September 19-25: Senate votes on Saudi arms deal, dozens of civilians die in airstrikes

Monday, September 19US officials have confirmed that the government sold white phosphorus to Saudi Arabia, which the coalition now appears to be using in Yemen. US regulations require that white phosphorus only be used for signalling and creating smoke screens, but the highly flammable material can also be used as a weapon against soldiers and civilians. It is still unclear how Saudi Arabia is using it in Yemen.

In addition to the white phosphorus munitions, Amnesty International confirmed that a US-made bomb was used in an August 15 Saudi airstrike on an MSF hospital, which killed 11 and injured 19.

“It is outrageous that states have continued to supply the Saudi Arabia-led coalition with weapons...despite stark evidence that those arms are being used to attack hospitals and other civilian objects and in other serious violations of international humanitarian law,” said Philip Luther, Research and Advocacy Director at Amnesty International.

Tuesday, September 20 Gunmen reportedly abducted an American teacher from an English language school in San’a. The gunmen were seen by faculty and students forcing the teacher into a car outside of the school.

Saudi coalition airstrikes targeted the headquarters of the National Security Bureau in San’a’s historic old city, damaging homes in the UNESCO heritage site and killing one civilian. The coalition also bombed the nearby defense ministry, staff and residents reported.

The governing council of the Houthis and Saleh released a statement criticizing last week’s relocation of Yemen’s central bank from San’a to Aden by the exiled government. The statement says that the move reflects “desperation and lack of direction” by the Saudi regime and its supporters in Riyadh.

"This act from a legal perspective is null and void...We call on the international community especially the international monetary and financial institutions to stand by their decision to reject that move."

In preparation for Wednesday’s Senate vote on a $1.15 billion US arms deal with Saudi Arabia, Rand Paul (R-KY) explains why the transfer should be blocked and why congressional approval should have been required prior to US participation in the Saudi-led war in Yemen.

Wednesday, September 21 The US Senate debated and voted on a resolution to block a $1.15 billion weapons deal with Saudi Arabia. The resolution, sponsored by senators Chris Murphy and Rand Paul, did not pass. It did, however, receive bipartisan support from over a quarter of the Senate, indicating a possible shift in US backing of Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen. Senator Murphy says he will continue to push for a reevaluation of US support for the kingdom.

There is a US imprint on every civilian death inside Yemen...We have given [assistance to the coalition] in substantial means and methods. We provide the bombs, we provide the refueling planes, we provide the intelligence. There is really no way that this bombing campaign could happen without US participation. The United States is at war in Yemen today.” -Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT)

Here is a list of the senators that voted in favor and opposition to the resolution. To watch the Senate debate, start this video at 2:08:00.

At least 25 people were killed and 70 others wounded late on Wednesday when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit the residential al-Hunoud area of al-Hudaydah. The raid reportedly targeted a presidential palace used by Houthi rebels, but also destroyed neighboring homes.

The UK announced that it will increase humanitarian aid to Yemen by £37 million this year, bringing the total amount of aid to £100 million. The announcement comes amidst intense criticism of the British government for its billions of pounds worth of weapons deals with Saudi Arabia since the war in Yemen began in 2015. Overwhelming evidence from human rights organizations shows that British and American weapons are being used in the commission of humanitarian crimes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen. For a brief and informative history of UK-Saudi relations, read this op-ed published in Middle East Monitor this week.

Thursday, September 22 Ashwaq Muharram, a doctor working in al-Hudaydah, is now working independently to provide food and medicine to those suffering from famine and illness in one of Yemen’s most impoverished areas. Muharram says she has never seen things so bad. “The rich are now the middle class, the middle class are now the poor, and the poor are now starving.”

Friday, September 23 Foreign ministers of Yemen’s ministerial quartet (US, UK, UAE, and Saudi Arabia) proposed a 72-hour ceasefire during a UN General Assembly meeting in New York in the hopes that a lull in fighting could bring about another round of peace talks.

An article by Peter Salisbury and Samuel Oakford in the Atlantic discusses contradictions and failures in the Obama administration’s policy towards Saudi Arabia. Despite a complete lack of strategic benefit from the war in Yemen, the United States continues to support and enable Saudi offenses.

The UN reports that at least 329 civilians have been killed and 426 injured in Yemen since August, when peace talks collapsed along with an unstable ceasefire. In September alone, 149 civilians have been killed. Nine of those deaths were attributed to pro-Houthi forces and 126 to the Saudi-led coalition.

Yemen’s president-in-exile Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi told the UN that the coalition “shall extract Yemen from the claws of Iran, we shall raise the Yemeni flag over every foot of our precious Yemeni soil and we will lay the foundation for a just federal state.”

Hadi also said that the operations undertaken by the (Houthi) militias, especially in Ta’iz, such as kidnappings, forced disappearances, and the implementation of blockades, are terrorist actions that are no different from those committed by the Islamic State group or al-Qaeda. His full speech can be seen here.

Saturday, September 24 The UK has refused to back an international inquiry into Saudi war crimes proposed by the Netherlands, causing the inquiry to be replaced with a weaker version that human rights organizations deem insufficient to establish facts related to violations in Yemen.

Yemen’s government-in-exile plans to issue a complaint to the UN of Iran’s transfer of weapons to the Houthis.

"It is impossible to hide that weapons-smuggling is still taking place from Iran. Some of these weapons have been found on the Saudi-Yemeni border and they are Iranian weapons," Yemen’s foreign minister Abdel Malek al-Mekhlafi said.

Late night coalition airstrikes in Ibb killed nine civilians and wounded nine others, according to the local hospital officials. Locals say the nine killed include three children and their parents.

An apparent US drone strike in Ma’rib killed five suspected members of al-Qaeda. A security official claims those killed were local commander Abu Khaled al-Sanaani and four of his guards.

Sunday, September 25 Saleh al-Samad, the chief of the Houthi/Saleh political council in Yemen, proposed a truce where Houthi forces would halt attacks on Saudi Arabia if Saudi forces stopped airstrikes and lifted its blockade in Yemen.

"(In exchange for) stopping the aggression against our country by land, sea and air, stopping the air strikes and lifting the siege imposed on our country, in return (we will) stop combat operations on the border,” said al-Samad.