UN says civilian casualties in Yemen average 123 per week

Yemen's minister of agriculture and irrigation, Othman Hussein Faid Mujali, spoke to journalists during peace talks held at Johannesberg Castle, in Rimbo, Sweden, Friday.

RIMBO, Sweden — The United Nations’ refugee agency said Friday there were nearly 1,500 civilian casualties in Yemen from August through October, the latest grim tally to emerge from a four-year civil war as opposing parties hold talks in Sweden.

The announcement came as Yemen’s Iran-backed Houthi rebels and the internationally recognized government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, met for a second day for UN-sponsored talks aimed at halting the bloodshed.

UNHCR urged the two sides to do more to protect civilians, saying data from Yemen shows an average of 123 civilians killed and wounded every week during the three-month period, in a war that has killed at least 16,000 civilians.

The Houthi delegation said that talks had been divided into five main sections, including opening up Sanaa airport for aid, adding that the prisoner swap would include all detainees from both sides.

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The talks opened Thursday on an upbeat note, with the warring sides agreeing to a broad prisoner swap, boosting hopes that the talks would not deteriorate into further violence as in the past.

In a release from Sanaa later Friday the rebels said their delegation had met with UN envoy Martin Griffiths and looked forward to having success in the talks and making concrete progress.

Yemen’s conflict, which has pushed the country to the brink of famine, pits the internationally recognized government against Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who took the capital of Sanaa in 2014.

The Saudis intervened the following year.

UN officials have sought to downplay expectations from the talks, saying they don’t foresee rapid progress toward a political settlement but hope for at least minor steps that would help to address Yemen’s worsening humanitarian crisis and prepare a framework for further negotiations.

UNHCR says of the 1,478 civilian casualties, 33 percent were women and children. That’s a total of 217 women and children killed and 268 wounded.

Associated Press