Yemen: Stop the slaughter

 

Yesterday, in a residential district in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, missiles targeting a vacant building fell with such force that they ripped through an adjacent apartment complex, causing it to collapse. The bloody, dust-covered bodies of 12 people, six of them children, were pulled from the rubble.

In its ferocity, its indiscriminate nature and its horrific death toll, the atrocity was entirely in keeping with the pattern of a three-year-old conflict that has killed at least 10,000 people and exposed the hypocrisy of some of the world’s most powerful states for what it is.

Blame for the air raid fell on the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which has been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement. The Houthis and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, control much of the north of the country, including Sana’a. Yemen’s internationally recognised government is backed by the Saudi-led military alliance and is based in the south.

At least 42 illegal African migrants drowned in the Arabian Sea off the southern coast of Yemen late yesterday. Image: Google Maps
At least 42 illegal African migrants drowned in the Arabian Sea off the southern coast of Yemen late yesterday. Image: Google Maps

After three years of devastating war, Yemen is in the grip of a humanitarian crisis. Almost three million people are internally displaced, a cholera epidemic has killed nearly 2,000, the number of acutely malnourished children is the highest in the world and a blockade by the Saudi-led coalition has made it extremely difficult for essential food aid to be delivered. Meanwhile, the parties to the conflict are locked in stalemate, their international enablers doing just enough to keep their side in the fight with minimal if any changes to the front lines. The United States, the United Kingdom and France provide arms and logistical assistance to the Saudi-led alliance for a campaign that strikes not only military targets but hospitals and infrastructure. So far, Riyadh’s regional importance and its close ties to western powers have shielded it from accountabilility.

A malnourished child, Marwan Ahmad Mahyoub (10), sits at a special care centre where he receives rehabilitation exercises in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, on August 19th. Photograph: Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters
A malnourished child, Marwan Ahmad Mahyoub (10), sits at a special care centre where he receives rehabilitation exercises in the Red Sea port city of Hodeidah, Yemen, on August 19th. Photograph: Abduljabbar Zeyad/Reuters

But the catastrophe in Yemen cannot continue. Aid must urgently be allowed into the country, the warring parties’ foreign backers must use their leverage to rein them in and the full weight of the UN Security Council must be invested in brokering an immediate ceasefire.

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