A young man wide-eyed and horrified rushes into a hospital in Yemen’s war-torn Hodeidah province.
We don’t know his name. Only that this must be the worst day of his life.
“Is she dead,” he asks as he gently strokes the head of a lifeless little girl. “She is,” someone answers.
He hugs the still body of his three-year-old sister, but only briefly. There are more relatives to find.
“My wife, where is she?” he asks.
He is quickly rushed through the chaotic corridors packed with wailing wounded and weeping victims.
The man’s wife is alive. But by the end of the night on December 8, he will find six of his family members dead and 12 others wounded by heavy artillery fired under Saudi-led coalition air cover, according to eyewitnesses and residents.
“I lost my brother too,” he told a reporter at the scene. “His whole side was torn open, his head was split. I swear I only recognized him by his t-shirt.”
The footage, captured by the Houthi rebel-backed Ansarallah Media Center and obtained by CNN, provides a rare glimpse into the bloody battle for Hodeidah, a strategic port city that is at the epicenter of Yemen’s civil war.
In 2015, a coalition led by Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign to forcibly remove Houthi rebels from power and re-instate the country’s internationally recognized government.
After more than three years of conflict, and as the humanitarian crisis worsens, international pressure for a ceasefire is growing. Last week, opposing sides began direct talks under the auspices of the United Nations.
But even as the negotiations continue in Sweden, there is no respite in Yemen, where the most vulnerable face the dual threat of war and hunger. The UN says half of Yemen’s population – about 14 million people – are at risk of famine.
A Saudi coalition spokesperson denied responsibility for the December 8 attack shown in the video from the Houthi-run Ansarallah Media Center. “We have no knowledge of this, and it is widely recognized that the Houthi militia is continuing to target civilians with all types of weapons in Hodeida province and its cities,” Colonel Turki al-Malki told CNN.
America’s role in Yemen
The Trump administration’s role in Yemen’s tragedy came under increased scrutiny after a CNN investigation found remnants of a US-made bomb at the scene of an airstrike in the northern province of Saada that left dozens of children dead in August. The Saudi coalition told CNN the missile strike was aimed at a “legitimate target.”
Another CNN investigation uncovered fragments of US-manufactured weapons at a string of other incidents since 2015.
The US says it does not make targeting decisions for the coalition, which is fighting a Houthi rebel insurgency in Yemen. But it provides support for its operations through billions of dollars in arms sales and some sharing of intelligence.
The problem for the administration is that patience for the Saudis is running out on Capitol Hill. Some Senators are particularly riled by the CIA’s conclusion, according to sources, that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman personally ordered the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi consulate in Istanbul in October.
The Saudi government has denied that bin Salman was involved in Khashoggi’s death, and US President Donald Trump has also been at odds with the CIA assessment.
“Our intelligence agencies continue to assess all information, but it could very well be that the Crown Prince had knowledge of this tragic event – maybe he did and maybe he didn’t!” Trump said in a statement last month.
After Khashoggi was murdered, the US stopped airborne refueling of Saudi aircraft involved in the conflict.
Now, momentum is growing behind a proposal to invoke a never-before-used provision of the War Powers Act, which allows Congress to order the President to withdraw from a conflict.
“It’s un-American,” said Senate Foreign Relations Chairman Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican, of Trump’s suggestions that US arms sales with Saudi Arabia take precedence over a forceful to response to a journalist’s murder. “When we provide aid to other countries, we do so because we want to see good things happen in those countries. We espouse American values around the world.”
Back inside the hospital, medical staff are overwhelmed. The dead are hastily wrapped in blankets to make room for those still fighting to live. On the doorstep of the building, two toddlers lie lifeless, their bodies waiting to be claimed by loved ones.
The man asks a final question this time to the camera: “What gives them the right to bomb us? May God never bless them.”