Rick Gladstone / The New York Times & Deutsche Welle – 2015-08-22 13:06:53
Airstrikes Kill Dozens of Civilians in Yemen, Doctors Without Borders Says
Rick Gladstone / The New York Times
(August 21, 2015) — Doctors Without Borders said Friday that Saudi-led airstrikes on a residential district in Yemen’s southwestern city of Taiz had killed more than 65 civilians, including 17 people from one family.
If confirmed, it would be one of the largest tolls from airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its military coalition partners since they began bombing Yemen five months ago in a campaign to crush the Houthi insurgency in the country.
Witnesses in Taiz said the airstrikes started at about 9:30 p.m. on Thursday and destroyed more than 17 buildings in the city’s Sala district. By the next morning, residents were still searching through the rubble with their bare hands to find survivors, Salah Dongu’du, the coordinator in Taiz for Doctors Without Borders, the medical charity, said in an interview.
Nasser al-Qadasi, a resident, said, “It was mass destruction.”
The airstrikes were part of a new outbreak of fighting over the past few days in Taiz, Yemen’s second-largest city and one of the country’s most heavily contested battlefields during the current conflict.
The Houthis, who have suffered a string of defeats in southern Yemen over the last few weeks, including in Taiz, had been shelling the city for the past two days, according to Rashad al-Shara’abi, a spokesman for the local anti-Houthi forces.
The airstrikes silenced the Houthi artillery, he said. But at least five of the Saudi coalition’s bombs also struck Sala, the residential area. Ali al-Sarari, a local human rights activist whose house was damaged in the strikes, said that “many people lost their entire family.”
More than 4,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the fighting between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthis began in late March, including hundreds of civilians killed in airstrikes. Relief agencies have said the Yemen crisis has become one of the world’s most acute humanitarian disasters, with 80 percent of the population in urgent need of emergency help.
Saeed Al-Batati contributed reporting from Al Mukalla, Yemen, and Shuaib Almosawa from Sana, Yemen.
Saudi-led Airstrikes on Yemen Residential Area Kill 65 Civilians
(August 21, 2015) — Humanitarian group Doctors without Borders has reported Saudi-led airstrikes on a residential area in Yemen destroyed seventeen buildings and left 65 civilians dead. A Saudi helicopter crashed near the border. If the reports of the attack on Yemen’s southwest city of Taiz are confirmed, the Saudi-led strikes would be one of the deadliest since the attacks began five months ago.
Doctors without Borders said on Friday that the airstrikes were carried out on Thursday morning and rescue operations were still continuing the next morning in the Sala district of the city.
The aid organization also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF said it was unable to reach the hospitals in Taiz: “We call on the warring parties to stop attacking civilian targets, especially hospitals, ambulances and densely populated neighborhoods and allow medical personnel and humanitarian organizations to provide assistance.”
Taiz is Yemen’s third largest city after the capital Sana’a and the southern port of Aden. It has been the center of fighting between Houthi rebels and anti-Houthi forces over the last few days.
The Houthi rebels have been driven back in recent weeks but had been firing shells into the city for two days until Thursday. According to anti-Houthi forces the shelling stopped with the airstrikes.
“Patients and MSF staff are unable to reach hospitals due to the heavy fighting and airstrikes,” MSF said in a statement, adding that 923 people have been wounded over the past three days, and that 133 of them died due to their severe injuries.
Only seven of Taiz’s 21 hospitals are currently open but they are “totally overwhelmed” and have run out of essential medication, MSF said.
Also on Friday, the official news agency in Saudi Arabia said two pilots in the Saudi-led coalition were killed when their Apache helicopter came down on the border with Yemen on Friday.
In a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency, the coalition said it was investigating the cause of the crash in Saudi Arabia’s border province of Jizan.
Yemen’s Saba news agency, run by the Houthi movement, said Houthi forces had shot down a Saudi Apache helicopter in Jizan.
UN Warns of Famine in War-torn Yemen
(August 20, 2015) — The World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that nearly 13 million people in Yemen lack proper access to food, with 6 million, or one in five of the country’s population, in urgent need of assistance. Up to 21 million people in total are in need of assistance.
WFP Director Ertharin Cousin, who was in Yemen for three days, says “all the signs of famine” were unfolding in Yemen and that children, in particular, were at risk of irreversible harm.
The UN has raised Yemen to its highest level humanitarian crises, alongside South Sudan, Syria and Iraq. Even in peacetime, Yemen needs to import food to survive and is the Arab World’s poorest country.
Fighting around major ports is making access to people in need difficult. “If we do not receive the additional access that is required to meet the needs of those who are affected by this ongoing conflictâ€¦and if we do not see increased donor support, we are facing the perfect storm in Yemen,” she told reporters in Cairo.
Meanwhile, in a separate report, the UN’s Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says an average of eight children are killed every day in Yemen, with nearly 400 killed and 600 wounded since the conflict began some four months ago.
According to UNICEF, 80 percent of those under 18 are in need of urgent assistance. But UNICEF’s operation in Yemen is one of its most under-funded, the agency warned, with only 16 percent of its funding appeal met.
Both reports came a day after an alliance led by Saudi Arabia bombed the port city of Hodeida, the main access point for aid to the north of the country, putting it out of action.
Yemen’s conflict pits Shiite Houthi rebels (who are allied with Iran) and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and troops loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia.
The fighting intensified in March when Houthi rebels advanced on the southern port of Aden, forcing Hadi to flee the country and prompting the Saudi-led campaign.
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