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Saudi attacks on Yemeni water systems increase disease risk: UNICEF

A Yemeni child looks at the site of a Saudi airstrike in the Sahar district of Sa'ada Province on July 19, 2018. (Photo by AFP)

The UN International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has condemned recent airstrikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen’s water systems, warning that the destruction of the infrastructure could endanger more lives.

In a statement released on Tuesday, Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF Regional Director in the Middle East and North Africa, said the water facility in the northwestern Sa’ada Province had come under attack three times in recent days.

Now, he said, over half of Sa’ada's water system has been damaged and drinking water cut off to 10,500 Yemenis.

“UNICEF deplores in the strongest terms yet another attack on vital and lifesaving water systems in Yemen,” Cappelaere said. “Continuous attacks on water systems in Yemen are cutting off children and their families from water; increasing the likelihood of water-borne diseases spreading in the war-torn country.”

He also warned that “more lives - among them many children - will be lost” if the aerial assaults on Yemen’s basic services continue.

The UNICEF official further called on the parties to the Yemen conflict to stop all attacks on the country’s civilian infrastructure, including water systems and facilities, schools, hospitals and clinics.

“Attacks on civilian infrastructure including water systems are a violation of international humanitarian law,” he noted.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched the war in March 2015 in support of Yemen’s former Riyadh-friendly government and against the Houthi fighters.

The military campaign has killed and injured tens of thousands of civilians.

Several Western countries, the US and the UK in particular, have been supplying Saudi Arabia with advanced weapons and military equipment.

Red Cross plane forced to land in Jizan

Separately on Tuesday, the coalition said it had forced a plane with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to land in Saudi Arabia’s southwestern city of Jizan after intercepting it over Yemen.

The file photo shows a plane with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

The plane, which was heading to Djibouti, had changed its course after taking off from Sana’a, the Saudi-led coalition said in a statement published by the official Saudi Press Agency (SPA).

“Coalition forces communicated with the aircraft on the international distress frequency... but the crew did not respond,” coalition spokesman Colonel Turki Al-Maliki said.  “Commands were given to redirect the aircraft away from the operations zone but to no avail. The aircraft was forced to land in Jizan.”

Meanwhile, the ICRC confirmed the plane’s “unscheduled stop” in Jizan, adding it was “due to technical issues.”

“The issue was resolved and the plane has landed in Djibouti this evening," the humanitarian institution said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has imposed a blockade on Yemen, which has smothered humanitarian deliveries of food and medicine to the import-dependent country.

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