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Residents told Al-Jazeera that a number of air strikes “rained down” on Yemen’s capital, Sana’a, early on Christmas day, killing at least 11 people, including three women and two children.
According to Abdul Malek al-Fadhl, a pro-Houthi activist, two buildings were flattened in a residential area to the west of the capital as coalition raids targeted the home of a local Houthi leader. According to the activist, air raids targeted the leader’s car as he tried to flee, as well as first responders who came to reach victims.
Al-Jazeera also notes that the Houthi-run Al Masirah TV network documented a further eight civilian deaths, including two women, in the Hodeidah province. Four other civilians were killed in Saudi-led raids on a government building in the central province of Dhamar.
The Houthi-run Saba news agency reported that at least 48 civilians, including 11 children, were killed in 51 air strikes across the country on Sunday.
While these sources all appear to be pro-Houthi, it is interesting to note that there has been no immediate comment from Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia typically denies any wrongdoing even as it is continually documented massacring civilians.
Adding further to this criminal wrongdoing, barely a day later, the Chinese state-run outlet Xinhua reported that a Saudi air raid killed over 40 shoppers in a crowded marketplace. The Associated Press also reported on the incident, though it stated the death toll was closer to 25 and that the strike wounded at least 30 others. Two days before Christmas, the Associated Press also reported on another strike that killed at least 10 Yemeni civilians.
If these figures are correct, it would put the Saudi-enforced death toll in Yemen well over 100 in less than a week of bombing. It looks like a war crime and sounds like a war crime — yet Saudi Arabia continues to receive barely a slap on the wrist even as the death toll mounts.
The reason the coalition is targeting Sana’a and its surrounding areas so heavily is that Yemen’s capital is under the control of the Houthi leadership, even after over two years of Saudi Arabia’s brutal onslaught. According to the New York Times, the Houthis have cracked down on the capital, shutting off access to the internet, blocking social media sites, and sending gunmen to raid homes of suspected opposition members, making hundreds of arrests in the process.
Following the death of Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen’s ex-president, who the Houthis killed after they learned of his plan to unite with the Saudi-led forces, Saudi Arabia has almost all but run out of options other than the use of brute force. According to the New York Times, “members of Mr. Saleh’s party interviewed recently said that instead of turning the party against the Houthis, Mr. Saleh’s death had shattered it.” [emphasis my own]
Therefore, the Houthis have effectively won the battle against Saudi Arabia even in the face of a U.S. and U.K.-supplied superior military. That being said, Saudi Arabia is not going down without a violent fight.
Unfortunately, the people who will feel the effects of this brutality the most are innocent civilians, not militants. A little over a week ago, a Saudi raid killed at least 10 women after it bombed a wedding procession east of Yemen’s capital.
The coalition has proven to be completely incompetent with regard to protecting civilian life, a gross violation of the rules of war that the United States and the United Kingdom continue to reward rather than punish. As the New York Times previously reported:
“The first problem was the ability of Saudi pilots, who were inexperienced in flying missions over Yemen and fearful of enemy ground fire. As a result, they flew at high altitudes to avoid the threat below. But flying high also reduced the accuracy of their bombing and increased civilian casualties, American officials said.
“American advisers suggested how the pilots could safely fly lower, among other tactics. But the airstrikes still landed on markets, homes, hospitals, factories and ports, and are responsible for the majority of the 3,000 civilian deaths during the yearlong war, according to the United Nations.”