes "have repeatedly hit civilian neighborhoods in cities like Sanaa and have, intentionally or no, struck soft targets of no obvious military value, including a refugee camp."

Hundreds have reportedly died, and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in its appeal for an immediate "humanitarian pause," described harrowing conditions for civilians.

The Red Cross said, "hospitals and clinics treating the streams of wounded from across much of Yemen are running low on life-saving medicines and equipment. In many parts of the country, the population is also suffering from fuel and water shortages, while food stocks are quickly depleting. Dozens of people are being killed and wounded every day. The streets of Aden are strewn with dead bodies, and people are afraid to leave their homes."

Summer Nasser, a human rights activist and blogger in Aden, told Al Jazeera that it seemed the humanitarian crisis in that city "is actually getting worse by the hour."

If relief supplies and medical personnel are unable to reach affected areas, Robert Mardini, head of Red Cross operations in the Near and Middle East, warned that "many more will die."

Russia similarly appealed to the United Nations Security Council, pressing for suspensions of the airstrikes to allow evacuation of foreign civilians and diplomats and demanding rapid and unhindered humanitarian access. The council met Saturday in New York to consider the proposal, but made no decisions.

BBC reports that the council's president, Dina Kawar, who is also Jordan's UN ambassador, said members needed time to "reflect on the proposal."

According to Al Jazeera:

Saudi Arabian Brigadier General Ahmed al-Asiri, a spokesman for the Arab coalition, told a news conference that aid "will come when we are able to set the conditions [so] that this aid will benefit the population".

He said the coalition requires that aid delivery does not interfere with the military operation, that aid workers are not put at risk, and that supplies do not fall into the wrong hands.

"We don't want to supply the militias," Asiri said.

Meanwhile, the Guardian reported that three Arab-American advocacy groups—The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee (ADC), the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) and Asian Americans Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus (ALC)—have created as part of a campaign to highlight the plight of Yemeni Americans, currently trapped in the war-torn country, who fear they have been abandoned by their own government.

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