We’ve seen this movie before.
A recent exchange between UN representatives in Yemen and Saudi Arabian officials sounded just like the ones that take place between the UN and Israel over Hamas in Gaza.
On Sunday, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen Johannes Van Der Klauuw said he was “deeply concerned” by the Saudi-led coalition strikes on northern Yemen. The UN warned that the “indiscriminate bombing of populated areas a violation of international law.”
The UN claims the airstrikes have killed at least 1,400 people and more than half of them were civilians.
Saudi’s military spokesperson, Brigadier General Ahmed Asiri, responded to the UN criticism, saying Iranian-backed Houthi rebels are using hospitals and schools to store weapons, which is why they have been targeted by airstrikes.
On Sunday, the Saudis reportedly also targeted the home of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sanaa, Yemen’s capital. Saleh is unharmed, according to a BBC report.
The Saudis have declared the northern province of Saada, located on the Saudi border, a “military zone”, and on Friday dropped leaflets warning local civilians to get out before the attacks began.
On Saturday, the Sunni coalition said it has conducted 130 airstrikes in 24-hours against Houthi targets in Saada.
Van Der Klauuw warned that the “indiscriminate bombing of populated areas, with or without prior warning, is in contravention of international humanitarian law. Many civilians are effectively trapped in Saada as they are unable to access transport because of the fuel shortage. The target of an entire governorate will put the countless civilians at risk.”
International law of warfare, as understood by the UN, seems to face an inescapable dilemma.
It calls on both sides to not put civilians in harms way. But when one side purposely does, it doesn’t allows the other side any reasonable means of defense or attack against the initial international law-breakers.
So instead we’re left with laughably ineffectual and meaningless statements such as Van der Klaauw’s suggestion, “all parties must avoid using populated areas as launching grounds for attacks.”
From experience, we all know statements like that really stop Iran’s clients and proxies from using their human shields as they attack their enemies.
It’s about time the international laws of war be updated to reflect how the bad guys are actually fighting.
A five-day, Saudi-initiated, humanitarian truce is set to begin today.
It all sounds so familiar.