4,500 killed in Yemen in 150 Days of Saudi-led bombing

Middle East
on 9 Comments

Approximately 4,500 people, many civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing 150 days ago, according to the UN. 23,000 more have been wounded.

An average of 30 people have been killed in Yemen every single day since the beginning of the war on March 26, which pits a US-backed coalition of Middle Eastern nations and forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against Iran-backed Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

UNICEF estimates nearly 400 children have been killed and over 600 injured in the past four months in the country, the poorest in the Middle East.

13 Yemeni teaching staff and four children were killed by a Saudi air strike on August 20. Two days before, coalition bombing in the Amran province took the lives of 17 civilians, injuring 20 more. UNICEF condemned what it called the “senseless bloodshed.”

A Red Cross spokeswoman said the violence in Ta’iz, in southern Yemen, in just one day on August 21 left 80 people dead.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda continues to grow and take more territory as the US-backed, Saudi-led bombing destroys infrastructure and plunges millions of Yemenis, most of whom already lived in abject poverty before the war began, into further desperation.

As early as April, US politicians including Defense Secretary Ashton Carter warned that the “disorder” in Yemen, greatly inflamed by the bombing supported by their own country, was strengthening al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP). I wrote about this at the time: “US-Backed Saudi Bombing Kills 38 Yemeni Civilians a Day, Creating Humanitarian Disaster & Feeding Extremism.”

The Houthis and al-Qaeda are sworn enemies. Al-Qaeda seeks to capitalize on the chaos in which the country is embroiled. In the midst of the bedlam, however, ISIS has also attempted to extend its influence influence in the region. Further adding to the messy entanglement of alliances, ISIS has fought not just the Houthis and the Saudi-led coalition, but also al-Qaeda.

Yemenis in the rubble of homes destroyed by coalition airstrikes in the capital city of Sana'a CREDIT: Hani Mohammed / AP

Yemenis in the rubble of homes destroyed by coalition air strikes in the capital city of Sana’a
CREDIT: Hani Mohammed / AP

Almost half a year into the conflict, violence appears to be escalating, not diminishing.

In July, I reported that, according to UN figures, 3,000 people had been killed in Yemen in the first 100 days of Saudi-led bombing, half of whom were civilians.

Just 20 days later, that figure had risen to at least 3,600 dead, with over 17,300 wounded.

July 24 was the bloodiest day of the conflict yet. On that day alone, coalition air strikes killed over 120 civilians and wounded 150 more in Ta’iz.

Leading human rights organizations maintain the US and other Western allies of Saudi Arabia can be held accountable for war crimes being committed by the coalition.

In an interview with Rolling Stone, a Yemeni man insisted that the US was complicit in the coalition’s killing of children.

I detailed the accusations of war crimes and the enormous hardship which millions of Yemenis must endure in July:

Yemen is the poorest country in the Middle East. Before the war broke out, over half of the population lived on less than $2 USD a day and had no access to clean water, according to the World Food Program. 41% of the population was food-insecure, and child malnutrition rates were among the highest in the world. Unemployment rates exceeded 40%, over 60% among the youth.

90% of Yemen’s food is imported, yet Saudi Arabia’s stringent air, water, and land blockade, in the name of preventing weapons from entering the war-torn country, has prevented not just food, but also fuel, medicine, and urgently needed aid from getting to the millions in need.

Even journalists have been denied entry by Saudi forces. The Nation foreign correspondent Matthieu Aikins explained he had to smuggle his crew in by boat from neighboring Djibouti.

In the meantime, extremist groups, namely al-Qaeda, have flourished in these dire conditions.

The coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, consists of monarchies Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Jordan, and Morocco, along with Egypt and Sudan.

The US and other Western nations have provided Saudi Arabia with weapons, in spite of knowledge that the arms are being used to commit what human rights organizations and the UN have classified as potential war crimes.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said the Saudi-led coalition has engaged in unlawful targeting of civilian areas. Coalition air strikes have rained down on hospitals, schools, neighborhoods, and more.

Amnesty International has accused the coalition of knowingly violating international humanitarian law in its bombing campaign. And there “is no indication that the Saudi Arabia-led military coalition has done anything to prevent and redress such violations,” remarked Amnesty’s Senior Crisis Response Advisor Donatella Rovera.

Just a few days into its assault, the Saudi-led coalition bombed a refugee camp, killing roughly 40 people, injuring around 200 more.

Weeks later, the coalition purposefully destroyed an Oxfam humanitarian aid warehouse, in what HRW classified as “an apparent violation of the laws of war.” Oxfam “vehemently condemned” the attack.

In its attacks, the coalition has also used banned cluster munitions, weapons that are prohibited by a 2008 treaty that was adopted by 116 countries (Saudi Arabia and the US refused to sign the accord).

The US is complicit in these potential war crimes, HRW maintains. The UN and human rights organizations have called on Western nations to cease their support for the military assault, which has pushed Yemen to the edge of catastrophe.

About Ben Norton

Ben is a journalist and writer based in New York City. His work has been featured in a variety of publications, and he is presently a politics staff writer at Salon. His website can be found at BenNorton.com. Follow him on Twitter at @BenjaminNorton.

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9 Responses

  1. Bandolero
    August 24, 2015, 5:42 pm

    Thank you Ben, for this update about the vicious Saudi-led war on Yemen.

    However, one piece of information I find in this article as staggering false as it is in almost all the western mass media reports. Who is fighting whom in Yemen? You wrote:

    … which pits a US-backed coalition of Middle Eastern nations and forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi against Iran-backed Houthi rebels and fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.

    However, the reality on the ground seems to be that the Saudi-led coalition and tribal fighters, armed forces of the Muslim Brotherhood and the islah party, Southern Movement separatists, Al Qaeda and ISIS fight against the Armed Forces of Yemen, the paramilitary forces of Yemen’s interior ministry, who are militarily backed by the Houthi militia and other tribal forces and politically backed by the GPC – the party led by Ali Saleh – and Houthi movement.

    While forces loyal to President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi are almost non-existent as non of the forces opposing the government in Sanaa is loyal to “President” Hadi, the Armed Forces of Yemen and the forces of the interior ministry are loyal to the chairman of the Supreme Security Committee, interior minister Jalal Al Rowaishan. The term “fighters loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh” is a smokescreen to mask that the armed and paramilitary forces of Yemen are united and led by the interior minister.

    What is also completely lost in mass media is that many of the armed and paramilitary forces of Yemen were trained and equipped by the US in the name of fighting Al Qaeda, that those forces are still and really fighting against Al Qaeda, while the US switched sides in March and backs now a Saudi-led anti-Sanaa war coalition that consists – among ohers – out of Al Qaeda extremists.

  2. pabelmont
    August 24, 2015, 6:31 pm

    The horror of it is comprehensible, but the politics is not. Is there a way out? for anyone?

    • Bandolero
      August 24, 2015, 7:01 pm

      The way out with some kind of deal needs pressure, and a lot of it, on Saudi Arabia to stop the bombing and lift the blockade. Neither the US nor the P5+1 is currently willing to mount that pressure on Saudi Arabia for various reasons, the most obvious reason being to bargain doing nothing against the Saudi-led massacre in Yemen for Saudi support for the P5+1-Iran deal.

      The much longer way is for the Yemeni army to mount a successful counter campaign in Saudi Arabia, thereby inflicting enough pain on the Saudis to accept defeat. Yemen’s army is currently working hard on this, but it will likely take years before this counter campaign can succeed stopping the Saudi war on Yemen, it may well be that it won’t happen before Saudi Arabia breaks apart inself. The Saudi regime has invested so much political capital in that war that it can hardly pull back without a significant loss of face and power internally, and each day it continues the war, it invests more into the war and pulling back from that bloody Yemeni mess becomes harder and harder.

      • lysias
        August 24, 2015, 7:08 pm

        What about a military coup (or a palace coup) in Saudi Arabia? Could that be a way out?

      • Bandolero
        August 24, 2015, 7:43 pm


        What about a military coup (or a palace coup) in Saudi Arabia? Could that be a way out?

        I doubt that in the current stage of the war a coup could succeed. The Saudi elites are euphoric in supporting this war against Yemen, because it is against, how they see it, “further Persian encroachment on Arab lands” to spread their “Shia misbelief” there. The faction against this war is a very tiny minority in Saudi elites. And in the Saudi wahhabi population the war is quite popular, too. Almost nobody of the Saudi regime and it’s supporters can apparently imagine that the Saudis can badly lose this war. If so, only a Iranian and western conspiracy against true Saudi believers could try to steal the the victory.

        Well, that may be one of the motives for the P5+1 doing nothing on this war, too. They may think the Saudis need to fall into their own sword to come to their senses – but the Yemenis pay the price for that gamble.

  3. JLewisDickerson
    August 24, 2015, 6:53 pm

    Yemen is the sacrificial lamb being offered up to the Saudis as consolation for the P5+1 nuclear agreement with Iran. It’s grotesquely unfair!

    • Citizen
      August 26, 2015, 3:19 pm

      Yes, that’s seems right. & Imagine how much profit there is in resupplying Saudi Military with expensive weapons! Don’t forget, SA pays through the nose for those weapons; it’s not like Israel’s charity deal with USA’a Uncle Sam, Daddy Warbucks.

  4. gosmoboleet
    August 25, 2015, 8:19 am

    Interesting that the reporter understands that the direction and money for the flea bitten Saudi mule are being provided by Obama yet he shields the filthy monger with vague references to “the US”.

    • CigarGod
      August 25, 2015, 10:25 am

      Sorry, my friend…but Obama is not an individual. Not even Kings and Dictators have been individuals.
      They might be a big wheel, but they are still part of the machine.

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