The Associated PressShiite fighters, known as Houthis, secure a road, as people take part in a march, denouncing plans by the Arab coalition to attack Hodeidah, from Sanaa to the port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, Wednesday, Apr. 19, 2017. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An international rights group on Thursday decried the use of land mines by Yemen’s Shiite rebels in the impoverished Arab country at war, saying they have maimed hundreds of civilians and prevented many of the displaced from returning to their homes.
Human Rights Watch said in a new report that the rebels known as Houthis, who are allied with the forces of the country’s former president, have used land-mines in at least six provinces since March 2015, when a Saudi-led coalition launched its military campaign against them .
Steve Goose, director of the Arms Division at Human Rights Watch, said the Houthis and forces of Yemen’s ex-President Ali Abdullah Saleh “have been flouting the land mine ban at the expense of Yemeni civilians.”
He added that Yemen had banned land mines two decades ago.
The Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab Sunni countries has waged a campaign to dislodge the Houthis, who seized Yemen’s capital and some other areas in 2014 and forced the internationally-recognized government to flee the country.
The New York-based group cited the Landmine Monitor Initiative by the International Campaign to Ban Landmines as saying that at least 988 people were either killed or wounded by land mines in Yemen since 2015.
The war in Yemen has killed about 10,000 civilians and displaced nearly 3 million people.
The Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the United States, has also been facing accusations of war crimes after a series of bombardments of civilians — including hits on busy markets and also hospitals, schools, and residential areas.
In one of the most recent incidents, HRW said a demining team lost one of its members during a clearance operation in the Nihm Mountains outside of the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, in January. One team member stepped on a land mine and was killed; a second lost his two legs next day.
The rights group also cited an incident in May last year, when a young man was killed and his mother was wounded as they stepped on land mines near their home. The displaced family was returning home to the Nihm Mountains when the incident happened.
Days later, one of the family’s neighbors lost his legs in another land mine explosion that also killed several sheep, HRW said.