As civilian deaths mount, Yemenis say 'enough war' (Toronto Star)

Yemenis have united on social media with a simple message: enough war.
Using the hashtag #KefayaWar — kefaya means “enough” in Arabic — people inside Yemen and in the diaspora are demanding an end to the violence gripping the country, as ongoing fighting between Houthi rebels and a Saudi Arabia-led coalition has killed dozens of civilians to date.
“#KefayaWar because bombs don’t destroy ideologies, nor erase divisions, nor stop violence. Education and awareness do,” one Twitter user posted.
“#KefayaWar: children should be dreaming, playing, learning, not living in fear, burying families, or fighting wars,” another wrote.
“ God protect our family and homes #KefayaWar.”
UNICEF reported Tuesday that at least 62 Yemeni children have been killed, and 30 others injured, in the fighting. The war began March 27 when Saudi Arabia launched airstrikes to stem the advance of Houthi opposition fighters on the Yemeni port city of Aden.
Rajat Madhok, head of communications and advocacy at UNICEF Yemen, said around 100,000 Yemeni children are unable to go to school as a result of the conflict.
“Roads linking Sanaa with other areas are congested as large numbers of families move to safer areas. There are diesel shortages reported in many governorates as well as power shortages,” Madhok told the Star in an email.
“If the situation gets worse, Yemen could be heading towards a humanitarian disaster,” he added.
At least 19 people were killed when an airstrike hit Al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons earlier this week, the United Nations said.
Early Wednesday, witnesses and officials told The Associated Press that a coalition airstrike on a dairy factory in the port city of Hodeida killed 35 workers.
Ogoso Erich, public information officer at the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Yemen, told the Star that at least 100,000 Yemenis have fled their homes, and that about 180 people — most of them civilians — have been killed so far.
“Food is running low . . . there is a real risk that the country will run out of food very soon,” Erich said, adding that Yemeni civil servants have not been paid for several months, making it difficult for many families to buy food.
“There is a lot of fear among people,” he added.
According to Yemeni political analyst Hisham Omeisy, airstrikes are taking place 24 hours a day. “It’s not safe — day or night,” Omeisy said in a telephone interview from Sanaa, the capital.
“People who are sick inside the city, people who are injured, cannot be evacuated outside of Yemen. We are literally boxed in, being held hostage to the current conflict,” he said.
Omeisy explained that local activists are calling for a humanitarian corridor to safely bring medical supplies and food into the country, and evacuate the injured.
He added that not knowing how long the airstrikes will persist has added to local feelings of uncertainty.
“The (Gulf Cooperation Council) is not giving us what the plan is. Are these airstrikes going to continue for eternity? When they are done with the airstrikes, what’s the second step?”
Fighting has gripped Yemen since January, when the Houthis took control of Sanaa. Adhering to the Zaydi sect of Shiism, the Houthis traditionally have held power in Yemen’s northwest province of Saada, and are backed by Iran.
The group demanded a greater role in Yemeni politics following the 2011 uprising that ousted then-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a former key U.S. ally in the Middle East.
Saudi Arabia is leading the military campaign against the Houthis with the support of a coalition of 10 primarily Gulf countries, and Yemeni President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who fled the country last week.
Earlier this week, the International Crisis Group warned that “ Yemen is heading toward a long war and extensive fragmentation, with no viable exit.”
The ICG also reported that recent fighting has created sectarian divisions, which have historically been less pronounced in Yemen than in other countries in the region.
Yemen’s “long history of coexistence is beginning to break down,” the group said.
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