Monday, 24 September, 2018

United States certifies Saudi, UAE acting to reduce risks to Yemen civilians

A Yemeni child recites a prayer by the graves of schoolboys who were killed while on a bus that was hit by a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in August Pompeo allows US military aid to Saudi coalition in Yemen to continue | TheHill
Steven Clarke | 15 September, 2018, 19:10

The facts however, tell a different story.

Pompeo said he notified Congress on Tuesday of the determination, which allows for continued US military aid.

Without the move by Pompeo, the USA would have been barred from refuelling Saudi-led aircraft in mid-air except when the coalition is striking Yemeni factions of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State (IS) group, the Houthis' ballistic missiles, or protecting U.S. military units and global commercial shipping.

The report to Congress was due today, ordered as part of the 2019 defense bill that passed Congress and was signed by President Trump earlier this year.

The UAE and Saudi Arabia formed a coalition of Arab states in March 2015 to intervene in Yemen and back the Aden-based government, when the Houthis moved south.

Hadi is supported by a coalition of Arab and Gulf states, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which is backed by U.S. intelligence and logistical support.

"It is as clear as day that the Saudi-led coalition is recklessly - and likely intentionally - killing innocent civilians and children and they're doing it with U.S. bombs and so-called targeting assistance", Senator Murphy said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis issued a separate statement endorsing the certification, saying the UAE and Saudis are making "every effort" to reduce the risk of civilian casualties and collateral damage. Thousands have been killed in Yemen in the yearslong conflict.

Shaheen said Wednesday's certification from the State Department did not meet the demands from Congress, which required the agency to provide evidence that the Saudi-led coalition has taken steps to end the war, alleviate the humanitarian crisis and protect civilians.

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The Saudi-led air campaign has been dogged by rights concerns, which were renewed August 9 when a devastating airstrike on a school bus killed 40 children aged 6 - 11. Human Rights Watch called the bus bombing an apparent war crime, and urged Western countries to "immediately halt weapons sales" to Riyadh. "Citizens continue to be taking the brunt of the attacks; civilian infrastructure, hospitals, schools, continue to be hit".

The Yemen conflict has triggered the world's worst humanitarian crisis, with the United Nations estimating that as many as 10,000 people have died, a lot of them civilians, since the coalition launched military operations in 2015.

The UN report found that these attacks raised "serious questions about the targeting process applied by the coalition". The outcry prompted a rare admission from the coalition that the strike was "unjustified".

On Wednesday, Pompeo did just that - assuring Congress that the Saudis were really, truly committed to trying their very best to massacre somewhat fewer children in Yemen. Meanwhile, an internal investigation concluded that "mistakes" were made when carrying out the strike, the closest thing to an apology the coalition has offered.

In addition, all sides have been accused of rape and sexual violence, and using child soldiers.

In its efforts to oust Yemen's Houthi rebels from the capital, Sana, the coalition has bombed weddings, funerals, factories and other civilian infrastructure, often with munitions acquired from the United States.

It is not the first time Abu Dhabi has had to respond to claims of human rights abuses in Yemen.

In June, the Associated Press revealed that hundreds of detainees had been subjected to sexual abuse and torture.

Pompeo also called on the coalition to allow humanitarian aid into the country. The conflict has exacerbated hunger and disease in what was already the Arab world's poorest country, and some critics blame the coalition for contributing to suffering by making it more hard to import needed food and medicine.

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