Amnesty International sheds light on the suffering inflicted upon civilians in northern Yemen during the joint Saudi-Yemeni offensive against the country’s Shia Houthis.
Photos taken last month by independent sources in and around the town of al-Nadir show the devastation civilian communities in the Sa’ada region went through during Saudi airstrikes against Houthi fighters in Yemen. “This is a largely invisible conflict that has been waged behind closed doors. These images reveal the true scale and ferocity of the bombing and the impact it had on the civilians caught up in it,” Philip Luther, deputy director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa program said on Tuesday. “This information has only now come to light through Yemenis who fled the conflict and have reached other parts of the country,” he added. The photos show damaged or destroyed market places, mosques, gas stations, businesses, a school, a power plant, a health center and dozens of homes, Luther said. In August 2009, Sana’a launched a huge military operation to crush the resistance by Shia Houthi fighters â€” who accuse the central government of repression and discrimination against the country’s Shia minority â€” in the north, mostly in Sa’ada province. The Saudi military, to assist government forces, entered the scene in November with heavy airstrikes and repeated ground incursions in the beleaguered north Yemen, which continued up to days before Sana’a and the Shia Houthis signed a ceasefire deal in February 2010. Riyadh insisted the attacks were carried out in areas lying on its border with Yemen, but the Houthis accused the Saudi army of targeting civilians in villages deep inside Yemeni territory, at times with forbidden white phosphorus bombs. “These images reveal the true scale and ferocity of the bombing and the impact it had on the civilians caught up in it,” Luther said. The pictures further prove testimony given by many witnesses who had fled Sa’ada to Amnesty International delegates in Yemen earlier this month. They repeatedly said that Saudi Arabian airstrikes were clearly different from earlier Yemeni military attacks and were of an intensity and power not experienced before. Under international humanitarian law, the deliberate targeting of civilian objects, as well as indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks on civilians, is forbidden during conflicts and amount to war crimes. According to the United Nations, more than 250,000 residents of Sa’ada were displaced in the conflict in northern Yemen.