UNITED NATIONS, United States - Some 519 people have been killed and nearly 1,700 injured in two weeks of fighting in Yemen, the UN aid chief said Thursday, raising alarm over the fate of civilians.
Valerie Amos said she was "extremely concerned" for the safety of civilians trapped in the fierce fighting and appealed to armed factions to do their utmost to protect ordinary Yemenis.
The violence has sharply escalated in Yemen following a Saudi-led air campaign launched on March 26 to stop an advance by Shiite Huthi rebels that forced President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi to flee to Saudi Arabia.
Aid groups have expressed alarm over the mounting toll of civilian casualties following an air strike on a camp for displaced people and the bombing of a dairy. Dozens were killed in both attacks.
"Those engaged in fighting must ensure that hospitals, schools, camps for refugees and those internally displaced and civilian infrastructure, especially in populated areas, are not targeted or used for military purposes," Amos said in a statement.
The UN children's agency this week said at least 62 children had been killed and 30 injured over the past week in Yemen, and that more of them were being recruited as child soldiers.
Tens of thousands of people have fled their homes, some making the perilous journey by sea to Djibouti and Somalia, Amos said.
UN aid agencies are working with the Yemen Red Crescent to deliver emergency health kits and generators so that civilians can have clean water, food and blankets, she added.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon this week reminded all sides to uphold international humanitarian law and protect civilians.
The United Nations is backing Hadi as Yemen's legitimate leader in the face of the Huthi uprising that has plunged the poor Arab state deeper into chaos.
The Huthis seized power in the capital Sanaa in February and last month advanced on the port city of Aden, Hadi's stronghold, where they seized the presidential palace on Thursday.