By Zakaria al-Kamali
Landmines are adding to the plight of civilians in war-torn Yemen, killing and maiming hundreds of people since the Arab country fell into civil war in 2014.
According to the Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, a total of 615 people have been killed and 942 others injured by landmine explosions in the past two years.
"Landmines have killed 101 children and 26 women," the coalition's executive director, Muther al-Bazekhi, told Anadolu Agency.
He said 527 disabilities were also reported due to landmine explosions in the war-ravaged country.
"Large numbers of landmines are still planted in several provinces without maps to clear them," he said. "This remains a permanent threat to the lives of Yemenis."
Yemen fell into civil war in 2014 when Houthi rebels and allied forces of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh overran capital Sanaa and other provinces.
The conflict escalated when Saudi Arabia and Arab allies launched a massive air campaign to reverse Houthi gains and restore the Saudi-backed Yemeni government.
The Yemeni government accuses the Houthi rebels of planting more than 250,000 anti-personnel and anti-vehicle landmines across Yemen.
The government says that its forces have managed to clear only 40,000 landmines.
The 1997 Mine Ban Treaty prohibits the use of antipersonnel mines under any circumstances.
Anti-vehicle mines, while not internationally banned, are often used in violation of international humanitarian law, for example when used indiscriminately or when inadequate precautions are taken to avoid civilian casualties. =
The highest number of fatalities by landmine explosions was reported in Yemen’s third largest city of Taizz.
“Landmines have killed about 160 people in Taizz,” Army Colonel Taher al-Mekhlafi, who heads a demining team in the city, told Anadolu Agency.
He said more than 110 people were also injured by landmine explosions in the city.
Al-Mekhlafi accused the Houthis of planting different types of landmines in provinces under their control.
Yemen ratified the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty on September 1, 1998, making a commitment never to use antipersonnel mines under any circumstances.
A total of 162 countries are party to the treaty, which comprehensively prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of antipersonnel mines and requires their clearance and assistance to victims.
In 2002, Yemen reported to the UN that it had finished destroying its stockpile of four types of antipersonnel mines as required by the treaty.
Yet, other types of antipersonnel mines not reported stockpiled by Yemen have since appeared in the country.
In September 2016, Yemen’s Foreign Affairs Ministry said individuals had smuggled weapons, including landmines, into Yemen in recent years, noting that the government had not been able to control its land or sea borders due to instability and fighting. The ministry did not provide any evidence for this claim.