Tens of thousands of Yemenis are fleeing their homes as fighting intensifies near a rebel-held western coastal province, a rights group said, warning the worst humanitarian crisis in the three-year conflict is yet to come if battles engulf urban areas.
Displaced civilians in the southern city of Aden described “terrifying mortar attacks, air strikes, landmines and other dangers” amid the government-led offensive, according to an Amnesty International report published on Thursday.
“It was really a difficult trip. By God we suffered. There were rockets flying above us,” said a 25-year-old woman who wasn’t named in the report.
She described scenes of bodies littered along the way, including ones “ripped to pieces”.
“Someone would stop us and say there are projectiles, and then someone else would stop us and say there are landmines, and we would just scream.”
Saudi Arabia launched a military coalition supporting the internationally recognised government of Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi in 2015 against the Iran-allied Houthi rebels.
The government offensive, backed by air power and ground troops, has moved north along the Red Sea coast to take over Hudaida – one of the country’s main gateways for shipments and imports of relief supplies and other commercial goods.
“The human impact of this fresh military offensive on Yemen’s western coastal areas is clear in the distressing stories shared by civilians displaced by the conflict,” said Rawya Rageh, senior crisis response adviser at Amnesty.
According to the United Nations, fighting along Yemen’s west coast has displaced 100,000 people since last December, mostly from the Red Sea port city of Hudaida.
The port is a vital lifeline where most of Yemen’s people get their food and medicine. The Saudi-led coalition accuses the Houthis of using Hudaida and other ports to receive arms supplies from Iran.
Yemen’s three-year war has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than three million.
The Arab world’s most impoverished country is now the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance, the threat of famine, and proliferation of disease.