More than 11,000 children are known to have been killed or maimed in Yemen’s civil war since it escalated nearly eight years ago, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said Monday.
“The true toll of this conflict is likely to be far higher,” said the children’s agency UNICEF about the casualties of the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“Thousands of children have lost their lives, hundreds of thousands more remain at risk of death from preventable disease or starvation,” said UNICEF executive director Catherine Russell.
About 2.2 million Yemeni children are acutely malnourished, one quarter of them aged under five, and most are at extreme risk from cholera, measles and other vaccine-preventable diseases, UNICEF said.
Yemen’s war broke out in 2014 and quickly saw Iran-backed Houthi rebels seize the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.
Hundreds of thousands have died since, either as a result of fighting or indirectly through unsafe drinking water, disease outbreaks, hunger and other impacts.
The agency’s latest numbers confirm 3,774 child deaths between March 2015 and September 2022.
A UN-brokered truce lasted for six months until October 2, but warring parties then failed to agree on an extension, france24 reported.
Since then at least 62 children have been killed or wounded, said UNICEF.
“The urgent renewal of the truce would be a positive first step that would allow critical humanitarian access,” Russell said.
“Ultimately, only a sustained peace will allow families to rebuild their shattered lives and begin to plan for the future.”
The UN agency also said 3,904 boys had been recruited into the fighting over the years, and that more than 90 girls had been given roles including working at checkpoints.
UNICEF appealed for $484.4 million in funding to tackle the humanitarian crisis.
“If the children of Yemen are to have any chance of a decent future… all those with influence must ensure they are protected and supported,” said Russell.
Israeli airstrike kills two people in Damascus, Syrian state TV says
An Israeli airstrike hit a residential building in the Kafr Sousa district in Syria’s capital Damascus on Wednesday, killing two people, Syrian state media and a security source said.
A military source cited by Syrian state TV said the strike at about 9:40 a.m. (0640 GMT) wounded a number of other people, identifying the dead as civilians, Reuters reported.
Images published by Syrian state media showed the charred side of a multi-storey building. The security source said the “attack did not achieve its aims”.
The neighbourhood hosts residential buildings, schools and Iranian cultural centres, and lies near a large, heavily-guarded complex used by security agencies. The district was struck in an Israeli attack in February 2023 that killed Iranian military experts.
Witnesses heard several back-to-back explosions. The blasts scared children at a nearby school and ambulances rushed to the area, the witnesses told Reuters.
There was no immediate comment from the Israeli military.
Iran’s semi-official Student News Network said no Iranian citizens were killed in the strike, read the report.
On Wednesday afternoon, a Reuters witness heard another large blast in the capital that shook the windows of homes. Local Syrian outlet Sham FM said several explosions were heard in the capital without specifying the cause.
Iran has been a major backer of President Bashar al-Assad during Syria’s nearly 12-year-old conflict. Its support for Damascus and the Lebanese group Hezbollah has drawn regular Israeli air strikes meant to curb Tehran’s extraterritorial military power.
Those strikes have ramped up in line with flaring regional tensions since the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel, with more than half a dozen Iranian Revolutionary Guards officers killed in suspected Israeli strikes on Syria since December.
As a result, the Guards have scaled back deployment of their senior officers in Syria and have planned to rely more on allied Shi’ite militia to preserve their sway there, sources familiar with the matter told Reuters earlier this month.
Iran, a backer of Hamas, has sought to stay out of the conflict itself even as it supports groups that have entered the fray from Lebanon, Yemen, Iraq and Syria – the so-called “Axis of Resistance” that is hostile to Israeli and U.S. interests.
US military drone shot down near Yemen, US officials say
A U.S. military Mq-9 drone was shot down near Yemen by Iran-backed militants, two U.S. officials said on Tuesday, the second time such a shoot down has taken place in recent months during a near daily tit-for-tat between the group and U.S. forces, Reuters reported.
The Houthis, who have controlled most of Yemen for nearly a decade, have carried out repeated drone and missile strikes since November in the Red Sea and Bab al-Mandab Strait against commercial and military ships. U.S. and British forces have responded with multiple strikes on Houthi facilities but have so far failed to halt the attacks.
One of the officials, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said initial information showed that the U.S. drone, made by General Atomics, was hit near Hodeidah on Monday. The official said information could change and did not say if the drone was in international airspace.
The second official said the drone was shot down by a Houthi surface-to-air missile fired from near Hodeida.
The comments by the officials confirm a claim by the Houthis that they had shot down a drone near the port city, read the report.
In November, another Mq-9 was shot down by the Houthis and two drones were brought down by the group in 2019.
The Houthi militants said on Monday they had attacked the Rubymar cargo vessel in the Gulf of Aden, which was at risk of sinking, raising the stakes in their campaign to disrupt global shipping in solidarity with Palestinians in the Gaza war.
Despite Western attacks on them in Yemen, the Houthis have vowed to continue targeting ships linked to Israel until attacks on Palestinians in the Gaza Strip stop, Reuters reported.
Israel opposes ‘unilateral’ imposition of Palestinian state
Israel on Sunday formalised its opposition to what it called the “unilateral recognition” of Palestinian statehood, and said any such agreement must be reached through direct negotiations, Reuters reported.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu brought the “declaratory decision” to a vote in cabinet, which unanimously approved the measure, according to a statement.
Netanyahu said at the start of the weekly meeting that the move comes after “recent talk in the international community about an attempt to unilaterally impose on Israel a Palestinian state.”
The war in Gaza that has raged since Hamas’ Oct. 7 rampage through Israeli communities is the latest in a conflict between Israelis and Palestinians that has rumbled on for seven decades and destabilised the Middle East.
Efforts to achieve a two-state solution – a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza alongside Israel – have been stalled since 2014, read the report.
U.S. President Joe Biden has been trying to clinch an even broader deal in the Middle East, that would include Saudi Arabia and other Arab states normalizing ties with Israel, as well as the creation of a Palestinian state.
The formal Israeli statement, according to Netanyahu’s office, reflects the fact that: “Israel rejects outright international dictates regarding a permanent accord with the Palestinians. An accord, should it be reached, will only come through direct negotiations between the sides, without preconditions.”
“Israel will continue to oppose the unilateral recognition of a Palestinian state. Such recognition in the wake of the October 7th massacre will grant a huge, unprecedented reward to terrorism and prevent any future peace accord,” it said.
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