Just hours before the United Nations Security Council Tuesday evening met to discuss the political deadlock in Yemen, security forces and plain-clothed gunmen opened fire on a crowd of thousands as they marched through the capital, Sanaa. Three were killed, and dozens of others injured by the gunshots.
“Central Security had cut off the road when we approached,” says young protester Abdel Rahman Sharif. “It was peaceful. People at the front of the march were even talking with them, then suddenly they started shooting.” Mr. Sharif was lying in the prayer area of a mosque-turned-hospital, bandaged after an old tear gas grenade exploded and sent shards of shrapnel into his knee.
Hundreds of others injured in the melee lined the streets of Sanaa’s demonstration area, some unconscious, others convulsing in response to tear gas inhalation. Earlier in the day, uniformed security fatally shot one anti-regime demonstrator in the city of Taiz, 140 miles south of the capital.
More than 100 have been killed since calls for the resignation of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, who has ruled for 32-years, began in January. Rather than cow the protesters, however, Mr. Saleh’s use of deadly force only seems to deepen their resolve to bring down his government as soon as possible.
“I’ll die for the success of this revolution,” says Khaled al-Harazy who was being treated after exposure to tear gas. “This isn’t the first time I’ve been in this hospital.”
Security Council fails to agree on a statement
The harsh response of Saleh’s regime has called international attention to Yemen’s crisis. Both the US and EU have been involved in attempts to broker a deal to end the country’s dangerous stalemate.
On Tuesday night, the 15-member UN Security Council convened to discuss the situation for the first time, though failed to agree on a statement.
“We expressed concern about the situation in Yemen, which is deteriorating. We called for restraint and we appealed to the parties to enter into a dialogue,” said German Ambassador Peter Wittig to reporters following the meeting.
Germany had pushed to include Yemen on the Council’s agenda.
“Most of us in the council expressed explicitly support for the mediation efforts of the Gulf Cooperation Council,” added Ambassador Wittig.
Gulf Cooperation Council’s role
Many see the GCC involvement as the country’s best chance for reaching an agreement. The council of Persian Gulf countries is led by Saudi Arabia, Yemen’s largest donor.
Representatives from Saleh’s ruling General People’s Congress party met with GCC officials Tuesday in Abu Dhabi to discuss a resolution that would see Saleh peacefully transfer executive authority.
Saleh has stated on numerous occasions that he is willing to hand over power, but has yet to take steps to do so.
GCC-led talks between opposition members and the ruling party held Sunday in Riyadh failed to yield any progress.