Over 500 Iran-backed Houthi militants have been killed in the ongoing Saudi-led operation to restore Yemen’s internationally-recognized government, Saudi Defense Ministry officials stated over the weekend.
“The objective is to protect the legitimate government, defend the Yemeni people, and degrade and destroy the capabilities of the Houthis that could be a threat to Saudi Arabia,” Adel al Jubeir, Saudi Arabia’s Ambassador to the US, told the Wall Street Journal. “The ultimate objective of the military operation is to open the door for a political process to resolve Yemen’s problems,” he added.
Ivan Simonovic, the UN Deputy Secretary-General for Human Rights, told Al Jazeera on Monday that “over 600 people” have been killed thus far, and “more than half of them are civilians.”
The Saudis have blamed the Iranian-backed Houthis for the large number of civilian casualties, while the Iranians and their allies have blamed the Saudis for the same deaths.
“So far we can say with confidence that both sides have not exercised sufficient restraint. There were some unselective targeting and we are very concerned about that,” he told the Doha-run news agency, adding, “There is still a window of opportunity when fighting and killing in Yemen could be stopped.”
Saudi General Ahmed Asiri told CNN that the coalition forces have carried out 1,200 airstrikes since Operation Decisive Storm began in late March.
The U.S. is reportedly seeking to expand its role in the Yemen conflict, U.S. and Arab officials told the Wall Street Journal on Monday.
Humanitarian groups have sounded the alarm about the rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen, where GDP per capita in 2013 was $1,473 dollars.
“Shops are closed. We have a problem of food,” Marie-Elisabeth Ingres of Doctors without Borders told Al Jazeera.
“Schools universities and all public and private facilities have been shut due” to the sectarian clashes, an Aden-based activist told AFP. “Residents’ lives have become very difficult and complicated… They can no longer obtain the food they need.”