Warring parties place coronavirus at heart of Yemen conflict

Cairo, Mar 31 (efe-epa).- While the world is making huge efforts to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, warring parties in Yemen have escalated the tension and placed the virus at the heart of conflict.

Despite calls from United Nations’ Secretary-General Antonio Guterres for a ceasefire initially welcomed by both parties in Yemen, the conflict does not seem to be abating.

On Saturday night, Houthi rebels fired two missiles, one of which targeted Riyadh leaving two people injured.

Earlier in the day a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched an airstrike at 15 targets in the Yemeni capital, killing one man according to Houthi media.

Houthi rebels have accused Saudi Arabia of dropping protective face masks allegedly infected with Covid-19.

They rebels called on the people living in the regions under their control not to use the allegedly infected masks to avoid contagion.

The Houthis’ al-Masira TV broadcast a message warning residents against touching the masks dropped by the coalition’s planes.

Shortly before that, the Houthi Health Ministry announced “today the Saudi-American aggressor coalition threw face masks and other items (…) in a strange and unrealistic step”.

The ministry called on the citizens to “be careful and not to touch any material dropped by the planes and to inform the Health and relevant security authorities (…) and keep them away from people until the competent authorities arrive.”

The measure is aimed at “safeguarding” the people and blocking “all doors” to an aggressor that seeks to “spread disease and epidemics in Yemen as part of its war on the territory and people” of the country, according to the Houthis.

“In the Ministry of Public Health and Population, we regret that the coalition takes this step as Yemen has remained free of this epidemic for more than 100 days after it has spread throughout the world, and we hold them fully responsible for spreading this epidemic in this way or other ways,” the statement ran.

They also accused the kingdom of trying to contaminate the country through intensifying trips to Yemen.

Over the past few days, Houthis have accused the Saudis of trying to return the Yemenis who had visited the kingdom for pilgrimage.

Houthis called on the UN and the World Health Organization to “fulfill their humanitarian and legal responsibility” that threaten peace and seek to introduce the coronavirus into a country with already severely depleted health care system and situation.

So far, Yemen is the only Arab country that has not reported a single coronavirus case.

WHO considers war-torn Yemen to be at a major risk when it comes to the spread of the coronavirus. An ongoing five-year long conflict has practically destroyed the health infrastructure in Yemen.

Last week, UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths lamented that “battlefields are dividing Yemen and making it harder to combat the possible outbreak of Covid-19.”

Griffiths’ remarks came on the fifth anniversary of the intervention of Saudi Arabia and the exile of President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi which led to an escalation in the conflict. EFE-EPA


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