Airstrikes that killed dozens of civilians in one day in Yemen are part of the country's misery
By AMANDA ERICKSON | The Washington Post | Published: December 29, 2017
In one day this week, at least 68 Yemeni civilians were killed by airstrikes, according to the United Nations.
The first struck a busy market in Taiz province in southwestern Yemen, leaving 54 people dead, including eight children, and 32 injured. The second killed 14 members of the same family in Hudaydah province, just to the north along the Red Sea.
Tuesday's bombings killed more people than this week's terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Cairo combined — and was among the bloodiest days for civilians since the Saudi-led attacks in Yemen began in March 2015.
They are also another stark reminder of the huge humanitarian costs of nearly three years of air attacks on Yemen by a Saudi-led coalition — using many U.S. and Western arms — against a rebel force that ousted the remnants of a Saudi-backed government in early 2015. As U.N. representative Jamie McGoldrick put it, there is a "complete disregard for human life" by all parties to this "absurd war."
The coalition has not commented on the most recent attacks. In the past, it is has said that it never deliberately targets civilians.
The Saudi-led coalition, which has relied on some U.S. logistical support, has been conducting airstrikes on Yemen since March 2015.
The rebels, known as Houthis, still control parts of the country, and show no signs of backing down.
In the meantime, the United Nations estimates that at least 8,750 people have been killed by airstrikes since the Saudi-led coalition began its assault on Yemen. (The U.S. government is providing the Saudi campaign with significant military assistance, such as aerial refueling tankers and intelligence. And U.S. companies like Raytheon are providing missile systems for the Saudi attack.)
Saudi Arabia and its allies believe that the Houthis are kept afloat with weapons from Iran, including missiles fired toward the Saudi capital Riyadh. Iran has denounced the Saudi-led attacks on Yemen, but insists it does not supply the Houthis with arms.
There have been at least 15,489 air raids — an average of about 474 a month — on Yemen since March 2015. (One air raid could result in multiple airstrikes.) About a third of those hit civilian sites, according to the Yemen Data Project. The organization, made up of academics and aid workers, tracks strikes using on-the-ground reporting along with maps and aerial data.
Between March 26, 2015, and Dec. 15, 2017, the group says, 386 farms were targeted. At least 212 schools were hit, along with 183 markets, 44 historical buildings and 44 mosques.
Areas in the north, largely controlled by the Houthi rebels, are the most vulnerable. The city of Saada was the most heavily hit region, followed by Taiz.
As a Saada resident Hisham Abdullah told Al Jazeera, "death and destruction are the first things to greet you when entering Saada province."
"You could be at home sleeping, walking to the shops, playing football with your children, but at any moment a Saudi airstrike can take you out," the 27-year-old father of two said. "Even dogs don't dare walk the streets."
In the past, Saudi Arabia has disputed the Yemen Data Project figures, describing them as "vastly exaggerated." It has also disputed the group's approach, suggesting that sometimes, former civilian locations have been converted for use by rebel fighters, something not reflected in the group's findings.
The fighting in Yemen has contributed to the country's crisis in other ways.
A partial blockade has left at least 20.7 million people in need of humanitarian aid. A third of the country has no access to food or clean water, resulting in the largest cholera outbreak in history. The International Committee of the Red Cross says that there have been 1 million cholera cases since last April; 2,227 people have died.
"I'm learning to live without electricity," Alsanani said. "I don't have access to clean water, gas, cooking oil, and I haven't received my salary in a year. In 1,000 days, Yemen has become a land of blood and bombs. This place is hell on earth."