CAIRO (AP) — U.N. envoy Martin Griffiths arrived in Yemen’s rebel-held capital on Monday, as a U.N. agency said eight civilians were killed and 30 wounded in the shelling of a camp for displaced people over the weekend.
The U.N. humanitarian coordinator said the attack occurred on Saturday in the northern province of Hajjah, a rebel stronghold, where dozens of civilians have been killed and hundreds of families have been displaced in the past two months. The U.N. said an attack earlier this month near the same camp killed six children and two women.
“An attack like this cannot be justified — ever,” said Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, in a statement late Sunday. She didn’t identify the source of the shelling.
The Yemeni government accused the rebels, known as Houthis, of attacking the camp, allegations denied by the rebels.
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The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said Sunday that over the past month at least 30 civilians have been killed and another 52 wounded by shelling and airstrikes in the area, including three children and two women.
It said at least 300 families had been displaced in the last three weeks to a nearby district which is already hosting some 23,000 displaced families living in “dire conditions.”
Griffiths meanwhile arrived in Sanaa on an unannounced visit to discuss the situation in and around the coastal city of Hodeida, where Yemen’s warring parties agreed to a cease-fire last month. The two sides also agreed to a prisoner exchange that has yet to take place.
He met with the leader of the Shiite rebels, Abdul-Malek al-Houthi, in Sanaa. Al-Houthi stressed the rebels’ commitment to implement agreements struck in Sweden last month, according to a rebel statement.
Griffiths said there is a political will now more than ever to end the conflict in Yemen. “We are all on the same page that the way to do this is through the negotiations’ table, and not the battlefield,” he said in an exclusive interview with the pro-Saudi Asharq al-Awsat newspaper published on Monday.
Griffiths acknowledged the delays in the implementation of the Hodeida cease-fire and the prisoner exchange.
“We have seen the timelines for implementation extended, both in Hodeida and the prisoner exchange agreement. Such changes in timelines are expected. The initial timelines were rather ambitious. We are dealing with a complex situation on the ground,” he said.
U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said Griffiths plans to go to Hodeida on Tuesday.
“Mr. Griffiths has emphasized to the parties that the U.N. is committed to staying the course to help the parties implement the Stockholm agreement fully and rapidly,” Dujarric said.
Yemen was plunged into civil war in 2014 when the rebels captured Sanaa. A coalition led by Saudi Arabia entered the war on the side of the government in March 2015. The war has killed tens of thousands of people and has generated the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the United Nations contributed.