Tim Lenderking, the US special envoy for Yemen, said Wednesday that he fears there will be a “return to war” in Yemen after a six-month ceasefire expired on Sunday.
The UN tried to broker a ceasefire extension between the Houthis and the US-backed Saudi-led coalition, but the talks failed. Lenderking blamed the Houthis for the impasse, accusing them of making “maximalist demands,” a claim the Houthis rejected.
Both sides have sought the payment of salaries for Yemeni civil workers who have not been getting paid. Lenderking accused the Houthis of insisting that payments should first go to their military and security personnel.
But according to The Cradle, the Houthis only criticized a proposed payment system that would have excluded police, security, and military employees. Responding to the US criticism, Houthi leader Mohammad Ali al-Houthi wrote on Twitter that the Houthis’ demands for further ceasefire talks were not “extremism,” referring to Lenderking’s accusation of making “maximalist demands.”
“It is not extremism to lift the siege on Yemen, it is not extremism to hand over employee salaries from oil revenues, and it is not extremism to lift the ban on travelers to Sanaa airport from all destinations,” al-Houthi wrote.
Al-Houthi warned that the Houthis would start launching attacks on Saudi territory if their demands weren’t met. “We have [drones] that know their destination despite the air danger,” he said.
Under the ceasefire, the Saudis allowed more field ships to dock in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah and allowed limited flights in and out of the Sanaa airport. But the Houthis have long called for a full lifting of the blockade as a precondition for serious peace talks.
A group of 38 members of Congress sent a letter to President Biden this week, urging him to lift the blockade. There are currently war powers resolutions introduced in both the House and the Senate that would cut off all US support for the Saudi war in Yemen, which would effectively ground the Saudi air force since it relies on US maintenance. Americans can call 1-833-Stop-War to tell their representative in Congress to support the legislation.
During the six-month ceasefire, there were no Saudi airstrikes in Yemen and no reported Houthi attacks inside Saudi Arabia or the UAE. So far, there have been no reports of either since the ceasefire collapsed, but an escalation could happen at any time.
The UN estimates that the US-backed war on Yemen and the conditions it has caused have killed at least 377,000 people, more than half of which are children under the age of five. The US-backed coalition regularly bombed civilian targets in Yemen, and civilian casualties spiked earlier this year right before the ceasefire was reached in March.