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The Journal Gazette

Sunday, November 11, 2018 1:00 am

Civilian deaths in Yemen mounting

Associated Press

CAIRO – Airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen are on a pace to kill more civilians than last year, according to a database tracking violence in the country, despite the United States' repeated claims that the coalition is taking precautions to prevent such bloodshed.

The database gives an indication of the scope of the disaster wreaked in Yemen by nearly four years of civil war. At least 57,538 people – civilians and combatants – have been killed since the beginning of 2016, according to the data assembled by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, or ACLED.

The organization's count is considered by many international agencies to be one of the most credible, although all caution it is likely an underestimate because of the difficulties in tracking deaths. The numbers don't include those who have died in the humanitarian disaster caused by the war, particularly starvation. Though there are no firm figures, the aid group Save the Children estimated hunger may have killed 50,000 children in 2017.

Renewed uproar over the destruction has put Washington in a corner. The U.S. has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Saudi Arabia, backing the fight to stop Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who Washington and the coalition consider a proxy for Iran.

That along with tensions over the killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi inside the country's consulate in Istanbul may be key factors why Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Oct. 30 made their biggest push yet for an end to the war, calling for a ceasefire within 30 days and resumed negotiations.