During one day this week, 68 Yemeni civilians, including at least eight children and 14 members of the same family, were killed when a Saudi Arabia-led coalition conducted two air strikes in the country, U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Jamie McGoldrick said Thursday.
The war in Yemen is "absurd" and "futile," McGoldrick said, and the only way it can end is through negotiations, not fighting. The first air strike killed 54 people and wounded 32 more inside a crowded market in Taez province, and the second killed 14 members of a family in Hodeidah province. Over 10 days earlier this month, "escalated and indiscriminate attacks throughout Yemen" killed 41 civilians and wounded 43.
Houthi rebels, backed by Iran, have control of the capital Sana'a. Saudi Arabia is leading a coalition against the Houthis, and by extension Iranian aggression, and increased its air strikes this month after insurgents fired a ballistic missile at the Saudi capital, Riyadh. Everyone involved shows a "complete disregard for human life," McGoldrick said, and civilians are "being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides." It's been estimated the war has left at least 10,000 people dead, and there are eight million civilians without enough food and one million with cholera. Catherine Garcia
U.S. Central Command in Tampa announced Wednesday that in 2017, U.S. ground troops conducted "multiple ground operations and more than 120 airstrikes" in Yemen.
U.S. forces are trying to "disrupt the ability of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula and ISIS-Yemen to use ungoverned spaces in Yemen as a hub for terrorist recruiting, training, and base of operations to export terror worldwide," CENTCOM said. Yemen is being devastated by a war between the government and Houthi rebels, and the Defense Department said that over the past year, the Islamic State has doubled in size in Yemen. That doesn't surprise experts, as ISIS has lost significant territory in Iraq and Syria, and is looking for a safe haven amid the chaos.
Under the Trump administration, the Defense Department has not been giving regular updates on U.S. troop activity in Yemen, NBC News reports, and the extent of counterterrorism operations in the country wasn't clear before Wednesday. The Pentagon also said that in November, three senior al Qaeda leaders were killed in Yemen, and in October, 50 ISIS Yemen militants were killed at two training camps. Catherine Garcia
On Wednesday, President Trump issued a rare public rebuke to Saudi Arabia, saying in a statement he has directed U.S. officials "to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it. This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately." Saudi Arabia, which has led a coalition of Arab states fighting against Iran-backed Houthis in Yemen since March 2015, started blocking Yemeni ports last month, exacerbating one of the world's worst humanitarian crises. The U.S. provides support for the Saudi-led airstrikes.
Trump has touted his warm relations with Saudi Arabia, but U.S. officials are concerned with some parts of Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman's foreign policy. Saudi Arabia was unusually public in its criticism of Trump's decision to recognize Jerusalem as Israel's capital on Wednesday, but a White House official told Reuters that Trump's statement, issued shortly after his Jerusalem announcement, was not retaliation. "It has to do with the fact that there is a serious humanitarian issue in Yemen and the Saudis should and can do more," the official said.
At least 14,000 people have been wounded or killed since the Saudi bombing campaign began, 8 million people are on the brink of famine, and nearly a million Yemenis have contracted cholera. "President Trump's public call for Saudi Arabia to end the blockade is long overdue but hugely important," said Oxfam America's Scott Paul, adding that "U.S. support has helped create Yemen's horrific crisis." Peter Weber
An estimated 130 children or more die every day in Yemen from starvation or disease, the international aid group Save the Children reported late Wednesday. By the end of the year, an estimated 50,000 children will have died from the "preventable" causes, Save the Children's Yemen director, Tamer Kirolos, told The Independent.
That number means "more than a hundred mothers [are] grieving for the death of a child, day after day," Kirolos added.
The shocking toll stems in part from the war-torn country's massive cholera outbreak, the largest in modern history. An estimated 600,000 people or more have been infected by the disease since April.
An estimated 385,000 children in Yemen are additionally suffering from severe acute malnutrition, The Telegraph reports. A blockade on Yemen's ports by Saudi Arabia made food in the famine-struck nation even scarcer, and Save the Children warns that the numbers reported Wednesday could already be outdated since they were gathered before Saudi Arabia's maneuver. The kingdom said Monday it would ease the blockade after extreme international pressure.
America's role in allowing the Saudi Arabian blockade, though, is "precisely the kind of thing that fuels furious anti-American hatred and terrorism," Ryan Cooper writes at The Week. Read more here. Jeva Lange
On Monday, the House passed a resolution declaring U.S. support for a Saudi-led military operation in Yemen outside the scope of congressional authorization to fight al Qaeda and allied groups. The nonbinding measure passed with broad bipartisan support, 366 to 30. It does not call for the Trump administration to cease supporting Saudi Arabia and its allies in Yemen, where an air campaign against Iran-allied Houthis had killed thousands of civilians and contributed to a growing humanitarian disaster, but it publicly acknowledges America's role.
"To date, Congress has not enacted specific legislation authorizing the use of military force against parties participating in the Yemeni civil war that are not otherwise subject to the Authorization of Use of Military Force," the resolution states, either the 2001 version or the 2003 version for the Iraq War. "What our military is not authorized to do is assist the Saudi Arabian regime in fighting the Houthis," Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), co-sponsor of the resolution with Rep. Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), said on the House floor. "In many cases, the Saudis have aligned with al Qaeda to fight the Houthis, undermining our very counterterrorism operations."
Khanna has been urging Congress to step up its oversight of America's military operations, arguing that the Yemen conflict requires specific congressional authorization under the War Powers Act. Some Republicans disagree with that contention, and House GOP leaders agreed to a vote after watering down the measure. "I don't believe our security cooperation with the Saudis triggers War Powers," said House Foreign Affairs Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.). "But just because it does not arise under that particular statute, does not make it immune from our scrutiny." The Senate has no corresponding legislation, Politico notes. Peter Weber
After Saudi Arabia intercepted a missile fired by Houthi rebels in Yemen on Saturday, the Saudi-led coalition retaliated by closing Yemen's land, sea, and air ports early Monday.
The coalition said this is a temporary measure, and humanitarian aid will still be able to come into the country, the poorest in the region. The missile targeted Riyadh, and the coalition accused Iran of giving it to the rebels; Iran denies providing the missile. In a statement, the Houthis said they fired the missile in response to coalition bombings that have killed civilians.
On Sunday, the coalition launched airstrikes against Yemen's capital of Sanaa, and the Islamic State claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack and storming of security compound in Aden that left 17 dead. Since the Houthis, backed by Iran, and Yemen's government, allied with the Saudi-led coalition, began fighting in 2014, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed, illnesses like cholera have spread, and the country is close to experiencing a famine. Catherine Garcia
President Trump ordered his first covert counterterrorism mission in Yemen without "sufficient intelligence, ground support, or adequate backup preparations," Reuters reported Thursday via three unnamed U.S. military officials.
That inadequate information contributed to the operation's poor outcome, including the death of one U.S. soldier and more than a dozen civilians. The "attacking SEAL team found itself dropping onto a reinforced al Qaeda base defended by landmines, snipers, and a larger than expected contingent of heavily armed Islamist extremists," the officials told Reuters.
Among the civilians killed was an 8-year-old American girl who was the daughter of Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen assassinated along with his teenage son by U.S. drone strike in 2011. U.S. Central Command said in a statement Wednesday that it continues to assess "if there were any still-undetected civilian casualties" in the firefight.
While the United States has long supported Saudi Arabia's coalition intervention in Yemen, this operation marked the first U.S. ground mission in Yemen's civil war. The strike plan was rejected by former President Barack Obama before President Trump decided to move ahead with the operation. Bonnie Kristian
One American was killed and three wounded in a firefight Saturday against al Qaeda militants in Yemen, the Pentagon confirmed Sunday. Local reports say the raid killed about 30 people, including 10 women and three children. The U.S. commandos arrived by helicopter in the Yakla district of al-Bayda province to target a leader of al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, Abdulraoof al-Dhahab, who was among those killed.
"The operation began at dawn when a drone bombed the home of Abdulraoof al-Dhahab and then helicopters flew up and unloaded paratroopers at his house and killed everyone inside," a Yemeni observer told Reuters on condition of anonymity. "Next, the gunmen opened fire at the U.S. soldiers who left the area, and the helicopters bombed the gunmen and a number of homes and led to a large number of casualties." One helicopter was damaged in the incident and intentionally destroyed on site.
Though the United States has long provided support for Saudi Arabia's coalition intervention in Yemen, including drone strikes, this is believed to be the first U.S. ground operation in Yemen's civil war. It is also the first counterterrorism operation approved by President Trump. Bonnie Kristian