Saudi Arabia, UAE protecting civilians

Saudi Arabia, UAE protecting civilians

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Those legislators successfully inserted a provision into this year's defense spending bill that would have barred the US from refueling Saudi jets conducting bombing campaigns in Yemen - unless Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified by September 12 that Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates were taking meaningful steps to reduce civilian casualties, increase humanitarian aid, and negotiate a resolution to the conflict in Yemen.

Pompeo´s assessment, announced Wednesday, came even as he admitted that the USA believes civilian death rates at the hands of the coalition are "far too high".

If the administration wasn't able to certify that Saudi Arabia and the UAE were taking these steps, the National Defense Authorization Act cut off funding for United States military refueling of Saudi warplanes.

Outrage increased last month after the coalition struck a school bus and killed 40 children.

The bombing on a crowded market in part of northern Yemen held by Huthi rebels killed a total of 51 people, according to the Red Cross.

"The Administration recognizes that civilian casualties have occurred at rates that are far too high in the Saudi-led Coalition's campaign in Yemen", the official said, adding that the USA believes "civilian casualties must be mitigated and reduced as much as possible for both strategic and moral reasons". The United Nations pegs the civilian death toll at least at 6,660 as of August 23. The United States supports the coalition with aerial refueling, intelligence sharing and billions in arms sales.

Reuters noted that "the Pentagon believes that its assistance, which includes refueling coalition jets and training in targeting, helps reduce civilian casualties".

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The document points to multiple ways the coalition is trying to do this, including by avoiding hitting civilian infrastructure, keeping a "no-strike" list, and by updating rules of engagement.

The Trump administration on Wednesday formally endorsed the efforts of key Persian Gulf allies to protect civilians in Yemen, signaling its support in a new report to Congress for Arab partners despite widespread criticism of their role in that country's civil war. United States identifies first remains of returned Korean war troops Mattis to visit Macedonia as it considers North Atlantic Treaty Organisation invite Woodward says "key" Trump official told him book is "1,000 percent correct" MORE said he endorsed Pompeo's certification.

"With Secretary Pompeo's certification, the State Department demonstrated that it is blindly supporting military operations in Yemen without any allegiance to facts, moral code or humanitarian law", the statement read.

On Capitol Hill, Democratic representative Ro Khanna of California reacted quickly to the certification, blasting it on social media as a "farce". They have also pointed to possible war crimes committed by the Houthi rebels fighting the coalition. Defense Secretary James Mattis endorsed Pompeo's conclusion, saying, "The Saudi-led coalition's commitment is reflected in their support for these United Nations -led efforts ..."

Mattis last month warned that USA support for the coalition was "not unconditional", noting that the coalition must do "everything humanly possible to avoid any innocent loss of life". Ending the war is "a national security priority" for the administration, he said.

"We will continue to work closely with the Saudi-led coalition to ensure Saudi Arabia and the UAE maintain support for UN-led efforts to end the civil war in Yemen, allow unimpeded access for the delivery of commercial and humanitarian support through as many avenues as possible, and undertake actions that mitigate the impact of the conflict on civilians and civilian infrastructure", he said.

Long-awaited, UN-brokered peace talks between the legitimate government and the Houthi rebels failed to take place as planned last week in Geneva because of the no-show of the Iranian-backed militias.

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