|The UK Government MOD Spokesperson|
Saudi Arabia and its regional allies (such as United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan and Sudan) launched an attack on Yemen at the end of March after Yemeni rebels known as Houthis took over the country's capital Sanaa and ousted Saudi-allied President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi. At least 2,600 people have been killed so far according to U.N. figures. rebel group that take their name from their leader Hussein al-Houthi, who launched an insurgency in 2004 and was killed by Yemeni forces that year. Also known as Ansar Allah, meaning “Supporters of God” in Arabic, the Houthis adhere to Zaidi Shiite school of thought, similar to the Shiites of Iran, Lebanon and Iraq, but they are only found in Yemen. Yemen’s turmoil is driven primarily by internal politics. However, Saudi Arabia is depicting the Houthi takeover as a ruthless Shiite attack on a Sunni region, turning it into a sectarian clash between Sunnis and Shiites.
The Houthis have rebelled against the Yemeni state six times in the past decade, and they have widespread support because of discontent against corruption, rising food prices and high unemployment, as well as the government’s alliance with the U.S. During the Arab Spring, thousands took to the streets to overthrow President Saleh, who ruled with an iron-fist for 33 years. He responded with a repressive crackdown, until a Saudi-sponsored compromise allowed him to leave office and make way for his successor, who won an election in February 2012 in which he was the only candidate. This was President Hadi, once an official in Saleh’s government and a longtime close aid of Yemen’s strongman. Virtually nothing has changed under President Hadi. Yemen remains one of the world’s poorest countries. Meanwhile, President Hadi fully supports U.S. military operations, including drone attacks that have killed hundreds of Yemeni civilians. In fact, last September President Obama hailed Yemen as a success story in the war on terror. These claims proved far from reality as Al-Qaida in the Arabian Peninsula, known as AQAP, gain a stronger foothold in Yemen.
Britain has confirmed it is providing technical support and arming Saudi Arabia in its ongoing war against Yemen. An MoD spokesperson said “The UK is not participating directly in Saudi military operations. We are providing support to the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces and as part of pre-existing arrangements are providing precision guided weapons to assist the Saudi Air Force. The use of these weapons is a matter for the Saudis but we are assured that they will be used in compliance with international law.” [we can safely say that the UK will not be proactive in discovering if such assurances are accurate or not.]
Human Rights Watch published evidence that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition in Yemen has been using internationally-outlawed cluster bombs. The organization says innocent civilians have been targeted in the raids. Human Rights Watch says it managed to document the use of three types of cluster munitions in the country. Saudi Arabia and the other Arab nations, who make up the coalition, have not signed up to the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits their use.
“The Saudi-led coalition and other warring parties in Yemen need to recognize that using banned cluster munitions is very likely to harm civilians," said HRW's senior emergencies researcher Ole Solvang. "These weapons can't distinguish military targets from civilians, and their unexploded submunitions threaten civilians, especially children, even long after the fighting,” he added.
This type of weapon is dangerous because some aren’t immediately detonated and can lie dormant for decades before exploding. Civilians and particularly children have traditionally been the primary victims of such lethal traps. HRW has called on the 10-member coalition not to use cluster bombs in the conflict. It has also urged nations backing the Saudis to denounce the use of the illegal munitions.
Belkis Wille, Yemen and Kuwait Researcher at Human Rights Watch said that those countries tacitly supporting the collation such as the US and the UK should do more to stop them using the weapons. Willie also voiced concerns that the coalition appeared to be targeting non-military targets. “The problem is the choice of target. We’ve seen multiple instances in which the target that was selected by the coalition is potentially a violation of the laws of war and really calls into question what process the coalition has for selecting its targets,” she said.
Last month, the British-based relief agency Oxfam said that more than 16 million people, or two-thirds of the country's population did not have access to clean water.