War Crimes in Yemen

Targeting civilians has become a deliberate policy of the Saudi-led coalition

By Abdel Bari Atwan

It is hard to comprehend the logical and moral criteria on which spokesmen for the Saudi-UAE coalition base their defence of the air-strikes their warplanes – the world’s most modern, expensive and precision-killing – launch against civilian targets in Yemen. Ever since the war began four years ago, they have been insisting that these raids are consistent with international humanitarian law and the norms and rules of war.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki followed suit on Monday when he made an appearance to affirm that the coalition airstrike that targeted a busload of children in Saada province, killing 43 and injuring 63, was a legitimate military operation. He said it was directed at the individuals who planned and carried out ballistic missile launches against Jazan in southwestern Saudi Arabia, and was fully in line with international law.

This massacre, it should be noted, came just a few days after another which led to the killing of 55 civilians and the wounding of 170 in an aerial bombardment of Hodeida, which is currently the target of a coalition land, air and naval offensive in a futile attempt to gain control of the city.

This means the targeting of civilians has become a deliberate policy and not just the result of unintentional accidents.

Col. Malki should be asked whether it was those children who fired the missile that targeted Jazan, and was intercepted before it landed. Did they fire it from the bus that was taking them to a summer camp? If so, perhaps he could explain, as an eloquent military man, how that happened. Maybe he could provide a video recording of the launch, seeing as the coalition’s warplanes have equipment that can detect ants on the ground.

It was the International Committee of the Red Cross which confirmed that the bus was carrying children. It made a point of stressing , with its customary restraint, that international humanitarian law requires civilians to be protected in times of war and conflict.

Ever since the war began the coalition has been saying that its warplanes and controllers take all necessary precautions to avoid civilian casualties. But the repeated massacres of civilians in Saada and Hodeida indicate that this is absolutely not the case. There is a long list of airstrikes that have targeted hospitals, markets, schools, funerals and wedding halls over the past four years.

These massacres are war crimes committed by warplanes made by the US, the leader of the free world which intervenes in our countries to uphold democracy, justice and human rights. In the process it kills tens of thousands of people, either directly or by supporting entities like ‘the coalition’ which slaughter civilians in broad daylight – to the applause, regrettably, of some in the Arab world.

We reiterate, for the millionth time, that this war cannot be resolved by air and missiles strikes against defenceless and destitute civilians. Nor will the world remain silent about these massacres forever. The coalition’s spokesmen will never convince anyone. The only solution, to avoid mounting up the losses still further, is to withdraw as quickly as possible.