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The Saudi war

500 protesters gathered opposite Downing Street on 7 March to protest against the visit of Saudi crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, the architect of the Saudi-led war on Yemen.

While in the UK, the prince agreed with British prime minister Theresa May to aim for £65bn of mutual trade and investment. This included a Saudi decision in principle to buy 48 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from BAE Systems in a deal worth over £10bn.

In the US, senators (both Republican and Democrat) put forward a motion on 20 March that would have withdrawn the US military from refuelling and intelligence support to the Saudi war in Yemen. The motion was defeated by only 11 votes (55 to 44).

Meanwhile, the Saudi assault on Yemen entered its fourth year, with cholera and starvation continuing to spread in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. One million cases of cholera have been reported so far.

‘After three years of conflict, conditions in Yemen are catastrophic,’ the operations director for the UN office for the coordination of humanitarian affairs (OCHA), John Ging, told the UN security council on 27 February.

On 25 March, UNICEF appealed for $350m for Yemen’s 11 million hungry children. Geert Cappelaere, Middle East and North Africa director at the UN children’s fund, said: ‘every single girl or boy in Yemen is facing acute humanitarian needs’. He warned that the health and education systems in Yemen were on the verge of total collapse.

In February, food shipments into the crucial Yemeni port of Hodeidah were the lowest since 2016, only half the monthly national requirement, according to OCHA. Fuel imports were a quarter of what was needed.

The Saudi-led coalition officially lifted its blockade of Hodeidah in December, but still holds up ships entering the harbour using a lengthy and complicated inspection process, supposedly to spot arms.

Suze van Meegen of the Norwegian Refugee Council told AFP in late March: ‘The de facto blockade is still in place.’

In January, after two years of stalling, the Saudis finally allowed four small US-bought mobile cranes to enter Hodeidah to ‘replace’ four giant cranes destroyed by Saudi airstrikes in 2015.

Saudi airstrikes (using British aircraft and British bombs) continue. On 22 March, a strike reportedly killed 10 civilians, including women and children, in the northern province of Saada.

Since the Saudi campaign in Yemen began, 6,100 civilian conflict deaths have been documented by OCHA, over half of them due to Saudi airstrikes.

On 22 March, a senior OCHA official, Kate Gilmore, reported that the number of civilian casualties had dramatically increased during the past six months, peaking in December 2017 with 714 civilian casualties.


Topics: Yemen