U.N. Expresses Alarm Over ‘Extreme Dangers’ for Yemeni Civilians
The United Nations expressed alarm on Wednesday at a bombing by Saudi-led forces in Yemen that killed at least 20 fleeing civilians, and it criticized restrictions that stop journalists from reaching the country to chronicle the war.
The bombing, in the southwest province of Taiz, was first reported late Tuesday, but the extent of the casualties became clear only hours later.
The United Nations refugee agency said most of the victims were from one family, which like many others in the area had abandoned their homes to find safety.
“The latest incident once again demonstrates the extreme dangers facing civilians in Yemen, particularly those attempting to flee violence, as they disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict,” an agency statement said.
At least two million Yemenis are regarded as internally displaced, having fled elsewhere within the country since the conflict began. The refugee agency said roughly 27 percent of them are from Taiz.
For more than two years Saudi Arabia and its allies have been fighting the Houthis, an Iran-backed Yemeni group that evicted the Saudi-supported government from Sana, the capital, and controls big parts of the country, the poorest in the Middle East.
The conflict has left at least 10,000 people dead and created an urgent humanitarian disaster, with the threat of famine amplified by a widespread cholera outbreak that has sickened more than 300,000 people.
The Saudi coalition has faced repeated criticism from rights advocates and relief groups over indiscriminate bombings in the conflict. The Saudis have said they avoid civilian casualties but have made errors, such as a bombing raid last October that killed more than 100 funeral mourners.
The United Nations and other organizations helping Yemen’s civilians have also criticized the Saudi blockades that have restricted shipping and aviation, causing severe shortages and preventing foreign journalists from witnessing the conflict up close.
Friction over this issue spilled into the open on Wednesday when the Saudi coalition stopped a United Nations aid flight from leaving Djibouti for Sana until three BBC journalists deplaned.
Farhan Haq, a United Nations spokesman, expressed anger about the plane standoff.
“Steps like this do not help,” he said. “This has been a large, man-made humanitarian problem. The world needs to know, and journalists need to have access.”