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    Men inspect the site of an airstrike which witnesses said was by Saudi-led coalition aircraft on mourners at a hall where a wake for the father of Jalal al-Roweishan, the interior minister in the Houthi-dominated Yemeni government, was being held, in Sanaa, Yemen October 8, 2016.

    Yemen: Despite Continuing Arms Sales, US Calls for Halt to Saudi Airstrikes

    © REUTERS/ Khaled Abdullah
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    The US envoy to the UN has called on Saudi Arabia to halt its campaign of airstrikes in Yemen amid growing fears over the humanitarian situation in the country. Despite the comments, Washington has also been criticized for its continued sale of arms to Riyadh.

    Samantha Power, Washington's ambassador to the UN, used a security council meeting to call for all parties in the Yemen conflict to "recommit immediately to the cessation of hostilities," including "an end to shelling and an end to airstrikes."

    While criticizing Houthi rebel attacks on Saudi Arabia and acknowledging the Gulf kingdom's right to defend itself, Power said the pressure was on Riyadh to scale down the violence.

    ​"It is also incumbent on the Saudi-led coalition and the forces of the Yemeni government to refrain from taking steps that escalate this violence and to commit to the cessation of hostilities.

    "After 19 months of fighting, it should be clear that there is absolutely no military solution to this conflict. Airstrikes that hit schools, hospitals and other civilian objects have to stop. In many cases these strikes have damaged key infrastructure that is essential to delivering humanitarian aid in Yemen," Power said.

    US Accused of Hypocrisy

    The call to halt airstrikes comes amid increasing US criticism of Saudi Arabia's actions in Yemen.

    Despite being a staunch ally, US officials in October said their support for Saudi Arabia did not amount to a "blank cheque," after a Saudi coalition strike on a funeral killed more than 140 and left 600 people injured in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.

    ​The incident, along with a number of other Saudi strikes on civilian targets such as schools, hospitals and residential areas, led to sharp criticism from the US and UK, with the White House saying its support for the Riyadh-led coalition was under "immediate" review.

    A number of NGOs have also accused the Saudi coalition of violations of international law and even war crimes as a result of their campaign. 

    ​Despite the push for a cessation of military action in Yemen, critics accused the US of hypocrisy, citing Washington's continued sale of arms to Saudi Arabia.

    "The US ambassador's call for an end to indiscriminate airstrikes in Yemen would be more compelling if the US didn't provide Saudi Arabia with some of the weapons that end up being used in these strikes," Louis Charbonneau, the UN director of Human Rights Watch, told the Guardian.

    Continuing Arms Sales

    Over the past eight years under Barack Obama's presidency, the US has sold US$115 billion worth of arms to Riyadh, while the UK has licensed US$4 billion (£3.3 billion) worth of arms exports to the Saudis since the beginning of the Yemen conflict in March 2015, leading to accusations that it is cashing in on the misery and suffering of Yemenis.

    The UK-based Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) has launched a legal challenge against Britain's arms sales to Riyadh, with spokesperson Andrew Smith calling for a ban.

    ​"The conduct of the Saudi-led bombing campaign has been condemned by the United Nations, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and almost every single NGO that has people on the ground in Yemen. Even the Saudi forces accept that it was their bombs that killed 150 people… How many more will die before the UK government takes action?" Smith said.

    ​10,000 people, including 4,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict over the past 19 months, with UN humanitarian coordinator Stephen O'Brien telling the UN security council meeting that Yemen was "one step away from famine."

    "Eighty per cent of Yemenis, 21.2 million people, are in need of some form of humanitarian assistance," he said.    


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    arms sales, civilian casualties, humanitarian crisis, war crimes, airstrike, United Nations, Security Council, Human Rights Watch, Samantha Power, Barack Obama, Yemen, United States, United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia
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