War Crime Evidence: US Bomb Fragments Found at Site of Saudi Funeral Massacre in Yemen
October 12, 2016
Alex Emmons / The Intercept & BBC World News
Fragments of what appear to be US-made bombs have been found at the scene of one of the most horrific civilian massacres of Saudi Arabia's 18-month air campaign in Yemen. Aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition on Saturday bombed a community hall in Sana'a, Yemen's capital city, where thousands of people had gathered for a funeral. The aircraft struck the hall four times, killing more than 140 people and wounding 525. One local health official described the aftermath as "a lake of blood."
Photos Show Fragments of US Bombs
At Site of Yemen Funeral Massacre
Alex Emmons / The Intercept
The site of the funeral airstrike in Sana'a on October 8, 2016.
(Oct. 10 2016) – Fragments of what appear to be US-made bombs have been found at the scene of one of the most horrific civilian massacres of Saudi Arabia's 18-month air campaign in Yemen.
Aircraft from the Saudi-led coalition on Saturday bombed a community hall in Sana'a, Yemen's capital city, where thousands of people had gathered for a funeral for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, the father of the rebel-appointed interior minister. The aircraft struck the hall four times, killing more than 140 people and wounding 525. One local health official described the aftermath as "a lake of blood."
Multiple bomb fragments at the scene appear to confirm the use of American-produced MK-82 guided bombs. One fragment, posted in a picture on the Facebook page of a prominent Yemeni lawyer, says "FOR USE ON MK-82 FIN, GUIDED BOMB."
ITV News correspondent Neil Connery visited the site shortly after the attack, and found a similar bomb fragment. Connery said he was told by a Yemeni official that it appeared to be a MK-82 bomb.
The MK-82 is a 500-pound explosive weapon manufactured in the United States. The code "96214" indicates that the bomb was produced by Raytheon, the third-largest defense contractor in the United States.
Saudi Arabia's bombing campaign in Yemen began in March 2015 after Houthi rebels deposed the US- and Saudi-backed dictator, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. Since the war began, Saudi Arabia has intentionally targeted numerous homes, factories, markets, schools, and hospitals.
The US has supplied Saudi Arabia with more than $20 billion worth of weapons during its Yemen campaign, including thousands of MK-82 bombs. In November, the State Department approved the sale of 8,020 new MK-82 bombs as part of a $1.29 billion transfer of more air-to-ground weapons.
Throughout his presidency, President Obama has sold more than $115 billion worth of weapons to the Saudis – more than any other President. But after Saturday's massacre, the Obama White House issued its first public threat to cut its support.
"US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check," Ned Price, spokesman for the White House National Security Council, said in a statement. Price added that the administration is "prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests."
On Monday, Reuters reported that Obama administration lawyers have not reached a conclusion on whether the US is a "co-belligerent" in the conflict according to international law, a distinction that might raise legal risks and obligations. But since the US has flown refueling missions for Saudi aircraft and supplied Saudi Arabia with weapons and targeting intelligence, it is complicit in Saudi Arabia's atrocities by any normal definition.
As Bruce Riedel, a 30-year CIA officer and senior fellow at the Brookings Institute, said in April, "If the United States and the United Kingdom, tonight, told King Salman [of Saudi Arabia] 'this war has to end,' it would end tomorrow. The Royal Saudi Air Force cannot operate without American and British support."
Yemeni rescue workers search for victims amid the rubble of a destroyed building following reported airstrikes
Yemen's Rebel Funeral Hall Attack 'Kills Scores'
BBC World News
(October 8, 2016) -- More than 140 people have been killed and over 500 injured in air strikes on a funeral gathering in Yemen's capital Sanaa, a senior UN official says.
Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen, condemned "the horrific attack". The rebel Houthi-run government said a Saudi-led coalition was responsible -- a claim Saudi Arabia denied.
The US said it had launched an "immediate review" of its already reduced support for the coalition.
"US security co-operation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check," White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said. He said Washington was "prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen's tragic conflict".
The Saudi-led coalition is backing the internationally recognised government of Yemen. Thousands of civilians have been killed since the war began in 2014.
'Lake of Blood'
Mr. McGoldrick said aid workers who arrived at the scene had been "shocked and outraged" by Saturday's air strikes. He also called for an immediate investigation.
The attack targeted the funeral of the father of Houthi-appointed Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan, an ally of the rebels and of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
One rescuer, Murad Tawfiq, described the scene as a "lake of blood", the Associated Press news agency reports. Graphic photos circulating on social media show charred and mutilated bodies. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it had prepared 300 body bags.
The ICRC's Rima Kamal told the BBC "several air strikes" had hit the venue where hundreds of civilians had been present. The damage to the buildings was extensive.
A number of Houthi rebel military and security officials are believed to have been killed in the strike. BBC correspondents say their presence could explain why the funeral was targeted, though it is likely many civilians were also there.
The Saudi-led coalition denied carrying out the strikes, suggesting "other causes". The government of President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi is fighting both the Houthis and forces loyal to Mr. Saleh.
Thousand of civilians have been killed since the Saudi-led air campaign started last March, the UN's rights body says. Nearly three million people have been displaced in Yemen, one of the region's poorest countries, since the war began in 2014.
The Houthis took the capital then, forcing Mr. Hadi's government to flee. Some ministers have since returned to the city of Aden.
Yemen Crisis: How Bad Is the Humanitarian Situation?
BBC World News
(December 15, 2015) -- UN officials have warned that the already desperate humanitarian situation in Yemen has severely deteriorated over the last eight months. How bad is it?
The country is experiencing "a humanitarian catastrophe." That was the frank assessment of the UN's Humanitarian Co-ordinator, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, on 19 August.
The UN said on 12 November that at least 5,878 people had been killed and 27,867 others had been wounded since the escalation in March of the conflict between forces loyal to the exiled President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi and those allied to the Houthi rebel movement.
The destruction of infrastructure and restrictions on imports imposed by a Saudi-led coalition carrying out air strikes against the rebels have led to 21.2 million people being deprived of life-sustaining commodities and basic services.
Yemen Was Already Struggling
Yemen has been plagued by years of instability, poor governance, lack of rule of law and widespread poverty.
Before March, almost half of all Yemenis lived below the poverty line, two-thirds of youths were unemployed, and basic social services were on the verge of collapse.
Almost 16 million people, or 61% of the population, were in need of some form of humanitarian assistance.
Civilians Are Bearing the Brunt of the Violence
Between 26 March, when the Saudi-led coalition began bombing rebel forces, and 16 October, the UN recorded 7,655 civilian casualties, including 2,577 killed and 5,078 wounded. Just under half of Yemen's population is under 18 and at least 505 children are among those killed. The UN children's fund (UNICEF) warned in October that the "the situation for children is deteriorating every single day, and it is horrific".
On 18 November, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said it had verified 8,875 reports of human rights violations -- an average of 43 every day.
A report published by Amnesty International in August said all parties might have committed war crimes. It accused the Saudi-led coalition of carrying out unlawful air strikes on heavily populated sites with no military targets nearby, and the Houthis of using heavy weapons indiscriminately.
Four Out of Five Yemenis Now Need Aid
After a visit to the country in August, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), Peter Maurer, declared: "Yemen after five months looks like Syria after five years."
The conflict has reached 21 out of 22 of Yemen's provinces and shows no sign of ending. More than 2.51 million people have been displaced internally -- more than four times the number recorded at the beginning of 2015. An additional 121,000 people have fled the country.
An estimated 14.4 million are considered food-insecure and 7.6 million severely food insecure, according to the WFP.
An estimated 3 million people now require treatment or preventive services for malnutrition. About 2 million are currently acutely malnourished, including 1.3 million children -- 320,000 of whom are suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
Yemen usually imports more than 90% of its food. The naval embargo and fighting around the port of Aden have stopped all but a fraction of imports getting through, causing severe shortages of food and price rises. A lack of fuel, coupled with insecurity and damage to markets and roads, have also prevented supplies from being distributed.
Ten of Yemen's 22 provinces provinces have been classified by the WFP at the "emergency" level for food security -- one step below "famine".
The restrictions on imports of fuel -- essential for maintaining the water supply -- combined with damage to pumps and sewage treatment facilities, also mean that 19.3 million people now lack access to safe drinking water or sanitation.
People have been forced to rely on untreated water supplies and unprotected wells, placing them at risk of life-threatening illnesses such as diarrhoea and cholera.
Those affected, however, will struggle to get medical help. An estimated 14.1 million people across Yemen lack access to basic healthcare, with almost 600 health facilities having stopped functioning due to conflict-related damage or lack of fuel, staff and supplies, according to the UN.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) has warned that medicines for many chronic diseases are no longer available and pregnant women may soon face dramatically increased risks of death during childbirth. Outbreaks of deadly communicable diseases have also been reported.
Aid organisations are struggling to help. More than 70 humanitarian organisations have been working to help those in need. However, a lack of funding and access constraints have critically hampered their efforts.
In June, the UN launched an appeal for $1.6 billion (£1bn) to allow it to assist 11.7 million people. But as of 18 November, it was 43% funded. A Saudi humanitarian organisation, the King Salman Center, has signed agreements with the UN that will provide $244 million in aid for Yemen.
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