HAJJAH, YEMEN – Two parallel but very different meetings took place recently — one in search of peace, the other to plan more war. In Oman’s capital, Muscat, an official delegation headed by Ansar Allah, met with Omani and European officials to negotiate de-escalation and humanitarian assistance in Yemen. Meanwhile, the United States and the Saudi-led Coalition held meetings to plan a ground escalation in Sana’a and Hajjah province in Yemen’s southeast to coincide with airstrikes against residential neighborhoods in other cities throughout the north, which have killed and injured dozens of people and caused extensive damage to property and infrastructure.
Haradh among new, and old, Coalition targets
In the wake of President Joe Biden’s pledge of support to the Saudi king during a call and a corroborating statement by CENTCOM commander Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the Saudis wasted little time translating this support into ground action. The oil-rich country – supported by American and British military planners and experts and a large number of mercenaries, including Sudanese fighters – has imposed an oppressive siege on Haradh, a strategic Yemeni city in Hajjah province. Situated near the Yemen-Saudi border, Haradh lies emptied of people and largely destroyed by Saudi airstrikes and artillery bombardment.
The crippling siege is designed to pave the way for a ground invasion of the city, which oversees the Red Sea port of Midi in Yemen’s far northwestern reaches. The city was once relatively prosperous, benefiting from smuggling and cross-border trade. Since Tuesday, when the Saudis announced their military operation, dozens of people have been killed, and hundreds of families have fled their homes as Saudi bombs devastate the city and the roads leading into and out of it.
Haradh was not the only target of Saudi violence. U.S.-backed Coalition forces dropped hundreds of tons of bombs on densely populated cities, including Sana’a, al-Hodeida, Hajjah, Saada, Marib, and al-Jwaf. In Sana’a, where Saudi forces uncharacteristically gave a 72-hour evacuation notice to government facilities, warplanes razed the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology, destroying communications systems and triggering an internet blackout. U.S.-backed Coalition forces also bombed several areas of the capital around the ministry. The Yemeni Parliament said that the bombing of the telecommunications sector was intended to isolate Yemen from the rest of the world, adding that Saudi Arabia and UAE aim to carry out more massacres and war crimes in defiance of the international community.
Since May 2019 – when the Ansar Allah government unveiled “National Vision” to heal, rebuild, and modernize their war-torn nation – Yemeni government facilities and ministries have succeeded in establishing relative stability, managing a population of more than 15 million people, and keeping the exchange rate at 600 riyals per U.S. dollar. Now, Saudi Arabia claims that government facilities are being used for military purposes. Ansar Allah has denied the claims and invited foreign media to visit all government facilities, adding that the bombings will not break the people’s will.
Even during the 72-hour evacuation period, Saudi airstrikes pounded streets leading to the airport and the most important entrances to the capital.
Oil-rich Marib and al-Jawf also came under Saudi attack, while a citizen was killed and three wounded in the al-Muslab area in al-Tuhayta district in al-Hodeida. In the past week alone, Saudi Arabia has violated the al-Hodeida ceasefire agreement 1,426 times. Saudi airstrikes also targeted Saada province, where witnesses told MintPress News that many people, including African immigrants in the al-Raqw area in the Munabbih border district, were killed by Saudi shelling. In addition, the districts of Razeh, Shada, and Kitaf were subjected to all-out air raids, the most violent since a January 22 Saudi Coalition attack on a Yemeni civilian prison.
US weapons and diplomacy bring more death and destruction
Amid the escalation, President Biden held a call with Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz last Wednesday, where he reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to back the Saudi-led Coalition. On February 8, CENTCOM Commander McKenzie told UAE’s state-owned WAM news agency that “the U.S. is working with the UAE and other regional and global partners to develop more effective solutions to stop [Yemeni] drone attacks, even before they are launched,” sparking concerns that the U.S.-backed Saudi Coalition could launch even more preemptive attacks against Yemen under the pretext of stopping Houthi drone attacks on Saudi and UAE targets. On Saturday, a shipment of F-22 fighter jets arrived in the UAE from the United States.
Save the Children has described January as the bloodiest month since 2018 for Yemen, stating that one Yemeni civilian was either killed or wounded every hour during the last month. “Between January 6 and February 2, more than 220 adults and 15 children were killed and over 354 adults and 30 children were injured as well,” Save the Children said in a recent report.
In the January 22 Saudi Coalition attack on the Saada City Remand Prison, UAE warplanes dropped precision-guided bombs made by U.S. weapons manufacturer Raytheon – the latest piece in the broader web of evidence of the use of U.S.-manufactured weapons in incidents that could amount to war crimes, according to Amnesty International. In its report published on January 26, the international body stated:
Amnesty International’s arms experts analyzed photos of the remnants of the weapon used in the attack on the detention center and identified the bomb as a GBU-12, a 500 lb laser-guided bomb manufactured by Raytheon… Since March 2015, Amnesty International’s researchers have investigated dozens of airstrikes and repeatedly found and identified remnants of U.S.-manufactured munitions.
Since November 2021, the Biden administration has approved multiple arms deals with Saudi Arabia, including a $650 million agreement to sell Raytheon missiles to the kingdom and a $28 million contract for U.S. maintenance of the kingdom’s aircraft. In December, the administration stated it “remains committed” to the proposed sale of $23 billion in F-35 aircraft, MQ-9B drones, and munitions to the UAE. These weapons bring death and destruction to civilians in Yemen but are less effective against Yemen’s army and Ansar Allah, which have gradually grown stronger, leaving Riyadh and Abu Dhabi bogged down in the country and looking for more support.
U.S.-made weapons are not the only cause of extensive destruction and the piling up of civilian victims in the war-torn country; the U.S.’s aggressive diplomatic stance has also taken a significant toll. Washington’s diplomatic efforts, paired with a seemingly endless supply of Gulf oil money, have brought about the dissolution of the UN’s monitoring mechanism in Yemen and have effectively given Saudi Arabia and the UAE carte blanche to commit rampant, horrific human rights violations in the country.
In October, the UN Human Rights Council voted to disband its Eminent International and Regional Experts on Yemen Group. It was the first time that the United Nations’ top rights body had rejected a draft resolution since it was founded in 2006. The resolution, brought forward by European nations and Canada, was defeated by 21 votes to 18. “The removal of this crucial human rights investigative body took us back to unchecked, horrific violations,” the Norwegian Refugee Council`s country director, Erin Hutchinson, lamented in a statement.
According to a recent report by the Norwegian Refugee Council:
The civilian death toll in Yemen has almost doubled since the United Nations rights body dissolved its monitoring mechanism in the war-torn country… In the four months before the end of the human rights monitoring, 823 civilians were injured or killed in the war. In the four months that followed, there were 1,535 civilians, according to data from the Civilian Impact Monitoring Project. During the same period, 39 times more of the civilian casualties were caused by airstrikes.
Advice to Biden
By supporting the Saudis and UAE, President Biden not only has abandoned promises he made after first taking office in January 2021, but is also fueling the war and aggravating Yemen`s retaliation against its aggressors. According to Yemeni officials who spoke to MintPress, Biden did not need to supply his allies with weapons, intelligence, and training if he cared about the Saudis and Emirates. “To end the brutal war and keep his allies safe, Biden should dictate to his friends to stop the war and lift the blockade; in return, the Yemeni attacks will stop immediately,” they said.
For its part, the Yemeni Army loyal to Ansar Allah has pledged that retaliatory ballistic missile and drone attacks against Saudi Arabia and the UAE will not stop or be deterred by renewed U.S. support. On Thursday, a Yemeni drone achieved a direct hit on a military site in Abha International Airport in Saudi Arabia, as announced by Brigadier General Yahya Saree and confirmed by the Saudi-led Coalition.
To most Yemenis – who are highly frustrated by the renewal of the U.S. support for Saudi Arabia – ballistic missile and drone strikes have proven the most effective means of deterring their oil-rich neighbors from their unrelenting attacks.
Feature photo | Graphic by MintPress News
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist based in Sana’a. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.