On Sunday, Saudi Arabia was struggling to get out in front of a helicopter attack in northern Yemen straight. Attack helicopters came across the Saudi border into a Shi’ite town, killing 30 civilians. Though the Saudis initially touted the incident as killing “rebels,” they later denied it ever happened.
On Monday, their attention turned south, with Saudi warplanes launching a series of airstrikes against a wedding party in Mocha, killing another 131 civilians in one of the single deadliest incidents of the entire war and leading to a flurry of international condemnation.
Saudi officials figured out by Tuesday this huge toll was a problem, and followed the well-tested strategy of simply claiming it didn’t happen, but the reality is that with massive civilian killings by Saudi aircraft a near daily occurrence, the denials are less credible than ever, and claims by the Saudi Foreign Ministry of their care in avoiding civilian deaths ring insultingly hollow.
While the US backing for the Saudi War has kept criticism to a minimum so far, the patience is wearing thing as the war drags on and the atrocities mount. Even UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, loathe to point the finger at anybody, conceded yesterday that while both sides in Yemen are guilty of targeting civilians, the Saudi airstrikes are causing many more casualties.
Direct US involvement in the war also risks making this huge civilian toll America’s problem, with Rep. Ted Lieu (D – CA), a former Air Force judge advocate general, pressing Gen. Joseph Dunford on whether the Pentagon is keeping track of the civilian toll in airstrikes they are facilitating, adding that at this point it’s clear that the Saudi-led coalition is either “grossly negligent or intentionally targeting civilians.”