By Fr. Benedict Mayaki, SJ
An airstrike on Yemen’s northern province of Al Jawf is reported to have killed at least nine people, including four children, on Wednesday.
This attack comes just three days after another air raid which, according to local authorities, killed six children and two women, bringing the total number of civilians killed in the last four days to 17, including ten children.
In a press statement, the country director of Save the Children in Yemen, Xavier Joubert, deplored the violence, saying, “It is simply inexplicable that at a time the country should focus on fighting the coronavirus outbreak, the number of airstrikes is actually rising.”
“We are horrified by the news that the majority of those killed over these days have been children,” Joubert said condemning the high number of child casualties.
“Yemeni children are paying with their lives in a war they have no part in, leaving families torn apart while the airstrikes continue to indiscriminately target civilians,” he pointed out.
Escalation of violence
These attacks in recent weeks continue a disheartening trend of violence in Yemen.
According to the Yemen Data Project, the number of civilian casualties has tripled from May to June. In the first six months of 2020, there was a 139 percent increase in bombing rates by the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition, compared to the last six months of 2019.
The charity also pointed out that these attacks come after the UN Secretary-General failed to list the Saudi and Emirati-led coalition in their 2019 Annual Report on Children and Armed Conflict for all the grave violations committed against children in Yemen.
Attacks disrupt humanitarian work
Joubert said that the attacks, in addition to threatening the lives of children directly, also disrupt lifesaving humanitarian work. Specifically, he highlighted that the violence threatens efforts to fight against the coronavirus outbreak in the country.
He called on all sides and the international community to “urgently de-escalate the conflict and work towards a political solution" for this situation, which has been referred to as "the largest humanitarian crisis in the world.”
Yemen’s conflict erupted in late 2014 when the Iran-backed Houthi rebels seized the capital, Sanna, forcing President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. The following year, Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states formed a coalition to take on the Houthis and put an end to Iranian influence in Yemen.
The conflict in Yemen has killed more than 100,000 people and displaced over three million others. As of Thursday, Yemen reportedly has 1,526 confirmed Covid-19 cases with over 400 deaths.