'If you return to fight, we shall return to our punishment': Yemenis react to UN-brokered truce
Under the truce deal, Sanaa airport should open for limited commercial flights and Hodeidah seaport for fuel ships.
Mohammed Saleh Al-Sawdi was sitting under a tree inside the garden of Al-Thawarah Hospital in Sanaa at 2:37 pm on April 3rd, 19 hours after the UN-brokered two-month truce went into force at 7 pm (16:00 GMT) on April 2nd.
“I suffer from an ‘articular surface’ and a disability”, the 27-year-old Al-Sawdi told Al Mayadeen English with his crutches beside him. “I made two surgeries, but they did not succeed. Doctors advised me to travel abroad to get better treatment”.
“I don’t have a budget that allows me to travel abroad and pay for flights and treatment”, he said. “I was injured by the Saudi airstrikes at the Haradh District of Hajjah province, bordering Saudi territory”.
Al-Sawdi said he has become alone since the missile targeted his residential neighborhood in Haradh in 2015, pointing out that he has been receiving treatment in Sanaa since then.
He is one of 32,000 critically ill and stranded Yemeni patients that the Norwegian Refugee Council and CARE said in 2021 need life-saving treatment abroad, but the closure of Sanaa airport for the fifth consecutive year prevented them from doing so.
The UN announced on April 1st a two-month truce in Yemen that went into effect at 7 PM on April 2nd, the first day of the holy month of Ramadan. The Ansar Allah-led National Salvation Government, the Hadi exiled Government, and the Saudi coalition welcomed the announcement of the ceasefire.
“The parties accepted to halt all offensive military air, ground, and maritime operations inside Yemen and across its borders; they also agreed for fuel ships to enter Hodeidah ports and commercial flights to operate in and out of Sanaa airport to predetermined destinations in the region”, read a press statement by the UN envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg.
“They further agreed to meet under my auspices to open roads in Taiz and other governorates in Yemen. The truce can be renewed beyond the two months with the consent of the parties”, Grundberg said in the statement.
The UN special envoy to Yemen Hans Grundberg held on Wednesday a press conference via Zoom, where Al Mayadeen English asked him a question: Who are the warring parties that signed the two-month truce? Is it between Ansar Allah and Hadi Government or between Ansar Allah and the Saudi-led coalition?
Grundberg told Al Mayadeen English that the deal is not signed but agreed upon between Ansar Allah and the Hadi Government which is backed by the Saudi-led coalition.
On Saturday, Iran and Iraq welcomed the ceasefire in Yemen. Iran also called for a negotiated solution to the seven-year conflict, whereas Iraq said that a political solution is the only way to end the war in the country.
If the truce is implemented, it would be a breakthrough, as the first truce between Yemen’s Ansar Allah and the Saudi-led coalition was in 2016.
According to UN estimates, 377,000 Yemenis have been killed directly or indirectly by the end of 2021 since the war broke out in March 2015.
Saudi Arabia launched its western-backed aggression in March 2015 after the success of the 21st of September popular revolution that toppled the corrupt Government of Hadi and forced him to flee the country.
Opening Sanaa Airport
Opening Sanaa International Airport is going to secure a humanitarian corridor for Yemeni patients who could not travel via Saudi-backed Government held airports in south Yemen for fears of being arrested, or because their health situation cannot endure traveling by land for 16 hours.
On April 4, the General Director of Sanaa International Airport, Khaled Al-Shayef, said that “We expect the first flights between Sanaa and Cairo airports to start within the next two days”.
The Supreme Medical Committee at the Ministry of Health in Sanaa has invited in a statement “patients with severe cases, those who are registered and not registered with the committee, and who could not travel by land to Aden and Seiyun Airports, to travel through Sanaa airport”.
“Critical cases can travel via the airport if opened, but I don’t have the money for medication and flights”, Al-Sawdi said, due to his “difficult life circumstances”.
“Of course, I’m thrilled about this truce because it will open Sanaa airport for sick people to travel abroad for treatment”, he added.
“Reports of violating the truce are going to cause problems for normal citizens; I urge the Saudi coalition to fulfill its commitment under the truce and let Yemenis live because seven years of war and blockade are quite enough”, Al-Sawdi stressed.
Sanaa airport has been closed by the Saudi coalition since August 2016 and was strictly used for UN operational tasks flights and personnel.
According to AFP, 18 fuel ships are to be allowed into Hodeida port, a lifeline for Yemen, and two commercial flights a week can resume in and out of Sanaa International Airport.
Ali Al-Mokhtar hopes that the war will completely end soon and that this truce will not be temporary.
“We hope this truce will be the beginning of an end to the war, and that the Saudi coalition will not use it to rearrange its ranks and return to the war and shelling again”, Al-Mokhtar told Al Mayadeen English as he fills his motorcycle with fuel from the black market in Sanaa because of the fuel blockade imposed by the Saudi aggression since January.
“I hope the dealers will reduce the price of gasoline. What they have earned in the last three months is enough”, Al-Mokhtar explained.
Yemen Petroleum Company announced on Sunday and Monday the entry of two fuel ships into Hodeidah port, according to the company spokesperson.
“The UN envoy should pressure the Saudi coalition to release the rest of the ships quickly, and this is a natural right for the Yemenis, and not a free concession” Al-Mokhtar added.
'Saudis are our enemies'
“Hopefully this truce will hold, but if there are violations by the Saudi aggression, we will respond; ‘but if you return (to fight), we shall return (to Punishment)’,” said 63-year-old citizen Abdullah Saleh Al-Qatani, citing a holy Quran verse.
“If Saudi Arabia wants peace, Yemenis are peacemakers, and if they want war, we are fierce fighters and Riyadh should remember the state of Aramco after the latest Jeddah attack”, said Al-Qatani
“Saudi Arabia accepted peace now following the third operation to break the siege”, Al-Qatani told Al Mayadeen English. “If Mr. Abdul-Malek Al-Houthi launches three or four similar attacks, the kingdom will not only accept the truce, but will end the war”.
“The Saudis are our enemies since the last century, since the rule of Imam Yahya, King of Yemen”, Al-Qatani explained.
“It was clear, the Saudis will order its Yemeni mercenaries to violate the truce, and this has already happened”, said Al-Qatani.
Hours after the truce went into effect; the Saudi mercenaries violated the truce by launching rocket attacks and shelling building constructions on several front lines.
In the northern province of Al-Jawf, Saudi-backed mercenaries launched three Katyusha rockets against positions of the Yemeni Army and Popular Committees in the Al-Ajasher desert.
A military source in the Sanaa government said on April 3rd: "86 violations have been committed by the Saudi coalition forces in the southern front of the coastal province of Hodeidah, including building military fortifications, hovering of eight spy aircraft, rocket and artillery bombardments, and various gunshots."
"They have no principle because the US and Israel back them", Al-Qatani told Al Mayadeen English while standing near a newsstand on Al-Zubairi Street in Sanaa.