Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

kids in yemen

Residents inspect a neighborhood after airstrikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, on December 24, 2021. (Photo: Mohammed Mohammed/Xinhua via Getty Images)

UN Envoy Warns 'Threat to Civilian Lives Is Increasing' in Yemen

"2021 is ending on a tragic note for Yemenis, millions of whom are struggling with poverty, hunger, and severe restrictions on their freedom of movement."

Jessica Corbett

A United Nations special envoy on Tuesday raised alarm about the safety of civilians in war-torn Yemen given escalating violence, including airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition.

"Airstrikes on Sanaa have resulted in loss of civilian lives, and damaged civilian infrastructure and residential areas."

"The escalation in recent weeks is among the worst we have seen in Yemen for years and the threat to civilian lives is increasing," said Hans Grundberg, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres' special envoy for Yemen, in a statement.

"Airstrikes on Sanaa have resulted in loss of civilian lives, and damaged civilian infrastructure and residential areas," he added. "The continued offensive on Marib and the continued missile attacks on the governorate are also resulting in civilian casualties, damage to civilian objects, and mass displacement."

The U.N. Development Program projected last month that the death toll for the war in Yemen—including victims of "indirect" causes such as disease and hunger—will reach 377,000 by the end of this year, and an estimated 70% of those killed would be under the age of five.

Grundberg—who also expressed concern about attacks that killed civilians and caused damage in Saudi Arabia—emphasized that "any targeting of civilians and civilian objects as well as indiscriminate attacks by any actor is a flagrant violation of international humanitarian law and must stop immediately. The parties must also preserve the civilian character of public infrastructure."

The special envoy stressed that he is ready "to work with the parties to find immediate solutions to de-escalate the violence, address urgent humanitarian needs, and enable a political process aimed at sustainably and comprehensively ending the conflict in Yemen."

U.N. officials in recent years have called Yemen the world's worst humanitarian crisis. Grundberg highlighted the conditions long faced by people across the country.

"2021 is ending on a tragic note for Yemenis, millions of whom are struggling with poverty, hunger, and severe restrictions on their freedom of movement," he said. "In this regard, I reiterate the United Nations' call for the opening of Sanaa airport and for removing obstacles hindering Yemenis' ability to move within or between governorates inside Yemen."

France 24 reported Tuesday that the Houthi movement said "they have allowed the temporary resumption of U.N. flights into the capital's Sanaa airport, a week after a halt due to Saudi-led coalition airstrikes."

Flights into Sanaa International Airport, which is controlled by the Houthis, "have been largely halted by a Saudi-led blockade since August 2016," the outlet noted, "but there have been exemptions for aid flights that are a key lifeline for the population."

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers earlier this month urged President Joe Biden to "exert diplomatic pressure to end the Saudi-led coalition's ongoing closure" of the airport.

"The continued restriction of commercial and humanitarian flights into the airport has exacerbated the ongoing crisis in Yemen and had a devastating impact on millions of innocent Yemenis," the lawmakers wrote, pointing out that restrictions on ports of entry "are a form of collective punishment in violation of international and U.S. law."

Biden was lauded early in his presidency for reversing the designation of the Houthis as a terrorist organization, claiming to cut off U.S. support for the coalition's "offensive operations," and temporarily halting arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

However, the Biden administration has come under fire recently for approving a $650 million arms sale to Saudi Arabia—which the U.S. Senate recently declined to block, sparking fierce criticism of the upper chamber's members across the political spectrum.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.)—who, along with two Republicans, led a resolution to block the transfer—said at the time that "as the Saudi government continues to wage its devastating war in Yemen and repress its own people, we should not be rewarding them with more arms sales."

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Median Pay of Top CEOs Hits Record $14.7 Million as Workers Strike Over Starvation Wages

"While most of America struggles to put gas in the tank and pay the grocery bills, price-gouging, excessive-profit-taking CEOs used their captive boards to award themselves record pay," said one expert.

Jake Johnson ·

Sanders: Manchin and Sinema 'Sabotaged' Biden Agenda Because They Lack 'Guts'

"Why don't you have the guts to take on the drug companies and the insurance companies and the fossil fuel industry?" the Vermont senator asked.

Jake Johnson ·

'Still on Track to Win This Primary,' Says John Fetterman After Stroke

"The good news is I’m feeling much better," said Pennsylvania's progressive Lt. Governor, frontrunner in the Democratic primary for the U.S. Senate. "I'm well on my way to a full recovery."

Jon Queally ·

Buffalo Gunman's Racism Directly Tied to Mainstreaming of White Nationalism, Say Critics

"This hateful, white nationalist rhetoric is not just being spread by lone gunmen. It can also be found on cable news and in the rhetoric of politicians today."

Jon Queally ·

'It's a Fight They'll Get': Defenders of Abortion Rights March Nationwide

One speaker at the Ban Off Our Bodies rally in the nation's capital said that Saturday was just "day one of a 'Summer of Rage' where we will be ungovernable. Ungovernable!"

Jon Queally ·

Common Dreams Logo