At least 136 civilians have been killed in Yemen over 11 days this month as a result of intensified air raids by the Saudi-led military coalition, the United Nations says.
Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, expressed deep concern on Tuesday at a “surge in civilian casualties” in an air campaign launched by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in response to the December 4 killing of Yemen’s former president, Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Saleh was killed in a grenade and gun attack by Houthi rebels days after he broke off their fragile alliance and expressed an openness to talks with the Saudi Arabia-led coalition, which intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to restore the government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
The war in the Arab world’s poorest country has now lasted 1,000 days.
More than 10,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict and the UN has warned about 8.4 million people are a “step away from famine“.
The war-torn country is also battling the world’s worst cholera epidemic, which has killed thousands and infected about one million people.
Speaking to reporters in Geneva on Tuesday, Colville said the UN human rights office has “verified that 136 civilians and non-combatants were killed and some 87 injured” in the attacks on the capital, Sanaa, and three other northern provinces.
The attacks took place between December 6-16, and hit a Houthi-run TV channel, a hospital, a prison, a wedding party and a farmhouse.
Victims included more than a dozen children.
At least 45 people were killed in the prison bombing on December 13.
All victims were detainees loyal to Hadi, Colville said.
Seven civilians were killed in the hospital bombing on December 10, while one woman and nine children who were returning home from a wedding party were killed when their vehicles were struck in the Harib al-Qaramish district of the Marib governorate on Saturday.
The farmhouse bombing on Friday killed 20 people, including 14 children, Colville said.
He urged all parties to the conflict to “take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event, to minimise the impact of violence on civilians”.
Meanwhile, more than 355 high-profile figures have urged the leaders of the US, UK and France to stop “stoking the flames of a war that is strangling an entire population”, and instead take on the role of “brokers of peace”.
The signatories to Tuesday’s appeal included eight Nobel peace laureates, religious leaders, celebrities, and heads of aid agencies.
The US, UK and France – as permanent members of the UN Security Council and major weapons suppliers to Saudi Arabia and the UAE – bear “a special responsibility to use the full extent of their leverage to press their partners in the region to end the crisis”, the statement said.
“If you don’t want the burden of the lives of thousands more Yemeni children on your hands, then the time to act is now. Yemen can’t wait any longer,” it added.