3,000 Killed in Yemen in First 100 Days of Saudi-Led Bombing, Half Civilians

(This article is published in Mondoweiss.)

UPDATE II, 24 August:

150 days into the war, approximately 4,500 people, many civilians, have been killed in Yemen, 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.

Meanwhile, al-Qaeda and ISIS continue 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.

UPDATE I, 26 July:

Over 120 days into the Saudi-led coalition’s bombing of Yemen, the violence continues to escalate. 24 July was the bloodiest day of the conflict yet. On that day alone, US-backed Saudi airstrikes killed over 120 civilians and wounded 150 more in the southern city Ta’iz.

Since the Western-backed, Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen on 26 March, at least 3,600 people have been killed in the impoverished country. Over 17,300 people, including 4,000 civilians, have also been wounded.

ORIGINAL, 9 July:

Over 3,000 people were killed in Yemen in the first approximately 100 days of the Western-backed, Saudi-led bombing campaign. Roughly half of those killed were civilians, according to the UN.

On 6 July alone, one of the most violent days in the offensive, almost 200 Yemenis were killed in Saudi-led airstrikes. Scores of civilians died in attacks on markets.

At least one million Yemenis have been displaced since the bombing began on 26 March. 21 million Yemenis, 80% of the population, are in need of humanitarian assistance.

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.

Homes destroyed by coalition airstrikes in April in Yemen's 'Amran Governorate CREDIT: The Nation (Pakistan)

Homes destroyed by coalition airstrikes in April in Yemen’s ‘Amran Governorate
CREDIT: The Nation (Pakistan)

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).

Yemenis search for survivors in the rubble of houses destroyed in coalition bombing in March CREDIT: Reuters

Yemenis search for survivors in the rubble of houses destroyed in coalition bombing in March
CREDIT: Reuters

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.

HRW has also accused the Houthi rebels of “unlawfully deploy[ing] forces in densely populated areas and us[ing] excessive force against peaceful protesters and journalists.”

11 days into the Saudi-led bombing campaign, a senior member of the Houthis told Reuters that they were willing to sit down for peace talks if the air strikes stopped. The bombs, nevertheless, continued to fall.

Safa al-Ahmad, a Saudi journalist, filmmaker, and specialist on Yemen who has been one of the tiny handful of reporters to spend time with the Houthi rebels, explained that the group’s ideology changes in response to political developments, yet, “if I must describe the Houthis in one line,” she said, “it would be the revivalist Zaydis with strong anti-imperialist agenda.”

100 days into the conflict, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen Antoine Grand warns the situation is “clearly deteriorating by the day.”

US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told the New York Times that the “disorder” in Yemen, greatly inflamed by the Western-backed Saudi bombing campaign, has strengthened al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), allowing it to take more territory.