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UN reports civilian deaths toll in Yemen tops 1,500

Updated: 07 08 , 2015 11:00
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UNITED NATIONS -- The United Nations Human Rights Office voiced its deep concern over the worsening human rights and humanitarian situation in Yemen, where more than 1,500 civilians were reportedly killed, 3,600 others injured and one million displaced in three months of violence, a UN spokesman told reporters here Tuesday.

Civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. Over the past few weeks, the Human Rights Office's team on the ground has been able to document human rights violations and abuses and violations of international humanitarian law by all parties to the conflict, said UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric at a daily news briefing.

"These include violations of the right to life, abduction, ill- treatment, restrictions on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly, attacks against humanitarian workers, medical staff and facilities, as well as journalists and media organizations," he said, adding that dozens of civilians have been abducted and subjected to arbitrary detention in Sanaa.

The Human Rights Office has also received worrying reports that local Popular Resistance committees affiliated with exiled President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi have summarily executed at least six people perceived to be loyal to the Houthi-Saleh coalition and committed acts of ill-treatment, he said.

"The High Commissioner's Office once more urges all sides to the conflict to ensure that international human rights law and international humanitarian law are respected, and to ensure that all feasible measures are taken to ensure civilians are protected, " he said.

Additionally, the UN office has been closely monitoring attacks by the conflict parties against UN offices, citing an airstrike on June 28 that wounded one civilian and partially destroyed the UN Development Programme (UNDP) office in Khormaksar, Aden. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) was struck twice, once by a mortar in Basateen and again by an airstrike in Harad.

The UN office is also acutely worried about increasing attacks against places of worship, pointing to the targeting of five Zaydi mosques with car bombs over the past few weeks as an alarming trend to create sectarian divisions.

Humanitarian access also remains severely constrained by the recent violence. Since the beginning of the conflict, land, air and maritime restrictions have severely reduced imports -- with food and other essentials dropping significantly.

In late May, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moontalked on the phone with Yemeni President Abdrabuh Mansour Hadi Mansou and voiced his concern about the escalation of fighting on the ground and air strikes since the end of the humanitarian pause in Yemen, and reiterated "his firm belief that there is no military solution to the conflict."

The United Nations planned to hold a conference in Geneva on May 28 that would involve Yemen's exiled government, political factions including the Houthi group and the Arab coalition to restore momentum toward a political transition process. The secretary-general urged all Yemeni parties to engage in the talks without precondition.

The legitimate Yemeni government, headed by President Hadi who is in Saudi Arabia, expressed reluctance to attend the talks, saying the Houthis should first withdraw from the cities they occupied since last September and hand over weapons they took from the army.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-led air campaign continued in May and June, hitting Houthi targets and military units loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who was accused of supporting the Houthis in capital Sanaa and several other cities in the country.

The airstrikes, as well as ground battles between the Houthis and Hadi's supporters, have killed and wounded many civilians across the crisis-ridden country, according to the Yemeni government.

Saudi-led coalition air strikes targeting Shia rebels have resumed in the southern port city of Aden after the end of a five- day humanitarian ceasefire, reports said. The ceasefire expired at 11:00 p.m. on May 17 local time, and coalition air strikes hit rebel positions and tanks in several neighborhoods of Aden,

Since late March, Saudi Arabia has led air strikes against the Houthis and allied military units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh. The air campaign is aimed at weakening the Houthis and restoring Hadi, who fled the country in March in the face of a rebel advance.

Yemen has mired in political gridlock since 2011 when mass protests forced former President Ali Abdullash Saleh to step down.

The three-year reconciliation talks failed to resolve the crisis but create huge power vacuum that could benefit the powerful al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and other extremist groups.

Yemen is the base of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), a powerful offshoot of the jihadist militant group that has carried out similar suicide attacks on Houthi supporters. However, the terrorist Islamic State (IS), also known as ISIL or ISIS, is also gaining ground in the country.