‘Why were they killed?’: Saudi-UAE attack hits children in Yemen
At least two children were killed in raids on Saada province as UN special envoy arrives in Sanaa for peace talks.
[Warning: Some viewers may find images in this video distressing]
It was what everyone dreaded – two dead children.
After sifting through a home turned to rubble, rescue workers finally found the bodies of three-year-old Nabil and new-born baby girl Sumood.
Just moments earlier on Saturday, a Saudi-UAE military alliance, which has been carrying out air attacks on Yemen since March 2015, bombed their home in Saada province’s Marran district, an impoverished area less than 40km from oil-rich Saudi Arabia, footage sent to Al Jazeera by Houthi rebels appeared to show.
“These were civilians, they were little kids,” said one of the rescuers, as their bodies lay strewn next to him on a rock.
“What was their guilt, why were they killed?” said another, who managed to rescue other members of their family after the devastating attack.
Local news channel Saada News reported that the children were from an internally displaced family who had recently relocated to Marran after their home was previously destroyed.
But in what has become the norm for millions of Yemenis, families have had to repeatedly resettle when the sounds of planes pass overhead and bombs dropping intensify.
Air raids intensify
Since 2015, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have been carrying out air raids on Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
Hadi’s government was toppled by Houthi rebels in late 2014 after the rebels stormed south from their stronghold of Saada, and captured large parts of the north.
With logistical support from the US, the Saudi-UAE alliance has carried out more than 16,000 raids on Houthi-held areas in an attempt to reverse their gains.
These attacks have targeted weddings, hospitals as well as water and electricity plants, killing and wounding thousands.
According to the UN, at least 10,000 people have been killed in the war, but the death toll that has not been updated in years and is certain to be far higher.
In July, the last month where statistics of air raids were available, Saudi and UAE jets launched 277 raids, 43 percent of which targeted non-military sites.
The Yemen Data Project listed 108 air raids on Saada province, a region straddling the Saudi border that has been ravaged by violence since the start of the conflict.
Hodeidah, which has also been the scene of fierce fighting in recent weeks, was targeted at least 101 times, the monitoring group said.
Dire humanitarian situation
The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, has been pushing the warring parties to restart peace talks and arrived in Sanaa on Sunday to meet the Houthis as fighting resumed in the port city.
Griffiths’ visit to the capital comes after his push for peace talks last week with representatives from Yemen’s internationally recognised government and the rebels fell apart before they could officially begin.
That meeting, which would have been the first in nearly two years, was scheduled to take place in the Swiss city of Geneva on September 6.
The Houthi delegation, however, did not show up, accusing the UN of failing to guarantee their safe return to Sanaa and secure the evacuation of wounded rebels to Oman.
Lise Grande, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, and David Miliband, the president of the International Rescue Committee, are expected to hold a press conference in the town of Bajil on Monday to discuss the latest on the humanitarian situation.
On Saturday, the Houthis signed a memorandum of understanding with the UN to take critically ill patients abroad for treatment.
The World Health Organization (WHO) said on Sunday that 12 health conditions had been identified, including patients with cancer, chronic diseases and congenital anomalies.
The UN has warned that continued conflict in Hodeidah, the entry point for the bulk of Yemen’s commercial imports and aid supplies, could trigger a famine.
An estimated 8.4 million people are at risk of starvation in Yemen, according to the UN.
The country’s three-year war has ensnared millions in what the European Union called the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million in dire need of assistance.