Saturday, May 09, 2015

The Horror of War Continues

The Saudi Arabian attacks on Yemen makes the headlines in the Middle East but draws little attention in the Western media. When "our" allies commit war crimes, a convenient blind eye is turned to it by the UK government.

Air strikes have killed at least 1,400, more than half civilians, and injured nearly 6,000, the UN says. The Saudis said they regarded all of Saada province as a "military zone" and told civilians to leave. The UN's representative says the indiscriminate bombing of populated areas is against international law. Human Rights Watch said the coalition may have used cluster bombs in previous airstrikes in Saada. Cluster bombs spread dozens of bomblets over a wide area, which can kill or maim civilians long after a conflict ends. Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates have refrained from recognizing the 2008 HRW Convention on Cluster Munitions that prohibits the use, production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions.

"The indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law," the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes van der Klaauw said in a statement. "Many civilians are effectively trapped in Saada as they are unable to access transport because of the fuel shortage. The targeting of an entire governorate will put countless civilians at risk."

 “It is impossible for the entire population of Saada province to leave within hours,” confirmed Llanos Ortiz, an emergency coordinator at M├ędecins Sans Frontieres, an aid agency. “Many people have no transport or fuel due to the coalition's blockade. Many others have no access to information because the province’s phone networks are barely operational.”

Aid agencies denounced what they saw as the collective punishment of Yemenis for the Houthis’ intransigence. Reports from residents of Saada say that the bombing has been relentless. “Homes, schools, everything has been destroyed,” says a Houthi supporter in the capital who has friends and family in Saada. Aid workers say the bombardment will probably lead to a “mass loss of life”. Nearly half of Yemen's 24 million people are now dangerously hungry, according to the UN. The coalition's naval blockade has stopped most food and fuel getting into the country. Tankers are close to the port of Hodeidah—the second biggest port after Aden and the scene of heavy fighting—but the coalition has kept them away Yemen depends on fuel to transport food, 90% of which is imported and transported overland, and water, which is mainly pumped from underground aquifers using diesel pumps.

“If restrictions on the commercial imports of food and fuel continue, then it will kill more children than bullets and bombs in the coming months,” UNICEF’s spokesman, Christophe Boulierac, said. "As parties to the conflict continue to restrict commercial imports of fuel and food, prices have skyrocketed and people cannot afford to purchase essential supplies," he continued. He added that 120,000 Yemeni children are at the risk of severe acute malnutrition over the next three months if health and hygiene services fail to function normally, and an immunization campaign aiming to protect millions of children against communicable diseases does not get underway. He went on to say another 2.5 million children under five years of age were at immediate risk of diarrhoea while 1.2 children were likely to suffer from preventable diseases such as pneumonia and measles as vaccination campaigns had ground to a halt.

The Saudis and nine other Arab countries, backed by the United States, Britain and France, hope to restore the exiled government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who is in Riyadh.

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