The United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the killing of more than a dozen schoolchildren in Yemen, where Saudi-led warplanes keep pounding an impoverished nation in an imposed war.
At least 14 people were killed and 95 others, mostly students, sustained injuries after Saudi-led warplanes launched aerial assaults against an area in Sa’wan district in Sana’a province on Sunday evening, Yemeni Ministry of Public Health and Population said in the aftermath of the gruesome crime.
The huge explosion, which occurred close to two elementary schools at lunchtime, “shattered the windows and unleashed a burst of shrapnel and broken glass into the classrooms,” said Geert Cappelaere, the UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, in a statement released on Tuesday.
Earlier reports said most of the students killed in the attack had been schoolchildren, but according to Cappelaere’s report all the 14 victims had been schoolchildren, “most of whom under the age of nine.”
He added that at least 16 of the wounded children were in critical condition and as a result the death toll “is likely to increase.”
“It is hard to imagine the sheer horror that those children experienced – and the sheer horror and guilt parents may feel for having done what every parent aspires to: sending their children to school,” Cappelaere said, adding, “Killing and maiming children are grave violations of children’s rights.”
Saudi Arabia has not yet claimed responsibility for the aerial aggression and rejects that its warplanes targeted the residential area in Sa’wan, but Yemeni authorities and local witnesses stressed that the incident had been the result of an airstrike.
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the Houthi Ansarullah movement.
According to a report by the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, the Saudi-led war has so far claimed the lives of about 56,000 Yemenis.
Children are among the most vulnerable victims of Saudi imposed war on Yemen. Back in October last year, a UN report showed that at least 1,248 Yemeni children had been killed and nearly the same number sustained wounds in airstrikes to the time since the onset of the imposed war.
One of the worst and most tragic cases of targeting Yemeni children occurred on August 9, last year, when Saudi-led warplanes hit a school bus as it drove through a market in the town of Dhahyan in the northern province of Sa’ada. The death toll included 40 children out of 51 people, while 56 of the 79 wounded were also kids.
“More than 400 children killed and seriously injured since beginning of 2019,” Cappelaere added.
In June 2016, the UN blacklisted the Arab kingdom after concluding in a report that Riyadh was responsible for 60 percent of the 785 deaths of children in the Saudi war on Yemen in the previous year. A few days later, however, the world body, then led by Ban Ki-moon, announced that Saudi Arabia would be taken off the list pending a joint review with the kingdom.
At the time, Ban acknowledged that he was forced to remove Riyadh from the blacklist after the regime and its allies threatened to cut off funding to many UN programs. The move triggered an outcry from human rights groups around the globe.
“One in five schools can no longer be used as a direct result of the conflict. … For more than 2 million children in Yemen today, going to school is a faraway dream!” Cappelaere said.
The war has also taken a heavy toll on the country’s infrastructure, destroying hospitals, schools, and factories. The UN has already said that a record 22.2 million Yemenis are in dire need of food, including 8.4 million threatened by severe hunger. According to the world body, Yemen is suffering from the most severe famine in more than 100 years.