The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition killed 131 civilians, including at least 80 women, after bombing a wedding in Yemen on September 28. The Saudi government said the attack was an accident and that it meant to target rebels, yet a representative of humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders revealed there was no military presence near the wedding. This attack marks the deadliest day in the war in Yemen, which has now gone on for over half a year.
At least 2,355 civilians have been killed in Yemen since the war broke out on March 26, according to the UN. 4,862 more have been wounded. The Saudi-led, US-backed coalition is responsible for approximately two-thirds of civilian deaths and civilian property destruction, the UN says.
This is not the first time Yemeni civilians celebrating a wedding have been killed with US weapons. A US drone fired four missiles at a wedding convoy in Yemen in December 2013, killing a dozen people.
Numerous human rights organizations and the UN have condemned the coalition, accusing it of committing war crimes. The Saudi-led coalition has dropped US-made cluster munitions—which are banned by much of the world—on civilian areas, and has even bombed an Oxfam humanitarian aid warehouse. Rights groups have also said the Houthi rebels, which the coalition is fighting, have committed war crimes, on a significantly smaller scale.
In late August, after 150 days of war, the UN estimated around 4,500 people had been killed and 23,000 more wounded in Yemen, the poorest country in the Middle East. In the month since, this figure has likely risen to over 5,000 deaths. On average, 30 Yemenis have been killed every day, for more than six months.
On September 22, the coalition bombed two homes in Yemen capital Sana’a, killing 20 people, most of whom were civilians.
The day before, Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least 50 more Yemenis. In Sana’a, 18 members of one family were killed when their home was bombed.
Human rights organizations warn 80% of Yemenis are in dire need of humanitarian aid due to the US-backed war and the Saudi blockade of Yemen.
$90 billion of US weapons in 4 years
The US has not just steadfastly supported the Saudi-led bombing campaign; it has also provided Saudi Arabia with the weapons it is using to commit what numerous human rights organizations have characterized as war crimes.
Between October 2010 and October 2014, the Obama administration made more than $90 billion in weapons deals with Saudi Arabia, according to a report by the Congressional Research Service. The US has sold the Gulf monarchy war planes, armored vehicles, missiles, bombs, and more, which it is now using against Yemen.
Saudi Arabia, a close US ally, is one of the few absolute monarchies remaining on the planet and one of the most fundamentalist countries in the world. It is known for funding and supporting groups that preach its extremist interpretation of Islam, known as Wahhabism or Salafism (some scholars distinguish between the two, but they are often used synonymously).
A 2009 US government cable from then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton released by WikiLeaks revealed that “Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide.” The Saudi government officially says it opposes extremist groups like al-Qaeda, yet analysts say rich Saudi businessmen and even members of the royal family fund such groups.
In 2015, the Saudi monarchy has additionally executed one person, including children and the mentally ill, every two days on average, largely by beheading—and may be approaching a new record. The Gulf dictatorship plans to decapitate and crucify activist Ali Mohammed Al-Nimr, who was arrested in 2012, at age 17, for attending a pro-democracy protest.
The news of the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of a Yemen wedding comes just days after the US applauded the appointment of Saudi Arabia as the head of a UN Human Rights Council panel. US Deputy Spokesman Mark Toner told a reporter the US government “welcome[s] it. We’re close allies.”