Civilians Continue to Die as UK and US Profit off Arms Sales to Saudis

September 24th, 2016 - by admin

Jason Ditz / & Nick Cumming-Bruce / The New York Times & Tom Batchelor / The Express – 2016-09-24 23:15:37

Over 300 Civilians Killed in Yemen Since Early August Ceasefire Ended

September 22, 2016 — Medics and residents say 26 people are now dead and 60 others wounded after an Arab coalition air strike hit a house in a residential area in western Yemen. (Reuters)

Over 300 Civilians Killed in Yemen
Since Early August Ceasefire Ended

Jason Ditz /

(September 23, 2016) — Since the pro-Saudi faction issued its latest demand for unconditional surrender and then withdrew from the peace talks hosted by Kuwait, violence in Yemen has been on the rise, with Saudi airstrikes taking a heavy toll, particularly on the civilian population in Shi’ite parts of the country.

The most recent figures out of Yemen are that at least 329 civilians have been confirmed killed, and 426 others wounded just since that ceasefire ended on August 6. The overwhelming majority of the deaths were in Saudi airstrikes, which continue to regularly pound areas under Shi’ite control.

This new reported death toll comes in the wake of a particularly bloody airstrike earlier this week in Hodeidah, where at least 32 civilians were killed. The Saudi government is fighting with the UN General Assembly to avoid facing any international investigation into the growing war crimes.

The Saudis had a similar battle at the UN last year during the general assembly, and ultimately convinced them to let the Saudi government, and a handful of allies, investigate themselves.

The UN Human Rights Commissioner told reporters that the toll marked a 40% increase in monthly casualties over the figures that came out in July, and that the death toll was likely much higher, with death tolls oftentimes under-reported.

Rising Toll on Civilians in Yemen Raises Alarm
Nick Cumming-Bruce / The New York Times

GENEVA (September 23, 2016) — United Nations human rights officials expressed alarm on Friday at a sharp rise in civilian casualties in Yemen since peace talks collapsed last month, the great majority of them inflicted in airstrikes by a coalition led by Saudi Arabia.

At least 329 civilians have been killed, and at least 426 have been injured since the beginning of August. Fighting resumed after Aug. 6, when talks collapsed between the Saudi-led coalition supporting Yemen’s president, Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and forces aligned with Houthi rebels supported by Iran who control the capital and large portions of the country.

The toll was reported as Saudi Arabia and Arab allies waged a diplomatic campaign at the United Nations Human Rights Council to stave off an international investigation into the conduct of hostilities and possible war crimes.

Heavy Saudi pressure on Western governments and businesses succeeded in stalling a similar initiative in the Council last year; diplomats say the Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, has again lobbied against an independent international inquiry. They add that growing awareness of the bloodshed has made it harder for the United States and Britain, Saudi Arabia’s major suppliers of arms and munitions, to look away.

An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a market and residential area of the city of Hodeidah on Wednesday has been the most vivid example of the carnage. The United Nations secretary general, Ban Ki-moon, condemned the attack, which killed at least 26 civilians, according to human rights monitors.

“The death toll could be much higher,” Cécile Pouilly, a spokeswoman for the United Nations high commissioner for human rights, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. Ten days earlier, two coalition airstrikes had reportedly killed 21 civilians, including a group of men drilling for water.

The United Nations documented at least 41 attacks on civilian facilities like clinics, schools and markets by both coalition and rebel forces in August, killing at least 180 people, Ms. Pouilly said, a 40 percent increase on the casualties in July, when parties to the conflict were still in talks.

The charity Doctors Without Borders announced last month that it was pulling staff members out of six hospitals in Yemen after coalition planes bombed a facility, killing 19 people and injuring 24, the fourth time that hospitals supported by the group had come under attack by the coalition since the start of the war in March 2015.

By Thursday, the number of civilians killed this month had reached 149, she added, of which 126 were attributed to the coalition and nine to pro-Houthi groups, with others mostly killed by groups that were either linked to the Islamic State or had not been identified.

The United Nations also voiced concern over the effects of a blockade of the city of Taiz, enforced by popular committees aligned with the Houthi rebels, leaving residents critically short of food and water, Ms. Pouilly said, and causing a near-total collapse of health services.

The action added to a long list of Houthi abuses documented in a report to the Human Rights Council this month. The abuses include torture and extrajudicial killings; indiscriminate shelling and rocket attacks on residential areas; sniper attacks on civilians; the laying of land mines and arrests and intimidation of journalists.

The report also found, however, that the majority of civilian casualties had been caused by the Saudi-led coalition.

Saudi Arabia and President Hadi’s government condemned that report as biased and have put forward a resolution in the Human Rights Council calling on the United Nations to provide experts to work within a Yemeni commission investigating human rights violations. Rights groups are adamant that a national body lacks expertise and that its reporting falls far short of international standards.

The European Union countered on Friday by drafting a competing resolution calling for a United Nations mission to Yemen, setting the scene for a week of diplomatic haggling before the Council decides how to proceed.

“It’s a litmus test for the credibility of the council and its ability to engage with the needs of civilians on the ground,” said John Fisher, the Geneva director of Human Rights Watch. “We can’t leave it to a national process to deliver accountability.”

Mr. Hadi vowed at the United Nations on Friday to “extract Yemen from the claws of Iran,” and he accused Iran of taking a “multitude of actions and interventions” to block the path toward peace.

Britain Increases Aid to Yemen
While Selling Arms to Saudis — Who Are Bombing Yemen

Tom Batchelor / The Express

LONDON (September 22, 2016) — International Development Secretary Priti Patel announced that Britain will provide an additional 37 million pounds in funding for Yemen this year.

A total of 72 million pounds has already been committed to the crisis in Yemen by the UK Government. But the Government has simultaneously approved more than 3 billion pounds in arms sales over the past 18 months.

Hundreds have been killed in airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals, markets and private homes, and nearly half of Yemen’s 22 provinces are on the verge of famine.

The rapidly deteriorating situation in Yemen has prompted campaigners to call on Theresa May to halt the arms trade with the Saudis.

Activists say UK-made armaments are being used in indiscriminate bombing raids on civilian targets by the Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting Shia rebels known as the Houthis.

News that the Government now plans to up the amount of aid it is spending in the country is likely to raise eyebrows, with campaigners arguing that it would be more effective to save the aid money and not sell the arms in the first place.

A recent report by MPs said there was evidence that Saudi airstrikes had killed 47 civilians — among them 21 women and 15 children — and injured 58 more when a house hosting a wedding party was struck by two missiles.

Andrew Smith of Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen has only got worse, and the government’s response has been to sell even more weapons.

“The UK has been complicit in the destruction; now it must act to stop it. That means ending the arms sales and ending its uncritical support for the Saudi regime.”

International Development Minister Baroness Anelay said the Government “takes its arms export responsibilities very seriously and operates one of the most robust arms export control regimes in the world”.

US Drone Destroys Car in Eastern Yemen, Killing Four ‘Suspects’
Jason Ditz /

(September 23, 2016) — The third drone strike in Yemen reported just this week, officials with the pro-Saudi faction in Yemen are saying that a US drone attacked and destroyed a car traveling in the Maarib Province, claiming four “suspected al-Qaeda fighters” were killed.

Only one of the people killed in the attack were named, and claimed as a “local commander.” The US offered no statement of their own backing up the assessment that those slain were members of al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). All too often, this remains the case, with many victims never identified publicly at all.

“Signature strikes,” in which US drones attack people simply because they look from the drone’s view like they’re doing something like AQAP would do, has killed a large number of people with no definitive connection to terror. This often can be as simple as several cars driving in the same general vicinity on a usually sparsely traveled road being assumed to be a “convoy.”

The US withdrew their ground forces from Yemen in early 2015, ahead of the Saudi invasion, and thus has little active intelligence on the ground. Despite this, the drone strikes never really stopped, meaning that the drone campaign was not particularly reliant on having accurate data on who is being killed.

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