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Houthis’ siege of Taiz worsens civilians’ humanitarian suffering, say experts

Houthis’ siege of Taiz worsens civilians’ humanitarian suffering, say experts
6 Nov 2023 10:39

Ahmed Shaaban (Aden) - For nearly nine years, the city of Taiz has been under siege imposed by the Houthi group. The city faces a severe water crisis as 75% of the population’s water needs are not met, approximately 50% of the road network has been destroyed, and travel and goods transportation costs have increased by 1000%, leading to a 35% overall increase in prices.

Human rights experts point to the Houthis’ blatant violations of international and humanitarian law, as the group continuously commits crimes of murder, theft, and destruction. Fahmi Al Zubairi, the Director of the Human Rights Office in the capital Sanaa, described the Houthi siege as the largest humanitarian crisis and violation of human rights, as the city has been under the group’s control since 2015.

He noted that the international neglect to lift the siege and alleviate the suffering of civilians, children, and women is a part of the issue.

Al Zubairi told Aletihad that civilians in Taiz are subjected to rocket targeting, artillery shelling, killing, and sniping by the Houthis positioned on mountains and building rooftops, in addition to the planting of mines on roads, schools, and farms, as well as looting properties and commercial stores, causing harm and injuries to everyone.

He added that the Houthis target everyone, including children, women, and the elderly, resulting in the death of hundreds of innocent lives. The group’s actions also restrict the movement of people, displacing them and causing them to flee the country. Al Zubairi pointed out that the siege had impeded the arrival of essential materials and services, including water, food, medicine, and medical supplies.

Moreover, humanitarian aid is being confiscated, preventing relief organisations from reaching those affected by the war and siege. Al Zubairi emphasised that the Houthi group bears full responsibility for the worsening humanitarian suffering of millions of civilians in Taiz and for the daily losses they incurred.

The main roads between Taiz and other governorates have been cut off for nine years, forcing people to take dangerous mountainous routes that pose a risk to their lives and the safety of their children.

Al Zubairi mentioned that the Houthi group has rejected all calls and initiatives to lift the siege on Taiz, turning it into a large prison, and is exploiting this humanitarian file as a political card for extortion and political bargaining in a “war crime against humanity”.

He called on the international community to create a blacklist of those involved in these and pursue the Houthis’ leaders in international courts for committing war crimes according to international laws.

On the other hand, the Deputy Minister of Human Rights in Yemen, Nabil Abdul Hafeez, said that the siege of Taiz is a serious violation that has been causing suffering for years, amid difficult economic and living conditions and daily crises Yemen already faces.

Abdul Hafeez told Aletihad that the Ministry of Legal Affairs and Human Rights receives daily reports of killings, sniping, and the continuous use of bullets against civilians, which confirms that the Houthis are terrorising the population and aiming for forced displacement.

There are multiple camps outside the city for those who were forced to leave their homes. Moreover, since the economic situation is very bad, foodstuffs reach the country with great difficulty, which leads to a significant increase in their prices. He described the situation in Taiz as painful.

He added that the Stockholm agreement from 2018 discussed reaching a solution, but nothing has been achieved yet. To this day, the Houthis are still obstinate and demand a partnership with the administration of Taiz as an attempt to seize the rest of the city, Abdul Hafeez pointed out.

Abdul Hafeez stressed that the former UN envoy Martin Griffiths and the current UN envoy Hans Grundberg have not made any progress in the file, and the situation is going from bad to worse. He demanded international pressure to alleviate Yemen’s humanitarian suffering, to free the city, and end the unjust siege. “We need effective UN action and the continued discussion of the issue within the framework of the Yemeni file before international entities,” he added.

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