Photos from a city under siege

Published 9:38 PM EDT, Thu July 30, 2015

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Photographer Guillaume Binet spent nearly two weeks in the besieged city of Aden, Yemen

Houthi rebels, which ousted the country's President in March, have the city surrounded

CNN —  

Every 10 minutes, a randomly targeted shell explodes, rattling the windows and doors in Aden’s city center. Once a bustling port in Yemen, Aden has been reduced to rubble, ravaged by the incessant shelling of the Houthi militia that has the city surrounded.

Photographer Guillaume Binet landed in Aden in late June and spent nearly two weeks taking riveting photos of the besieged city.

“I was there during Ramadan, and there was bombing, shelling and fighting all day,” Binet said. “It got particularly worse at 6:30 or 7 p.m. when everyone would leave their houses to break the fast. The Houthis would fire lots of rockets then. Everyone sleeps in the city center to avoid the shelling, but each time a bomb falls, it kills a family.

“The women spend their days looking for food, the men are expected to fight and defend the city. The kids are really just alone in the streets. When they turn 14, the boys are given Kalashnikovs and are expected to fight as well.”

Photographer Guillaume Binet
Guillaume Binet
Photographer Guillaume Binet

The Houthis, backed by Iran, are Shiite Muslims who have long felt marginalized in the majority Sunni country. Many of them are allied with Ali Abdullah Saleh, the former Yemeni President who resigned after protests in 2011.

In 2014, the Houthis captured Sanaa, Yemen’s capital, and have since advanced south toward Aden, claiming most of the western part of the country.

Since March, Aden has been under siege, forcing the current president, Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi, to flee his palace. Fearing another Shiite-dominated state in the region, Saudi Arabia began airstrikes on the Houthis to restore Hadi to power and fight off what they perceive to be Iranian aggression by proxy. The Southern Resistance, backed by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition, is fighting to hold on to Aden’s surrounded city center.

“People in the city center have been shelled for a few months,” Binet said. “They live in their apartments, and when the shelling starts they go to the basements. They are used to it.

“In some places near the city center it seems to be somewhat OK. But a few streets over, everything has collapsed into rubble.”

Almost every able-bodied male has been recruited into the fight. On the Southern Resistance side, fighters come from many walks of life.

“I met a woman whose husband and three sons are all fighting (for the Southern Resistance) – the husband is fighting because he is jobless, and it’s the only thing he can do,” Binet said. “Other men have come from Saudi Arabia to fight to protect their families and support the Southern Resistance.

“Every so often, there are Saudi uniforms visible (on the Resistance side). Also, there are al-Qaeda forces fighting with the Resistance. Though the coalition run by the Saudis don’t want them, we know they are there.”

Each day there are hundreds of new casualties, and the hospital in the city center is overwhelmed. Supplies are brought weekly by boat, but the hospital is severely short on staff.

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“The doctors are not sleeping. They are working day and night and are certainly short on surgeons and nurses,” Binet said. “At the time (of my visit), the hospital was on the front line – you could be shot through the window, you can hear the tanks firing and the bullets zinging by.”

In the city, drinking water is scarce, but it is even harder to find food. There is no electricity.

“The Houthis are only allowing vegetables to pass through into the city center,” Binet said. “There is hardly any meat or flour left. People are starving. They are really struggling to eat.”

Conditions are even worse in the Houthi-held Crater district, where there is no more running water. As the fighting continues, food supplies dwindle.

“It is a disorganized mess, and there is no way to escape,” Binet said. “People are going hungry, people are dying. They really need help.”

Guillaume Binet is a French photographer. You can follow him on Twitter.