The survivors of Duraihimi massacre say that the Saudi backed coalition started a relentless bombing campaign from early August, even targeting the vehicles carrying injured civilians.

Ibrahim Dahfash, a survivor of the recent Saudi attack, lies on a hospital bed as wounds are seen on his body.
Ibrahim Dahfash, a survivor of the recent Saudi attack, lies on a hospital bed as wounds are seen on his body. ( Nabil Badi / TRTWorld )

HUDAIDA — Ibrahim Dahfash is a farmer in Al Koie area in Duraihimi district. He lives with his extended family in a shanty house. Many desperate people in this part of Hudaida governorate, affected by the gruelling war, usually live in rickety shanty towns made of wood and tarpaulin sheets. 

But when the bombs and artillery shells began to fall on Duraihimi in June, many residents fled their houses towards Hudaida city. But Dahfash, who's in his late 50s, stayed back and chose to face the lingering danger than becoming a refugee in his own country. 

The Saudi-backed Yemeni government scaled up the military operations in Duraihimi. In the first nine days of August, at least 450 civilians were killed, making it one of the deadliest periods since the start of the conflict in March 2015, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.

"The airstrikes have been targeting our farms and shanties randomly, so we have stopped to work," Dahfash told TRT World. "We are just praying for Allah's help."

"Many were killed and injured," he continued. "It's dangerous to even help the injured people. The airstrikes sometimes target the same area several times."

The Saudi-backed coalition justifies its aggression saying their aim is to liberate Hudaida city and its strategic seaport from the control of the "Iranian-backed Houthi militias." On the rising civilian death toll, the coalition accuses the Houthis of using civilians as "human shields."

A grab taken from a AFPTV video on August 25, 2018 shows men loading covered bodies onto a truck in Al Duraihimi, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Hudaida, after a missile strike for which the Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition fighting them traded blame.
A grab taken from a AFPTV video on August 25, 2018 shows men loading covered bodies onto a truck in Al Duraihimi, some 20 kilometres (12 miles) south of Hudaida, after a missile strike for which the Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led coalition fighting them traded blame. ( AFP )

When Dahfash saw relentless airstrikes killing civilians, he thought he could be the next target. There was no easy escape, though. The fighter jets pounded everything that moved - from push carts to vehicles on the main roads between Duraihimi and the Hudaida city. 

"I felt that death was staring at us," Dahfash said. "We stayed indoors waiting for whatever was written in our destiny."

The father of 12 children, Dahfash shared a single-room doorless shanty with his two sons, two nephews and a grandson. His relatives lived nearby in four other shanties.

Before the war came to Hudaida, farmers slept by 8:00 pm and woke up before the dawn. The war forced them to change their routine. They slept when the roaring warplanes disappeared from the skies for a few hours.

One night, menacing sounds of fighter jets tore through the town's silence, leaving Dahfash and his family cold with fear. Dahfash comforted his family saying it was just another night of horror, which will end soon. 

But the sound drew nearer and nearer and in a few seconds, Dahfash recalls, everything went blank. 

"I lost consciousness and when I regained my senses, I found myself under debris and dust," Dahfash said. "I was under a wooden column of our shelter house." 

Dahfash said he crawled out of the debris until one of his sons found and carried him to another shanty.  

Dahfash's body was severly wounded, blood oozing out of his belly, arms, legs and other body parts. Outside, the air assault continued all through the day and the night. The Saudi backed forces also launched a ground offensive, clashing with the Houthi rebels along the border towns of Hudaida. 

While Dahfash struggled with stinging wound pain, he was told that the airstrike killed his two sons, two nephews and a grandson, while it was him and his youngest son who survived the attack. 

The family covered Dahfash's wounds with pieces of cloth. The next day, the ground fighting subsided but every now and then an aircraft dropped a bomb or two. The family decided to take Dahfash to the hospital, despite the risk of being targeted on the way to Hudaida city. 

He's currently receiving treatment at al Askri Hospital in Hudaida. And a couple of days ago, another bad news followed him.

His relatives who lived next to his room were struck by another air strike on August 24, while the family drove out of Duraihimi in three rented cars. At least 26 people were killed in the attack, most of them children.

The attack drew international condemnation with the UN criticising the Saudi-led coalition forces and calling for an investigation. 

Dahfash feels helpless. "I cannot do anything to help my family," he said. "I can only pray to Allah to take revenge from our killers".

Exchange of accusations

A fighter loyal to Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, the Saudi backed president of Yemen, told TRT World that "sometimes we target civilians" because the Houthis attacked them from residential areas.

"We hope the civilians will prevent the Houthis from using residential areas for military purposes," the fighter said on the condition of remaining anonymous. 

"The liberation of Duraihimi will happen soon and the civilians will enjoy their normal lives again."

But for Dahfash, life has lost its meaning. "I lost most of my family in this war. I just want to go back and die in my village."  


Additional reporting by Nabil Badi.

Source: TRT World