Innocent men, women and children are bearing the brunt of bomb blasts and other explosions that have rocked Yemen throughout its ferocious war, as nearly nine out of ten casualties have been civilians, a new report by an international monitoring group shows.
At least 5,200 people in the country were killed or maimed by airstrikes, tank shells and other explosive devices between January 1 and July 31, according to statistics compiled by Action on Armed Violence, a London-based organization that tracks incidents, deaths and injuries caused by such weapons. Among those casualties, civilians accounted for almost 4,500 of them, or roughly 86 percent.
Those figures mean that about 21 civilians have been killed or injured in Yemen each day since January, while daily casualties for armed fighters was just four. Action on Armed Violence also found that explosions killed or injured more civilians in Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, during the first seven months of 2015 than anywhere else in the world.
The report, which was published in conjunction with the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, offers one of the most comprehensive looks into the crushing toll Yemen’s conflict has had on innocent lives. It also lends new support to accusations by human rights monitors and other groups that the warring factions have battled indiscriminately, with little regard for local populations.
Yemen has been plunged into chaos by a war that’s put Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to a former president against forces who support President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, as well as a shaky band of southern separatists, Sunni extremists and local militias. In March, an Arab coalition led by Saudi Arabia—and backed by the United States—launched a punishing air campaign against the Houthis, which has helped fuel a growing humanitarian disaster.
The Saudis and their Gulf allies accuse the Houthis of being proxies for their regional rival Iran. The Houthis, who ousted Hadi’s government in February, deny they are tools of Tehran or any foreign power.
As the conflict continues to escalate, Saudi-led warplanes, often armed with U.S.-manufactured weapons, have bombed markets, hospitals, homes and refugee camps, according to witnesses and humanitarian groups. Rockets and mortars fired by Houthi rebels, meanwhile, have pounded mosques and schools, and leveled entire neighborhoods.
In its report, Action on Armed Violence cited 13 incidents between January and July where explosive devices injured or killed more than 100 civilians. Dozens of other attacks caused fewer civilian casualties, but were no less brutal. In July, coalition forces dropped a bomb that weighed up to 1,000 pounds on a market in the village of Fayoush, the report said. The blast killed 41 people and injured another 23. Many of the victims remain unidentified and unclaimed.
Human rights advocates have repeatedly alleged that the seemingly indiscriminate killing of innocent people by both the Saudi-led coalition and by the Houthi rebels amount to war crimes. Earlier this month, the human rights chief for the United Nations called for an independent inquiry into violations committed by both parties.
That’s done little to stanch the flow of innocent blood. On Tuesday, Saudi-backed fighter jets struck a pair of houses in Sana’a, the country’s capital. Medics and local officials told Reuters that at least 20 people, mostly civilians, had died.
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