Civilians flee to Yemen’s harsh desert
... as US-backed coalition step up attacks on Hodeida
The U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, has been waging a scorched-earth campaign to advance to the city center of Hodeida, leaving civilians fleeing to the harsh desert to seek reprieve.
HODEIDA, YEMEN — At least 30 civilians have been killed or injured in a barrage of ongoing airstrikes that began last Sunday, targeting a restaurant, a flour mill, and a bus station in the area of Kilo 16, in Yemen’s southwestern Hodeida province.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), is thought to be responsible for the attacks in Yemen`s western province, site of one the most important and largely ignored stories in the world — where the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coalition, including the UAE, has been waging a scorched-earth campaign to advance to the city center of Houthi-held Hodeida.
Lying in torn, blood-stained clothing on a bed in Hodeida Hospital’s emergency room, 70-year-old mother of three Um Nassem, who works as a cleaner for the Yemen Company for Flour Mills and Silos (YCFMS), told MintPress:
It was time for break; we left the factory at noon. When we were next to a restaurant, Saudi airstrike bombed the restaurant then we ran into the factory; there, we were targeted by the second raid.”
Um Naseem was seriously injured in the attack, which as of Wednesday, was still ongoing.
On Wednesday rescue crews were still unable to reach many of the victims of the airstrike on a Hodeida bus stop owing to the nonstop airstrikes. An ambulance driver told MintPress:
We had to return to the site numerous times because of limited resources and ongoing airstrikes. Some patients died in the hospital because doctors were treating other patients.
In Hodeida’s Al-Hale district, two civilians were killed and many were injured on Monday after the Saudi-led coalition targeted a cattle farm. The death toll from the attack is expected to rise, as many of the injured remain in critical condition.
Elsewhere, at least six civilians were killed in the Marib province in eastern Yemen, when Saudi airstrikes targeted a home in the north of the province. A pregnant woman was also killed and a child injured when Saudi shells bombed their car on the Naqil al-Khashabah road in the Dali governorate in southern Yemen.
Last Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition launched a massive military offensive against the Red Sea port city of Hodeida. Coalition warplanes and battleships targeted several densely populated neighborhoods in the city, including the area of Kilo 16 and areas adjacent to the airport, killing civilians and forcing others to flee. Over 200 airstrikes and rockets hit areas adjacent to Kilo 16 on Saturday and Sunday alone.
Flight to the desert
The coalition push to capture Hodeida, despite warnings by the United Nations and international rights groups, has forced civilians to flee to Drehami, an extremely dry patch of desert near the city.
Fifty-five-year-old Saeed Japper, a father of four, recounted the events that led him and his family to seek shelter in Drehami:
We fled here from our home four days ago without clothes and food due to a massive airstrike against our district.”
Saleh — who requested only his first name be used for fear of retaliation — is one of the many Yemenis from the regions of Dreihimi, Tuheitia, and al-Hali who fled home days ago. Family in tow, he walked 50 kilometers, hiding behind walls and under trees to avoid Saudi airstrikes before reaching the desert.
The road to Dreihimi, which lies about 20 km from Hodeida, has been difficult to traverse since the war began, but travel has become almost impossible thanks to a recent and seemingly endless barrage of coalition airstrikes.
Many of the displaced families, including Saleh`s, that do make it Dreihimi find shelter in makeshift cottages that sometimes house multiple families separated by only a curtain. Very little furniture is owned as space is limited. According to Saleh, “although there is no water and food, the desert is more merciful than the Saudi-led coalition.”
Over 100 people have been killed or injured in Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and clashes around Yemen’s strategic port city of Hodeida since the recent coalition push began following the failure of the peace talks, according to a medical-worker.
On Saturday, UN-brokered talks in Geneva collapsed after Houthi officials were prevented by Saudi Arabia from attending the negotiations by grounding their flight before it could leave Yemen.
In her maiden speech to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Monday, the United Nations Human Rights head, Michelle Bachelet, called on Saudi Arabia to hold to account the perpetrators of deadly airstrikes on civilians in Yemen and to show greater transparency in their rules of engagement in that war-torn nation.