Despite the village being liberated last year, residents of Haiys still live under threat of rebel fire
'I feel the war erupted just to kill my family,' says man who lost three children to Houthi mortars
Faisal Ali Ba’kar and his two young sisters were filling water containers from a storage tank beside his home in the Yemeni village of Haiys when a mortar round fired by Houthi rebels in the nearby hills exploded next to them.
His sisters, 8-year-old Fatima and 6-year-old Zaiynab, were killed instantly. Eleven-year-old Faisal was left with deep wounds.
Just two months later, Faisal’s one year old sister was killed in a separate mortar attack.
“I will not forget that black day ever, my heart is bleeding. I feel like the war erupted just to kill my family, nothing more", Faisal's father Ali Ba’kar told The National.
Houthi fighters occupied the village of Haiys, 130 kilometres southeast of the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, until it was liberated by pro-government forces in December 2017. Residents recount the systemic violence, intimidation and coercion they suffered under the Houthis and although the rebels have been driven out, the local population is still not safe.
Pushed into the surrounding hills of Al Nar to the east and north, the Houthis pepper the village with indiscriminate mortar fire. On the day that Fatima and Zaiynab were killed, the rebels were firing into the populated neighbourhood around Al Hitary mosque.
A year after the attack that killed his sisters, Faisal is still confined to his rough, homemade bed with a brace tightly fixed to his arm and bandages covering deep wounds to his thighs.
"I was roaming the city trying to find some woods to cook food for them while they went out to the water tank to bring some supplies,” Mr Ba’kar said. “I was walking fast coming back to them to let their mother cook, they hadn’t eaten anything for a day and night because the clashes were very intense. But alas, everything was gone. When I arrived, my two daughters had passed away."
Mr Ba’kar collapsed when he saw the shattered remains of his children and his bleeding son. The thin and pale Faisal sat in silence as his father told the story. A year after the death of his sisters, he still isn’t able to talk about it.
"What can I tell you, you see me. I feel nothing but pain all over my body, the doctors told me that my legs haven't improved yet [even though] it has been a year since I was injured," Faisal said.
In the family home, the destroyed bedroom in which one year old Nada was killed is still shattered and rubble-strewn.
"The Houthi projectile penetrated the wall of the room and torn apart the bed where Nada was sleeping with her mother to kill her immediately," Mr Bakar said. Although their baby was killed, her mother survived the blast.
"My wife has...lost three daughters and the only son we have is still suffering very much, this is really heartbreaking," said Mr Ba'kar, staring at a photo of his baby which he has hung on the wall above the bed she was killed.