Sanaa, Yemen—Dr. Shawky Ali Abdel Gadeer struggled beneath the rubble for his cellphone. It was just after 2 AM on June 12. A missile had smashed into his house in Sanaa’s historic Old City, burying him and his relatives beneath the ancient bricks. The 40-year-old pharmacist managed to call his mother. He described where he was, and told her to find help. Local residents began to dig in the darkness. By the time they pulled him out roughly four hours later, he was dead.
Four other Gadeer family members were killed in the strike: Hassan, his wife Amat al-Malik, Abdullah, and his 16-year-old son Rashad. Rashad’s body was the last to be retrieved, at 6 PM. Residents wrapped his corpse in a blanket and carried him out from the rubble and through the picturesque gingerbread-style buildings to be buried.
The Saudi military later denied responsibility for the attack.
“They are liars, should we not believe our own eyes?” says Abdullah Kallala, Dr. Shawky’s uncle. His hands and clothes are covered in earth and dust from digging out his relatives. Beside him, four family members are carefully salvaging what they can from the ruins of the house—blankets, a toy car, a kettle. “Is there a weapons store here or any Scud missiles? There is nothing,” he says.
For nearly three months, Saudi Arabia, backed by a coalition of Arab countries, has been bombing Yemen on an almost daily basis in a campaign against the Houthis, a rebel group that has taken over large parts of the country, including the capital.
Forces loyal to ex-president Ali Abdullah Saleh have allied with the Houthis and have waged vicious street battles with local militiamen for control of cities like Aden and Taiz. More than 2,200 people have been killed in the conflict, including nearly 300 children, and over 9,700 have been injured, according to UNICEF.
Aside from the bombs and bullets, Yemenis are being slowly strangled by an air, sea, and land blockade imposed by the coalition that has cut off supplies of food and fuel to the Arab world’s poorest country. More than 20 million people—or 80 percent of the population—are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance, nearly half of them children.
In Sanaa, the shortage of fuel has literally brought life to a standstill. Entire streets are blocked off with an endless row of unmoving vehicles stacked three lanes deep waiting in line for an unseen gas station more than a mile in the distance. People eat and sleep in their cars, sometimes waiting days for a turn at the pump. Some get out and push their cars when the line finally moves a few inches forward at a time. When they finally get there, they are allowed a maximum of 60 liters each. Tempers flare and fights break out; people have killed each other over fuel a number of times.
“My whole life is about getting gas,” says Tawfiq al-Hamadi, a 48-year-old government worker who has waited 26 hours and has finally reached the front of the line. “Life is paralyzed, everything is stopped. It’s a tragic situation.” He says he siphons some of the gas out of his car when he gets home to use in his generator.