Yemen’s warring sides have traded blame after more than 20 civilians, including women and children, were killed in a village that has been gripped by fighting for weeks.
The Houthi-aligned Al Masirah TV network said on Monday that air raids by the Saudi-UAE coalition killed 23 civilians in Hajjah’s Kushar district, in northwestern Yemen.
Meanwhile, the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya TV channel said the Houthis killed several members of the Hajour tribes who had begun an uprising against the movement.
Citing medical reports, the UN said that 10 women and 12 children were among the fatalities over the past two days, with as many as 30 people wounded
“We condemn these deaths and injuries unequivocally,” Lise Grande, the UN’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said in a statement.
“It is outrageous that innocent civilians continue to die needlessly in a conflict that should, and can be solved.
“We’re doing everything we can to reach the people who need help in Hajjah and throughout the country”.
Fighting has been raging in Kushar district for weeks as fighters from the Hajour tribe resist advancing Houthi rebels.
The Houthis, who control large parts of Yemen, claim that elements of the Hajour tribe have been stockpiling weapons provided by Saudi Arabia and bringing fighters into the area, a breach of a six-year-old truce that had seen the Hajour remain neutral throughout the current conflict.
The Hajour, however, claim that the Houthis have repeatedly shelled Kushar with heavy artillery, and are trying to wrest control of the mountainous region that it says forms a natural fortress.
“If the Houthis are unable to assert their control over the hitherto neutral area, they will struggle to sustain the fight against Saudi-backed Yemeni forces in other parts of the northern highlands,” said a recent International Crisis Group briefing.
“If they (the Houthis) win, they will have demonstrated their dominance in northwestern Yemen and will further consolidate their control of territory in advance of any political settlement.
“The government and the Saudis hope that a Houthi loss in Kushar will prompt other tribes to take up arms against the Houthis, sparking a tribal uprising that they have long predicted, but which has failed to materialise”.
The war in Yemen has been at a stalemate for years, with the coalition and Yemeni forces unable to dislodge the Houthis from the capital, Sanaa, and most urban centres.
According to the charity Save the Children, an estimated 85,000 children may have starved to death over the past four years of war.