Saudi-led air raids kill 68 Yemen civilians: UN
SANAA – Sixty-eight Yemeni civilians were killed in two separate air raids by the Saudi-led Arab coalition in one day, the UN humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said on Thursday.
The first air strike on Tuesday hit a “crowded popular market” in Taez province, killing 54 civilians including eight children, and wounding 32 others, he said in a statement.
The second raid was in the Red Sea province of Hodeida and killed 14 people from the same family, the statement said.
“I remain deeply disturbed by mounting civilian casualties caused by escalated and indiscriminate attacks throughout Yemen,” McGoldrick said.
In addition to the casualties from Tuesday’s two air raids, another 41 civilians were killed and 43 wounded over the previous 10 days of fighting, he said.
The Arab coalition intensified its air campaign targeting the Iran-backed Huthi rebels after December 19 when Saudi air defences intercepted a ballistic missile the insurgents fired at the Saudi capital Riyadh.
“These incidents prove the complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, continue to show in this absurd war that has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people,” McGoldrick said on Thursday. He said civilians “are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides”.
“I remind all parties to the conflict, including the Saudi-led coalition, of their obligations under International Humanitarian Law to spare civilians and civilian infrastructure and to always distinguish between civilian and military objects,” he said.
The UN official said the conflict in Yemen has no military solution and could be resolved only through negotiations.
The Arab coalition intervened in support of the internationally recognised government in March 2015 after the Shiite Huthis took over the capital Sanaa and much of Yemen.
But despite the coalition’s superior firepower, the rebels still control the capital and much of the north.
More than 8,750 people have been killed since the coalition intervened, according to the World Health Organization.
A day earlier, French President Emmanuel Macron urged Saudi Arabia’s King Salman to “lift entirely the blockade” against Yemen so that humanitarian aid can be delivered to the food-deprived state.
The comments came in a phone call between the two leaders on December 24, the French presidency said Wednesday.
A Saudi-led military coalition has since 2015 been intervening in Yemen to support its internationally recognised government against Huthi rebels backed by Iran.
Air strikes and a far-reaching blockade on Yemen’s air and sea ports have massively reduced the amount of food reaching the country, heavily critical international aid organisations say.
In early November, the coalition tightened that blockade in response to a missile fired by the Shiite Huthis that was intercepted near Riyadh airport.
Mark Lowcock, the UN undersecretary-general for humanitarian affairs, said that month unless the coalition ends a blockade of the country, Yemen will face “the largest famine the world has seen for many decades, with millions of victims”.
The blockade was partially lifted three weeks later under massive international pressure, namely over the closure of Hodeida port – key to humanitarian and commercial deliveries.
For France, there is “no military solution to the conflict in Yemen” and it is “essential that both sides return to the negotiating table”, Macron told Salman, the presidency added.