At least 20 Ye­meni civil­ians re­ported dead in air strike

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

An air raid in Ye­men has killed at least 20 peo­ple mostly from the same fam­ily, the UN and wit­nesses said yes­ter­day, the lat­est in a se­ries of sus­pected strikes on civil­ians by a Saudi-led coali­tion. The at­tack on Tues­day af­ter­noon hit a group of civil­ians in the Mawza district of the south­west­ern prov­ince of Taez, a state­ment by the UN refugee agency said. Res­i­dents said the at­tack was car­ried out by a war­plane from the Saudi-led coali­tion fight­ing Shi­ite rebels in sup­port of Ye­men’s in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment. At least seven women and four chil­dren were among those killed, they said.

The UNHCR said it was “deeply shocked and sad­dened at re­ports of the deaths and in­juries of a num­ber of in­ter­nally dis­placed per­sons in an aerial at­tack” on the area. The state­ment said the civil­ians had fled fight­ing in the nearby Mokha district, on the Red Sea coast. Coali­tion-backed forces loyal to Pres­i­dent Abedrabbo Man­sour Hadi re­cap­tured the port of Mokha in Fe­bru­ary as part of a ma­jor on­go­ing of­fen­sive to drive rebels from Ye­men’s lengthy coast­line. The UNHCR state­ment said more than half a mil­lion civil­ians, 27 per­cent of Ye­men’s in­ter­nally dis­placed peo­ple (IDPs), orig­i­nate from the gov­er­norate of Taez.

Ex­treme dan­gers

“This lat­est in­ci­dent once again demon­strates the ex­treme dan­gers fac­ing civil­ians in Ye­men, par­tic­u­larly those at­tempt­ing to flee vi­o­lence, as they dis­pro­por­tion­ately bear the brunt of con­flict,” the state­ment said. The coali­tion launched a mil­i­tary oper­a­tion against the rebels in March 2015 as in­sur­gents closed in on Hadi in his south­ern refuge in Aden forc­ing him to flee to Riyadh. The World Health Or­ga­ni­za­tion es­ti­mates that more than 8,000 peo­ple have been killed in Ye­men’s con­flict, most of them civil­ians, since the in­ter­ven­tion.

The Saudi-led coali­tion has faced re­peated crit­i­cism over civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in Ye­men. It ac­cuses the rebels of us­ing civil­ians as hu­man shields. Last month, an air raid on a mar­ket in rebel-con­trolled Saada prov­ince, in north Ye­men, killed 24 civil­ians. An­other sus­pected coali­tion raid in Taez prov­ince in May was re­ported to have killed more than 20 civil­ians. The coali­tion has ad­mit­ted re­spon­si­bil­ity for some strikes that killed civil­ians, in­clud­ing a raid on the rebel-held cap­i­tal Sanaa in Oc­to­ber 2016 that killed more than 140 peo­ple at a fu­neral cer­e­mony.

The UNHCR state­ment said ap­pealed for par­ties to the con­flict to do “their ut­most in the pro­tec­tion of civil­ians and the mit­i­ga­tion of suf­fer­ing.”“A peace­ful po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to re­solve the con­flict in Ye­men is ur­gently needed to end civil­ian suf­fer­ing,” it said. Re­peated at­tempts to bring about a po­lit­i­cal so­lu­tion to the con­flict, in­clud­ing a se­ries of UN-me­di­ated peace talks, have failed. The Shi­ite Huthi rebels, who Saudi Ara­bia says are sup­ported by its re­gional arch-ri­val Iran, seized con­trol of large parts of the coun­try in­clud­ing Sanaa in late 2014 and early 2015. Cam­paign­ers in the West have urged coun­tries in­clud­ing the United States and Britain to sus­pend arms ex­ports to Saudi Ara­bia over civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in the con­flict. —AFP

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