U.S.-Saudi coalition attacks fleeing refugees in Yemen

A water desalination plant in Yemen destroyed by Saudi coalition.
A water desalination plant in Yemen destroyed by Saudi coalition.

By Randi Nord

The international Saudi-led coalition against Yemen attacked another two buses full of internally displaced people as they fled the coalition’s airstrike campaign in Hodeidah. The October 13 attack makes it clear the coalition has a policy of targeting anyone who attempts to flee the U.S.-backed Saudi and Emirati aggression along Yemen’s west coast.

Nineteen people were killed and at least 30 were injured in the attack. Even hours later, first responders and reporters ran into trouble entering the scene due to the continuous circling of Saudi planes. It’s common for Saudi Arabia to conduct “double-tap” airstrikes which maximize the casualty count in each attack while targeting ambulances and the press.

According to a United Nations team of experts, these double-tap strikes indicate that the coalition makes conscious decisions to attack civilian targets by quite literally doubling down.

This isn’t the first attack of its kind. In fact, the Saudi-led coalition routinely targets both internally displaced people and buses packed with children.

  • In June, coalition warplanes attacked a bus full of civilians fleeing the airstrikes in Hodeidah province, killing nine and injuring 11.
  • In August, the Saudi coalition bombed a bus full of children in Saada province heading to summer camp, killing 51 and injuring 79, mostly children. Riyadh initially defended the attack as a legitimate military action.
  • In April, coalition planes targeted a refugee camp in Hajjah province killing 14 — mostly children including one who appeared to be an infant.

A week of attacks on civilians and water supply

This recent attack on internally displaced people is just the latest in a deadly week for Yemen.

On October 8, coalition planes targeted a bee farm in Hodeidah with airstrikes, killing an entire family of five. Another attack by warships on a civilian area off the coast of Hodeidah killed three.

The coalition decided to target a mosque which killed another five civilians on October 10.

Later in the week, Saudi coalition warplanes attacked a home in Hodeidah, killing at least four civilians. Double-tap airstrikes targeted the ambulance crew to prevent rescuing the injured.

Yemen’s Ministry of Health announced October 11 that warships off the coast of Hodeidah targeted Durhami General Hospital, including the maternity and children’s wards — all of which were full of patients and hospital staff. The number of those killed is unknown.

Airstrikes targeted a water reservoir October 12 on Kamran Island off the Yemeni coast. Yemen’s Ministry of Water and Environment condemned the attack and all previous attacks on the Kamran water treatment facility.

It’s common for the Saudi coalition to carry out airstrikes against water sources across Yemen. In July, coalition warplanes destroyed a major water project in Saada province which left over 10,000 people without access to clean water.

The constant attacks on water systems have prompted condemnation from the United Nations — mostly because they’re the ones footing the bill:

“UNICEF deplores in the strongest terms yet another attack on vital and lifesaving water systems in Yemen. A large water facility in Sa’ada, in the northwest of the country, came under attack this week. This is the third such attack on the same facility. More than half of the project is now damaged, cutting off 10,500 people from safe drinking water. Continuous attacks on water systems in Yemen are cutting off children and their families from water, increasing the likelihood of water-borne diseases spreading in the war-torn country. For families in Yemen, these crumbling basic services, are a matter of life and death.”

The UNICEF statement also mentions that two separate Saudi attacks on a water project in March cost the U.N. $20,000. The October 13 incident will cost the U.N. $300,000.

Humanitarian crisis in Yemen

Saudi Arabia launched a military campaign against Yemen in 2015 to prop up Riyadh’s puppet government and smash Yemen’s resistance movement. Yemeni resistance forces, Ansarullah (the Houthis), currently control the capital city of Sana’a and most of Yemen’s northern provinces.

Ansarullah also controls Hodeidah port where 34 countries are assisting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in their military operation, “Golden Victory,” to pry Hodeidah from indigenous Yemeni control.

The coalition has not made much progress despite receiving weaponry, materials, assistance and troops from the United States, France, Canada and Britain. Not only is the war against Yemen a complete failure for Riyadh, but it’s also an embarrassment for countries like the U.S. who have outfitted and trained the Saudis and U.A.E. these past three years.

The U.S.-Saudi-U.A.E. war against Yemen has killed or injured over 36,000 people. The blockade and siege have killed tens of thousands more because it restricts all imports, exports, movement and financial transactions. The United States and western countries provide the Saudi coalition with bombs, refueling for planes, special forces ground training and intelligence support for selecting airstrike targets.

Randi Nord is editor at Geopolitics Alert where she follows the U.S.-backed Saudi war against Yemen. She presented testimony on coalition atrocities in Yemen at a gathering of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva in September 2018.

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