Destruction and misery only fruits of Saudis' war in Yemen

By Simon Tisdall

Tens of thousands protested against the war in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a . Photo / AP
Tens of thousands protested against the war in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a . Photo / AP

It is difficult to view Saudi Arabia's relentless war of attrition in Yemen as anything other than a destructive failure.

The military intervention that began one year ago has killed an estimated 6400 people, half of them civilians, injured 30,000 more and displaced 2.5 million, the United Nations says.

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Eighty per cent of the population, about 20 million people, are now in need of some form of aid.

The Saudis' principal aim - to restore Yemen's deposed President, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi - has not been achieved. If they hoped to contain spreading Iranian regional influence, that has not worked, either.

If the US-backed coalition's campaign was intended to combat terrorism, that too has flopped. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, in particular, and Isis (Islamic State) have profited from the continuing anarchy.

The conflict pits Aden-based Hadi government forces and their Sunni Arab allies against Houthi Shiite militias, backed by Tehran, who control the capital, Sana'a, and much of central and northern Yemen.

Already one of the world's poorest countries before fighting escalated last year, Yemen now faces widespread famine. Food shortages are being exacerbated by a growing bank and credit crisis, Oxfam warned.

"The destruction of farms and markets, a de facto blockade on commercial imports, and a long-running fuel crisis have caused a drop in agricultural production, a scarcity of supplies and exorbitant food prices," Oxfam said.

Supporters of Shia-allied former president Ali Abdullah Saleh mark the first anniversary of the Saudi-led incursion. Photo / AP
Supporters of Shia-allied former president Ali Abdullah Saleh mark the first anniversary of the Saudi-led incursion. Photo / AP

Sajjad Mohamed Sajid, Oxfam's country director, said: "A brutal conflict on top of an existing crisis ... has created one of the biggest humanitarian emergencies in the world today - yet most people are unaware of it. Close to 14.4 million people are hungry and the majority will not be able to withstand the rising prices."

The UN's 2016 appeal for donor cash has largely fallen on deaf ears. Belatedly responding to international criticism, including pressure for UK and EU arms embargoes, the Saudi Government has agreed to scale back military operations pending renewed peace talks.

The announcement followed a horrific airstrike on a market in Houthi-controlled Hajja province on March 16 that killed 119 people, including many children.

The UN's human rights chief, Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein, pointed the finger directly at Riyadh.

"Looking at the figures, it would seem that the coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together, virtually all as a result of airstrikes," he said.

Markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties and hundreds of private homes had been hit, Zeid said.

- Observer

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