Ismail lies on green linoleum sheets, his black eyes too large for his gaunt face. Craning his neck, he tries to inspect the bandage covering his body, but weakness pulls him back. From the pillow, he whispers “hawan” (mortar).
Ismail, who says he is 12 but has the body of a six-year-old, used to make a few Yemeni riyals every day by washing graves in a new cemetery in the city of Taiz devoted to those killed in Yemen’s ongoing civil war.
Just before noon on one day in November, he and his two young cousins were sitting under a mango tree, cleaning the grave of a 10-year-old girl called Basma, when three mortar shells fell. A splatter of deep scars on the tree trunk and on the grave’s concrete surface mark the spot where one exploded. The two cousins, aged two and four, died instantly.