An escalation of death threatening violence “could not come at a worse time” in Yemen. The country is torn apart by a civil war that has spawned the world’s largest humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
Fighting in the capital city of Sana’a soared amid tensions leading up to the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s former authoritarian president. Saleh, who was killed by political rivals in the region on Monday, had maintained a strong base of armed supporters since he was forced to resign in 2012 after 33 years in power.
Clashes are expected to go beyond out of control in the wake of his death as warring parties battle to gain the military advantage. The timing is especially devastating for Yemen’s long-suffering civilian population, which the U.N. warned in November is on the brink of “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades.”
“Things are likely to get worse. They’re certainly not going to get better,” Iona Craig, an independent journalist who focuses on Yemen, told CBC’s The Current on Tuesday.
Saleh’s death is “only going to be met with more violence,” she said. “The impact is going to be on the civilian population, in a country where the humanitarian crisis has been worsening over the last few months and has been getting increasingly worse over the course of the war.”
Saudi Arabia imposed a weeks-long blockade of desperately needed food, fuel, medical supplies and other aid in Yemen last month, as part of its ongoing offensive against Houthi rebels.
The Saudi-led coalition formed in March 2015, after the Houthis, an Iranian-backed Shiite group, took control of large swathes of Yemen. Thousands of civilians have been killed in the crossfire.
The siege ― which has been eased but not fully lifted ― has borne catastrophic consequences in Yemen, where nearly 70 percent of the population depends on foreign aid to survive. Some 7 million people in the country are already at risk of starvation, and nearly 1 million have been infected with cholera.
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