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Sunday, February 7, 2016

Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen kills over one hundred at wedding party

A wedding party in southern Yemen was hit by Saudi-led aerial bombardment Monday, killing up to 135 people, including many women and children. The tents set up for the wedding may have been mistaken for a military encampment.

The bombing campaign is accused of killing many civilians and health facilities have been attacked on several occasions. A recent attack was in January on a Doctors Without Borders clinic. Several cases of cluster bombs being used have been claimed with considerable evidence. Fragments show some of the bombs were made in the U.S. Saudis deny the bombs have been used. The UN has warned that the use of the cluster bombs in populated areas could be a war crime. Since its beginning in early spring last year, the Saudi-led bombing is estimated to have killed more than 3,500 people with aids groups, claiming that perhaps half of the casualties were civilians. The UN claims that in the conflict so far about 6,000 have been killed with about half being civilians. The Saudi coalition attacks have caused massive damage to Yemen's infrastructure. Some military experts question the effectiveness of the bombing campaign. Iran supports the Houthi rebels, who are Shiites, while the majority of Yemenis are Sunni.
The strike on the wedding was just outside the Red Sea port of Mokha. The groom in the ceremony was associated with the rebel Houthis who took over much of western and southern Yemen including Aden but have now been dislodged from the port city and much of the south. However, the Houthis still hold the capital and many surrounding areas.
The Saudis are joined by troops from the UAE and even mercenaries as well as those opposed to the Houthis. Al Qaeda in the Arab Peninsula(AQAP) has allied itself with Sunni tribes in some areas to fight the Houthis. But AQAP also fought against the government of Mansour Hadi when it was in power. After being in exile for some time, the Hadi government is now located in Aden.
AQAP has extended its influence and enlarged the area it controls since the conflict started. The Saudi coalition has done little to fight AQAP. No doubt it sees the group as a valuable force to fight against the Houthis. AQAP controls the key coastal city of Mukalla and the province of Hadrawhmat. Recently they captured the key city of Azzan in the province of Shabwa. The U.S. continues drone strikes against AQAP. The Islamic State is also making its presence known in Yemen. Although it does not hold territory it mounts suicide attacks both against the Houthis and the Hadi government. Most recently they attacked the presidential palace in Aden.
While there have been several attempts at establishing a ceasefire and peace talks, so far none have been successful. The Saudis may believe they can achieve a military victory but so far the struggle has simply dragged on with both sides suffering considerable casualties. The conflict is displacing many Yemenis and causing a humanitarian catastrophe.


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