Yemen War: U.S. Is Finally Realizing American-Made Bombs Were Used During Airstrikes

A recent CNN report has prompted the widespread sharing of evidence that U.S.-built weaponry was being used in Saudi-led airstrikes that have reportedly killed civilians in Yemen.

Often overshadowed by the U.S.-led intervention in Iraq and Syria, the war in Yemen is a struggle between a Saudi-led coalition of Arab countries and a Yemeni Zaidi Shiite Muslim rebel group known as Ansar Allah, or the Houthis. The U.S. supported Saudi Arabia's 2014 decision to intervene in neighboring Yemen when the Houthis took advantage of political unrest to oust President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi and has supplied weapons to the Saudi-led alliance attempting to reinstate him.

The conflict has been described by the U.N. as the world's worst humanitarian disaster and many outlets have reported on mounting civilian casualties incurred by the Saudi-led campaign of airstrikes. Citing local journalists and munitions experts, CNN reported Friday that the bomb used August 9 in an alleged Saudi coalition strike that killed up to 54 people—most of them children in a school bus traveling in the northern Yemeni city of Saada—was provided by the U.S.

Specifically, the weapon was identified as a 500-pound laser-guided MK 82 bomb built by Lockheed Martin.

Boys inspect the wreckage of a bus at the scene of the prevous day's airstrike in Saada province, Yemen, on August 10. Up to 54 were killed, mostly children, in a Saudi-led coalition bombing that has U.S. media outlets, officials and human rights monitors further questioning U.S. support for Saudi Arabia in Yemen. Naif Rahma/Reuters

The news prompted a wave of coverage from some U.S. outlets such as The Hill and USA Today, as well as numerous international agencies like Al Jazeera, The Guardian, Haaretz, Press TV—a semi-official Iranian station frequently critical of U.S. foreign policy—and the South China Morning Post. It has also led to an outcry among elected officials who have once again questioned the military relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia.

After first admonishing U.S. support for the coalition in the wake of the incident last week, Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts again lashed out on social media in response to the CNN report, tweeting: "The bomb that killed 40 children on a school bus in Yemen last week was sold to the Saudis by the US. This Administration must answer for our continued support of the Saudi-led campaign."

Activist group The Yemen Project claimed the attack was one of more than 50 Saudi-led strikes on civilian vehicles this year alone, and international monitor Human Rights Watch called for a more stringent U.N. investigation, saying the bus attack should be the "point of no return" for weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

The U.S. has long supported its royal conservative ally in the Middle East, but former President Barack Obama suspended guide munitions sales after a Saudi-led coalition airstrike that reportedly killed up to 140 people at a funeral hall in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in October 2016. President Donald Trump resumed and expanded this assistance with the stated intent of preventing Iranian expansion in the region. The U.S. and Saudi Arabia—along with other Sunni Muslim monarchies and Israel—accuse Iran of backing the Houthis, something both the insurgents and Tehran have denied despite their political alignment.

Mourners attend the funeral of people, mainly children, killed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a bus in northern Yemen, in Saada, Yemen, on August 13. Naif Rahma/Reuters

The 2019 National Defense Authorization Act signed last week by Trump includes a provision that would require the U.S. to review its military support of Saudi Arabia. Trump objected to this measure—along with 51 others—in his statement.

Friday's CNN report was also shared by the official Ansar Allah Media Center, whose footage was featured in it. The clip appeared to show the young victims of the August 9 attack enjoying themselves onboard the bus moments before they were targeted. The Saudi-led coalition initially called the attack "legitimate" and later announced it was launching a probe, according to BBC News. The State Department has called for an investigation to be conducted by the Saudi-led Joint Incidents Assessment Team.

"We cannot independently verify what may have been found on site, and we refer to the Saudis for the details of their procurement and stockpile management," a State Department spokesperson told Newsweek. "The United States has called upon all parties to take appropriate measures to mitigate the risk of civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure."

"We urge transparent investigations by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team into incidents of civilian casualties when they occur, and the swift implementation of the recommendations from these investigations," the spokesperson added.

A map shows deaths in Yemen from June 10-16 as heavy fighting erupted from a battle between the Saudi-led coalition and Yemen's Houthi rebels over the western port city of Al-Houdeidah. Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project/Reuters

Defense Secretary James Mattis said the Pentagon also supported an internal coalition review.

"We do not do dynamic targeting for them, where they're in the air and they come under fire with missiles being fired, that sort of thing, and they're turning on late-breaking intelligence. We try to assist them in how they protect certain locations, that sort of thing," Mattis told reporters last week, saying the U.S. was involved in the conflict to "help to prevent the killing of innocent people."

When reached for comment, Lockheed Martin referred Newsweek to the Defense Department, which did not immediately respond.

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