TAIZ, Yemen — A grassy strip of no-man's land divides the city that's covered in bullet holes. Taiz, Yemen's third most populous city, is symbolic of the civil war that has ravaged the country for nearly a decade.
The war has destroyed millions of Yemeni lives, but perhaps nowhere has it been felt more than in the front-line neighborhoods in Taiz that are closest to the fighting and have seen the worst of the war.
Snipers have terrorized residents for years. Many children have lost limbs due to rockets and landmines, while playing outside.
"I don't play with my friends outside, I sit at home," said 9- year-old Mohammad Abdulrahman al-Yusufi, who is about as old as the war itself, and lost his father in a rocket attack by Houthi militants.
"I want the war to end, so life can come back here. They destroyed all the homes, they destroyed everything," he said.
In 2015, the Iran-backed Houthi militia took over the north and west of Taiz with the rest of the city under the control of the Yemeni government, backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.
The Houthi blockade severely disrupted the lives of people here. Distances that used to take 10–15 minutes by car are now an 8-hour drive on precarious mountain roads, as nearly all of the direct routes have been cut off. This has impeded the flow of food and medicine and other necessities to the city, driven prices up and further disrupted a failing economy.
The areas of Taiz under Houthi control have most of the city's water resources as well as the factories and jobs.
Several residential buildings were also hit by Saudi airstrikes in the first years of the war, killing many civilians — which led the U.S. to take a step back from providing military and intelligence support to Saudi Arabia.
In the last year, peace talks between the Houthis and Saudi Arabia have slowed down the fighting. The streets are mostly peaceful, but negotiations so far have failed to produce an agreement that would ease the Houthi siege of Taiz.
Families have been separated for years by the blockade. The shortage of water and food is further exacerbating malnutrition and dehydration in women and children.
The citizens of Taiz say they are at their wits end, desperate for change.
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