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Dozens of Civilians Killed in Another Saudi Massacre

Civilians have borne the brunt of the Saudi coalition bombing campaign from the start.

Rubble aftermath of a Saudi airstrike on a Yemeni neighborhood in 2015. Almigdad Mojalli/Voice of America

More Saudi coalition airstrikes have been hitting civilian targets in Yemen this week. An attack on Wednesday killed 25 people, including women and children, when Saudi coalition jets bombed a party:

At least 25 people, including children, were reportedly killed in an air strike on a residential area in Yemen’s northern Al-Jawf province, where a gathering for a circumcision party was underway, residents said.

The strike took place on the city of Al-Hazm, around 100km northeast of the capital Sanaa on Wednesday. It is the second deadly strike reported against civilian targets in Yemen since Sunday.

The airstrike in Al-Jawf is just the latest in an increasing number of airstrikes this year. The bombing campaign has been intensifying over the last few months at the same time that the pandemic is ravaging the population. The first half of 2020 saw a marked increase in airstrikes compared to the previous year:

Civilians have borne the brunt of the Saudi coalition bombing campaign from the start. Most civilian casualties in the war have been the result of Saudi coalition strikes, and Saudi coalition attacks have consistently hit non-military targets at least a third of the time every year since the bombing began. The dishonest conceit that U.S. and U.K. arms and support make civilian casualties less likely has been disproved again and again by the conduct of the Saudi coalition. The gathering hit by the latest airstrike was a group of innocent civilians with no possible military target anywhere nearby:

Shway lost his brother and four cousins in the strike.

“Our area is safe and there are no military camps near to it. So no one expected that air strikes will target us,” he said.

“We don’t have any sins, but we are Yemenis and no one cares about us. The whole world is seeing the Saudis kill us and no one moves to stop these massacres on Yemenis.”

The U.K. government has announced that it will resume arms sales to Saudi Arabia despite extensive evidence that shows how the Saudi coalition uses the weapons that the U.S. and U.K. sell to them. In a disgraceful evasion this week, the government claimed that the hundreds of documented war crimes committed with these weapons were “isolated incidents” and therefore didn’t present an obstacle to more arms sales. U.K. arms sales to the Saudis had previously been ruled unlawful, but obviously the Johnson government wasn’t going to let that get in the way of funneling more weapons to despotic clients.

Abdulaziz Kilani comments on the outrageous decision:

Its policy on selling arms to Saudi Arabia suggests that Britain is not only turning a blind eye to the Saudi-led coalition’s atrocities in Yemen, but also providing what seems to be a cover-up for crimes committed by the coalition in Yemen. That is because the Saudi air strikes on hospitals and other civilian sites for five years clearly represent a pattern of violations by Riyadh.

Opponents of the arms sales will fight the government’s action:

The Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) said it was now examining all legal options to challenge the government’s decision to restart arms sales, and the scant ministerial justification provided to MPs on Monday will encourage campaigners into believing a further court action could succeed.

CAAT spokesman Andrew Smith said: “The government claims that any violations of International Humanitarian Law are isolated incidents, but the MoD itself is aware of 516 of them.

“These are not statistics, they are people’s lives. Saudi forces have bombed schools, hospitals and homes. They have turned gatherings into massacres and inflicted a humanitarian crisis on Yemen. We are considering all legal options to challenge this appalling decision.”

Akshaya Kumar of Human Rights Watch also denounced the U.K. government’s decision:

But now, the UK laughably claims it has “developed a revised methodology” that supports further sales based on the specious conclusion that the Saudis’ violations are “isolated” incidents.

Human Rights Watch made a 172-page submission to the UK last year that indicates the exact opposite. Despite their arsenal of top-of-the-line weapons with precision guidance, Saudi-led coalition aircraft keep hitting Yemeni civilians while they’re shopping for groceries, celebrating weddings, riding in school buses, mourning their dead at funerals, and seeking treatment for cholera.

Recently, the UN confirmed that the coalition hit four schools and hospitals in 2019. The International Rescue Committee estimates that more than half of the bombs dropped by the Saudi-led coalition in May of this year hit civilians or civilian infrastructure. These attacks have almost always been followed by self-investigations that excuse away the crimes.

Neither the law nor the facts support a conclusion that the problems with Saudi Arabia’s conduct are “isolated.”

Supporters of the Saudi coalition have long sought to portray attacks on civilians as accidental, but the record shows that there has been a systematic targeting of civilian infrastructure, food production, and sources of clean water. Hundreds of documented war crimes show that these are not “isolated” attacks, but rather an integral part of how the Saudi coalition has chosen to wage war against the people of Yemen. All arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and other members of the coalition must be halted in order to protect the lives of innocent Yemenis.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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