Press briefing notes on Yemen, 18 January 2022

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Ravina Shamdasani

Location: Geneva

Date: 18 January 2022

We are deeply concerned by the continuing escalation of the conflict in Yemen. Overnight, air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition on the capital, Sanaa, are reported to have left at least five civilians dead. According to preliminary information, those killed were five members of the same family, including two women and a child, when a house was hit in Ma'in district of the city at around 21.25. Two other women and a child were reported to have been injured.

The latest airstrikes followed missile and drone attacks claimed by Ansar Allah forces (also known as 'Houthis') on the United Arab Emirates, which is a coalition partner, on Monday. These attacks on Abu Dhabi's International airport and a nearby industrial area were reported to have left three civilians dead.

2022 had already seen the conflict intensify. The year began with a large counter-offensive by Government forces against Ansar Allah in Shabwah Governorate to the south-west of Marib, with the fighting now pushing further into Marib and Al Baydah Governorates. In recent days, there have been dozens of airstrikes and artillery strikes launched by the parties with seemingly little regard for civilians.

The fighting has damaged civilian objects and critical infrastructure, including telecommunication towers and water reservoirs, as well as hospitals in Sana'a and Taizz. With frontlines shifting rapidly over large areas, civilians are also exposed to the constant threat of landmines.

Among recent attacks, between 9 to 11 January, three telecommunications towers were destroyed by Saudi-led Coalition airstrikes in Sa'ada Governorate. On 11 January, Coalition airstrikes destroyed a main water reservoir in Sahar district, also in Sa'ada Governorate, disrupting water supplies for more than 130,000 people.

On 13 January, airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition injured four civilians and partially damaged the emergency and in-patient departments of a hospital in Al Sawad area, Sanhan district, Sana'a Governorate. It was reported that the airstrikes targeted a military camp, which is located close to the hospital. On 1 July 2020, airstrikes destroyed the hospital's medical supply warehouse and severely damaged the building.

On 15 January, two missiles fired by Ansar Allah forces positioned in the north of Taizz City struck and damaged Al Thawra Public Hospital, Taizz City. Three others missiles reportedly struck a neighbourhood adjacent to the hospital, injuring two civilians.

Figures collected by the UN Human Rights Office indicate that, so far in January, there were 839 airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, compared with 1,074 for the whole of December. There were some 16 drone strikes, and 12 ballistic missiles and three other projectiles fired by Ansar Allah forces towards Saudi territory in December. To date in January, reports indicate there have been 10 drone strikes towards Saudi Arabia.

Amid this escalation, we call on all parties to ensure the protection of civilians and civilian objects, in line with their obligations under international law. Any attack, including airstrikes should fully respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack. In particular, parties to the conflict must take all feasible measure to verify that targets are indeed military objectives and suspend an attack if it becomes apparent that the target is not a military objective or that the attack would be disproportionate. Failure to respect the principles of distinction and proportionality could amount to war crimes.

We echo calls by the Secretary-General to all parties to exercise maximum restraint and avoid escalation. As has been shown time and time again, there is no military solution to the conflict in Yemen.


For more information and media requests, please contact:

Ravina Shamdasani - + 41 22 917 9169 / or
Rupert Colville + 41 22 917 9767 / or
Liz Throssell + 41 22 917 9296 /