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Everyone in Yemen Conflict May Have Committed War Crimes

Amnesty International says Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and fighting between Houthi rebels and pro-government groups in two southern Yemeni cities have killed more than 200 civilians, including dozens of children.
Imagen vía Yahoo Arhab/EPA

All participants in the Yemen conflict have "left a bloody trail of death and destruction" across the southern cities of Ta'iz and Aden and may have committed war crimes, Amnesty International said Tuesday.

Saudi-Arabia-led airstrikes and fighting between Houthi rebels and pro-government groups in the two towns have killed more than 200 civilians, including dozens of children, the group said in a new report.

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Amnesty documented large numbers of unlawful attacks, including aerial bombardments in densely populated residential areas and excessive and indiscriminate attacks by both the Houthis and their opponents.

"Civilians in southern Yemen have found themselves trapped in a deadly crossfire between Houthi loyalists and anti-Houthi groups on the ground, while facing the persistent threat of coalition airstrikes from the sky," Amnesty International's Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera said. "All the parties to this conflict have displayed a ruthless and wanton disregard for the safety of civilians."

Rovera accused all parties of mounting unlawful attacks that "may amount to war crimes."

Related: The Rise of the Islamic State in Yemen 

Amnesty said 141 civilians were killed and 101 wounded in June and July of this year in eight airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition. Civilian homes, a school, market and mosque were all hit, the group said, and in most cases its investigators were not able to identify military targets nearby.

Ten members of a single family, including four children, were killed in one attack. In another, 11 people were killed as they worshipped at an Aden mosque.

Meanwhile, at least 68 civilians were killed and 99 injured in fighting between the Houthis, who are backed by members of the security forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh, and pro-government groups.

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Amnesty condemned both sides for the use of unguided and highly destructive weapons, such as mortars, multiple rocket launchers and artillery, in residential areas. In one of the worst cases, the Houthis attacked the Dar Saad area of Aden, killing 45 people, mostly civilians.

At least 1,916 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the Yemen conflict, the UN said earlier this month. The fighting has also led to a major humanitarian crisis and at least 80 percent of the population is now in urgent need of aid. Energy, food, and medicine prices have skyrocketed since the fighting began; fuel shortages have closed down many hospitals, and humanitarian agencies are at risk of being unable to operate at all.

Related: Why Yemen Is Like Scotland — and Could Be a Choke Point for a Lot of the World's Oil

The Saudi-led coalition of nine Arab countries began launching strikes on the Houthis on March 26 in an attempt to stop the rebels' advance across the country. So far they have had only limited success in dislodging them from captured territory, while being criticized for killing hundreds of civilians and causing a humanitarian "catastrophe."

Yemen's political transition since former President Ali Abdullah Saleh was ousted in 2012 during Yemen's Arab Spring-inspired uprising had been widely seen as a rare success story. But the impoverished state grew increasingly troubled when the Houthis swept down from their northern homelands in September and overran the capital of Sanaa. The group went on to dislodge President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi's internationally-recognized government, which has been exiled in the Saudi capital of Riyadh since February.

UN-led peace talks aimed at achieving a humanitarian ceasefire held in Geneva in June collapsed without reaching agreement.

Watch VICE News' documentarySeeking Refuge in Djibouti: Escape From Yemen: