December 19-25: Use of UK, Brazil manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen confirmed

Monday, December 19Saudi General Ahmed al-Asseri and UK Defense Secretary Michael Fallon have confirmed that the Saudi-led coalition has used UK-manufactured cluster bombs in Yemen, which were believed to be purchased in the eighties.

“While the UK had stopped manufacturing cluster bombs in 1989 and signed up to a convention in 2008 not to use them, neither Saudi Arabia nor the US has signed the convention. Since the UK is an ally of both, and the convention says signatories should not aid or abet countries using them, the legal position is unclear.”

A photo gallery by the ICRC tells the stories of migrants who came to Yemen from Ethiopia, Somalia, and other countries with the hope of a better life. These migrants are now facing the same losses and challenges as Yemenis as they endure war and food shortages.

Tuesday, December 20 A publication in the European Council on Foreign Relations explains how the EU can use its relatively neutral position in Yemen’s conflict to help stabilize the country and work towards a more inclusive political landscape.

“...There are a number of steps that the EU and member states can take in order to help facilitate a peace process in Yemen. The EU may be able to take advantage of its position as an external party to encourage key actors to move away from the battlefield and towards the negotiating table.”

Following Monday’s news that UK-manufactured cluster bombs were used by the coalition in Yemen, there has been increased pressure on the British government to cut off its supply of weapons to Saudi Arabia. An opinion piece in the Guardian, however, explains why severing defence ties with Saudi Arabia would come at a high price.

As Rosemary Hollis writes, “The Americans are the leading suppliers of arms to Saudi Arabia, but since at least the 1980s the UK has occupied a subsidiary role which has assured British manufacturers a niche market that is essential to its defence industry.”

Clashes between pro-government forces and the Houthis on the outskirts of Ta’iz resulted in 22 casualties, according to military sources. Eight government soldiers were killed along with 14 Houthis. Two government officers were also killed in clashes around the Red Sea port of Midi.

A suspected US drone strike killed three alleged al-Qaeda members in southern Yemen. The strike took place at night while the three men were traveling by car through Shabwah province.

Wednesday, December 21 Another opinion piece in the Guardian emphasizes the importance of ideology and principles in the UK’s dealing with Saudi Arabia, encouraging British politicians to look beyond the economic advantages of the partnership. The article also points out the double standard in the UK’s approach to the wars in Syria and Yemen.

“We cannot say we abhor use of weapons against civilians in Aleppo, and supply such weapons for use against civilians in Yemen,” writes Michael Axworthy.

Thursday, December 22 Central Command announced that nine US drone strikes have killed 28 alleged al-Qaeda members from September 23 to December 13. The majority of the strikes, which are listed in the press release, took place in Shabwa, Bayda, and Marib provinces.

Friday, December 23 Human Rights Watch reports that a December 16 coalition airstrike on a school in Sa’dah, which killed two civilians and wounded at least six, was carried out using cluster munitions manufactured in Brazil. The organization is now calling on Brazil to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions and cease their production.

“The attack came a day after Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, and the United States abstained from a vote in the United Nations General Assembly that overwhelmingly endorsed an already widely accepted international ban on cluster munition use.”

Middle East Eye explains how fake news and misleading statements by politicians such as UK foreign secretaries Boris Johnson and Philip Hammond have contributed to the public’s misunderstanding of Yemen’s war.

“The effect of [Johnson and Hammond’s] statements was to protect Saudi Arabia as it led a murderous series of bombing raids which have wiped out weddings, attacked hospitals, funerals, markets and homes, in the process killing thousands of people. As I learned for myself in Yemen, these tactics are ensuring that many there now hate our country for backing the Saudis,” writes Peter Oborne.

Saturday, December 24 Egypt’s foreign ministry spokesman announced that 49 Egyptian fishermen who were abducted from al-Hudaydah have now been released after coordination with Yemeni officials. The spokesman called on “all Egyptians in Yemen to take the utmost care and stay away from conflict areas.”

Sunday, December 25 At least one Saudi soldier was killed in Najran province during cross border clashes with Houthi forces. Al Masirah, the Houthi network, claimed that six Saudis were killed while the Saudi Press Agency says that one soldier was killed by Yemeni sniper fire.