Yemen war: Casualties on the rise since ceasefire agreement, agencies warn

Civilian casualties have doubled in Yemen’s Hajjah and Taiz since deal signed three months ago

Kim Sengupta
Diplomatic Editor
Monday 18 March 2019 19:43 GMT
Yemeni mourners carry coffins of people allegedly killed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa
Yemeni mourners carry coffins of people allegedly killed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa

The much publicised Stockholm agreement, which was supposed to pave the way to end the carnage of the Yemen war, has had such little effect that the number of civilian casualties has actually gone up significantly in some parts of the country since the deal was signed three months ago.

In just two areas, Hajjah and Taiz, the figures for those killed, 164 and 184 respectively, have doubled in that time. One attack this month, in the district of Kushar, claimed the lives of 12 children and 10 women, and left 30 others, 14 of them children, wounded.

Around 788 died across the country since the meeting in Sweden – 318 of them through indiscriminate shelling. More than 1,600 homes, 385 farms, 47 businesses and 13 schools were hit in the same period.

The statistics, compiled separately by Oxfam International and the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project, in conjunction with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), illustrate the extent to which the Stockholm agreement is being flouted, say welfare groups.

Oxfam pointed out that, on average, one person is being killed every eight hours and that 56 of the dead since the signing of the deal were young girls and boys – “a number that would fill two classrooms in an English primary school”.

Muhsin Siddiquey, the Yemen country director for Oxfam, said: “Every day that passes without concrete progress towards peace, more Yemenis lose their lives and the suffering deepens for those struggling to find food and shelter amid the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.

“The backers of the warring parties are complicit in this manmade crisis; we call on them to stop arming the belligerents.”

Mohamed Abdi, NRC’s country director for Yemen, said that while international focus had been on a ceasefire on the port city of Hodeidah, “the war is intensifying in other parts of the country with a devastating and deadly impact on civilians”.

The details of continuing suffering came as the warring parties, who pledged in Stockholm to push for peace, continued fighting.

Houthi forces claimed the coalition of Sunni states led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates they are battling is about to launch an offensive in breach of the Hodeidah truce.

The Houthis, who have been backed in the conflict by Iran and the Lebanese Shia militia Hezbollah, threatened retribution, claiming they have a “stockpile of missiles” ready to be launched against Riyadh and Abu Dhabi if the Sunni states, and the government of Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi they back, carry out the attack.

Colonel Yahya Sarea, of the Houthi forces, stated: “We have intelligence asserting that the enemy is preparing for an escalation in Hodeidah and we are following their movements closely. Our forces stand ready for any requested and adequate measure.”

Maged Al-Madhaji, executive director of the Sanaa Centre for Strategic Studies, commented that “the stockpile of Yemeni ballistic missiles is quite old. But the Houthis are getting expertise on them and they are being helped in this by the Iranians and Hezbollah”.

“But it is not just missiles, they are also developing drone technology – don’t forget how close one came to Riyadh, a thousand kilometres from the border.”

Speaking during a visit to the think tank Chatham House in London on Monday, he continued: “The Stockholm agreement is not working, it had no political chance, it is there to save the face of the UN. The people in Yemen blame both sides for this.”

Video shows damaged buildings and homes in Yemen village hit by Saudi-led coalition airstrikes

“On one side you have the Saudis killing civilians, bombing schools and hospitals, fighting a war in just the way it shouldn’t be fought. But on the other side you have the Houthis, and the world does not really care what they are doing.

“They have shelled civilian areas and when they leave an area they leave behind mines without any maps: so many people have died from these mines.

“And one of the most significant players in this war has been al-Qaeda, they have been successful, they have been able to recruit people, get more money, more weapons, become powerful.”

Aysha Thawab, of the Abs Foundation in Hajjah, a welfare group, pointed out the terrible hardship faced by women. “Violence against women has reached an unprecedented level in Yemen. So many men are away fighting or have fled that many women have to provide everything for their families from security to food, to water.

“They are exposed to real danger and there are many, many victims. And this is going on months after Stockholm.”

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