Civilians pounded by air raids in Yemen’s capital

A residential area targeted by coalition airstrikes in Sana’a. Photo sent by Karem Alenzii.
A residential area targeted by coalition airstrikes in Sana’a. Photo sent by Karem Alenzii.

For the past few weeks, residents of the capital Sanaa have been complaining that air strikes by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, meant to chase out Houthi rebels, have increasingly been targeting civilian areas. Our Observer explains.

"The Arab coalition is imposing collective punishment against the residents of Sanaa”

Hisham al-Omeysi lives in Sanaa.

"At the start of the air strike campaign, the coalition mainly targeted military camps run by the Houthis. In particular, the one used by the special forces in Hadda street, in the south of the city, and the barracks in the Fajja Attan neighbourhood [Editor’s note: The barracks are notable for having anti-aircraft batteries] in the city centre. Of course these raids also left civilians dead, but they mainly targeted military positions. Now, however, the coalition pounds civilian areas pretty much every day.


Civilian victims of airstrikes carried out on September 19 in Sanaa.

Monday morning, the coalition turned the northern Al-Hasaba neighbourhood into a bloodbath. The strikes were meant to destroy the house of the former minister Sam Al-Ahmar, which is supposedly occupied by Houthi rebels. Instead, they destroyed a house next door and killed 17 members of the same family.

Since last week, warplanes have been bombarding day in and day out the Al-Jaraf neighborhood in the city’s eastern suburbs, which is densely populated. On Thursday morning, the strikes left another 11 civilians dead in that area. While filming the damage that was caused by the first strike, a cameraman for a local TV station was killed when a second attack was carried out a few minutes later on the same spot. During these aerial raids, a food storage warehouse and a factory for babies’ nappies were also targeted.

A babies’ nappies factory destroyed in an air strike, Al-Jaraf, Sanaa. September 18, 2015.

Last Wednesday, the coalition bombed the home of Yahia Saleh, the nephew of former president Ali Abdullah Saleh [Editor’s note: An ally of the rebels]. The problem is that his home lies right in the middle of Beit al-Miad, another densely populated area.

People here don’t understand why coalition warplanes have been insisting on bombing the homes of high-ranking Houthis every day for the past few weeks. These officials clearly aren’t going to stay at home, since they know that they’re being targeted by the air raids. It doesn’t make sense.

We get the feeling that Arab forces are carrying out a form of collective punishment against the residents of Sanaa. In other cities across Yemen, people have risen up and formed ‘popular committees’ in order to fight back against the Houthis. But that hasn’t happened in Sanaa, where half the population is Houthi.

The war has left Sanaa paralysed. The city’s residents don’t dare leave their homes. Schools have been closed for the last seven months while shortages have sent the prices of petrol and food skyrocketing. There’s a lack of medicine and hospitals are overflowing with patients.

The residents are trapped because they’ve nowhere to go to escape the air strikes. War is everywhere, in all the nearby provinces, notably in Marib, Laâj and Saâda."

Until now, the Arab coalition hasn’t admitted to killing innocent civilians by mistake. They just accuse the Houthis of using civilian areas as a base from which they carry out their attacks.”

In June and July of this year, Amnesty International carried out an investigation into a series of eight coalition air strikes which killed at least 141 civilians and injured more than 100 others. Most of the victims were women and children. The rights organisation reported that the strikes on “densely populated areas in which there was also civilian housing, a school, a market and a mosque, were carried out intentionally. In most cases, no military targets could be found in close proximity". Last August, Amnesty International asked the United Nations to set up a commission to look into possible war crimes carried out by both sides in the conflict.

According to the United Nations, more than 4,500 people have been killed in Yemen since the Arab coalition began military operations at the end of March.