Nearly 2,000 children recruited by Yemen’s Houthi rebel group died on the battlefield between 2020 and mid-2021, according to United Nations experts who said children as young as seven had been trained in camps as fighters.
The damaging report comes as the United Arab Emirates, which is part of a Gulf military coalition fighting the Houthis in Yemen, said it had intercepted another Houthi rocket fired at the country early Monday during a historic visit from present-day Israel. Isaac Herzog to the Emirates.
It is just the latest in a series of missile attacks by the Iran-backed group in the Gulf state. Two weeks ago, a drone and missile attack hit a fuel depot at an oil facility, killing three people and wounding six as South Korean President Moon Jae-in was visiting the United Arab Emirates.
Over the weekend, UN experts circulated a 303-page document submitted to the UN Security Council detailing multiple violations of international law during Yemen’s seven-year conflict, including the wanton deployment of child soldiers by of the Houthis.
The annual report, which also investigated deadly Gulf coalition airstrikes in Yemen, said in total it had received a list of 1,968 children, some as young as 10, recruited by the Houthis who died on the battlefield between January 2020 and May. 2021.
The Houthis have repeatedly denied the formal recruitment of children.
“They were between 10 and 17 years old,” the experts said.
The report said the Houthis had set up summer camps at schools and mosques to recruit child fighters and offer basic military training.
“In these summer camps, hate speech and violence against specific groups are promoted. Children are instructed to shout the Houthi slogan ‘death to America, death to Israel, curse the Jews, victory of Islam,’” the four-member expert panel said.
“In a camp, children as young as [seven] they were taught to clean weapons and evade rockets.”
He said that in several cases the children were told they would be enrolled in cultural courses, but instead were taken to the battlefield. They said humanitarian assistance had only been provided or denied to families on the basis of whether their children were involved in the fighting. They also documented sexual violence against children in the camps.
Yemen has been torn apart by a ruinous civil war since 2014 when the Houthis seized Sanaa, the capital, and much of the northern part of the country, forcing the government to flee south and then to Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi-led coalition that included the United Arab Emirates and was backed at the time by the United States entered the war in 2015, seeking to reincorporate its allies into Yemen’s government over fears of encroaching Iranian influence. in the region.
Seven years on, there is little hope of an end to the fighting that has sparked one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises and pushed millions to the brink of famine.
The conflict has also fueled ongoing tensions in the Persian Gulf in general, with a host of long-range Houthi attacks on both Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
On Monday, the state news agency WAM reported that the United Arab Emirates intercepted a missile, adding that “the attack did not result in any losses.” It came as Israel’s largely ceremonial President Herzog was in the United Arab Emirates on the first official visit by an Israeli head of state to the Persian Gulf nation.
The day before, he had held extensive talks with Abu Dhabi’s powerful crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed, in the capital, where he highlighted Israel’s support for the UAE’s “security requirements” and condemned recent attacks. of the Houthis.
It was not immediately clear where the debris from Monday’s missile fell or what the target was.
The Emirati Defense Ministry released black-and-white images it said showed the destruction of a ballistic missile launcher in Yemen’s al-Jawf province about 30 minutes after the attack.
Houthi military spokesman Yehia Sarei claimed later on Monday that rebels had targeted “sensitive sites” in Abu Dhabi and Dubai with Zulfiqar ballistic missiles and drones, without offering evidence for his claims.
He repeated the group’s warnings that the headquarters of international companies will be subject to further attacks.
Last week, a similar attack saw Emirati and US forces fire interceptor missiles to shoot down a Houthi missile near the Al-Dhafra airbase in Abu Dhabi, which is home to some 2,000 US troops.
The previous week, a Houthi drone and missile attack had targeted Abu Dhabi’s international airport and oil facilities, causing multiple casualties.
US State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned Monday’s attack.
In Tehran, Saeed Khatibzadeh, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, condemned the Israeli president’s visit to the United Arab Emirates.
There has been mounting pressure from all sides to end the ruinous war in Yemen that has brought the impoverished Gulf state to the brink of collapse.
The UN expert’s report warned that violations of international humanitarian and human rights law in Yemen are “the rule rather than the exception,” citing arbitrary arrests and detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and ill-treatment “committed by all parts”.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.