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UN Reports Sharp Rise in Civilian Casualties in Yemen

  • Lisa Schlein

A Yemeni man inspects an elderly care home after it was attacked by gunmen in the port city of Aden, Yemen, March 4, 2016. Unidentified gunmen stormed a retirement home, killing more than a dozen people.

A Yemeni man inspects an elderly care home after it was attacked by gunmen in the port city of Aden, Yemen, March 4, 2016. Unidentified gunmen stormed a retirement home, killing more than a dozen people.

The United Nations human rights office says civilian casualties are mounting in conflict-ridden Yemen.

The new reports also says more than 3,000 men, women and children have been killed and nearly 6,000 wounded since the Saudi-led coalition began its bombing campaign against the Houthi rebels nearly one year ago.

This report is replete with alarming statistics. The U.N. human rights office only deals with civilian casualties. It agrees the numbers would be much higher were the deaths and injuries of fighters included.

During February, the agency recorded a total of at least 168 civilians killed and nearly 200 wounded. It said around two-thirds of these casualties were a result of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes. Human rights office spokesman Rupert Colville said the largest numbers were in the capital, Sana’a.

“In November last year, there was a marked decrease in the airstrike casualties, but since then they have again risen sharply with the number killed almost doubling between January and February," he said. "And, the number of civilian casualties recorded last month was, in fact, the highest since September.”

Colville sad fighting and indiscriminate shelling by local fighters in the Popular Committees group affiliated with the Houthis and allied army units loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh are adding to the casualty figures. He said last month, the Popular Committees killed and wounded dozens of civilians in the cities of Taizz, Ibb and Al Jawf.

He said civilian infrastructure continued to be destroyed or damaged in February. He accused both warring parties of deliberately targeting protected civilian sites.

“There have also been worrying allegations — which we are still working to verify — that coalition forces dropped cluster bombs on a mountainous area to the south of the Amran cement factory, where a military unit loyal to the Houthis appears to have been the target,” said Colville.

Cluster munitions are inherently indiscriminate in nature. Children are major victims of these weapons. They are attracted to their small, shiny appearance and play with them, often with fatal consequences. Human Rights Watch says the deliberate or reckless use of cluster munitions in populated areas amounts to a war crime.

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