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UN Condemns Civilian Toll in Yemen Fighting

  • Lisa Schlein

Smoke arises from the site of a bombing and violence according to witnesses in the west of the southern city of Taiz, December 5, 2011

Smoke arises from the site of a bombing and violence according to witnesses in the west of the southern city of Taiz, December 5, 2011

U.N. agencies are voicing concern about the suffering of civilians during battles between Yemen's army and tribal fighters in the southern city of Taiz. The United Nations says more than 20 people have been killed and 80 injured since December 1.

Clashes between the Yemeni army and tribal fighters in Taiz are continuing despite a cease-fire agreement reached on December 4.

Tribal fighters backing protesters sit on alert behind sandbags during a demonstration to demand the trial of Yemen's outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, December 5, 2011

Tribal fighters backing protesters sit on alert behind sandbags during a demonstration to demand the trial of Yemen's outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh in the southern city of Taiz, December 5, 2011

A spokeswoman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Elizabeth Byrs, says heavy shelling and street fighting have damaged civilian neighborhoods and forced many residents of Taiz to flee their homes.

Byrs says access to basic social services is increasingly limited. She says schools and hospitals are occupied or are coming under attack by armed forces and armed groups. She says this directly affects more than 100,000 children, who now have limited or no access to school or health facilities.

The U.N. Children’s Fund reports children are paying a heavy price in this warfare. UNICEF spokeswoman Marixie Mercado says three children have been killed and seven wounded in the latest violence in Taiz.

“That brings the total number of children killed so far to 138, the majority through live ammunition. This includes bullets, shelling, missile attacks. Eighty-nine of them, I said, were killed with live ammunition ... Many of the 568 children injured - also by live ammunition," Mercado said. "Our youngest victim thus far was three months old, killed in Taiz on the first of December. And, we, with all our partner agencies, urge all the parties to spare civilians, particularly women and children.”

The U.N. agencies are demanding an immediate stop to the killings and urging all sides to halt the use of violent force.

Taiz is one of the largest cities in Yemen and is about 200 kilometers south of the capital, Sana’a. It has been the scene of sporadic, but intense clashes during the past 10 months between government soldiers and tribal groups who oppose the 33-year rule of President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

The violence in Taiz and other areas has continued despite an agreement signed by Mr. Saleh last month to step down and transfer power to his vice-president.

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