By Hacer Baser
AL-HUDAYDAH, Yemen (AA) – More than 215 civilians have been killed and over 2,000 injured since a ceasefire came into effect late last year in Yemen’s Red Sea port city of Al-Hudaydah, a militia that fights for the Yemeni government announced Monday.
The press office of al-Weyat al-Amaliqa, or the Giants Brigades, said a total of 217 civilians — mostly women and children — had been killed in violations of the UN-brokered ceasefire by Houthi rebels since it began on Dec. 18, 2018.
It said 2,152 people were also injured, adding the deaths and injuries were caused by random attacks, mined areas and explosives planted on roads and farmlands.
It also blamed the UN for not being able to protect civilians from Houthi attacks despite a year passing since the ceasefire was declared.
Last December, Yemeni government representatives and Houthi rebel leaders held a round of UN-brokered talks in Stockholm which yielded a ceasefire agreement in the city of Al-Hudaydah.
The warring parties, however, have yet to fully withdraw from Al-Hudaydah amid tit-for-tat accusations of truce violations and sporadic clashes in other parts of the country.
Yemen has been beset by violence and chaos since 2014, when Houthi rebels overran much of the country, including the capital Sanaa. The crisis escalated in 2015 when a Saudi-led military coalition launched a devastating air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi territorial gains.
Since then, tens of thousands of Yemenis, including numerous civilians, are believed to have been killed in the conflict, while another 14 million are at risk of starvation, according to the UN.
*Writing by Sena Guler
UPDATES WITH MORE DETAILS
By Faruk Zorlu and Havva Kara Aydin
ANKARA (AA) – The Turkish and Russian presidents will speak about Syria on the phone Wednesday night, said Turkey's presidential spokesperson.
Speaking to reporters following a Cabinet meeting at the presidential complex, Ibrahim Kalin said Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin will have a phone conversation about the situation in Syria.
Erdogan is also expected to co-chair the Global Refugee Forum in Geneva next week, Kalin said.
The first Global Refugee Forum, set for Dec. 17-18, will focus on such topics as burden- and responsibility-sharing, education, jobs, livelihoods, energy and infrastructure, solutions, and protection capacity.
On the possible return of Syrian refugees to a safe zone, he said it will be based on three main UN criteria, to ensure a "safe, voluntary, honorable return."
Turkish, German, French, and British leaders agreed last week to help Syrian refugees voluntarily return to their homeland, also saying that humanitarian access — including across the border — must be ensured in Syria.
Turkey launched Operation Peace Spring on Oct. 9 to eliminate YPG/PKK terrorists from northern Syria east of the Euphrates River in order to secure Turkey’s borders, aid in the safe return of Syrian refugees, and ensure Syria’s territorial integrity.
Ankara wants YPG/PKK terrorists to withdraw from the region so a safe zone can be created to pave the way for the safe return of some 2 million refugees.
In its more than 30-year terror campaign against Turkey, the PKK — listed as a terrorist organization by Turkey, the U.S. and EU — has been responsible for the deaths of nearly 40,000 people, including women, children and infants. The terrorist YPG is the PKK’s Syrian offshoot.
– 'F-35 program became US domestic issue'
The dispute between Turkey and the U.S. over F-35 fighter jets is no longer a technical or defense industry matter but a domestic U.S. political issue, said Kalin.
U.S. lawmakers announced on Tuesday that they are considering purchasing for the U.S. Air Force F-35s that are supposed to be Turkey’s under the fighter jet program.
This July, Turkey's acquisition of Russian S-400 defense systems prompted the Trump administration to suspend Turkey from the F-35 program. The U.S. claims the system would be a security risk and is incompatible with NATO systems.
Turkey, however, counters that the S-400 would not be integrated into NATO systems and would not pose a threat to the alliance.
Turkish officials have also proposed setting up a commission to study the issue, but has yet to get a positive response from the U.S.
– 'No request from Libya on troops'
Asked about possible Turkish military support to Libya — an issue that came up during an interview with the president this Monday — Kalin said: "There is currently no request from Libya asking for Turkish troops."
In a televised interview with Erdogan, asked what would happen if Libya’s Government of National Accord (GNA) were to request military assistance, the president said: "In case of such an invitation, Turkey will decide itself about what kind of initiative to undertake."
Since 2011, when longtime ruler Muammar Gaddafi was ousted and killed, Libya has seen the emergence of two rival seats of power: One in eastern Libya, to which military commander Khalifa Haftar is affiliated, and the Government of National Accord, which enjoys UN recognition.