AL-JAWF, YEMEN — A wedding anywhere in the world is a happy occasion for couples and their families celebrating a new shared life, Yemen is no exception. Weddings traditionally include thousands of guests gathered in large halls or houses, but not since 2015, when the war began and the Saudi-led coalition began turning Yemen’s weddings into veritable slaughterhouses.
On Wednesday, a wedding party that was supposed to bring happiness to Mabakhuwt Marzuq Marei, his bride, and his guests, instead became the scene of a deadly attack. Gathered at his home to celebrate, dozens of women and children were packed under one roof when Saudi warplanes turned the celebration into a scene of carnage.
At least 31 women and children were killed and dozens were injured when at least one Saudi warplane dropped a bomb on the Marei family home in the Almasaeifeh District, situated in the Al-Hazm Directorate of the rich-oil province of Al-Jawf. Marzuq Marei told reporters that the wedding was publicly announced and they specifically informed the Saudi Coalition of the time and place of the ceremony in order to avoid an attack.
The scene of the attack described to MintPress by witnesses was tragic; violent explosions were heard in the village, red fires mixed with dust and smoke illuminated flying rubble. The bodies of wedding-goers fueled fires and ornamental furniture was strewn about as screaming and crying could be heard from those who survived the initial onslaught. In one of the homes near the wedding ceremony, a woman watched and provided a morbid chorus to nearby rescue workers with her shouted curses at the Saudi regime.
Despite the fear of additional strikes, rescuers pulled the bodies of dozens of women and children from the rubble, most still wrapped in their traditional wedding clothes. They were transferred to the Al-Thawra Hospital in Sana’a, the Ma’rib Hospital and the Al- Hazm hospital. The death toll is expected to rise, as many of the wedding attendees who were rescued from the rubble are still in critical condition.
“We are celebrating, not fighting, and the Saudis know that,” Marzuq Marei told reporters gathered at the scene. “I lost my loved-ones in a Saudi airstrike, not from COVID-19,” he said, calling the attack an “American gift in the time of Corona,” referring to the weapons allegedly used in the attack.
Shocking, even by Yemeni standards
United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths called for a transparent investigation into the attack and wrote in a post on his official Twitter page, “We deplore yesterday’s airstrikes in al-Jawf… A thorough & transparent investigation is required.” The attack came just weeks after the UN, in a highly contentious move, took the Saudi regime off its list of child killers.
According to counts from Yemen’s Ministry of Health based in Sana’a as well as from local hospitals, some 21,000 civilians, including 4,270 children and 2,370 women, have been killed and around 26,100 injured since the beginning of the Saudi-led war in 2015.
Yemen’s governmental and non-governmental bodies and institutions condemned the attack and called for an end to U.S. arms sales to Riyadh. For their part, Yemen’s tribal leaders called a consultative meeting in Sanaa on Thursday and Ansar Allah promised to intensify strikes on Saudi-led coalition countries in response to the airstrike.
The attack on the wedding ceremony came just three days after another attack that killed at least ten civilians and injured others when a Saudi warplane dropped a U.S.-made bomb on the home of Naif Mejeli in the Woshahah District, located in the country’s northwestern Hajjah Province. The bomb used in that attack, which completely destroyed the home, was a Raytheon Mark-82 jointly manufactured by U.S. weapons companies Lockheed Martin and General Dynamics.
As with other weapons provided to Saudi-led coalition, the MK-82 has been dropped on a funeral hall, schools and hospitals, factories, heritage buildings, and other facilities, and has a gained a reputation among Yemenis who know it as the “stupid bomb” due to its ability to cause collateral damage. The MK-82 was used in the school bus attack in Dahyan on August 9, 2019, that left 40 schoolchildren dead and was also used on a funeral in 2016 which left over 140 dead and 525 wounded.
Even by Yemeni standards, where dozens are killed every day by Saudi Airstrikes, this week’s attacks came as a shock. And not only because of the killing of women and children but because of the timing of attacks, when people are struggling against COVID-19, hunger, and a spat of diseases that are spreading throughout the country.
Like Marzuq Marei, Al-Jawf’s residents have long known that the natural resources and strategic location of their province were more of a curse than a blessing, today the sincerity of their predictions is manifesting as they watch plumes of smoke flow not from gas flares emanating from the stacks of lucrative oil wells and refineries, but from burning farms, cars, and family homes set ablaeze by near-constant Saudi airstrikes.
For three months, the Saudi-led coalition, local mercenaries, and allied Salafi extremist groups, and have been fighting a fierce campaign to reoccupy the Al-Jawf, which holds most of the country’s reserves and enjoys a unique status as a neighbor to two oil-rich regions of Marib and Saudi Arabia. However, the Saudi-led coalition, equipped with the latest U.S.-supplied weapons, has been unable to advance as local residents fight to free their homeland, whatever the sacrifice.
Feature photo | A screenshot from video obtained by MintPress from the Ansarallah Media Center shows drone footage of the site of a Saudi airstrike on a wedding party in Al-Jawf, Yemen.
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.