No war is “clean” and the war in Yemen “remains an ugly war”, the UAE minister of state for foreign affairs said yesterday.
Speaking in response to questions regarding a Saudi-led coalition air strike which killed children on a bus, Anwar Gargash said: “This war has been and remains an ugly war.”
In this war, we have seen civilians shot at, bombed, killed and unfortunately, as I say, this is really part of any confrontation we have to do.
At least 50 people, including 40 children, were killed in air strikes which hit a bus of school children as it drove through a market of Dahyan, a town in Saada. Amid outrage from international human rights groups and UN officials, the Saudi-led coalition continued to defend the air strike as a “legitimate military action” intended to hit Houthi leaders, a day after it authorised a coalition investigation of the strike.
“Al-Qaeda thrived before the start of ‘Operation Restoring Hope’ [in Yemen], as it benefitted from the deteriorating political conditions in Yemen, and expanded its control over the country,” Gargash said, stressing that the UAE was “combatting terrorism”.
His comments come one week after the Associated Press revealed how the UAE forces “cut secret deals” with Al-Qaeda fighters to attain a military advantage over the Iranian-aligned Houthis. Some AQAP fighters were paid to leave key towns and provinces they previously took over, while others were allowed to retreat with military equipment, weapons and cash.
Saudi/UAE coalition carried out 258 air strikes on Yemen in June, nearly 1/3 of which hit non-military sites. @YemenData report says 24 air strikes hit residential areas, 3 hit water & electricity sites, 3 on healthcare facilities. All possible violations of international law. https://t.co/6HABgLqmmO
— Simon Adams (@SAdamsR2P) August 13, 2018
On a number of occasions, the Saudi-led coalition made headlines of ousting AQAP from decisive landscapes, neutralising the terror group’s ability to strike the West. But in reality, it was a sealed and negotiated conquest without any military confrontation.
“The Arab Coalition, led by Saudi Arabia, has managed, over the past three years, to conduct parallel operations in Yemen, which include facing the Houthi militias and confronting Al-Qaeda. We succeeded in weakening Al-Qaeda in Yemen,” he said.
The conflict in Yemen escalated in 2015 when Saudi Arabia and its Sunni-Arab allies launched a massive air campaign aimed at rolling back Houthi gains. The group had taken control of the capital, Sanaa, and large swathes of the country forcing the internationally backed government into exile.
Three years on, more than 15,000 Yemenis have been killed, according to the UN, and millions continue to suffer in what it has declared as the worst humanitarian crisis in the world.
Cycle of violence
Thousands of mourners yesterday buried more than a dozen children killed in the Saudi-led coalition bus air strike, one of the deadliest in northern Yemen to date.
Wooden coffins, most of them with a picture of children were taken by cars and sea of Houthi followers – chanting the Houthi slogan.
Mohammed Ali Al-Houthi, slammed the killing as a “crime by America and its allies against the children of Yemen”. A pro-Houthi TV network, Al-Masirah broadcasted the funeral, likely fuelling anti-UAE, Saudi Arabia and American sentiments.
Yemen’s Houthi group last week welcomed a call by the United Nations for an independent investigation into Saudi-led coalition air strikes on a school bus.