On Aug. 9 the Saudi-led Coalition dropped an American-made bomb on a school bus in Yemen; in the aftermath, first-responders recovered 55 bodies, 44 of which were children. The bomb also injured 79 people, the majority of whom were also children, according to The Guardian.
The attack on the school bus is yet another incidence of children and innocents caught in the crossfire of the Yemeni Civil war which has raged since 2014.
According to The New York Times, the conflict began in 2014 when Ali Saleh, who had previously been president of Yemen from 1990 to 2012, overthrew his successor, President Hadi, forcing him into exile in Saudi Arabia. Saleh was supported in his coup by a loyalist and Houthi coalition (Houthis are the Shiite religious minority living in Yemen, a majority Sunni country).
The New York Times reported that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in 2015 on the side of Hadi, because they believed that Iran backed Saleh.
Since the Saudi involvement, the situation on the ground has become even more complicated. The New York Times reported that on Dec. 4, 2017, Saleh was assassinated by his former Houthi allies when he seemed to distance himself from the Houthis and tried to make peace with the Saudis. The death of Saleh has caused a fracturing of the Houthi-loyalist coalition which has increased the level of violence in Yemen.
In addition to the assassination of Saleh, The New York Times reported that ISIS also has a presence in Yemen and claims responsibility for some bombings.
The bitter divisions and fighting in the civil war have caused a humanitarian disaster in Yemen. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the Commissioner, there have been 13,893 civilian casualties in Yemen between March 2015 and August 2017.
In addition to the deaths that have already occurred, there is potential for many more. The UN Human Rights Office also reports that since 2017, there have been 500,000 suspected cases of cholera due to unsafe water caused by the destruction of infrastructure during the civil war, and that 7.3 million people are on the brink of famine.
The humanitarian situation in Yemen is so bad that the charity group, Save The Children published an article stating that “an estimated 130 children in Yemen die every day from extreme hunger and disease.” The article went on to claim that most of these deaths are due to the blockade and airstrikes imposed by the Saudi Coalition.
The recent bus bombing in Yemen which Human Rights Watch has called an “apparent war crime” led journalists to look further into how involved the United States is in these airstrikes. According to The New York Times, the United States claims that it does not give “direct or indirect approval” on bombing sites and instead gives suggestions on targets.
When being interviewed by The New York Times General Harrigian, the former commander of American air operations in the Middle East, stated that “clearly, we’re concerned about civilian casualties.”
The Saudi bombings of civilians at weddings, markets, and funerals have garnered increasing criticism from U.S. generals and officials according to The New York Times. NPR reports that this tension between the Saudis and the U.S. is spilling over into Congress where the $716 billion defense bill, that President Trump signed on Sep. 2, included a provision requiring Secretary Pompeo to certify that the Saudi Coalition is seeking a diplomatic solution to the civil war and that the coalition is respecting the humanitarian needs of civilians before the U.S. refuels coalition jets while in flight.