“We needed sterilization tools and masks to avoid COVID-19, not American shells and bombs to smash our children.”
YEMEN-SAUDI BORDER — At seven years old, Radhiah Issa’s wide-eyed screams of panic and fear were understandable. Even an adult would be forgiven for waking up in a heated panic after discovering much of their body wrapped in blood-soaked bandages and laying in an unfamiliar room. Radhiah was in the family home of a Yemeni doctor who had scraped together whatever medical supplies he could in a heroic effort to render first aid and perform emergency surgery on Radhiah, who was seriously injured last Wednesday by a Saudi artillery shell while she stood amid her family’s grazing sheep near her home in the Shada District of Yemen’s northwestern province of Sadaa, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
“We needed sterilization tools and masks to avoid COVID-19, not American shells and bombs to smash our children,” one of Radhiah’s family members told MintPress News. For the past few weeks, residents along the Yemen-Saudi border, particularly in the Sadaa, Hajjah, and al-Jawf provinces, have faced two options: contend with life under constant bombardment by Saudi border guards and warplanes or seek refuge farther from the border where the threat of COVID-19 looms amid the other myriad epidemics raging across Yemen. “The bombing and COVID-19 are making our lives hell; if you are quarantined at your home, the bombs will demolish the building on your head, and if you leave the house, you are subjected to coronavirus,” one of Radhiah’s family members told MintPress as the young girl lay nearby, still dazed.
As locals in the border town of Maran were celebrating Eid, the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, four civilians were killed and another injured after Saudi warplanes targeted a highway in the Haydan district of Sa’ada. The attack on Maran accompanied a spat of over 100 Saudi airstrikes focused mostly along the Kingdom’s border with Yemen during Eid celebrations. Malahat, Baqim, al-Jawf, and Marib provinces as well as Abs and Harad district in the country’s northern province of Hajjah, were all heavily targeted causing still known numbers of casualties and damage.
In Hodeida, the Eid al-Fitr festivities failed to bring quiet to the province’s war-weary residents as the Saudi-led Coalition continued to hammer the strategic port city. Since December 13, 2018, Saudi airstrikes on the city have been replaced with snipers, artillery shells, and missiles after the Houthis and Saudi Arabia agreed to a UN-brokered truce in Sweden. An eight-year-old boy sustained injuries after Saudi mercenaries shelled a residential area in Hodieda’s southern al-Durayhimi district on the same day that Saudi airstrikes were peppering mountaintops near Maran with indiscriminate shelling and airstrikes, as seen in video obtained by MintPress.
The Saudi attacks come at a time when the coronavirus outbreak in the country is spreading like wildfire. Officials in both Houthi-controlled Sana’a and opposition-controlled Aden, as well as officials from the United Nations, have now confirmed what MinPress already revealed in a previous report: that COVID-19 was already spreading quickly throughout the country. The Ministry of Public Health and Population based in Sana’a affirmed on Thursday that COVID-19 cases have appeared in several areas of the country, including the capital Sana’a, and that the Ministry was working to provide the necessary healthcare for the infected and to initiate contact tracing to track the virus’ spread.
Moreover, the Saudi attacks came as Yemenis, like the rest of the Muslim world, celebrated the sixth Eid al-Fitr since 2015, the year that the richest countries in the Middle East, and amongst the richest in the world, launched a military campaign against Yemen, one of the poorest nations on earth. Though Saudi Arabia is ostensibly a Muslim country, that factor did not dissuade the Kingdom from carrying out a barrage of airstrikes on the Muslim holiday.
On April 8, Saudi Arabia claimed it was halting military attacks and suspending hostilities in support of United Nations’ peace efforts and to avoid the spread of the coronavirus in Yemen, however, the onslaught continued for the sixth consecutive year where Saudi warplanes dropped dozens of tons from the weapons, mostly supplied by the United States. Saudi warplanes hit populated areas in the border provinces with at least 300 airstrikes.
For Yemen’s residents, both U.S. bombs and COVID-19 have dampened Eid festivities, as they have affected every aspect of their lives. Loved ones are no longer present, lost to the brutal war; the blockade, the diseases, and the famine have all radically altered what has traditionally been a joyous occasion.
No end in sight
In what can only be described as a boost to the Saudi-led Coalition war and a tragedy for the civilians who already struggle with COVID-19 and other epidemics, President Donald Trump’s administration plans to provide Saudi Arabia with more bombs one year after pushing through an $8.1 billion weapons contract with the Kingdom.
Influential U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) revealed in an editorial published by CNN that President Trump’s administration was considering selling arms to Saudi Arabia again, following international condemnation during the last such sale. Menendez, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, confirmed that there is still no justification for the U.S. to sell bombs to Saudi Arabia, adding “That is why I am particularly troubled that the State Department has again refused to explain the need to sell thousands more bombs to Saudi Arabia on top of the thousands that have yet to be delivered from last year’s emergency.”
The news has raised concerns from Yemen’s residents, local human rights organizations, and activists, who warn that the United States and Saudi-led coalition are preparing to prolong the war the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. They called on the United States to instead provide testing and protective equipment, respirators, ventilators, sterilization tools and masks instead of bombs.
With the United States preoccupied with its own record-high number of COVID-19 cases, in Yemen, American weapons in Yemen have killed at least 100,000 civilians according to the U.S.-based Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project (ACLED), a nonprofit conflict-research organization, and over 100,00 people die every year as a result of disease and epidemics like cholera and dengue fever, most of them children.
Since 2015, when the war began, coalition warplanes have conducted more than 250,000 airstrikes in Yemen according to the Yemeni Army. 70 percent of those airstrikes have hit civilian targets. Thousands of tons of weapons, most often supplied by the United States, have been dropped on hospitals, schools, markets, mosques, farms, factories, bridges, and power and water treatment plants and have left unexploded ordnance scattered across densely populated areas.
In addition to killing and injuring hundreds of civilians, American-made weapons have exposed Yemen’s people to highly toxic substances on a level not seen before has left Yemen one of the most heavily contaminated countries in the world.
Feature photo | A Houthi man inspects an unexploded US-made cluster bomb in Sanaa, Yemen, 2016. Hani Mohammed | AP
Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.