Reports suggest that civilians and civilian objects have been targeted, in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law, over the past two weeks, in the southwestern port of Al Mokha in Taizz Governorate in Yemen.
The intense fighting – both ground fighting and airstrikes – made it impossible for UN Human Rights Office field monitors to access the area and to verify the number of civilian casualties.
However, reports indicate that civilians were caught in an intolerable situation between warring parties giving them opposing instructions.
The Popular Committees Affiliated with the Houthis and their allies warned civilians not to leave their homes while pro-Government and Coalition forces were demanding that they evacuate.
“Civilians were trapped and targeted during the Al Mokha fighting. There are real fears that the situation will repeat itself in the port of Al Hudaidah, to the north of Al Mokha, where air strikes are already intensifying,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said.
“The already catastrophic humanitarian situation in the country could spiral further downwards if Al Hudaidah port – a key entry point for imports into Yemen – is seriously damaged.”
The UN estimates that around 12 million people are facing famine in Yemen, with 3.3 million people – including 2.1 million children – already acutely malnourished.
Reports also indicate that Houthi-affiliated snipers shot at families attempting to flee their homes in Houthi-controlled areas – suggesting the use of civilians as human shields.
In at least one incident, on 22 January, 11 civilians were reportedly killed and four injured inside a house that was struck by an airstrike. According to reports, more than 200 houses have been either partially damaged or completely destroyed by airstrikes, which also hit Al Mokha Port.
The pro-Government forces took over the Al Maghini and Al Hali areas of Al Mokha city, placing the whole city and port under Government control. The last shelling incident was recorded last week.