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Yemenis tremble as cease-fire extension fails

With the truce expired in Yemen, a return to full-blown war has horrified humanitarian organizations and Yemeni civilians alike.
AFP via Getty Images

The failure to extend a truce has thrown millions of Yemenis into a state of anxiety and confusion over the last three days, deeply concerning humanitarian organizations and Yemeni civilians.

Starting April 2, the UN-sponsored cease-fire offered massive relief to war-torn Yemen for the first time in seven years. It brought international flights back to Sanaa Airport and fuel ships to Houthi-controlled Hodeida ports. With its expiration, civilians' suffering is sure to resume.

"It is appalling to imagine we could once again slip into the brutal war that has already devastated the entire population of Yemen and left its children with a lasting scare of fear and uncertainty," said Save the Children's deputy country director for Yemen, Ashfaq Ahmad. His Oct. 3 statement expressed disappointment at watching the country move from a peaceful path back toward conflict.

Ferran Puig, Oxfam's country director in Yemen, said the development is "terrible news" and estimated that millions will be at risk should air strikes, ground shelling and missile attacks resume. Puig said that renewed combat would worsen the crisis and undermine efforts toward lasting peace.

Yemen plummeted into political chaos and military violence in 2014, when the country's capital fell to the Iran-backed Houthis. The civil war and the Saudi-led military intervention have rendered this Arab state the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the world. A lull in fighting since April revived hope for peace.

On Monday, CARE International in Yemen called the warring sides' failure to agree on a cease-fire extension "an extremely sad occasion for the people of Yemen and the humanitarian and development community."

Sanaa resident Abdulrahman Ahmed told Al-Monitor that the news took him "from calm to mayhem," filling him with grief and fear. "For us it means poverty, job loss, trauma and death. I pray I will not hear the sounds of warplanes or the explosions of missiles in Sanaa or elsewhere," he added.

After the truce expired on Sunday, skirmishes between the Houthi fighters and pro-government forces erupted in Taiz, Hodeida and Marib. The Houthis have turned down the UN proposals for extending the truce and put forward very high demands that are unlikely to be met.

US special envoy for Yemen Tim Lenderking said during an Oct. 5 press briefing that the Houthi rebels have “maximalist and impossible” demands and urged them to be more flexible. 

"As the ordinary people are hungry for peace, the Houthi group is hungry for war. The Houthis cannot crush every opposing force in Yemen and no force can defeat them quickly," Sanaa university student Izzedin Mahdi told Al-Monitor. "The alternative to cease-fires and peace is a prolonging war."

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