May 23-29: US blocks transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia

Monday, May 23More than 40 army recruits were killed and 60 injured when a car bomb was detonated outside of a military training camp in Aden’s Khormaksar. The Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack against what they called “the apostate Yemeni army.”

The Kuwait negotiations resumed following a weekend meeting between Hadi, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and the Emir of Qatar. Mr. Ban emphasized the need for concrete results to come from the peace talks along with efforts to provide and facilitate humanitarian aid.

Amnesty International reports that families returning home to northern Yemen after the conflict has subsided are now at risk of stumbling onto de facto minefields that have been created by unexploded US-made cluster bombs which were routinely misused by the Saudi coalition. Ten new cases have been documented in which 16 civilians, including nine children, were killed or injured due to unexploded cluster munitions.

Tuesday, May 24 The UK government has sought assurances from Saudi Arabia that British-made cluster bombs have not been used in the conflict in Yemen. This is despite thorough documentation of their use by Amnesty International, which has written to Prime Minister David Cameron calling for a government inquiry into allegations of British involvement in the conflict.

Thursday, May 26 The Houthis and Hadi’s government in exile agreed to a mass prisoner swap before the start of Ramadan in early June. Houthi sources claim that 1,000 prisoners would be released while the government says all prisoners, or upwards of 4,000, would be swapped.  

Friday, May 27 Following pressure from Congress and advocacy groups, the US has placed a hold on the transfer of cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia. Washington has sold millions of dollars worth of cluster bombs to Riyadh in recent years, which have been used in bombing campaigns in Yemen, often in civilian areas.

“Cluster bombs contain bomblets that scatter widely and kill or injure indiscriminately. Sometimes bomblets fail to detonate immediately and can kill civilians months or even years later. The weapons were banned in a 2008 international treaty that arms sales giants, including the United States and Russia, refused to sign.”

Reports indicate that AQAP has managed to hold onto some of the revenue that was lost following their expulsion from Mukalla last month. By partnering with other armed groups and taxing fuel deliveries that pass through two AQAP-controlled checkpoints, the group is still turning a profit in Shabwa, west of Mukalla.

Saturday, May 28 UK Foreign Secretary Philip Hammond toured the Gulf states this weekend to press for more concerted action on Syria and Yemen. He said the Yemen crisis will be high on his agenda, adding that allowing the state to collapse "is simply not an option.”

Hammond has routinely denied the Saudi-led coalition’s use of cluster bombs in Yemen, and defends British arms sales to Saudi Arabia and the kingdom’s record in the war.

A reduction in British arms exports to Saudi Arabia is unlikely, as the UK’s weapon sales to oppressive regimes, including Saudi Arabia, is reported to have topped 3 billion pounds a year.

Sunday, May 29 Clashes between Houthi rebels and government forces in the Houthi-controlled Bayhan district between Shabwa and Marib provinces claimed the lives of 48 fighters - 28 Houthi and pro-Saleh forces and 20 government soldiers - a senior military officer said.