Arms exports to Saudi Arabia from Britain “must end now” campaigners have demanded in the wake of one of the deadliest massacres of Yemen’s ongoing civil war.
The attack on Saturday, which is strongly believed to have been carried out by the Saudi-led coalition air force, killed at least 140 people and injured as many as 600 more at a funeral. Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Yemeni rebel government’s spokesman in Sana’a said the airstrike was an act of “genocide” by the Saudi-led alliance, which is fighting the rebels.
Campaign against Arms Trade (CAAT), which has condemned the bombing, has called for an end to all arms exports to the oil-rich kingdom, and the revoking of all current licences.
Andrew Smith of CAAT added: “The humanitarian situation in Yemen is dire and getting even worse. Innocent people are dying every day. The UK Government’s response has been to continue supporting the Saudi forces that are dropping the bombs, and to sell them even more weapons.”
Theresa May has previously defended selling arms to Saudi Arabia despite the country facing accusations of war crimes, insisting close ties “keep people on the streets of Britain safe”. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, however, has called on the Prime Minister to halt the sales because of the “humanitarian devastation” caused by the coalition waging war against rebels in Yemen.
Mr Smith added: “There can be no more excuses. There are major steps that the UK can take right now that could alleviate the suffering and reduce the chance of further atrocities. If Theresa May and Boris Johnson are serious about peace, then they must stop the arms sales and use their influence to call for an end to the bombardment.”
On Monday video footage emerged reportedly showing the moment an air strike hit a funeral hall in Sanaa, Yemen, killing 140 and injuring at least 525 others. A Saudi Arabia-led coalition has been fighting rebel Houthi forces in Yemen and Houthi officials blamed the alliance for the attack. The Saudi-led force has promised to investigate the incident but has not acknowledged any responsibility.
Foreign Office minister Tobias Ellwood phoned the Saudi ambassador to London on Sunday afternoon, raising concerns over the bombing and calling for an investigation to “take place as a matter of urgency”.
“I am deeply concerned by reports of an air strike hitting a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital Sana’a yesterday,” he said in a statement. “The scenes from the site are shocking.
“There can be no military solution to this conflict. We urge all sides to recommit to political talks and to implement a cessation of hostilities,” he added.
Last week BAE systems disclosed it is in talks to secure a multi-billion pound arms contract with the kingdom, despite alleged war crimes by the Middle Eastern kingdom using British-made weapons in war-torn Yemen. “Discussions between BAE Systems, the UK Government and Saudi Arabia are progressing,” the London-headquartered defence company said in a trading update on Thursday.
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