Battle for Yemen’s Taiz takes rising civilian toll
Local monitoring groups say at least 1,300 killed in recent weeks as fighting around the southern city intensifies.
At least 1,300 civilians have been killed in violence that has increased in intensity over the past few weeks in the Yemeni city of Taiz, according to local monitoring groups.
Among those killed were 198 children, the Local Monitor’s Network in Taiz said on Friday, adding that 6,000 others, including 641 children, have been injured.
Residents in Taiz pro-government fighters have gained ground, but now the Houthis have deployed snipers on hills overlooking areas they control.
“They have tanks, artillery and heavy weapons, while we are just armed with our conviction that we will prevail. We will continue to hold our ground to defend our own city,” an unnamed fighter told Al Jazeera.
Taiz, the Arabian Peninsula country’s third-largest city, has been the site of deadly clashes and intensified air strikes by the Arab coalition as forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi try to defeat Houthi fighters.
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Yemen has been rocked by months of fighting between the Iran-allied Shia Houthis and Hadi loyalists, supported by the Arab coalition, leaving thousands dead and 21-million people in need of urgent aid.
People in Taiz say hundreds have died in weeks of intense fighting between Houthi fighters, backed by forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh – and pro-government fighters.
Reports say at least 45 Houthi fighters and eight Hadi loyalists have died in the latest battles.
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said stocks of essential medical supplies cannot be delivered to most hospitals in a besieged enclave of the city of Taiz.
The aid group is demanding security guarantees after coalition forces bombed one of its hospitals.
“The hospitals in this besieged area are seeing large number of patients with war wounds,” Karline Kleijer, MSF’s emergency manager for Yemen, said.
“And yet, we have been prevented from delivering essential medical supplies – including chest tubes, anaesthetic drugs, IV fluid, sutures and antibiotics – to help staff provide life-saving surgery.”
Taiz residents speak of increasing restrictions on bringing in water, fuel and food supplies.
Prices within the besieged area have surged dramatically and people struggle to find enough drinking water, MSF reported.
MSF also said that civilians in the densely populated areas of Taiz live in constant fear of snipers, stray bullets and mortar shelling, which is being used indiscriminately by both warring groups.
“The situation in Taiz is dramatic and will only get worse in the coming weeks if no efforts are made to spare civilians from the violence and allow them to access basic services, including health facilities,” Kleijer said.
“A large part of the population of Taiz is displaced within the city.
“They are battling for their survival on a daily basis and fighting to get hold of sufficient food and water due to the steep cost of basic necessities and the prevailing insecurity.”
Taiz formerly had 20 hospitals for its population of more than 600,000.
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Due to the conflict, only six of these continue to function, and often only partially.
They lack health staff, fuel and essential medicines and are overwhelmed by the high numbers of wounded seeking to access their emergency services on a daily basis.
At least 5,400 people have been killed, and at least 1.5 million people have been displaced since the war in Yemen began in March.