On Tuesday, December 24, artillery shelling by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition in Yemen killed 17 civilians in the busy al-Raqw market in the Saada governorate near the Yemen-Saudi Arabia border. This is the third attack in just over a month targeting the same locality. 12 Ethiopian nationals were among those killed on Tuesday, and 12 civilians were injured.
The first attack on the market on November 22 claimed 10 civilian lives and injured close to 20 others. In the second attack on November 27, 10 civilians were killed and 22 were injured. According to the United Nations, a total of 89 civilians have either been killed or injured in the three attacks on the busy market area.
Mohamed Abdelsalam, spokesperson for the Houthis, said that they held Saudi Arabia and its Gulf coalition responsible for the latest attack, writing on Twitter, “Adding to its criminal record, the worst in the world, the Saudi regime has committed a heinous crime targeting innocents in al-Raqw market. The attack shows that the powers of aggression continue their bloody attacks, overlooking the serious consequences.” The Al-Masirah television channel, aligned with the Houthis, also claimed that Saudi artillery shelling was responsible for the attack.
Meanwhile, the United Nations has condemned Tuesday’s attack, with the UN humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, Lisa Grande, saying in her statement that “The attacks on al-Raqw market raise deeply troubling questions about the commitment of the parties to the conflict to uphold international humanitarian law. Every attack of this kind is a gross violation.” Grande added, without taking names, that the parties responsible for this and other atrocities must be held accountable.
The Saudi-led coalition has been accused of committing crimes against humanity and war crimes in Yemen. The coalition had militarily intervened in Yemen in March 2015 to oust the rebel Shia Houthis who had taken over a majority of the country’s north, including the capital Sanaa, and reinstall the Saudi and West-backed government of president Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi.
The Yemeni civil war and the Saudi-led coalition’s intervention since 2015 has claimed over 100,000 lives already, a majority of them civilians. More than a million people have also been displaced. Approximately 14 million people are at the risk of starvation and more than 24.1 million (more than two-thirds of the total population) are in need of international humanitarian aid for their daily survival. The poverty rate in the country is expected to hit 75% by the end of 2019, an almost 30% jump from where it stood in 2014.
The Saudi-led coalition has carried out more than 20,000 airstrikes, and according to the Yemen Data Project, an independent data collection project, one-third of those airstrikes were targeted at non-military locations, including schools and hospitals. The situation in Yemen has been classified as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis by the UN.