Death toll in Ye­men con­tin­ues to mount de­spite U.S. as­sur­ances

Chattanooga Times Free Press - - WORLD - BY LEE KEATH

CAIRO — Airstrikes by Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies in Ye­men are on a pace to kill more civil­ians than last year, ac­cord­ing to a data­base track­ing vi­o­lence in the coun­try, de­spite the United States’ re­peated claims that the coali­tion is tak­ing pre­cau­tions to pre­vent such blood­shed.

The data­base gives an in­di­ca­tion of the scope of the dis­as­ter wreaked in Ye­men by nearly four years of civil war. At least 57,538 peo­ple — civil­ians and com­bat­ants — have been killed since the begin­ning of 2016, ac­cord­ing to the data as­sem­bled by the Armed Con­flict Lo­ca­tion & Event Data Project, or ACLED.

That doesn’t in­clude the first nine months of the war, in 2015, which the group is still an­a­lyz­ing. Those data are likely to raise the fig­ure to 70,000 or 80,000, ACLED’s Ye­men re­searcher An­drea Car­boni told The As­so­ci­ated Press. The or­ga­ni­za­tion’s count is con­sid­ered by many in­ter­na­tional agen­cies to be one of the most cred­i­ble, al­though all cau­tion it is likely an un­der­es­ti­mate be­cause of the dif­fi­cul­ties in track­ing deaths.

The num­bers don’t in­clude those who have died in the hu­man­i­tar­ian dis­as­ter caused by the war, par­tic­u­larly star­va­tion. Though there are no firm fig­ures, the aid group Save the Chil­dren es­ti­mated hunger may have killed 50,000 chil­dren in 2017. That was based on a cal­cu­la­tion that around 30 per­cent of se­verely mal­nour­ished chil­dren who didn’t re­ceive proper treat­ment likely died.

Re­newed uproar over the de­struc­tion has put Washington in a cor­ner. The U.S. has sold bil­lions of dol­lars in weaponry to Saudi Ara­bia, back­ing the fight to stop Shi­ite rebels known as Houthis, who Washington and the coali­tion con­sider a proxy for Iran.

That, along with ten­sions over the killing of Saudi jour­nal­ist Ja­mal Khashoggi in­side the coun­try’s con­sulate in Is­tan­bul, may be key fac­tors why De­fense Sec­re­tary Jim Mat­tis and Sec­re­tary of State Mike Pom­peo on Oct. 30 made their big­gest push yet for an end to the war, call­ing for a cease­fire within 30 days and re­sumed ne­go­ti­a­tions.

Only a month ear­lier, Pom­peo gave a pow­er­ful show of sup­port to the coali­tion by cer­ti­fy­ing to Congress that Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies were tak­ing mea­sures to pre­vent civil­ian ca­su­al­ties. Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion was a re­quired step in con­tin­u­ing U.S. aid, which in­cludes pro­vid­ing in­tel­li­gence used in tar­get­ing and mid-air re­fu­el­ing for coali­tion planes.

But deaths from the coali­tion cam­paign show no sign of slow­ing.

Coali­tion airstrikes and shelling killed at least 4,489 civil­ians since the begin­ning of 2016 — nearly three-quar­ters of all known civil­ian deaths, ac­cord­ing to ACLED’s fig­ures.

As of Nov. 3, at least 1,254 civil­ians were killed by the coali­tion this year, a rate of four a day. In com­par­i­son, 1,386 civil­ians died in strikes the pre­vi­ous year, or 3.79 a day.

AP PHOTO/HANI MO­HAMMED

A child in­jured in a deadly Saudi-led coali­tion airstrike rests in a hospi­tal in Saada, Ye­men, in Au­gust. Airstrikes by Saudi Ara­bia and its al­lies in Ye­men are on a pace to kill more civil­ians in 2018 than last year de­spite U.S. claims the coali­tion is work­ing to pre­vent such blood­shed.

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