The escalation of tensions between Hussein rebels in Yemen and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has prompted humanitarian organizations on the ground to sound the alarm, as UN forecasts for January “almost certainly” will be a record month for civilian casualties in the country.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has warned that recent airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition following drone and missile attacks on the Emirati capital have dramatically escalated the violence.
“We are expecting a new wave of internally displaced people, an increase in the number of victims, restrictions on access due to air strikes… These are some of the things we are currently waiting for,” Ahmed Mahat, MSF’s Yemen mission chief, told Al Jazeera.
UN special envoy Hans Grundberg and humanitarian co-ordinator David Gresley warned on Tuesday that January is likely to mark the highest monthly death toll in airstrikes after airstrikes and rocket attacks hit hospitals, telecommunications infrastructure, airports, water facilities and schools. .
According to a joint statement by Grundberg and Gresley, the escalation is exacerbating an already severe humanitarian crisis, complicating aid efforts, threatening regional security and undermining efforts to end the conflict.
Since the beginning of January, eight million Yemenis have received reduced aid, the UN said, due to the increase in violence.
On the spot in the capital, Sana Mahat confirmed the UN assessment. “The front line is really active, more than ever,” said the head of the MSF mission. “This year we thought the situation would be calmer, there would be negotiations and the Yemenis would be spared more agony. Instead, we saw an escalation. “
Yemen is in the aggression of the fourth wave of COVID and is witnessing a resurgence of preventable diseases, including polio, measles and diphtheria. In addition, a fuel blockade by the Saudi-led coalition is causing acute shortages and crippling Yemen’s already weak healthcare system.
“We use generators to power our hospitals, so fuel is a big problem,” Mahat said. “Without fuel in the tanks also means that fewer people in need of medical care can get to hospitals in the first place.
The airstrikes also made the intervention insidious or impossible. Parts of the country remain inaccessible, including Yemen’s Marib energy region, which Hussein rebels have been battling for months.
MSF said it feared an increase in the number of internally displaced people in the Marib region who were in dire need of humanitarian aid as resources and resources dwindled.
The World Food Program (WFP) has warned that more than five million people in Yemen are on the brink of starvation, and another 50,000 live in hunger-like conditions. In December, the UN agency said it was running out of funds to continue providing food aid to 13 million people.
“We call on all parties to the war to refrain from escalating the conflict and to respect international law,” Mahat said.
An “indisputable” attack
The UAE said on Monday it had intercepted and destroyed two ballistic missiles over Abu Dhabi fired by Yemeni Houthi rebels, fueling tensions even as the Gulf country said it had intercepted the threat.
Monday’s attack came a week after another Hutney drone and missile attack on the capital killed three civilians.
The UAE, a member of a Saudi-led military coalition supporting the Yemeni government in its seven-year struggle against the Hutus, has said it will retaliate by taking action in accordance with international humanitarian law to protect civilians.
According to the Yemeni Ministry of Health, MSF strongly condemns a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on the Saada Detention Center in the early hours of January 21, which killed 91 people and injured more than 200.
A statement from the coalition called the reports that the prison had been hit and the detainees injured, “unfounded and unfounded”.
Saada-based MSF personnel who witnessed the attack said the attack was “undeniable”.
“Around 2:30 a.m., we heard the first air strike, then five minutes later the second air strike and a major explosion,” an MSF official told Al Jazeera, who declined to be named for security reasons.
A third airstrike struck the town of Saada. “There is no denying that this is an air strike, everyone in Saada has heard it,” said the MSF official. “I live 1 kilometer from the prison and my house was shaking from the explosions.
The local Gumhouriyyeh Hospital was soon overwhelmed with injuries. MSF’s Saada department sent emergency supplies to the hospital, but another truck was soon to be sent from the capital.
“The escalation is not new, it has been so since the beginning,” the MSF official said, adding that Saada had set a grim record for the number of airstrikes he had witnessed in the seven-year conflict.
Living in the city means accepting the bouts of violence that come every time tensions break out. “That’s the nature of war.”
Amnesty International said on Wednesday that the Saudi-led coalition had used precision-guided munitions made in the United States to hit the detention center.
“The laser-aimed bomb used in the attack, produced by the US defense company Raytheon, is the latest piece in a wider network of evidence of the use of US-made weapons in incidents that could amount to war crimes.” said the humanitarian oversight body. .
The UN chief has called for an investigation into the Saada attacks. “The Secretary-General calls for swift, effective and transparent investigations into these incidents to ensure accountability,” said Antonio Guterres spokesman Stefan Dujarric.
The International Rescue Committee also condemned the airstrike, saying it was the worst civilian casualty in three years. “Additional attacks risk harming more civilians and will further restrict humanitarian organizations’ access to those most in need,” the IRC said in a statement on Wednesday.
Grundberg and Gresley called for restraint.
“We remind the parties that the war does not release them from their obligations under international humanitarian law, which strictly prohibits disproportionate attacks and requires that all possible precautions be taken to avoid civilian damage,” UN officials said. were in contact with all parties to resume dialogue and reach a political solution.
“We call on all parties to commit to these efforts immediately and without preconditions.”