Recent escalation of the conflict in Yemen drew strong condemnation from Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday.

“The Secretary-General is deeply concerned about reports of ongoing airstrikes in Hudaydah city and the targeting of Hudaydah’s ports, which provide a critical humanitarian lifeline for the Yemeni population,” the UN chief’s spokesperson, Stéphane Dujarric, said in a statement.

Over 23 million Yemenis face hunger, disease, and other life-threatening risks as the country’s basic services and economy are collapsing, the UN Office for Humanitarian Coordination (OCHAhad said.

Deadly airstrikes 

On Friday, Yemen’s Houthi forces, also known as Ansar Allah, launched aerial attacks on civilian and energy facilities in Saudi Arabia, including on an oil facility in Jeddah that triggered a huge fire, which sent up a column of black smoke.

Subsequently, on Saturday, the Saudi-backed coalition retaliated with airstrikes on the Houthi-controlled seaports of Hudaydah and Salif as well as Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, which reportedly killed eight civilians, including five children and two women.

“These airstrikes also resulted in damage to the UN staff residential compound in Sana’a,” Mr. Dujarric added.

Stop the hostilities

The UN chief is calling for “a swift and transparent investigation into these incidents to ensure accountability,” the statement continued.

As the conflict enters its eighth year, the UN chief reiterated his calls upon all parties to “exercise maximum restraint, immediately deescalate, cease hostilities and abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, including the principles of distinction, proportionality, and precaution.”

He also urged the parties to “engage constructively, and without preconditions, with his Special Envoy to reduce violence and urgently reach a negotiated settlement to end the conflict in Yemen.”

Meanwhile, news media reported that Yemen’s Houthi Ansar Allah said it would suspend for three days, missile and drone strikes on Saudi Arabia. The group upheld that the unilateral peace initiative could be a lasting commitment if the Saudi-led coalition stopped airstrikes and lifted port restrictions.