The Saudi-led Coalition has used systematic economic strangulation as a weapon of war. This, to the many in Yemen who celebrated the Aramco attack, is sufficient justification for targeting the heart of Saudi Arabia’s economy.
AMRAN, YEMEN — Unlike the burning fields of neighboring Saudi Arabia, in Yemen scenes of massive fires have become commonplace, a reality that civilians do not accept but have come to expect. For nearly five years, since the Saudi-led Coalition began its bombing campaign in Yemen, Yemeni residents have watched as their neighbors’ homes have burned to the ground, often with whole families still inside, and as schools, factories, hospitals, mosques, and markets are rendered into piles of soot and ash following massive infernos sparked by near-constant Saudi airstrikes. Yet, unlike the attacks on Saudi oil facilities, rarely do the attacks on Yemen garner international media coverage or condemnation.
Thirty-two-year-old Yemeni Bedouin Saleh Masoud Jarwan did not expect that he and his family would be the next victims of the Saudi airstrikes, but on Monday Saleh was killed along with six family members in an airstrike by Coalition jets in Yemen’s Amran province. Saleh had hoped that Yemen would be safe after the attack on the Saudi Aramco facility, assuming that the attack would be enough to encourage the Kingdom to halt its drone and missile attacks against Yemen.
The scene of the attack was illuminated in red from the massive fires that followed the airstrikes, and this fire was not fueled by oil but by the bodies of more than ten civilians, including women and children. The screaming and crying of two children who survived the initial onslaught provided a backdrop to the shouts of rescuers who frantically worked their shovels and called out to victims as they worked to free Saleh and his family from the rubble of the mosque that collapsed on them in the airstrike.
A sustained Saudi barrage
The Coalition is estimated to have carried out at least 42 airstrikes in just a 24-hour period alone. By 2 a.m. on Sunday, local residents in the al-Sawad district of North Amran were living in horror as they sheltered in schools and mosques hoping to escape death from above as at least 12 Coalition airstrikes leveled their neighborhood. Thekra, Moamer, and Kubra — three young girls between the ages of three and eight — were among those who took refuge in a local mosque, only to be killed after Saudi warplanes brought it down over their heads.
In the village of al-Addi in the Harf Sufyan district, the air was suffused with the smell of charred bodies after a Saudi airstrike hit a car, instantly killing the two civilians inside. That attack was followed hours later by airstrikes targeting the nearby home of Ahmed Jimaie.
On Tuesday, 16 civilians, including four women and seven children, were killed when Saudi airstrikes hit the home of Abbas al-Halmi in Qataba, Al-Dali governorate, according to a local resident who spoke to MintPress but was unable to provide further details on the attack. The bodies of three children were later recovered from the rubble of that attack, adding to the already staggering death toll. MintPress obtained graphic footage of the attack showing the father of Abbas al-Halmi retrieving the body part of one of his deceased relatives from the rubble.
Warning | Graphic Footage
Saudis blame Iran, punish Yemen
The Grand Mufti of Yemen, Shams al-Din Sharaf al-Din, the highest religious authority in Yemen, laid blame on those who declared solidarity with Saudi Arabia following last week’s Aramco attacks but remain silent in the face of atrocities committed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates in Yemen.
These latest Saudi-led Coalition attacks came days after Yemen’s Houthis announced responsibility for a spate of retaliatory attacks against positions inside Saudi Arabia. It is unclear why the Coalition launched the ostensibly retaliatory attacks on Yemen, as they claim that it was Iran, not the Houthis, that carried out the oil-field attacks.
Mahdi al-Mashat, Ansarullah’s (the Houthis’ political bloc) president of the Supreme Political Council in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, warned that Yemenis would not hesitate to “launch a period of great pain if their calls for peace were ignored.” Al-Mashat made the comments following an announcement that the Houthis would temporarily cease all retaliatory missile and drone attacks against the Saudi monarchy as part of a Yemeni peace initiative. Al-Mashat said:
We announce the cessation of the targeting of Saudi Arabia’s territory by airborne missiles, ballistic missiles, drones and all forms of targeting, and we await a response to this initiative with a similar or a better one to halt all forms of attack.”
That announcement came just three days before the Coalition launched its deadly attacks in Amran.
The United Nations welcomed Ansarullah’s proposal, saying in a statement issued on Saturday by the UN Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, that it marked an important opportunity to move forward with all necessary steps to reduce violence, military escalation, and unhelpful rhetoric.
Griffiths emphasized that the implementation of the proposal by the Houthis was in good faith and could send a powerful message of their will to end the war. Saudi Arabia has so far refused to accept the offer and Saudi Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Adel al-Jubeir dismissed it, saying, “We judge other parties by their deeds [and] actions and not by their words, so we will see.”
The peace initiative follows Houthi airstrikes on two of Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais, which led to a suspension of about 50 percent of the Arab kingdom’s crude and gas production. That attack on a vital economic interest of the Kingdom garnered widespread support among many in Yemen’s capital city of Sana’a. On September 14, the day of that attack, hundreds of thousands of residents from Sana’a and its neighboring provinces took to the streets carrying Yemeni flags and holding banners emblazoned with messages of steadfastness and support for Houthi drone and missile forces.
Many Yemenis see Aramco attack as justified last line of self-defense
For many, the Houthis’ setting fire to the Kingdom’s Aramco oil fields represented the last hope to quell Saudi attacks on Yemen. In a staggering show of solidarity on Sunday, an estimated 1,200 cars filled the streets of 70th Area, a neighborhood in southern Sana’a, to drop off food donations for families of victims of Saudi airstrikes. According to many of the families, the attack on Aramco is revenge for the blood of the estimated 100,000 people killed in the Saudi-led Coalition’s war in Yemen.
Indeed, the Coalition has used systematic economic strangulation as a weapon of war — targeting jobs, infrastructure, the agricultural sector, fuel and water pumping stations, factories, and the provision of basic services, as well as imposing a land, sea and air embargo impacting the country’s imports, causing the spread of famine throughout the country. This, to the many in Yemen who celebrated the Aramco attack, is sufficient justification for targeting the heart of Saudi Arabia’s economy.
However, many still doubt that the Houthis were capable of carrying out an attack of the scale and range of the one that struck Saudi Arabia — instead accusing Iran of orchestrating the attacks. Others await the results of an international investigation, but the Houthis, who comprise a major component of Yemen’s resistance to Saudi interference in their country, say the evidence that they carried out the attacks exists and that they will share it with the media.
The Houthis over the past two years have launched a series of sophisticated attacks on Saudi coalition targets deep inside the Kingdom, establishing a precedent for the most recent attacks. Houthi officials say the attacks on the Aramco facilities were launched from three different locations, based on their flight endurance and designated targets, and that various types of combat drones were used in the attack, some capable of carrying four precision-guided bombs and of striking their targets from several angles.
Moreover, the Houthis’ third-generation Qasef (Striker) combat drones and long-endurance Sammad-3 (Invincible-3) drones have an operational range of 1,500 kilometers to 1,700 kilometers.
The attack on Aramco came at a time when the de facto leader of the Kingdom, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, was attempting to refloat the much-delayed public offering of Aramco shares, and that attack would not likely not have succeeded without the cooperation of members of Saudi royalty and former Saudi officers, according to some Houthi sources.
Feature photo | An explosion follows a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Jan. 11, 2017. Hani Mohammed | AP
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.