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Mar 22, 8:03 PM EDT

Rights group: US, UK arms to Saudi coalition harm Yemenis

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Rights group: US, UK arms to Saudi coalition harm Yemenis

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SANAA, Yemen (AP) -- The flow of U.S. and U.K. arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen has resulted in "enormous harm to Yemeni civilians" over the course of the conflict, an international rights watchdog said Friday as the stalemated war is about to enter its third year.

Amnesty International has documented violations of international law by all warring parties, including the Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis and other groups operating in the war-torn country, the group's statement said.

Yemen has been embroiled in a war pitting the Houthis against the internationally recognized government, which is allied with a Saudi-led military coalition. The war started in March 2015 when the coalition began pounding the Houthis with airstrikes after they took control of the capital, Sanaa.

"Three years on, Yemen's conflict shows no real signs of abating, and all sides continue to inflict horrific suffering on the civilian population," said Lynn Maalouf, Amnesty's Middle East research director. "Schools and hospitals lie in ruins, thousands have lost their lives and millions are displaced and in dire need of humanitarian aid."

There is "extensive evidence that irresponsible arms flows" to the Saudi Arabia coalition and high casualties have not deterred the United States, United Kingdom and other states, including France, Spain and Italy, from continuing to transfer of billions of dollars' worth of such arms to the Saudi coalition, Maalouf said.

Likewise, Amnesty said, Houthis and other groups have killed or injured civilians during the conflict by indiscriminately firing explosive munitions into residential areas. It also said Houthis carry out arbitrary arrests, detentions, enforced disappearances, torture and other violations that may amount to war crimes.

The stalemated war has damaged Yemen's infrastructure, crippled its health system and pushed it to the brink of famine. The country is now the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance. Malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed or sickened thousands of civilians over the years.

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