Security

Civilians killed in Houthi shelling in al-Hodeidah

By AFP and Al-Mashareq

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Deputy Head of the UN Mission to Support the al-Hodeidah Agreement Daniela Crosslake visits war casualties at a hospital in Hays, in Yemen's al-Hodeidah province, on November 11th. [Khaled Ziad/AFP]

At least eight people were killed in the shelling of an industrial compound in Yemen's al-Hodeidah port, the government said Friday (December 4th), pointing the finger at the Iran-backed Houthis (Ansarallah).

There has been an uptick in fighting in and around the lifeline port, where a fragile UN-brokered truce has largely averted major battles between the government -- backed by the Arab coalition -- and the Houthis.

Yemeni Information Minister Muammar al-Eryani on Thursday condemned the Houthis' "ugly terrorist attack" on the Thabit Brothers industrial compound.

He said eight workers had been killed and 13 others injured, while medical sources told AFP there were at least 10 deaths.

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In this file photo taken on November 3rd, 2019 a malnourished Yemeni toddler is held by a woman at a clinic run by a humanitarian organisation in the port city of al-Hodeidah. [Essa Ahmed/AFP]

In initial reports of the incident, Yemeni media said Thursday that some of the injured were severely wounded so the toll was likely to rise.

The UN Mission to support al-Hodeidah Agreement (UNMHA) also condemned the incident.

"The killing of civilians must stop," it said Thursday, urging all parties to maintain the ceasefire.

"In addition to being a working factory servicing the population and providing employment, the site of the industrial complex is being considered as one of the possible locations of an UNMHA office," it said.

Children among civilian casualties

The UN said a total of 74 civilians were killed or wounded in al-Hodeidah province in October as hostilities escalated.

On November 29th, five children were among eight civilians killed in Houthi shelling of the government-held district of al-Durayhimi on the Red Sea coast.

"Five children and three women were killed and another three children and three women were injured when artillery shells hit a house in al-Ghaza village in al-Durayhimi," said Altaf Musani, UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen.

"This attack on women and children is unacceptable and unjustifiable."

In the city of Taez, which is almost surrounded by the Houthis, two young girls, one just nine months old, were pronounced dead on November 30th after a Houthi bombardment that also wounded seven other people, medics said.

Doctors without Borders (MSF) appealed to "all armed groups to abide by international humanitarian law and take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties".

Following the Taez attack, the Taez Centre for Human Rights on Thursday held a symposium on "Houthi terrorism" and its threat to local and global peace, Yemeni media outlet al-Sahwa reported.

Deputy governor of Taez Abdul Hakim Aoun called for the adoption of targeted awareness programmes and activities among the community to expose the Houthis' destructive ideology.

Following their 2014 coup, the Houthis have ushered in an era of oppression in Sanaa and the other provinces where they exercise control, he said, accusing the group of propagating "hatred of the other".

Yemen on brink of famine

Yemen now faces the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

Tens of thousands of people, mostly civilians, have been killed and millions displaced and on the brink of famine.

The UN said Thursday that malnutrition has now hit record levels, narrowing the window of opportunity to prevent a famine as the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and funding shortfalls threaten a humanitarian perfect storm.

The number of people facing the second-highest level of food insecurity in Yemen is set to increase from 3.6 million people to 5 million in the first half of 2021, the UN's World Food Programme (WFP) warned.

"Pockets of famine-like conditions have already returned for the first time in two years," WFP said in a statement.

"The number of people experiencing this degree of catastrophic food insecurity could nearly triple from 16,500 currently to 47,000 people between January and June 2021."

WFP executive director David Beasley said the "alarming numbers must be a wake-up call to the world".

"Yemen is on the brink of famine and we must not turn our backs on the millions of families who are now in desperate need," he added.

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