A battlewagon roarsthrough the gates of a beach villa on Yemen’s Red Sea coast, a luxury property with a 20-foot chandelier and indoor pool, now repurposed as a busy field hospital. Young fighters, drenched in the sweat of the battle, leap from the pickup and hoist a wounded comrade, blood streaming down his face, into the emergency ward.
A piece of shrapnel had sliced his nose and lodged in his right eye. The fighter, a portly young man named Ibrahim Awad, groans. “Please, Hameed” he calls to a fellow fighter, a glint of panic in his one good eye. “My head feels heavy.”
The Saudi-led war in Yemen has ground on for more than three years, killing thousands of civilians and creating what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. But it took the crisis over the apparent murder of the dissident Jamal Khashoggi in a Saudi consulate two weeks ago for the world to take notice.
Saudi Arabia’s brash young crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, under scrutiny over the Khashoggi case, now faces a fresh reckoning for his ruthless prosecution of the war in Yemen — yet another foreign policy debacle for Saudi Arabia, and a catastrophe for the Arab world’s poorest country.
Outside Yemen, the catastrophic war has been largely overlooked.
The Saudis barred foreign journalists from northern Yemen, scene of the biggest airstrike atrocities and the deepest hunger. The conflict is mostly unknown to Americans, whose military has backed the Saudi-led coalition’s campaign with intelligence, bombs and refueling, leading to accusations of complicity in possible war crimes.
Since June, the war has centered on the Red Sea port of Hudaydah. After a tense journey along a coastal highway prone to bombs and ambushes, we made a rare visit this month to the chaotic battlefield at the city gates. There we saw what Prince Mohammed’s war looks like up close, from one side, among those Yemenis who are fighting and dying in it.