Life under siege: Inside Taiz, the Yemeni city being slowly strangled

Ghaith Abdul-Ahad writes: Ismail lies on green linoleum sheets, his black eyes too large for his gaunt face. Craning his neck, he tries to inspect the bandage covering his body, but weakness pulls him back. From the pillow, he whispers “hawan” (mortar).

Ismail, who says he is 12 but has the body of a six-year-old, used to make a few Yemeni riyals every day by washing graves in a new cemetery in the city of Taiz devoted to those killed in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.

Just before noon on one day in November, he and his two young cousins were sitting under a mango tree, cleaning the grave of a 10-year-old girl called Basma, when three mortar shells fell. A splatter of deep scars on the tree trunk and on the grave’s concrete surface mark the spot where one exploded. The two cousins, aged two and four, died instantly.

Ismail was severely injured and is now in the Rawdha, a hotel-turned-hospital in Taiz, Yemen’s second most populated city, a place being slowly strangled by a Houthi rebel siege. He is far from the only one here. One floor above, Amer recounts how he was hit by an explosion after dining in a restaurant and walking out into the street. The threads stitching folds of flesh on the stump of his left leg are black and new. [Continue reading…]

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