By Aziz El Yaakoubi
AL-MOKHA, Yemen (Reuters)
Yasser Yassin was driving along a road on Yemen’s rugged Red Sea coast when a blast sent his Toyota Hilux flying into the air
When he regained consciousness, the 30-year-old merchant realised he couldn’t move his right leg or see with his right eye.
Yassin’s car had hit an anti-tank mine, one of thousands left by Houthi fighters three months earlier when they conceded the al-Khoukha port area to southern Yemeni forces, their civil war adversaries in that part of Yemen.
His recovery has been far from straightforward, despite help from an anti-Houthi military coalition whose leading members are Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
“They (coalition) took me to Aden where they fixed my leg, but there was an issue with the metal prosthesis and my leg got infected,” Yassin, leaning on his crutches, said while visiting al-Mokha hospital for a follow-up after the blast in February.
Yemen has been devastated by three years of conflict in which President Abd-Rabu Mansour Hadi’s government, backed by the Saudi-led Arab coalition, is fighting to drive the Houthis out of cities they seized in 2014 and 2015.
The United Nations says the war has created the world’s biggest humanitarian crisis, and rights groups say both sides have inflicted indiscriminate violence, including, in the Houthis’ case, through the use of banned anti-personnel mines.
Houthi officials did not respond to a Reuters request for comment. Both sides in the conflict deny accusations by human rights groups that they have carried out war crimes.
The results of landmine use can be seen in the hallways of the hospital in al-Mokha town, located not far north of the strategic Bab al-Mandab strait, which were crowded with victims and visitors on a recent visit by Reuters.
Doctors and medical staff made their way between armed men to provide first aid to patients wounded by landmines, as well as by shrapnel and mortars.
“I was walking with my brother, I stepped on a mine and it went off,” said Rashida, a 13-year-old girl fitted with a rudimentary prosthetic leg.
Her father said she had never attended school because the closest one to their village in Taiz province was 30 km (18 miles) away and had closed down after the Houthis invaded Taiz.
Residents and medics from al-Mokha and nearby villages said landmines had caused more casualties than the fighting in the area, which has seen the Houthis pushed out of some Red Sea coastal areas since 2016.
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