AL-MUKALLA: Twelve rights groups, medical workers and officials in Yemen’s southern city of Taiz have called for the protection of civilians against arbitrary mortar strikes by the Iran-backed Houthis.
The groups wrote a joint petition urging the international community to help put an end to Houthi attacks that had claimed the lives of dozens of civilians in the densely populated city since early last month.
“These acts are considered crimes against humanity that require urgent action by the international community,” they said in their petition. “We hold the Houthi group and all the parties that commit those violations fully responsible for these actions. We demand them to abide by the principles of international humanitarian law and human rights law.”
On Saturday, a mortar shell landed inside a stadium in Taiz, killing a football coach and his 10 year-old son and wounding two children.
The attack triggered outrage as Yemenis called for an end to the attacks and labeled the Houthis terrorists due to their crimes against civilians.
On Sunday, dozens of protesters gathered inside the stadium to denounce the Houthi attacks that have escalated during the past couple of months.
Local officials and activists who spoke at the gathering strongly condemned the attacks on civilians and called for designating the Houthi movement as a terrorist organization.
Medical workers in Taiz told Arab News on Monday that increasing mortar strikes by the Houthis have placed more pressure on the city’s health facilities that are working as full capacity due to the war and the coronavirus pandemic.
“Deaths and the wounded from Houthi attacks have overflown the already strained hospitals and morgues. We urge the international community to urgently intervene to end those attacks,” Dr. Ahmed Mansour, a health official in Taiz, said by telephone, adding that artillery shells have targeted almost all of the districts in Taiz that are under government control.
Radar Watch, an independent right group established in the Netherlands by Yemeni activists, said on Sunday that arbitrary shelling by the Houthis had killed 691 civilians, including 252 children and 101 women, and wounded 2898 others, including 1,013 children and 279 women, from early 2015 to mid-2020.
Stationed on the edges of the city since 2015, the Houthis have sporadically launched artillery and machine-gun strikes on the heavily populated districts in the city’s downtown in a bid to weaken the government forces that managed to push back their attacks.
In the neighboring Hodeidah province, Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF) said on Monday its small hospital in the Red Sea port of Mocha has seen a surge in the number of civilians killed or wounded in the latest escalation of violence in the province.
“What we are seeing in our small hospital is disturbing, and outrageous. Killing and wounding civilians in conflict not only constitutes a severe violation of International Humanitarian Law,” Raphael Veicht, MSF head of mission in Yemen, said in a statement seen by Arab News.
“It goes further than that; our patients include children, pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and men working in a milk-bottling factory that was hit by shelling — and there is nothing that can justify this.”
On the second anniversary of the Stockholm Agreement, the Head of the United Nations Mission to support the Hodeidah Agreement and Chair of the Redeployment Coordination Committee Lieutenant General Abhijit Guha urged the internationally recognized government of Yemen and the Houthis to make good their promises.
“There has been important progress but challenges persist, including periodic violence that undermines the spirit of the Hodeidah Agreement. I call on both parties to renew their commitment to the Agreement – and to help bring an end to the suffering of people,” Guha said.