The U.S.-enabled Saudi coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war on Friday promised to investigate the airstrike it launched Thursday that hit a school bus full of children. At least 43 people were killed, including 29 children, and dozens more were injured in the attack.
"The leadership of the coalition has ordered the immediate opening of an investigation to assess the events, clarify their circumstances, and announce the results as soon as possible," said a coalition official.
This is not the first time the coalition has investigated itself. In a similar probe last year — surprise, surprise — the Saudi-led group cleared itself of wrongdoing. By contrast, human rights organizations and a broad array of observers have credibly accused the U.S.-supported coalition of war crimes for its callous exacerbation of the rampant suffering of the Yemeni civilian population.
Parents of the children on the bus are still searching through the rubble in hopes of finding their family alive. "Is this Yousif? Is this Yousif? Oh my God!" screamed one father at the scene of the attack. "What is the fault of these small children?"
The U.S. is participating in two wars in Yemen: supporting and aiding a Saudi-led effort to defeat the Iran-backed Houthi Shiite rebels and an older push to eliminate al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), the terrorist organization's most dangerous surviving branch. The latter mission seems to take precedence, because the U.S. has frequently looked the other way as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and their Yemeni allies secretly pay al Qaeda militants to leave occupied areas, declare victory, and recruit AQAP militants to fight alongside their common enemy, the Houthis, The Associated Press reports.
"These compromises and alliances have allowed al Qaida militants to survive to fight another day," and "key participants in the pacts said the U.S. was aware of the arrangements and held off on any drone strikes," AP reports, citing interviews in Yemen with two dozen security officers, militia commanders, tribal mediators, and AQAP members. The U.S. has given billions of dollars in weapons, aircraft refueling, and military intelligence to the Saudi anti-Houthi coalition, but "there is no evidence that American money went to AQAP militants," AP says.
A Pentagon spokesman told AP that the U.S. has "conducted more than 140 strikes to remove key AQAP leaders and disrupt its ability to use ungoverned spaces to recruit, train, and plan operations against the U.S. and our partners across the region" since early 2017. Meanwhile, AQAP says it's using the Saudi and UAE money, equipment, and conferred legitimacy to recruit new members, AP reports.
"Elements of the U.S. military are clearly aware that much of what the U.S. is doing in Yemen is aiding AQAP and there is much angst about that," says Michael Horton at the Jamestown Foundation, a U.S. terrorism analysis group. "However, supporting the UAE and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia against what the U.S. views as Iranian expansionism takes priority over battling AQAP." Read more about the complicated Yemen entanglement at AP. Peter Weber
Loss of significant water infrastructure in a city of 600,000 would be catastrophic under any circumstances, but like much of Yemen, Hodeida is also suffering a cholera epidemic. Cholera is a waterborne illness that has infected more than 1 million Yemenis. Destruction of the plant that sanitizes and supplies the majority of the city's water will dangerously accelerate the disease's spread.
"Damage to sanitation, water, and health facilities jeopardizes everything that we are trying to do," said U.N. humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande. "We could be one airstrike away from an unstoppable [cholera] epidemic."
The United Nations has urged the American-supported Saudi coalition to cease its assault on Hodeida, through which 70 percent of Yemen's food supplies arrive. Yemen is on the brink of famine, so completely shuttering the blockaded port could lead to mass civilian starvation. Already millions of Yemenis are at risk of starving to death, and more than 100 Yemeni children die daily from starvation and preventable diseases. Bonnie Kristian
It would be 'beyond heartless' to end protected status for Yemenis, experts tell Trump administration
A group of 33 former national security officials and 60 advocacy groups sent letters to President Trump's administration urging for an extension of Yemen's temporary protected status, The Hill reported Tuesday.
Amid Yemen's ongoing civil war, which the United Nations says has caused the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, protected status for Yemenis in the U.S. is set to expire. Protected status allows people to temporarily live and work in the U.S. while their home countries are affected by violence or natural disasters. Trump has ended TPS for citizens of Nepal, Haiti, El Salvador, Sudan, and Nicaragua, and has until July 5 to decide whether to end it for Yemen as well.
National security experts like the former ambassador to the U.N., former deputy secretary of state, and former ambassadors to Yemen said that the Trump administration's foreign policy efforts would be damaged if the estimated 1,200 Yemenis in the U.S. were forced to return. The experts argued that increasing instability and humanitarian needs in Yemen could "bolster the propaganda efforts" of al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which would undermine U.S. objectives in the region.
"It would be beyond heartless and cruel" to end TPS for Yemenis, the advocacy groups wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen, pointing out that "our own government has defined [Yemen] as one of the most dangerous and dire places on the planet." The U.N. estimates that the civil war has killed about 6,385 civilians, and the organization has expressed fear that conditions could soon worsen for millions more.
Forces from the U.S.-supported, Saudi-led coalition intervening in Yemen's civil war on Saturday captured the international airport in the rebel-held city of Hodeida. This is the largest battle of the war so far, as Hodeida is the only port controlled by the Houthi rebels.
The United Nations and international humanitarian organizations urged the Saudi coalition to cancel its assault on Hodeida, through which 70 percent of Yemen's food supplies arrive. The country is already wracked by cholera and on the brink of famine, so shuttering the port could lead to mass civilian starvation. Already millions of Yemenis are at risk of starving to death, and more than 100 Yemeni children die daily from starvation and preventable diseases.
Yemen imports 90 percent of its food supply, so the Saudi blockade — cast as an attempt to keep weapons away from Houthi fighters — has had deadly results. "We didn't have any food, or drink or anything, not even water," a Yemeni named Aly Omar, who lives near the captured airport, told Reuters. "I call on the United Nations and the Red Cross to open a way for us to get out of the situation we're in. Our kids, women, and elderly are stuck."
The United Nations has drafted a peace plan for Yemen, proposing to create an inclusive transitional government and calling for an immediate ceasefire, Reuters reports.
The civil war in Yemen began in 2015, pitting the Yemeni government, supported by a Saudi-led coalition, against the Iranian-aligned Houthis. The Houthis control the capital, Sanaa, and under the peace plan draft, if they give up their ballistic missiles, the Saudi coalition will end its regular bombings of Houthi targets.
The peace plan, drafted by U.N. Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths, could still be modified, Reuters says. Griffiths is expected to present a "framework for negotiations" by mid-June. The U.N. estimates that at least 10,000 people have been killed in the conflict. It's also a humanitarian crisis, with people starving to death and going without medicine and basic necessities. Catherine Garcia
At least 20 people were killed when an airstrike hit a wedding party in northern Yemen, with the bride among the dead. The Monday airstrike in Hajja province was launched by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Houthi rebels.
Health officials told The Associated Press most of the dead were women and children who were standing under a tent. The groom and 44 others — including 33 kids — were wounded, with many suffering from shrapnel wounds or severed limbs.
This was the third airstrike to hit Yemeni civilians since Saturday, when a coalition airstrike killed 20 people on a bus in the western part of the country. Another airstrike that hit a house in Hajja on Sunday night left a family of five dead. The independent monitor Yemen Data Project estimates that of the 16,847 airstrikes to hit Yemen since the fighting started three years ago, a third of those strikes have hit civilian targets. Thousands of Yemenis have been killed in the war, which shows no sign of ending anytime soon. Catherine Garcia
During one day this week, 68 Yemeni civilians, including at least eight children and 14 members of the same family, were killed when a Saudi Arabia-led coalition conducted two air strikes in the country, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said Thursday.
The war in Yemen is "absurd" and "futile," McGoldrick said, and the only way it can end is through negotiations, not fighting. The first air strike killed 54 people and wounded 32 more inside a crowded market in Taez province, and the second killed 14 members of a family in Hodeidah province. Over 10 days earlier this month, "escalated and indiscriminate attacks throughout Yemen" killed 41 civilians and wounded 43.
Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have control of the capital Sana'a. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against the Houthis, and by extension Iranian aggression, and increased its air strikes this month after insurgents fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Everyone involved shows a "complete disregard for human life," McGoldrick said, and civilians are "being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides." It's been estimated the war has left at least 10,000 people dead, and there are eight million civilians without enough food and one million with cholera. Catherine Garcia