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The ongoing Yemeni Civil War, which has been raging for the last three years, has recently seen one of its worst instances of civilian violence. On Thursday, August 9th, the Saudi-led coalition launched an airstrike that killed approximately fifty people, twenty-nine of which were children in a school bus that was targeted in the attack. The children killed were younger than fifteen years old. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, the school bus was driving through a congested market in the Houthi controlled Saada province when it was struck. According to Al Jazeera, a pro-Houthi television network claimed the bus was deliberately targeted by Saudia Arabia and the coalition; however, Al Jazeera has yet to verify these claims.
The Saudi-UAE alliance issued a report of its own through its spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki. Al Jazeera reported that the Colonel stated that the airstrikes were meant to target “missile launchers” and that the attacks “conformed to international and humanitarian laws.” A Yemeni journalist reported that there were no Houthi rebels near the market at the time of the attack and that the rebels do not even have any form of military installation nearby. The condition of hospitals and medical centers in the war-torn province of Saada is likely to make treating those injured in the strikes extremely challenging. Analysts and reporters expect health centers to be inundated with wounded people who will not receive adequate treatment or medicine, leading to a rising death toll.
Yemen and its people are no strangers to attacks and airstrikes targeting and killing civilians. Since civil war erupted in the country back in 2015, the United States and the United Arab Emirates have supported and backed the Saudi-led coalition and its air raids against Houthi rebels in an effort to reinstate Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi as President. This past June, Saudi-led forces launched 258 airstrikes across Yemen with a third of these being non-military targets. The Yemeni Civil War is currently the world’s worst humanitarian crisis with a total of 22.2 million people desperately in need of aid.
In the aftermath of the attacks, actors from both sides of the conflict are urging an investigation into the strike. The United Nations has called for an investigation into the attacks with Houthi rebels backing these demands for an inquiry.
As Yemen and the families of those killed recover from the airstrikes, the United States is likely to be urged by its own citizens to reexamine its role in the conflict and the repercussions of its continued involvement no matter what capacity that involvement might be. The United States has continually supported Saudi Arabia and its allies throughout the conflict. In an article for Vox, Alex Ward explains that support usually comes in the form of “providing intelligence support and refuelling airplanes, among other assistance.”
Despite providing different forms of support, the United States is not involved in deciding where strikes are carried out nor does it know where Saudi planes carrying American fuel and ordinance are going. While the United States may not be directly involved in attacks against Houthi rebels, its influence in the conflict is certainly significant. As long as President Trump continues to back the prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and maintains a military presence in Yemen, Salman is unlikely to ease military pressure against the Houthis. This means more innocent civilians are likely to be killed as a result.
The United Nations still has a pivotal role to play as the special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, urges both sides to come to a peace agreement. He has recently declared his interest in inviting combatants from both sides to Geneva, Switzerland, this coming September to begin the first round of peace negotiations. However, until then, the violence will continue to rage and more innocent people are likely to be caught in the crossfire.