Houthi mines claim new civilian victims in Hodeidah, Yemen

Six civilians, including two children, died after their car drove over a Houthi mine in southern Hodeidah on Tuesday.

Seven others were badly injured in the explosion, which occurred on a dirt road linking the districts of Al Tuhaiyta and Al Khokhah, Dr Dawood Kattab, manager of the government's health services in the coastal areas of Hodeidah, told The National.

“The explosive device was planted in the road and it set off as the car, which was transferring dozens of civilians, passed over it” he said, adding that three of the dead were from one family.

Some of the wounded were taken to the public hospital in Al Khokhah while those with fatal injuries were transferred to the hospital run by Doctors Without Borders (MSF) in Al Makha city.

“The car was transferring civilians heading from Al Tuhaiyta city, which is still partially controlled by the Houthi rebels, to Al Khokhah city, where they go to work in public markets and in other places as they do every day,” said Dr Kattab.

Landmines and other explosive devices planted by the Houthi rebels have claimed the lives of over a thousand Yemenis since war broke out in 2014 between the Iran-backed Houthis and the internationally recognised government of President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi.

According to Ousama Al Gosiabi, director of the Saudi project for mine clearance Masam, 65 per cent of the mines, explosive remnants and projectiles have been cleared by the Masam team from districts on the Western Coast in Yemen, where the majority of Houthi mines are located.

Masam has cleared 16,419,688 square kilometres of Yemeni land, extracting 200,000 mines, mine ordinance, and explosive device in 91 destruction and mine detonation operations since the project was launched in mid-2018.

“Mines in Yemen were planted randomly and intensively. Masam’s experts estimated that the number of mines planted by the Houthi militia in areas they occupied since the war began passes two million mines and explosive devices.

"This makes Yemen the most (heavily) mined country in the world since the Second World War due to the many mines planted in plains, in the mountains and along the sea and the desert”, Mr Al Gosaibi told The National.

Many residents have been killed or suffered loss of limbs, while others have been forced to abandon their homes due to the everyday risk of living in an area with Houthi mines, he explained.

In districts along Yemen’s western coast, the Houthi militia has focused its mine network in more populated areas, deliberately targeting civilians, Mr Al Gosaibi said.

“They (the Houthi rebels) planted deadly mine networks in residential areas, roads used by the public and on civilian farmland - areas containing no military targets. This made the return of life to these areas an impossible task,” he added.

The exact number of civilians killed or injured by Houthi mine networks is not known. However, Yemeni Human Rights firms monitoring Houthi violations against civilians reported hundreds of victims either killed or injured by Houthi mines.

“During the period from September 2014 to June 2018, our monitoring teams recorded 906 people killed and 1034 injured by Houthi landmines in 19 of the 22 provinces in Yemen,” said Mutahar Al Bathigi the executive manager of Rasd Coalition, a Yemeni Independent Human Rights foundation monitoring conditions in the country.

In 2019, of the 283 individuals killed by Houthi landmines, 94 were children, Mr Al Bathigi said.

In April 2019, a report issued by Human Rights Watch stated that the widespread use of landmines by the Houthi rebels in Yemen is killing civilians and blocking crucial aid being delivered to the war-torn country.

“Houthi-laid landmines have not only killed and maimed civilians, but they have prevented vulnerable Yemenis from harvesting crops and drawing clean water desperately needed for survival,” said Priyanka Motaparthy, the organisation acting emergencies director.