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No regard for civilians in Yemen conflict

August 18, 2015

All sides fighting in Yemen's civil war have shown a 'ruthless disregard' for civilian life, rights group Amnesty International says. It says their actions in killing innocent people could amount to war crimes.

Tanks driving along road in damaged city. SALEH AL-OBEIDI/AFP/Getty Images
Image: Getty Images/AFP/S. Al-Obeidi

In the right group's latest report on the fighting in Yemen, presented in London on Tuesday, Amnesty said that all sides involved in the conflict had left a "trail of civilian death and destruction," displaying a "ruthless disregard" for the safety of non-participants.

Yemen's civil war pits Shiite Houthi rebels and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni militants and troops backing exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.

Also taking part in the war is a Saudi-led, US-backed coalition of Gulf states that is carrying out airstrikes on the Houthis, whom several Sunni Arab countries claim are backed by Shiite Iran.

"Civilians in southern Yemen have found themselves trapped in a deadly crossfire between Houthi loyalists and anti-Houthi groups on the ground, while facing the persistent threat of coalition air strikes from the sky," said Donatella Rovera, the senior crisis response adviser for the international rights group.

"The report depicts in harrowing detail the gruesome and bloody trail of death and destruction in Taiz and Aden from unlawful attacks, which may amount to war crimes, by all parties," Amnesty said, referring to two southern cities where there has been particularly bloody violence.

Growing food and water crisis

Amnesty's report contains details of a number of incidents that occurred during its fact-finding mission to the country in June-July. Among other things, the group investigated eight air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on heavily populated areas, in which at least 141 civilians were killed.

Damaged building in Yemen's Mokha
Saudi-led air strikes have wrought considerable destructionImage: Reuters/Str

The group said one of the deadliest attacks of the conflict had taken place on July 19 in the Dar Saad district of Aden, when 45 people, mostly civilians, were killed in shelling by the Houthis and allied forces.

Four-fifths of the population in the south were also in need of humanitarian aid, and lacking clean water and electricity, Amnesty said.

Long-running conflict

It also called on the UN Human Rights Council to set up an international commission of inquiry to investigate alleged war crimes

The UN estimates that at least 1,916 civilians have died in the conflict in Yemen since it escalated on March 26.

Yemen has been in the grip of violent unrest since last year, when the Houthis seized control of the capital, Sanaa. President Hadi, who remains the internationally recognized leader of the country, was forced to flee into exile to Saudi Arabia.

tj/jil (AP, dpa)

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