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Yemenis divided by war share hope for peace

Saturday, 17 November 2018

Yemenis divided by war share hope for peace

APRNEWS - Divided by war, one thing unites Yemenis in rebel-held Sanaa and state-controlled Aden -- four years into a conflict that has triggered a tragic humanitarian crisis, people just want peace.

For residents of the impoverished country, there is little escape from the daily propaganda and fiery speeches of warring parties urging their supporters to fight "the enemy".

The conflict is everywhere, from armed men in military fatigues walking the narrow alleyways of street markets to walls plastered with posters of "martyred" fighters.

But many Yemenis have had enough.

Whether on the side of the Iran-aligned Huthi rebels or the Saudi-backed government, Yemenis are struggling to survive a war that has pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine.

"There is no mercy in war. It eats away at everything," said Amine Mohammed in Sanaa's Bab al-Sabah market.

"Regular Yemenis are eagerly waiting for the moment the end of the war is announced."

In the capital's marketplace, vendors sit by their shops waiting for customers like Mohammed -- both trying to go about their normal lives.

- 'We are tired' -

But in the media and in mosques across the city, Yemen's Huthi rebels are calling on people to fight the government and the Saudi-backed alliance that supports it.

The Huthis' Al-Masirah TV continuously broadcasts military operations and combat anthems to encourage locals to join their ranks.

"This land is our land, and this war is our war," goes one popular Huthi verse.

But Hassan Abdel Kareem does not care. The bus driver's biggest concern is to provide for his seven children.

"We are tired of the war, the blood and the killing," the 39-year-old told AFP.

"We've had enough. It is time to start rebuilding Yemen, and Yemen will need every person in it to be rebuilt," said the Sanaa resident.

About 300 kilometres (185 miles) south of the capital in government-controlled Aden, Khulood al-Akel shares Abdel Kareem's sentiment.

"We are so tired of the war," she told AFP.

"We are struggling with a shortage of gas, water, and food. No one is as exhausted as we are," she said, before pausing for a few moments.

In a cracked voice, she continued: "This is why we hope it ends."

- 'Hunger, disease and poverty' -

Aden, the government's de facto capital since the rebels took over Sanaa in 2014, has been hit by protests for the past year over rising costs of living and a collapsing economy.

The Yemeni riyal has lost more than two-thirds of its value against the dollar since 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its allies joined the war.

"Four years of this situation... people are suffering of hunger, disease and poverty," said Aden resident Murad Mohammed.

"We hope from the bottom of our hearts that there is a ceasefire... enough tragedy," he added.

Diplomatic efforts to end the war intensified last week after clashes escalated in the Red Sea city of Hodeida, whose port serves as an entry point for nearly all of the country's commercial imports and humanitarian aid.

United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres has warned the destruction of the Hodeida port could trigger a "catastrophic" situation in a country where 14 million people are at risk of starvation.

Aid groups have urged both parties in the conflict to keep roads open to allow civilians to escape and aid to be transported through the rebel-held port.

On Wednesday, pro-government forces temporarily halted an offensive on the port amid amplified calls for a ceasefire and renewed UN-led peace efforts.

UN mediator Martin Griffiths -- whose efforts at kick-starting peace talks collapsed in September -- said on Friday he hopes to bring the warring sides to the table soon in Sweden, after receiving firm assurances they would attend negotiations.

The World Health Organization estimates nearly 10,000 people have been killed in the war since 2015, while rights groups believe the toll may be five times as high.