In Bid to Control Yemen Border Towns, Saudi Arabia Employs Deadly Airstrikes and Jihadi Militias
By: Ahmed Abdulkareem
At least 28 civilians, mostly displaced women and children, were killed and 17 were injured after the Saudi-led Coalition launched a barrage of airstrikes in the early hours of Sunday morning in Yemen’s northwestern Hajjah Province. The airstrikes, at least 30 in number, struck 13 residential homes in the Talan village of Hajjah’s Koshar district.
“Airstrikes targeted our neighborhood so we fled to another house and then again to Mohammed Ibrahim Zulil`s house. Here [at Zulil`s house], a double-airstrike hit,” recounted al-Hadi, one of the few survivors of the attack. He pointed to the rubble of the Zulil home where dead bodies were still buried under the ruins.
Al-Hadi was out buying milk for his children when airstrikes hit the Zulil home. “When I arrived, just two of my daughters were alive and screaming, the rest of my family was killed,” Al-Hadi recounted in a breaking voice. Eight of his family members were killed in the attack and four of his children survived.
Rescue efforts were complicated by a lack of medical equipment and fear of additional airstrikes, as Saudi warplanes continued to circle the area after the initial strikes. “There were survivors under the rubble who died because of the delay in the rescue operation,” one of the rescuers said.
Ambulances from Yemen’s health ministry rushed to the scene of the attack only to be targeted by additional Saudi airstrikes. At least one ambulance was destroyed while en route to the scene of the attack.
Dr. Taha al Mutwakel, Yemen’s Minister of Health said:
The houses were bombed on Sunday morning. So far (8:00 p.m.) our rescue crews have not been able to reach them. An ambulance was destroyed by a double-tap strike when it tried to enter the district.”
Saudi Arabia has been known to use double-tap airstrikes in Yemen, carrying out an initial airstrike and then circling back to target rescuers and ambulances.
Three of the homes targeted in the attack belonged to the Zalil, al Ahdab, and al Hadi families. The families had recently taken in a number of displaced peoples who were fleeing from clashes in nearby areas. Like many families that reside in the strategic Kushar directorate, the three families that were targeted in the attack had refused to cooperate with Saudi Arabia to facilitate the entry of Saudi troops through their neighborhoods.
Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya news distributed footage the attack taken by drones, claiming the Coalition had targeted 20 Houthis as they fled to a home in Kushar, but the footage shows women and unarmed civilians as they were attempting to flee al Zulil’s home.
Yemen’s Ministry of Public Health and Population said that the Saudi airstrikes killed at least 28 civilians, including 14 children, and nine women. The death toll is expected to rise, as at least 17 people have been reported injured from the attack. The 48th Hospital, where most of the victims of the airstrike are being treated, is already overcrowded with victims from previous airstrikes. Most of the wounded are in critical condition with wounds to the back or head. At least one victim of the attack, a 17-year-old girl, has succumbed to her injuries, according to hospital administrators.
In the aftermath of the attack, Yemen’s Health Ministry launched an urgent appeal for aid and called for victims of the attack to be allowed to be transported by air for treatment abroad, saying, “our capacities prevent us from treating any more of wounded.”
The Health Ministry also said that the closure of the Sana’a airport would lead to the deaths of dozens of wounded who are not allowed to travel abroad for treatment not available in Yemen. The Saudi-led Coalition forced the closure of the airport in August 2016, depriving Yemen of a vital supply of life-saving medicine.
There are no safe corridors in Hajjah, including in the Kushar district, to allow ambulance crews to transport the wounded to hospitals outside of Hajjah. Most of the province’s thoroughfares lie in ruin following Saudi Coalition airstrikes that target the roads.