1,000 days of war in Yemen, ‘land of blood and bombs’

Yemenis despair of unending death and destruction as their country continues to be embroiled in a regional proxy war.

Hospitals are unable to treat the most basic of illnesses. Thousands of schools have been forced to shut their doors. Bustling neighbourhoods have been completely abandoned. And buildings which stood proud for centuries have been reduced to rubble and dust.

Yemen, described by the Romans as the most blessed region in the Arabian peninsula, is on the brink of collapse after 1,000 days of a vicious civil war.

Since March 21, 2015, when a coalition led by Saudi Arabia went to war with Houthi rebels, more than 10,000 people have been killed and more than three million have lost their homes.

In just 11 days in December, 136 people died as a result of intensified air raids by the Saudi-led military coalition.

Famine threatens the lives of millions of survivors as the coalition continues to enforce a debilitating blockade on northern ports of the country, depriving large areas of food, fuel, and medicine.

“Death and destruction are the first things to greet you when entering Saada province,” said Hisham Abdullah, a 27-year-old father of two and resident of Saada city.

Bombs have ravaged the impoverished region, which borders the Kingdom.

“You could be at home sleeping, walking to the shops, playing football with your children, but at any moment a Saudi air strike can take you out,” he said.

“Even dogs don’t dare walk the streets.”

Once a city of around 50,000 people, Saada has turned into a ghost town, with more than 2,996 coalition strikes pulverising the Houthi stronghold.

“Some may say we are crazy to have stayed, but what else are we to do, where do we go?” Abdullah said.

“We have seen how the Syrians are suffering in refugee camps – our fate would be the same if we left.”

‘Bad situation made worse’

For 1,000 days, Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, has been embroiled in a regional proxy war, with the Saudi-led coalition attempting to oust Houthi rebels – widely believed to be backed by the Kingdom’s regional rival, Iran – from power.

Amid widespread internal displacement and destruction, some 14 million people – over half of them children – do not have access to clean water and sanitation.

“People are selling their belongings in order to feed their children,” said Saif Saleh al-Oliby, a freelance photographer based in the capital, Sanaa.

“I can’t find work and no one in my family earns a salary. The blockade has made an already bad situation worse,” he told Al Jazeera.

Coalition forces, attempting to roll back advances made by the rebels, have imposed a crippling blockade on areas under their control, obstructing food, water and humanitarian assistance.

According to residents, the cost of food and fuel has skyrocketed, with soaring inflation leaving the poorest most vulnerable.

“The price of flour has more than doubled since November,” Ayham Alghopari, a student at Sanaa University, told Al Jazeera.

“You can no longer buy car petrol on the open market, the price has more than doubled. It used to cost YR4,000 ($16) to fill up a small car; it now costs YR9,000 ($35).”

Millions going hungry

Before the war, Yemen imported around 90 percent of its wheat and all of its rice to feed its population of about 28 million. Around 70 percent of these imports passed through rebel-held Hodeidah.

But imports have since plummeted, leaving millions unsure of when their next meal will come.

“People are simply unable to buy food,” a UN official said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to media.

“The price of food has gone up by more than 30 percent since early November. More than seven million people are now at acute risk of famine.”

The Houthis seized control of large parts of Yemen in late 2014, after President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi postponed long-awaited elections and stalled negotiations over a new constitution.

Exploiting widespread anger against Hadi’s decision to cut fuel subsidies, the rebels marched south from Saada province to Sanaa, surrounding the presidential palace and placing Hadi under house arrest.

Concerned by the rise of the rebels, the coalition launched a massive air campaign aimed at reinstalling Hadi’s government. 

‘This place is hell’

Saudi Arabia intensified its embargo on Yemen in November, closing all land, sea and air ports after Houthi rebels fired a ballistic missile towards the capital, Riyadh.

The Kingdom said the blockade was a necessary precaution aimed at preventing weapons being smuggled into Yemen by Iran.

In 1,000 days, Yemen has become a land of blood and bombs. This place is hell on earth.

by Lutf Alsanani, 25, Sanaa resident

Tehran again rejected allegations of arming the Houthis, calling them “malicious, irresponsible, destructive and provocative”.

The Kingdom eased the blockade three weeks later, but has repeatedly refused to allow commercial imports through Hodeidah – a Red Sea port city which provides a lifeline to the Houthis – at the demand of dozens of aid groups such as Doctors Without Borders, Oxfam and UN agencies.

“I’m learning to live without electricity,” Lutf Alsanani, a 25-year-old Sanaa resident, told Al Jazeera.

“I don’t have access to clean water, gas, cooking oil, and I haven’t received my salary in a year.

“In 1,000 days, Yemen has become a land of blood and bombs. This place is hell on earth.”

‘Hope is gone’

Data compiled by the Yemen Data Project, released in December, revealed that nearly a third of all coalition air strikes since the start of the war hit civilian sites including schools, hospitals and mosques.

The study found that out of the 15,489 air raids recorded from March 26, 2015 to December 15, 2017, 386 struck farms, 212 hit schools, 183 hit marketplaces, 44 hit historical buildings and 44 hit mosques.


Manal Alwesabi, a 30-year-old resident of Hodeidah, said since coalition forces advanced, life had taken a dramatic turn for the worse.

“The situation in Hodeidah is really bad, but it’s far worse in neighbouring villages.

“People are fleeing from one place to the next, trying to find safety, but life has become so difficult that we’ve come to accept our fate.

“We hoped that this war would end soon, but that hope is gone. We’re all alone, facing one disaster after the next.”

Follow Al Jazeera’s Faisal Edroos and Ahmad Algohbary on Twitter: @FaisalEdroos @AhmadAlgohbary

Source: Al Jazeera