US ‘reviewing’ support for Saudi campaign in Yemen following funeral massacre


Washington has ordered an “immediate review” of its support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen after a strike on a funeral in the capital killed more than 140 people. The UN is pushing for an independent probe.

The United States said Saturday it was reviewing its support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, after a deadly attack on a funeral in the capital Sanaa. The strike also killed several top-ranking Houthi officials, including the governor of Sanaa.

“US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check,” White House National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said in a statement

Since March 2015, the US has provided logistical support including in-air refueling and intelligence for the Saudi-led air campaign seeking to wrest the country from the control of Iran-aligned Houthi rebels.

The Saudi-led coalition had been blamed for several attacks on civilian targets, including medical centers run by international aid charities, as well as schoolsand food processing plants over the past 18 months.

Despite some US lawmakers’ opposition over the rising civilian death toll, Washington last month declined to block a $1.15 billion (1.03 billion euros) arms deal to Saudi Arabia. But Saturday’s apparent air strikes, which the UN says left more than 500 wounded, has caused Washington to publicly back away from its Arab ally.

“In light of this and other recent incidents,we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen’s tragic conflict,” Price’s statement concluded.

Saudi-led coalition denies role

The Saudi-led alliance denied any role in the attack. “The Arab alliance did not carry out any operations in the site of the bombing,” the coalition said, according to Saudi-owned broadcaster Al Arabiya.

The airstrike occurred in the southern part of Sanaa where a wake was taking place for the father of the administration’s interior minister, Jalal al-Roweishan, who had died of natural causes a day before.

“The Saudi aggression committed a major crime today, by attacking a mourning hall for the al-Roweishan family, targeting residents in the hall,” Ghazi Ismail, the acting health minister in the Houthi administration, told a news conference in Sanaa.

Witnesses described seeing warplanes fire at least two missiles. Emergency workers pulled more than 20 charred remains and body parts from the gutted building in southern Sanaa as others scoured the wreckage for survivors, some of whom had lost limbs and were being treated on the scene by medical volunteers.

The death toll was one of the largest of any single incident since the Saudi-led alliance began military operations to try to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power following his ousting by the Houthis last year.

The Saudi-led coalition has been providing air support for Hadi’s forces in a civil war that has killed more than 10,000 people since March 2015 and displaced more than 3 million. Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies fear that the predominately Shiite Houthi rebels and their allied militias would give rival Iran a strategic foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.

Jemen Luftangriff in Hodeida (Reuters/A. Zeyad)The aftermath of a Saudi-led strike in the Red Sea port of Hodeidah on September 22, 2016. Yemen’s conflict has intensified since March 2015, when Houthi rebels advanced on the city of Aden, prompting Saudi Arabia and its allies to begin its air campaign against the rebels.

UN makes fresh push for inquiry 

A UN report in August said coalition airstrikes are suspected of causing half of all civilian deaths in Yemen and called for an independent international body to investigate an array of serious violations by all sides.European states, led by the Netherlands, were defeated last week in a push to establish that inquiry.

UN under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief, Stephen O’Brien, repeated Saturday the need for a prompt and “impartial” probe into the attacks.

“I also call on all parties to protect civilians and stop using explosive weapons or conducting aerial bombardments in civilian-populated places in Yemen. Surely enough is enough,” O’Brien said. “This horrendous and heinous attack displayed an utter disregard for human life.”

In addition to the mounting death toll, the country is facing twin health and hunger crises. The UN’s children agency UNICEF estimates 3 million people are in need of immediate food aid, while 1.5 million children suffer malnutrition

.jar/jlw (AFP, dpa, Reuters)