Ramping up a bombing campaign the U.N. believes might constitute war crimes, the Saudi-led, U.S.-allied coalition carried out a number of airstrikes in Yemen that left over 200 people dead.
Late Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook announced the U.S. had bombed an al-Qaeda affiliate group’s “training camp,” killing “dozens” of people, the Guardian reported. Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) reportedly operated the mountain camp, used by “more than 70 AQAP terrorists,” Cook described.
“We continue to assess the results of the operation, but our initial assessment is that dozens of AQAP fighters have been removed from the battlefield,” he euphemized. “This strike deals a blow to AQAP’s ability to use Yemen as a base for attacks that threaten U.S. persons, and it demonstrates our commitment to defeating al-Qaeda and denying it safe haven.”
Cook added, “The planes struck as al-Qaeda people stood in line to receive their dinner.”
A previous airstrike, carried out by Saudi-led forces on March 15, decimated a marketplace in Mastaba in northern Yemen. As The Intercept noted, that strike occurred around noon, local time, when area residents typically congregated there — the “only marketplace in the entire district” — to purchase food and goods.
In the aftermath, at least 120 people had been killed — “families could barely identify their dead,” an eyewitness wrote.
“The carnage caused by two airstrikes on the Al Khamees market was one of the deadliest incidents since the start of the conflict a year ago,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported the Independent. “The people of Yemen have suffered enough. A very poor country is having its limited infrastructure decimated, and people are struggling desperately to survive.”
He added, “Looking at the figures, it would seem that the coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces put together, virtually all as a result of airstrikes.”
Though the U.S. tries to maintain the appearance of distance from the Saudi coalition’s activities in Yemen, its continued support by way of arms, refueling of jets, and intelligence belies the extent of its involvement. Robert Malley, a top White House official in charge of Middle East policy, was even reported by the New York Times on March 13 as saying the conflict in Yemen “is not our war.”
But the mounting number of dead in mass-casualty incidents have led analysts to suspect U.S. policy in Yemen might have quietly changed from the practice of targeted killings to more conventional warfare, according to the Guardian.
“This strike was conducted consistent with the policy for counter-terrorism direct action announced by the President in May 2013,” claimed Pentagon spokesman Major Ben Sakrisson, in an attempt to deny such a shift.
The Intercept provided a brief summary about the bombing campaign taking place in Yemen:
“The Saudi coalition consists of nine Arab states that have joined forces against Houthi rebels who have taken over large parts of Yemen. While U.S. fighter jets are not involved in the bombing campaign, the U.S. is providing intelligence and other forms of assistance, including weapons sales and aerial refueling of the Arab jets. After the latest attack, a top United Nations official, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, the high commissioner for human rights, said the coalition might be committing war crimes. While the horrific terrorist attacks against civilians in Europe receive extra media coverage, the U.S.-supported bombings of civilians in Yemen get scant attention.”
An ongoing contradictory theme in Western mainstream media often appears to arbitrarily reduce the existential value of innocent human life in Middle Eastern and African countries, as it simultaneously beseeches the world to mourn when Europeans are killed in terror attacks. But the Western-led coalition simply fuels the fires of terrorism as it drops bombs on civilian marketplaces — ignoring its own role in worsening such issues.