The United States has more than doubled the number of its military staff “providing intelligence, munitions and midair refueling” for Saudi Arabia’s airstrikes on Yemen.
The number of so-called American advisers working at joint military operations centers in Saudi Arabia and Bahrain has risen from 20 to 45, The Los Angeles Times reports.
In addition, US warships have also helped enforce a naval blockade in the Gulf of Aden and southern Arabian Sea.
US officials stress the sea cordon is intended to prevent weapons shipments to Ansarullah fighters.
However, human rights groups say the blockade has hindered imports of basic commodities, including food and fuel, to the impoverished nation.
Saudi Arabia launched its military aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an effort to undermine Yemen’s popular Houthi Ansarullah movement, whose fighters had forced the US-backed president, Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, into exile.
A US special operations team was deployed at al-Anad, the country’s largest airbase, to collect intelligence and launch drone strikes in southern Yemen, until it was driven out in March as Ansarullah fighters advanced.
American officials said last week that they will not deploy the team back to Yemen until Hadi, the fugitive former president, is restored to power.
The humanitarian situation has become critical in Yemen, with many international aid organizations seeking a safe passage into the country to supply medical and humanitarian supplies to the most affected people.
Human rights group Amnesty International said in a report that the Saudi airstrikes have mostly pounded populated areas with no identifiable military targets nearby, leaving a “bloody trail of civilian death.”
The onslaught has claimed more than 4,300 lives and forced more than 1.3 million others from their homes since March, according to United Nations agencies.
Nearly 400 kids killed in Yemen since late March: UNICEF
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says around 400 children have been killed in Yemen since late March, when Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against its impoverished neighbor.
In a report titled “Yemen: Childhood Under Threat”, the UNICEF said that as many as 398 children have been killed and nearly 600 others sustained injuries since March 26.
“Since the conflict escalated on 26 March 2015,” the report said, “Nearly three children are being killed every day and another five injured.”
The report also described Yemen as one of “the most terrifying places in the world to be a child,” stressing that almost 10 million children are in the dire need of humanitarian assistance.
“Overall, around 1.8 million children are likely to suffer from some form of malnutrition in Yemen in this year alone,” the reports said.
It said that 95 schools have been completely destroyed due to shelling or airstrikes by Saudi Arabia, and 305 other schools have been damaged since the end of March.
It said that almost 3,600 schools have been closed in the country, which has affected over 1.8 million children.
Julien Harneis, the representative for UNICEF in Yemen said, “This conflict is a particular tragedy for Yemeni children.”
“We urgently need funds so we can reach children in desperate need,” said Harneis, adding, “We cannot stand by and let children suffer the consequences of a humanitarian catastrophe.”
Saudi Arabia launched its aggression against Yemen on March 26 – without a UN mandate – in an effort to undermine Yemen’s Houthi Ansarullah movement and to restore power to the country’s fugitive former President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
The UN says the conflict in Yemen has killed more than 4,000 people, nearly half of them civilians, since late March. Local Yemeni sources, however, say the fatality figure is much higher.