On Saturday evening, a missile struck a mosque in a military training camp in Marib, Yemen. The al-Estiqbal military training camp is within Marib, which, according to Reuters, is “held by the internationally-recognized government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.” The attack killed 79 people as well as wounding 81 others, according to a statement from the army. A statement from the Foreign Minister and state news agency placed the death toll at over 100. In their statement, the army further claimed that Houthi fighters fired the ballistic missile, exacerbating the already tenuous relationship between the Houthi movement and the Yemeni government. So far, no members of the Houthi movement have claimed any responsibility for or connection to the attack.
On Sunday, the United Nations condemned this aggression, saying that it had the potential to derail an already delicate process of peace-making in efforts to put an end to the war raging in Yemen for nearly five years. While the Houthis have yet to claim responsibility, Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi said in a statement that the attack “confirms without doubt that the Houthis have no desire for peace.” Martin Griffiths, the United Nations envoy for Yemen, also condemned the aggression and similar incidents around the country. “The hard-earned progress that Yemen has made on de-escalation is very fragile. Such actions derail this progress,” Griffiths explained. A delegation of European Union ambassadors in Yemen called for more humanitarian aid and an immediate resolution to the war the day after the attack. According to Reuters, President Hadi, currently living in Saudi Arabia, “said the military should be on high alert after the assault.”
The United Nations was absolutely correct in its condemnation of the attack on the al-Estiqbal military training camp. Furthermore, the United Nations’ statement is frighteningly true in its idea that this act could significantly derail the potential of peace in Yemen, perhaps permanently. If both Hadi’s government and the Houthi fighters, whether or not they are responsible for the attack, value peace and stability, there must be no continuation of aggression nor any violent retaliation for it. Hadi’s government deserves some commendation for not immediately retaliating with violence, but placing his military on high alert may further heighten tensions regardless. It is undoubtedly a step in the right direction that the parties were engaging in some political peace processes before this attack, and these must continue despite this setback. In the end, diplomatic processes will be more successful and long-lasting than using violence to achieve these ends. In the case of Yemen, this war has already cost over 100,000 lives, and the human cost of continuing this war is too high. This aggressive act is certainly a setback to the peace process, but both the Hadi government and the Houthi movement cannot allow it to be a permanent one. Despite their disagreements, both parties want what is best for Yemen, and what is best is peace, not dragging out a costly war indefinitely.
Yemen has been in a state of conflict for nearly five years. In 2014, the Houthi movement, aligned with Iran, forced Hadi’s government out of power. In 2015, a Saudi-led military coalition became involved, seeking to restore Hadi’s government and order in the country. The international community recognizes Hadi as Yemen’s leader and his government as the legitimate one. Regardless, the conflict continues and has claimed more than 100,000 lives as well as putting millions of Yemenis into a near famine. As such, peace talks were a promising development that many hoped would lead to an end of the war. The United Nations has made attempts to reinitiate negotiations to put a stop to the conflict, and delegates in Riyadh have been holding informal discussions with the Houthis dating back to September in efforts to work toward de-escalation. According to Reuters, these talks have been successful so far, and delegates have “seen violence decrease on a number of fronts in recent months.”
As the situation in Yemen develops, it will be essential to see both how Hadi’s government and the Houthi movement proceed in peace talks. While it would be understandable, it is imperative that Hadi’s government does not leave the table but instead continues to work for a peaceful resolution with the Houthis. Similarly, it is absolutely necessary that the Houthis do not continue carrying out aggressive acts towards Hadi’s government. Only time will tell if both parties are committed enough to peace to put these acts behind them and to continue to strive together toward a better future for Yemen. For the sake of the Yemeni people, they must do so.
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