An airstrike by the U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition on a hotel near the Yemeni capital Sanaa killed dozens of people on Wednesday, multiple news agencies have reported, as a "man made" humanitarian crisis extends its grip on the impoverished nation.
"Each day that passes brings more suffering to the unbearable lives of the Yemeni people."
—Shane Stevenson, Oxfam InternationalA local medic estimated the number of those killed at 35, Reuters reports. The Associated Press reports that the number may be as high as 60, citing officials and witnesses.
Since March 2015, Saudi-led forces backing the current Yemeni government have waged a military campaign against Houthi forces, with the U.K. and U.S. fueling the war with millions in arms sales as well as logistical support to ally Saudi Arabia. The United Nations estimates the conflict has killed over 10,000 civilians.
Whether the latest additions to the death toll are civilians remains unclear. A doctor helping with the rescue efforts told AP that all those killed were farmers. A spokesperson for the Saudi coalition said it was a legitimate military target, Reuters reports.
The New York Times adds:
Saudi officials have insisted their aircraft avoid civilian targets, but hospitals, schools and other civilian facilities have been struck by Saudi warplanes. Last October, the coalition confirmed that one of its jets had accidentally bombed a wedding party in Sana, killing 100 people.
Any survivors of the airstrike face dim prospects, as the country suffers the largest cholera epidemic in the world—there have been over half a million cases—and faces decimated health infrastructure.
The war, now in its third year, and the cholera epidemic, combined with looming famine have created a trifecta of horrors for Yemenis—all of which have been made more deadly due to an ongoing embargo by the Saudis
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From BBC News:
[The] blockade imposed on Yemen since 2015 by the Saudi-led coalition has reduced the amount of food, aid and fuel allowed into the country to a trickle.
The little that does make it in by sea often spends weeks waiting to be offloaded because the cranes at Hudaydah [also written Hodeidah}—once Yemen's busiest port—have been bombed beyond use or repair.
When new cranes were donated by the U.S. government to the U.N.'s World Food Programme (WFP) last December, they were stopped at sea by the coalition and refused entry.
In the story that aired on BBC Tuesday night, the main working hospital in Hudaydah offered a bleak look at just how bad things have become in the war-torn country. In the final scene, the family whose son has just died from malnutrition asks the camera crew to keep cameras rolling so that the world will see just how much suffering is being endured:
United Nations aid chief Stephen O'Brien urged this month for "all ports—land, sea, and air—[to be ] open to civilian—including commercial—traffic," and called for "desperately needed mobile cranes to Hudaydah port, which handles some 70 percent of imports into Yemen and is the closest port of entry to the majority of people who need humanitarian assistance."
"Each day that passes brings more suffering to the unbearable lives of the Yemeni people," said Shane Stevenson, Oxfam's Country Director in Yemen. "The world is shamefully failing them. A new disaster after another is leading to a man-made catastrophe in Yemen and thousands of people face stark live or die choices every day. What more needs to happen in Yemen for the international community to properly respond?"