SANAA, Yemen (AP) — Businesses worth millions of dollars have sustained major destruction in Yemen's year-long conflict either by the Saudi-led coalition targeting Shiite rebels or ground fighting and random shelling by the rival parties, an international rights group said Monday.
In a lengthy report, Human Rights Watch mainly blamed the coalition for the destruction of the factories saying that it documented airstrikes on 13 key facilities in Yemen since the beginning of the Saudi-led campaign in March 2015, through February 2016. The New York-based watchdog said those airstrikes killed a total of 130 civilians and left hundreds of Yemenis unemployed. The facilities that were hit had produced, stored, and distributed food, medicine, and electricity. It stated that 10 appear "unlawful" — meaning there were no military facilities in the vicinity, suggesting also that the airstrikes could amount to "war crimes."
HRW said that "taken together, the attacks on factories and other civilian economic structures raise serious concerns that the Saudi-led coalition has deliberately sought to inflict widespread damage to Yemen's production capacity."
The bombings are coupled with a naval and air embargo imposed on Yemen since March last year, causing severe shortages of fuel, cash and basic necessities as Yemen depends on imports of its 90 percent of its food products.
An estimated 19 out of Yemen's 22 governorates are facing severe food insecurity, according to the latest UN figures released on June 22. The latest figure prompted the UN humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick warns that Yemen is "one of the worst crises in the world and is continuing to get worse."
Over the past year, factories for food products, cement, and wood across the country were hit by missiles or caught in crossfires in many cities including Sanaa, the western city of Taiz, the Red Sea port city of Hodeida, and the southern commercial hub of Aden.
Mohammed al-Abssi, an economic analyst and blogger, told The Associated Press, "the coalition came to the rescue of Yemen but look at the situation on the ground, all the cement factories were hit by airstrikes without any reason."
Yemen is in the grip of a civil war pitting government forces backed by the Saudi-led coalition against the country's Shiite rebels known as Houthis and army units loyal to a former president, who seized the capital in 2014 and forced the internationally-recognized president to flee. The conflict has killed an estimated 9,000 people and pushed the Arab world's poorest country to the brink of famine. It created deep political and security vacuum that enabled both Yemen's al-Qaida branch and an upstart Islamic State affiliate to seize large swaths of land and carry out large-scale attacks.
U.N.-mediated peace talks hosted by Kuwait between Yemen's warring sides almost collapsed last month after weeks of failed negotiations while a cease-fire declared by the United Nations since April 10 remains shaky, with both sides reporting numerous breaches.
Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri, the coalition spokesman, has claimed international rights groups and U.N. agencies are issuing misleading reports and depending on the Houthis as the primary source of information. Al-Asiri could not immediately be reached for a comment on the HRW report.
HRW said its report was based on interviews with 37 witnesses in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and the city of Hodeida, as well as studies of remnants of munitions found at the site of the bombed facilities. It also said that in at least six of the sites, munitions were produced or supplied by the United States and Great Britain.