A House Democrat is urging the Obama administration to stop assisting Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen following reports that its forces bombed a school.
“I have tried numerous times to work with the Administration to stop the United States from assisting Saudi Arabia in their indiscriminate killing of civilians in Yemen. But when Saudi Arabia continues to kill civilians, and in this case children, enough is enough,” Rep. Ted Lieu (Calif.), who is also an Air Force Reserve colonel, said in a statement Monday.
Saudi Arabia reportedly bombed a school in a residential area on Saturday in northern Yemen, killing at least 19 people who were mostly children, according to witnesses and hospital officials interviewed by The New York Times. Lieu said children as young as eight were killed in the strikes.
The U.S. is a member of the Saudi military-led coalition, providing intelligence and logistical support, such as air refueling, in the battle against Iran-backed Houthi rebels who ousted Yemen’s president in February 2015.
A Saudi military spokesman issued a statement on Monday denying that forces had bombed a school and claiming it was a militant training camp.
“The aircraft has bombed a training camp for the coup militias called Huda in Saada. Why would children be at a training camp?” said Brig. Gen. Ahmed Hassan Asseri, spokesman and adviser to the Saudi Defense Minister.
However, Asseri also said the camp was used for training child soldiers.
“The bombing resulted in the deaths of militia fighters, including Houthi leader Abu Yahya Abu Rabaa, who was responsible for training at the camp, at which the rebels had been training child soldiers,” he said.
“The Houthi practice of recruiting or coercing children for combat and combat-support roles has been well documented by the coalition and humanitarian groups. The Houthis have been recruiting or impressing children into their ranks and using them as scouts, guards, messengers and even fighters,” he added.
Lieu, who taught the law of war while on active duty, said the bombings “look like war crimes to me.”
“By assisting Saudi Arabia, the United States is aiding and abetting what appears to be war crimes in Yemen. The Administration must stop enabling this madness now,” he said.
Lieu has also sent letters to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Ash Carter outlining his concerns over civilian deaths caused by the U.S.-backed war.
Lieu has also introduced a joint resolution in the House to limit the transfer of air-to-ground weapons from the U.S. to Saudi Arabia.
The bombings came after United Nations-backed peace talks ended on Aug. 8 following a five-month pause in bombing.
United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Monday urged a resumption of peace talks.
“I am seriously concerned about actions being taken by elements of the Houthis, the General People’s Congress and allies in defiance of the Yemeni Constitution and the U.N. process, and encourage all parties not to take any action that undermines the possibility of peace,” he said.
“The dire humanitarian and economic situation in the country means it is absolutely imperative that the talks continue and a way towards peace is found,” he said.