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In Yemen, Airstrikes on Haradh IDP Camp Confirmed to ICP by UN, What Next?

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, March 30 -- Amid continued airstrikes in Yemen, on March 30 came reports of an airstrike on an internally displaced persons camp in Haradh. Inner City Press immediately sought confirmation (and comment) from the UNHCR and the UN Spokesperson's Office. The latter responded four minutes before the day's noon briefing, below.

  It was UNHCR which answered first, via its Spokesperson for Asia, Babar Baloch:

"Dear Matthew: Sadly, the reports are correct. Our team on the ground confirms the attack on Al Mazraq area in Hajjah that took place around 11.30am local time with unconfirmed reports of 15 to 20 deaths and as many injured. There are two IDP camps in the area that host some 1100 displaced families. We are not able to confirm how the attack happened, but remain concerned for the safety and security of the displaced."

  In front of the UN Security Council on the morning of March 30, questions were asked of entering Ambassadors - nearly all about Boko Haram. Inner City Press asked a spokesperson about the airstrike on IDPs in Yemen but news seemed not to have reached the Security Council. 

An hour later, still silence from Ban Ki-moon and the UN Office of the Spokesperson.  Finally, four minutes before the day's noon briefing, this from UN Spokesperson's Office:

"OCHA in Yemen says that its local partners report that airstrikes hit one of the IDP camps and the surrounding area in Hajjah and that there are reports of civilian casualties.  The United Nations and partners are working to verify this information."

  At the highest levels, the UN system is in a sense "all - in" with the Saudi military coalition, quiet on the fact that it includes Sudan and on civilian casualties.

Back on March 27 in Washington Inner City Press asked State Department spokesperson Jeff Rathke if the US has been in contact with the UN's Jamal Benomar:

"On Yemen, has the U.S. had any contact with Jamal Benomar, the special advisor whos supposed to be mediating?  And how do you think that the whats the process from bombing to getting the Houthis back to the table?  Is anyone actually reaching out to them?"

  Rathke said he didn't have such information in front of him. But later a State Department official told Inner City Press on background:

"We remain in regular contact with UN Special Advisor Jamal Benomar.  We understand that Benomar remains engaged with political representatives from all parties, including the Houthis.  While we have not had direct contact with the Houthis, we have passed messages to them.
"The path for political dialogue will come when the Houthis and former regime elements halt their destabilizing military actions and realize that the only viable path forward is through peaceful negotiations."

  On civilian casualties in Sana'a, Rathke said "weve always been clear that in every conflict, all sides should avoid civilian casualties.  I dont Im not able to corroborate those reports that youve mentioned, but clearly, we think its important to act in a targeted way in any kind of military conflict." Here is Amnesty International's report.  This will be updated.


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