Houthi snipers accused of targeting children in Taiz

Houthi snipers accused of targeting children in Taiz
Houthi rebels ride on a vehicle during a funeral procession for Houthi fighters who were killed in recent fighting with forces of Yemen's Saudi-backed internationally recognized government, in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. (AP)
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Updated 17 February 2021

Houthi snipers accused of targeting children in Taiz

Houthi snipers accused of targeting children in Taiz
  • Human rights group: Militia has killed or wounded up to 450 kids in city since outbreak of war in Yemen
  • Victims’ accounts highlighted in BBC documentary

LONDON: Houthi snipers have been accused of “systematically” shooting hundreds of children in the Yemeni city of Taiz.

The Rassd Coalition said as many as 450 children have been killed or wounded in the city in the past six years, and the Houthis have deliberately targeted them.

The human rights group said it denounced such “crimes against humanity,” and urged the UN and its special envoy to Yemen to launch an investigation to “expose such crimes and violations” and bring the perpetrators to justice. 

An example of a child being shot by a Houthi sniper is the case of 8-year-old Ruwaida Saleh, who was shot in the head in August 2020 while collecting water in the Kalaba district of Taiz.

In a BBC documentary, Ruwaida’s uncle Hamid Saleh said she was attacked by a Houthi sniper who, according to the Rassd Coalition, refused to let anyone come to her aid, continuing to fire as she lay dying in the street.

“When she fell, her brother Amri was next to her,” Hamid said. “He was strong, brave. He tried to drag his sister to the footpath on the other side, and then she was rushed to the hospital. 

“Of course, she was in a very bad condition. Thank God, she had two operations. She stayed in the intensive care unit for about four or five days, in a coma. She is stable now, somehow.”

Saleh bin Saleh, Ruwaida’s father, told the BBC that her health “is getting better but she can’t sleep because her head hurts. She is still sick. When she tries to sleep, she can’t, and she always shakes her head. Ruwaida is scared. Whenever she hears a sound she thinks she will be shot again.”

As well as showing disturbing images of Amri dragging his sister’s body to safety, the BBC documentary also shows footage of children playing in the street outside Ruwaida’s house, including several “playing dead” as if also being shot at by snipers.

In another segment, BBC journalists were forced to run to the house of a second family affected by the conflict in Taiz, under threat of being fired at by Houthi snipers.

Abdu Qaid Ahmed’s 10-year-old son Saber was killed in 2020 by a sniper while out with his brother, also fetching water for his family.

“He (the sniper) shot Saber first,” Ahmed said. “The bullet entered through (his chest) and went out his back. He died very quickly.”

Mohamed, Saber’s 7-year-old brother, was shot by the same sniper in the stomach but was able to return home, where he hid.

His mother Fatiya said: “When I came and took the blanket off him, I saw he was bleeding. I screamed and screamed and screamed. Then my neighbors came and took him from my arms.

“Then I was screaming ‘bring me Saber, bring me Saber, I’m sure Saber is afraid I will beat him because he took his brother with him.’ They told me he was in the morgue.”

Fatiya said Mohamed had been left permanently scarred and traumatized by the event, always hiding when he hears gunfire, and with serious behavioral issues.

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