Human Rights Voices

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Saudi Arabia, August 9, 2016

Saudi-Led Airstrikes on Yemen Food Factory Kill at Least 14 People

Original source

The Guardian

More than a dozen people have been killed in Yemen after the Saudi-led coalition resumed airstrikes on the capital Sana'a, following the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks.

In the first such attacks since 11 April – when an often-violated ceasefire was put in place – coalition jets bombed a potato factory in the capital's Nahda district on Tuesday, killing at least 14 people working there, mostly women.

The airstrikes came days after the suspension of inconclusive peace talks in Kuwait.

The factory targeted was situated inside an army maintenance camp. Firefighters scrambled to control the resulting blaze but were unable to rescue people inside the building. More than half of those killed are believed to be women. Abdullah al-Aqel, the factory director, said the death toll stood at 16, with more than 10 people injured.

The conflict in Yemen is between Houthi rebels allied with the former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who led the country from 1990 to 2012, and forces loyal to the ousted president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Hadi is based in the Saudi capital, Riyadh.

Houthi fighters control Sana'a and have spread out across the country but the two sides are engaged in heavy street fighting in a number of other major cities.

Saudis and their Sunni Arab allies view Houthi fighters – who belong to the Zaydi sect of Shia Islam – as Iranian proxies and have accused Tehran of militarily backing them, a charge Iran vehemently denies.

Since last March, Saudi Arabia has launched airstrikes to reinstate Hadi and counter Houthi advances. More than 6,000 people have died, including thousands of civilians and children, according to the UN. The UN child protection agency Unicef has said more than 1,100 children were confirmed to have died since the conflict began last year.

All flights into Sana'a were suspended for 72 hours after the airstrike. Mohammed Abdulsalam, a Houthi spokesman, condemned the coalition's airstrike on a factory supplying food, describing it as "heinous crimes".

The UN secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, expressed concerns over the situation in Yemen. "What is clear, however, is that the reported escalation in fighting exacerbates the already dire humanitarian and human rights situation and the suffering of the Yemeni people," said Ban's spokesman, Farhan Haq.

Both sides have stepped up fighting in recent days, with at least nine civilians killed as a result of coalition airstrikes in an eastern area of Sana'a at the weekend. At least four children were among the dead, according to the UN.