US, UN, Britain call for Yemen ceasefire

The United States, Britain and the United Nations called Sunday for a ceasefire in Yemen, a day after a Saudi-led coalition against the country's Houthi rebel movement admitted responsibility for the deadly bombing of a funeral hall in the capital Sana'a.

Last week's airstrike, which the coalition blamed on "mistaken information" from its Yemeni allies, killed 140 people including a number of prominent political figures, drawing condemnation from the UN and prompting the US to announce a review of its assistance to the coalition.

"This is the time to implement a ceasefire unconditionally and to move to the negotiating table," Kerry said after a meeting in London with British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson and UN Special Envoy for Yemen Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, according to the State Department.

The crisis in Yemen is "now of enormous humanitarian proportions" coupled with economic crisis and fighting that is "troubling to everybody," Kerry said.

Houthi spokesman Muhammad Abdulsalam responded on Twitter, writing: "A ceasefire by land, sea and air and an end to the siege and flight ban is what all Yemenis demand."

Any negotiations while "the aggression" was continuing would be a waste of time, Abdulsalam - one of the Houthi negotiators at failed peace talks in Kuwait in August - added.

Hours earlier, a US Navy destroyer came under fire from the Houthi rebels in Yemen, in the third such incident in a week.

"The [USS] Mason once again appears to have come under attack in the Red Sea, again from coastal defence cruise missiles fired from the coast of Yemen," Navy Admiral John Richardson, chief of naval operations, told reporters at an event in Baltimore, broadcaster NBC News said.

Richardson said the ship had deployed countermeasures in the incident, which occurred late Saturday or early Sunday local time, and had not been struck.

The US launched retaliatory strikes against three radar stations in Houthi-controlled areas earlier this week after the ship was twice targeted by missiles apparently fired by the rebels.

The rebels have denied the attacks, although they have repeatedly denounced Washington's backing for the Saudi-led campaign, which they usually refer to as the "American-Saudi aggression."

The bombardment was the first known to have been carried out by the US against Houthi targets in Yemen since Saudi Arabia started an air campaign in support of internationally recognized President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi in March 2015.

The mainly Shiite Houthis are currently battling loose alliances of rival forces, including Hadi loyalists and southern separatists backed by Gulf troops, Sunni Islamists, and jihadists, for control of Yemen.

According to the UN, 6,500 Yemenis had been killed between the launch of the Saudi air campaign and June 2016, with the majority of the civilian deaths caused by the Saudi-led airstrikes.

Millions more are suffering serious food and water shortages and a cholera outbreak has also been confirmed in the capital Sana'a.

Last update: Mon, 17/10/2016 - 02:17
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