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Yemen: 60,000 dead in armed violence since 2016, research group says

November was the deadliest month so far this year, due in large part to fighting in the port city of Hodeidah, ACLED reports
Hodeidah, a key gateway for humanitarian aid entering Yemen, has seen an uptick in violence in recent months between Houthi and government forces (AFP)

More than 60,000 people have been killed in armed violence in Yemen since January 2016, an independent research group has said, with nearly half of those killings happening this year alone.

The Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED) said on Tuesday that 60,223 people have been killed in Yemen between January 2016 and the end of November 2018.

That’s more than six times higher than a previous UN estimate that put the death toll in Yemen at 10,000.

The death toll “is far higher than official estimates - and still underestimated,” ACLED’s executive director, Clionadh Raleigh, said in a statement.

“Fatality numbers are only one approximation of the abject tragedy and terror forced upon Yemenis from several sides. This cannot be overstated,” Raleigh said.

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The figure includes both combatants and civilians who were killed as a direct result of armed violence in Yemen.

It does not include deaths caused by disease or malnutrition, as thousands more have died in Yemen as a result of the deteriorating humanitarian conditions in the country.

Up to 85,000 children under five may have died as a result of starvation or disease since the beginning of the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen in April 2015, Save the Children said last month.

The United Nations has also warned that as many as 14 million people could be on the brink of starvation across the country.

November ranked deadliest month in 2018

Yemen has been embroiled in conflict since Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa, and ousted the country’s President, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, in late 2014.

A few months later, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched a wide-scale military offensive in Yemen to root out the rebels and restore Hadi, a Saudi ally, to power.

According to ACLED’s data, nearly half of all combat-related deaths since 2016 took place so far this year.

Of all the fatalities, 28,182 were recorded in the first 11 months of 2018. That marks a 68 percent increase compared to last year, the group said.

November 2018 was also the deadliest month since ACLED began tabulating the death toll nearly three years ago, with 3,058 reported fatalities.

As many as 14 million people are at risk of starvation in Yemen, the UN has warned (Reuters)

Notably, the group found that 37 percent of the civilians killed in armed violence so far this year died in the city of Hodeidah.

Seventy percent of the food aid and imports enter Yemen through the city’s port, AP reported, and Hodeidah has been the scene of fierce fighting between the Houthis and fighters supporting Yemen’s government, as the Saudi-led coalition has sought to retake Hodeidah from the rebels.

The warring parties have faced heightened international pressure to agree to a long-term truce in the city and stave off a humanitarian crisis.

Fatality numbers are only one approximation of the abject tragedy and terror forced upon Yemenis from several sides. This cannot be overstated

- Clionadh Raleigh, ACLED’s executive director

So far, however, the Houthi and Yemeni government delegations have failed to come to any deal for the future status of Hodeidah at UN-brokered peace talks in Sweden.

Those talks are expected to continue until 13 December and the situation in Hodeidah remains one of the most pressing issues on the table.

The Houthis told Reuters news agency on Monday they want Hodeidah to be declared a neutral zone, while the Saudi-backed government said it is open to a UN role in the seaport, but rejected a long-term presence in the city.

ACLED says it came to its death toll after reviewing local and international media reports, social media feeds and reports from human rights groups and non-governmental organisations working on the Yemen conflict. MEE could not independently verify the figures.

According to the group, 6,480 civilians have been killed since 2016 as a result of 3,071 attacks that directly targeted them.

Over 2,180 of those deaths - which do not include collateral civilian deaths - occurred in 2018 alone, the group said.

The Saudi-led coalition is responsible for about two-thirds of all civilian fatalities (4,614 deaths) mentioned in the ACLED report. The Houthis and their allies, meanwhile, are responsible for at least 1,027 civilian deaths, the group said.