Saudi-led coalition responsible for more than half of child deaths in Yemen

27th Jul 2018
Saudi-led coalition responsible for more than half of child deaths in Yemen

Protesters demonstrate on Whitehall against Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman official visit to the UK on March 7
(Photo: Alisdare Hickson/Stop The War/Flickr CC)

Nadine Osman

According to an annual UN report submitted to the Security Council on June 25, the Saudi-led coalition air attacks in war-torn Yemen were responsible for more than half of child fatalities and injuries last year.

The Children and Armed Conflict report, which tallies child victims around the world, found that a total of 1,316 children were killed and maimed in Yemen in 2017. The report echoes the findings of the UN Office of the September Report which also concluded that coalition airstrikes remain “the leading cause of civilian casualties.”

Saudi Arabia, together with several other Arab nations, launched a military campaign in 2015 in support of Yemen’s internationally recognised government, aiming to roll back advances made by Ansar Allah [Houthi] rebels after they overran much of the country in 2014.

Most countries have since withdrawn their forces from the US-backed coalition. In May Sudan’s Defence Minister, Ali Salem told Parliament the country is assessing its participation in the operations, amid growing discontent over high costs and the deaths of dozens of Sudanese soldiers. Sudan’s withdrawal would mean only Saudi Arabia and the UAE will conduct attacks in Yemen.

The UN report verified that out of the 552 children killed (398 boys, 154 girls), the majority – 370 – were attributed to the coalition, which was also blamed for 300 child injuries.

Ansar Allah were responsible for 83 children killed and 241 wounded; the pro-government Popular Resistance group for 41 casualties; other international forces fighting for Yemen’s Government for 19 casualties; al-Qa’ida in the Arabian Peninsula for 10 casualties; and the Yemeni Armed Forces, among other parties, for four casualties.

Fifty-one per cent of the total 1,316 casualties were caused by air attacks, the report said.

The second leading cause was ground fighting, including shelling and shooting (136 killed, 334 injured), followed by explosive remnants of war and mines (27 killed, 119 injured).

The report also accused both the Houthis and forces from the Saudi-Emirati coalition of recruiting 842 cases of child soldiers – some as young as 11 years old.

Most of the children were aged between 15 and 17, and nearly two-thirds of them (534) were fighting in the ranks of the Houthi militia group.

Child soldiers were also used by the Yemeni armed forces (105) and the Security Belt Forces (142), a militia recruited by the UAE.

Child soldiers were mostly used to guard checkpoints and Government buildings, patrol, or for fetching food and water and bringing equipment to military positions. The number of combatants fighting for different parties was 76.

The report includes an addendum that names the groups and parties that are responsible for the killing and wounding of children.

Besides Yemen, the report also said that the number of verified cases of the recruitment and use of children in Somalia (2,127), South Sudan (1,221), the Syrian Arab Republic (961) persisted at alarming levels.

In its 2018 World Report Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it has documented 85 apparently unlawful Saudi-led coalition airstrikes, which have killed nearly 1,000 civilians and hit homes, markets, hospitals, schools, and mosques. Some of these attacks may amount to war crimes. In March, a helicopter attacked a boat carrying Somali migrants and refugees off Yemen’s coast, killing and wounding dozens.

In 2017, Saudi Arabia pledged to reduce civilian harm in coalition attacks. Since then, HRW documented six coalition attacks that killed 55 civilians, including 33 children; one killed 14 members of the same family.

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