Monday 19 August 2019

UN agency 'saddened' as airstrikes kill civilians

A Houthi security officer reacts at the site of an air strike launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen. Photo: Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters
A Houthi security officer reacts at the site of an air strike launched by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen. Photo: Mohamed al-Sayaghi/Reuters
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

The United Nations refugee agency said it was "deeply saddened" by the targeting of civilians in recent airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition last week, which left at least six dead including four children, in Yemen's capital of Sana'a.

The UN agency issued a statement quoting its spokesman Andrej Mahecic as saying that refugees were among those injured in last Thursday's attacks, including a Somali woman and her daughter who were receiving "critical" medical treatment.

The strikes on Houthi targets in Sana'a were launched after the Iran-backed rebels claimed responsibility for an armed drone attack on two oil-pumping stations in Saudi Arabia two days earlier.

Residents in Sana'a shared photographs of civilians dragging the limp bodies of children out of the rubble of a residential building. They later circulated an image of a little girl, who was believed to be the sole survivor of an airstrike that hit her home.

The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, says the humanitarian conditions for more than 275,000 refugees and asylum seekers who live in Yemen have "deteriorated significantly" due to the ongoing war.

Yemen's four-year-old civil war has produced what the UN has called the "world's worst humanitarian crisis" and pushed more than 13 million people to the brink of famine.

A preliminary ceasefire deal was hammered out during talks held in Sweden in December, anchored on the withdrawal of all troops from the lifeline port city of Hodeidah, which had become the front line of the conflict.

Under the agreement, the Red Sea port - Yemen's main channel for food and aid - would be handed over to a civil authority. Five months on, the withdrawal tentatively has begun, with the Houthis saying last week they had unilaterally pulled out of Hodeidah and two other ports after Gulf-backed government troops refused to.

The Yemen authorities later accused the Houthis of merely handing over the port to fighters dressed in coastguard uniforms. Last Wednesday, fighting between the two sides again erupted in the city.

Talks were held in the Jordanian capital Amman the following day, but the warring sides failed to agree on how to manage revenues from Hodeidah. Tensions are still ratcheting up after last Tuesday's drone attack on two Saudi oil-pumping stations. Saudi Arabia's deputy defence minister has accused Iran of ordering the attack.

"The terrorist acts, ordered by the regime in Tehran and carried out by the Houthis, are tightening the noose around the ongoing political efforts," Prince Khalid bin Salman tweeted.

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