Why Does UK Supply Saudi With Weapons for Its Yemen 'Kill Box' List That Is Wiping Out Civilians?

At the coalition air operations room in the Saudi Arabian capital, Riyadh, there is a board on the wall.

On it is a roster showing the list of fighter aircraft on their way to bomb Yemen; Egyptian F-16s, Bahrainian F-16s, Jordanian, Sudanese and so on.

Next to that is a column labelled: "Kill Box", the designated target area for the planes to drop their payload.

"It's chilling," says the BBC's security correspondent Frank Gardner, who has visited the ops room three times. "You just think: 'Somebody's going to be on the receiving end of that.'"

Chilling indeed when you consider how a United Nations report this week said the Saudi-led coalition was not doing enough to prevent civilian casualties in a country where 10,000 people have been killed in bombings since the beginning of 2015.

A UN panel investigated 10 airstrikes during 2017 which left 157 people dead. It found that the targets included migrant boats, a night market, a motel and five residential buildings. The report was not made public, but a copy was obtained by Al Jazeera.

This is just a snapshot, of course, of where some of these "Kill Boxes" are.

But you'll get the same results from any clutch of airstrikes over the past three years, when Saudi Arabia began its campaign to try and bomb Iranian-backed Houthi rebels to the negotiating table.

Hospitals, schools, dairy factories and hotels have all been indiscriminately hit.

In one of the worst atrocities, 140 people were killed and 600 wounded when a funeral was hit in the capital, Sana'a in 2016.

The Saudi authorities blamed "wrong information" for the "double tap" strike which also violated international humanitarian law.

This is because attacks are not allowed against "hors de combat"—fighters who are incapable of defending themselves such as those wounded from the first strike or emergency service workers sent to treat them.

Yemen war
Yemenis inspect damage at the site of a reported Saudi-led coalition air strike, in the northwestern Huthi-held city of Saada on December 20, 2017. The Saudi-led coalition carried out a string of air raids killing 11 civilians in the Houthi stronghold on December 20, a day after the rebels fired a missile at the Saudi capital Riyadh, according to a tribal chief and witnesses.

Last September, film footage emerged of the aftermath of a Saudi-led airstrike on a bridge in northern Yemen, which also hit a milk truck going across it, killing the driver.

TV footage showed groups of youths surveying the rubble and the remains of the vehicle that was hit.

The pilot will have clearly seen the white lorry on the bridge and could have circled his plane until the vehicle was off, but decided not to wait and drop his bombs nevertheless.

The milk delivery driver was collateral damage, an unintended victim of an attack on a bridge carried out for strategic reasons to cut off the enemy's supply routes.

But he didn't need to die.

As a consequence, this ill-conceived bombing campaign is radicalizing tens of thousands of people in Yemen.

Last month, 279 civilians died as a result of Saudi-led coalition air raids, in addition to 121 killed by Houthi fighters who, let's not forget, are not innocent in all of this.

The U.N. report said: "Even if, in some cases, the Saudi-led coalition had targeted legitimate military objectives, the panel finds it highly unlikely that the IHL (International Humanitarian Law) principles of proportionality, and precautions in attack were met."

In other words, there were too many times when pilots didn't wait for the milk truck to leave the bridge before they fired at their "Kill Box".

This shows a callous disregard for innocent civilian victims caught up in the raids, whether they are school children or hospital patients.

No wonder we hear stories of children screaming in terror in the playground as they hear the planes circling.

Earlier this month, Norway decided enough was enough and suspended sales of weapons and ammunition to the United Arab Emirates, another coalition partner, over concerns they could be used in Yemen.

What a pity that Britain's obsession with maintaining strong trade links with Saudi Arabia is trumping any concerns we might have about selling it weapons that might be used on those poor innocents on the ground.


Anthony Harwood is a former foreign editor of the Daily Mail and ex-Head of News and US Editor of the Daily Mirror.