Jamal al-Jaberi, forced to flee near himself to fight, is relying on the United States for peace brokering and ending the seven-year war at the al-Jafeenah camp for internally displaced people outside the Yemeni town of Marib.
The conflict in Yemen has triggered the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with U.S. President Joe Biden making the end of it a major external priority.
But, according to three well aware negotiating sources, including a US official, the recent round of conversations failed to persuade opposing groups – backed by regional rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran – to back down.
Still in Central Yemen, where the greatest battles have been concentrated for months, those caught up in fierce battles about Marib have not lost hope.
“We hope that the United States and the Security Council of the United Nations will try to end the war and the attack on Marib because there are many refugees from all parts of the country in Marib,” Jaberi said.
Marib is the last fortress of the government supported by Saudi Arabia, which has been fighting Houthi aligned forces in Iran since 2014.
The struggle against Marib and its vast gas fields killed thousands of combatants from both sides, and threatened years of peace efforts, including a new push from the U.S.
The officials of the U.S. have met Saudi officials, Yemeni ministers and the Omani Mediators in the past two weeks, and include Tim Lenderking, a Yemeni envoy. Martin Griffiths also joined the US shuttle diplomacy as a special envoy of the United Nations.
More than 100,000 people, most of them civilians, were killed during the war. Millions of Yemenis are using humanitarian aid to survive, while the remaining health care systems have been strained by a second wave of COVID-19.
In order to encourage the Houthis to stop missiles, drone attacks, the US has called on the Saudi-led Coalition to lift the blockade of Houthi controlled Sanaa airport and Port Hodeidah.
“The United States believes that the opening of ports and the airport is a fundamental pillar of our approach towards Yemen,” said the U.S. official.
Hodeidah is the main entry point for Yemen’s commercial and aid imports, while Sanaa airport is the only airfield under the control of the Houthis.
Saudi Arabia and Yemen’s government have insisted that lifting the blockade should be tied to other elements of a wider deal – something the Houthis reject.
“The humanitarian situation should not be subject to bargain … If they lift the blockade we are all in for ceasefire talks,” Houthi chief negotiator Mohammed Abdulsalam told Reuters.
A Saudi source who declined to be named said Hodeidah port was fully open to all commodities under U.N. supervision and that the airport was open for U.N. and humanitarian flights.
He added that a ceasefire would ease the humanitarian crisis and that the Yemeni government was prepared to negotiate with the Houthis.
U.N. envoy Griffiths said that despite international efforts, “we are not where we would like to be in reaching a deal.
“Meanwhile, the war continued unabated causing immense suffering to the civilian population,” he said in a statement last week.
In Marib city, families worry they will not be able to afford traditional gifts for their children as they, along with fellow Muslims around the world, prepare to celebrate the Eid-al-Fitr religious holiday.
Markets were teeming with people trying to buy new clothes and dried fruits ahead of the festivities.
“Prices are too high for us to buy clothes for our kids, but at least, thank God, we made it out of our village,” said Shaher Nasser al-Koule, now living in the sprawling tent camp of Jafeenah, 5 km (3 miles) south of Marib.
There, children gathered barefoot to play in a dusty square strewn with rocks, trash, dilapidated trucks and debris from rockets and mortar shells.