SANAA — A Yemeni minister with the internationally recognized government on Tuesday said the country’s Shiite rebels were forcing children to fight in Yemen’s civil war, saying the rebels have recruited as many as 4,800 boys over the past six months.
Human Rights Minister Ezz Eddin Al-Asbahi also said the rebels known as Houthis have killed about 1,000 civilians in the two-year conflict, and that more than 300 children have died — either because of gunfire or rockets.
Speaking from Cairo, Al-Asbahi said an estimated number of 3,000 people have been detained by the rebels in areas under their control and that there are some 70 cases of torture inside Houthi-controlled prisons.
Meanwhile, fighting intensified in Yemen since Monday outside the capital, Sanaa, between forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government, backed by the Saudi-led coalition, and the Houthis, according to military and medical officials.
The focus of the battle is the mountainous town of Sarwah, east of the capital, where pro-government forces aim to break a months-long stalemate and clear the way toward Sanaa. The Houthis seized Sanaa in 2014.
The officials said heavy aerial bombardment on the border area of Midi, northwest of Sanaa, killed and wounded dozens of fighters.
Since March 2015, a Saudi-led coalition has waged an air campaign aiming at dislodging the Houthis from cities under their control.
The US-backed coalition and the Yemeni government are seeking to expand areas under their control as a way to press the Houthis to accept a peace deal that involves their withdrawal from cities and the handover of heavy weapons.
The escalation of the fighting follows the collapse of the last round of the UN peace talks in August.
At a press conference in Cairo, Abdel-Raqeeb Fatah, Yemen’s minister of local administration, said the UN agencies, which are mostly based in the Houthi-held Sanaa, were “working from their offices” and not reflecting events on the ground.
US strikes kill 13 Qaeda operatives
The United States killed 13 Al-Qaeda operatives in three counterterrorism strikes in Yemen from Aug. 24 to Sept. 4, the US military said on Tuesday.
All three of the strikes against Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula targets were conducted in central Yemen’s Shabwah Governorate, US Central Command said in a statement. It did not specify how the strikes were carried out or the identities of those killed. — Agencies