An international rights group has said that all sides fighting in Yemen have left a “trail of civilian death and destruction” in the conflict, killing scores of innocent people in what could amount to war crimes.
Amnesty International accused both the Saudi-led coalition carrying out air strikes in Yemen and the forces on the ground, supporting or opposing the Houthi rebels.
The London-based rights group said the violence has been particularly deadly in the southern city of Aden and in Taiz, with dozens of children among those killed.
Yemen’s conflict pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh against forces including southern separatists, tribal fighters and troops loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is in exile in Saudi Arabia. The Saudis are leading a US-backed Arab coalition that is carrying out air strikes against Houthi fighters.
“Civilians in southern Yemen have found themselves trapped in a deadly crossfire between Houthi loyalists and anti-Houthi groups on the ground, while facing the persistent threat of coalition air strikes from the sky. All the parties to this conflict have displayed a ruthless and wanton disregard for the safety of civilians,” said Donatella Rovera, Amnesty’s senior crisis response adviser.
“The report depicts in harrowing detail the gruesome and bloody trail of death and destruction in Taiz and Aden from unlawful attacks, which may amount to war crimes, by all parties,” Amnesty said.
In Tuesday’s report, Amnesty catalogued a series of incidents involving both air and ground operations.
During its June-July research mission to Yemen, Amnesty investigated eight air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition, which hit heavily populated areas mostly with no nearby military targets, killing at least 141 civilians and wounding 101 others, mostly women and children.
The group said it also investigated dozens of incidents of ground combat, where both sides routinely used weapons such as Grad-type rockets, mortars and artillery shells in densely populated residential areas. In Aden and Taiz, it said at least 68 civilians were killed and 99 wounded in such attacks.
One of the deadliest attacks was on July 19, when the Houthis and their allies shelled the Dar Saad neighbourhood of Aden, killing 45 people, mostly civilians, Amnesty said.
Al Jazeera contacted a spokesman for the Houthis, who did not offer a response.
Commenting on the Amnesty report, Ahmed Alibrahim, a Saudi political and security analyst, told Al Jazeera that Saudi Arabia “is not in the business of killing innocent people”.
“There is no war which is accurate enough [to avoid civilians] when you have the Houthis hiding women and children and [minors] with weapons in a mosque or in a school”, he said.
“I think in every war there [are] mistakes, but the mistake in this case is very minimal.”
He added that “Amnesty needs to spend more time on the ground”.
“They cannot make these assessments from sitting in the United Kingdom.”
In the latest attacks on Tuesday, coalition jets targeted rebel Houthi positions in Yemen’s Red Sea port of Hodeida, port officials said, destroying cranes and warehouses at a main import hub for critical aid supplies to the country’s north.
There were also clashes further south overnight in Yemen’s third city, Taiz, Arab television stations reported, as local groups opposed to the Houthis attempted to consolidate recent advances to take the city.
As well as retaining a foothold in Taiz, the Houthis and their allies control the northern highlands and Red Sea coastal plain as far south as Ibb, where coalition-backed forces advanced last week.