Houthis killed 9,646 civilians, including 903 children: Report

Pro-Hadi fighters carry a comrade injured during fighting against Houthis in Taiz, Yemen, in this file picture. (Reuters)
Updated 23 November 2016
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Houthis killed 9,646 civilians, including 903 children: Report

JEDDAH: Yemen’s Houthi rebels and supporters of deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh were responsible for the killings of 9,646 civilians — 8,146 men, 597 women and 903 children — from Jan. 1, 2015 to Sept. 30, 2016 in 16 Yemeni provinces.
This has been revealed by the Yemeni alliance that monitors human rights violations in Yemen (Yemeni Observer) in a new report.
The alliance reported that a total of 9,646 civilians were killed — 8,146 men, 597 women and 903 children — in 17 Yemeni provinces. It said 24,320 civilians sustained injuries — 18,521 men, 3,092 women and 2,707 children.
The total of number of people detained was 12,780, mostly young activists, politicians and media persons, in addition to a number of laborers and children.
The number of violations against public property was 3,811 — committed against educational and health facilities and services, in addition to archaeological sites and places of worship.
Attacks on private properties — headquarters, apartment complexes, factories, farms, shops, and transportation means — numbered 25,934.
The alliance reported the killings of 298 civilians, including 22 children and 53 women, during the third quarter of this year, with the death toll of civilians in the first and second quarters of this year reaching 1,146 civilians, including 373 children and 68 women.
The number of injured civilians in the third quarter of this year was 394, among them 42 children and 98 women, while the number of civilian casualties during the first and second quarters was 4,044, including 369 civilians and 1,067 women.
The Yemeni alliance reported the arrest of 942 people by the Houthis during the third quarter of this year, against 3,380 people arrested during the first and second quarters of the year.
The number of attacks on properties in the third quarter of this year amounted to 82, while 346 attacks targeted private properties.
A total of 949 attacks were carried out against public properties and 2,673 targeted private properties during the first and second quarters of this year.
The death toll of civilians in 2015 was 8,202, including 508 children and 476 women. The number of wounded stood at 19,882, including 2296 children and 1927 women, while 8,458 arrests were made.
The repeated violations affirm the Houthi-Saleh disregard for international and humanitarian laws.
Shami Al-Daheri, a military analyst and strategic expert, said the Houthis are led by Iran, and follow its orders.
“They are moving in Yemen, Iraq and Syria following Tehran’s orders. If the country sees there is pressure on its supporters in Iraq, it issues orders to the Houthis in Yemen to carry out more criminal acts, in order to divert attention and ease the pressure on its proxies in these countries.”
Meanwhile, renewed clashes between Yemeni government forces and rebels killed more than 40 people Tuesday, military officials said, a day after a fragile 48-hour cease-fire expired without halting the violence.
Forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi repelled an attack by Shiite Houthis and their allies on the western outskirts of Taiz city, the officials said.
The attack that began late Monday targeted the Al-Dhabab area, which provides pro-Hadi forces with their only access to the flashpoint city of 300,000 people that is surrounded by insurgents.
Warplanes from the Saudi-led Arab coalition took part in operations to repel the attack, officials said.
In northwest Yemen, fighting around the coastal town of Midi cost the lives of 18 rebels and four soldiers, a loyalist commander on the ground, Abdel Ghani Chebli, told AFP.
Rebel sniper fire on Monday night killed three soldiers as the Houthis tried to advance on Midi’s harbor, which is controlled by pro-Hadi forces.
In the southern city of Aden, an airport security officer, Col. Abdel Rahim Samahi, was gunned down outside his home in an attack, a security official said Tuesday.
The Daesh group said it killed Samahi, the Site Intelligence Group reported.
Separately, civilians in Taiz are trapped by intense fighting, with dead bodies lying in the streets and 200 people wounded in the past three days, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Tuesday.
Houthi fighters and government forces backed by a Saudi-led military coalition are battling for control of Taiz, the country’s third largest city with an estimated pre-war population of 300,000.
“Sniper fire and indiscriminate shelling has trapped civilians. Dead bodies are in the streets and people are unable to attend to their most basic needs. The situation is desperate,” Alexandre Faite, head of the ICRC in Yemen, said in a statement.
Some 200 people have been wounded over the past 72 hours, the aid agency said. “Many patients are suffering from blast injuries. Many have had to have limbs amputated,” it said.


Daesh is down but not out, say fleeing families

Updated 23 February 2019
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Daesh is down but not out, say fleeing families

  • Hundreds more remain holed up in Baghouz, the last redoubt of the militants’ proto-state
  • Some evacuees say they would have stayed if it were not for the call from their leaders to leave

OUTSIDE BAGHOUZ, Syria: They were living in holes in the ground, with only dry flatbread to eat at the end. Those injured in an intense military campaign had no access to medical care, and those who were sick had no medicine.

Yet, if it were not for the call from their leaders to leave, they would have stayed. Such is the devotion of several hundred men, women and children who were evacuated on Friday from the last speck of land controlled by Daesh, a riverside pocket that sits on the edge of Syria and Iraq. Hundreds, if not thousands, more remain holed up in Baghouz — the last redoubt of the militants’ proto-state that leaders once said would stretch to Rome.

They include militants, of course, but also their family members and other civilians who are among the group’s most determined supporters. Many of them traveled to Syria from all over the world. And they stuck around as the militants’ control crumbled.

At least 36 flatbed trucks used for transporting sheep carried the disheveled, haggard crowd out of the territory to a desert area miles away for screening. 

They were the latest batch of evacuees from the territory following airstrikes and clashes meant to bring about the militants’ complete territorial defeat.

For now, the civilians are expected to be sent to a displaced people’s camp, while suspected fighters will go to detention facilities. Previous evacuations have already overwhelmed camps in northern Syria, and at least 60 people who left the shrinking territory have died of malnutrition or exhaustion.

In a dusty area surrounded by grass, women engulfed in black robes from head to toe and children in dirty jackets — many of them crying for food — formed one line. Men wearing tattered headscarves formed another. Foreign men were in yet a third.

One woman had given birth in one of the trucks. An old man was carried in a blanket by two others to the screening line.  A young girl sat under the shade of the wheel of a truck looking dazed, while another moved between the crowd, asking for food.

The evacuees included French, Polish, Chinese, Bengali, Egyptians, Tajiks, Moroccans, Iraqis and Syrians.

It is impossible to know if all are wholeheartedly behind the militant group or how many expressed support out of fear of reprisals. But many vehemently defended Daesh, arguing the group was down — but not out — and said they only left because of an order from the remaining leader in the area.

Some referred to the wali, the provincial leader, while others said the order was from the group’s top leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

It is not clear if Daesh leaders were in agreement. Amid the military pressure, reports have emerged of disagreements among them. The war monitor group the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said one Daesh leader was beheaded in recent days for urging civilians to leave.

All those interviewed gave nicknames or spoke on condition of anonymity because they feared for their safety.

“Baghouz maybe is the most difficult moments of all my life,” said 21-year-old Um Youssef, a Tunisian-French woman who came to Syria at 17 with her mother. 

Um Youssef — which means mother of Youssef in Arabic — sent her two kids and her mother out of the pocket last month and stayed with her husband.

She said she had no regrets and was at “peace,” describing the last few weeks as “the best” since she moved to Syria because they taught her life lessons.

It was hard to see how that could be from the hills overlooking Baghouz. A four-year international campaign has reduced the Daesh reign — which once sprawled over nearly a third of Syria and Iraq — to a tent encampment and a few homes in this village overlooking the Euphrates river.

An estimated 300 Daesh militants are besieged there, hemmed in by the river and the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a Kurdish-led militia spearheading the fight against Daesh following an intense push since September. Thousands of civilians have also poured into the area.

The presence of so many civilians— and possibly senior members of the militant group — in Baghouz has surprised the SDF and slowed down the expected announcement of the extremist group’s territorial defeat.

Recapturing Baghouz would mark an end to the militants’ territorial rule, but few believe that will end the threat posed by an organization that still stages and inspires attacks through sleeper cells in both Syria and Iraq and that has active affiliates in Egypt, West Africa and elsewhere. The group also has a presence online, using social media to recruit new members and promote its attacks.

In the past few weeks, nearly 20,000 people have left Baghouz on foot through the humanitarian corridor, but the militants then closed the passage and no civilians left for a week until Wednesday, when a large group was evacuated.

Among those evacuated Friday was a group of 11 Yazidi children. Thousands from the Yazidi minority were kidnapped by Daesh in Iraq in 2014, and are still missing.

In the dusty clearing where the evacuees were being screened on Friday, a 16-year-old mother of two from Aleppo said she has not had food for a couple of days, opting to feed her children instead.

A child said he has not showered in a month, and a woman from Tajikistan asked for a phone to call her mother. Frantic and in tears, a mother held out her pale and still toddler, screaming for help. Tears of hungry children rang through the open desert as SDF officials searched the evacuees’ belongings.

But of over a dozen people interviewed by The Associated Press, only four said they did not want to be in Baghouz.

They described living in holes dug in the ground with tents hoisted to protect against airstrikes. Some said they initially got lentil soup, but then only barely-husk bread was available— a green-brownish loaf of flatbread.

“We weren’t going to leave, but the Caliph said women should leave,” said Um Abdul-Aziz, a 33-year-old Syrian mother of five whose moniker means mother of Abdul-Aziz in Arabic. She was referring to Daesh leader, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi.

Her husband stayed behind to fight.

A few were critical. “Order or no order, I wanted to get out,” said Aya Ibrahim, an Iraqi mother who said she was unable to secure medicine for her children. “Many families died from airstrikes. Many kids died from hunger.”

The 16-year-old Syrian mother of two from Aleppo said she lost four husbands, her father, sister and two brothers. Um Mohammed said the last days have been hard, with food prices soaring and intensive bombings keeping them in hiding.

About 2 pounds of sugar went for nearly 30,000 Liras ($70), more than 30 times the price in other parts of Syria, while a liter of cooking oil cost 10,000 Liras. “I have not eaten in four days,” she said.

Then the order came for them to leave. But, for some, it is not the end.

Um Youssef, the French-Tunisian, said she has no plans or desire to return home in Tunisia, saying she would find her way to another Syrian city.

Daesh is over? Says who? asked a 14-year-old Syrian girl who refused to give her name. “Wherever you go there is” Daesh.