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British arms sales to Saudi Arabia prolonging war in Yemen: Oxfam

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file picture, people walk on the rubbles of a historic building destroyed in a Saudi-led airstrike in the Old City of Sana’a, Yemen. (Photo by Xinhua)

An international charity organization has rebuked the British government for allowing the export of air-to-air refueling equipment to Saudi Arabia, warning that the gear could prolong the Yemen war as it would be used to help the Saudi air force conduct indiscriminate bombing attacks in the Arab country.

Oxfam said that the technology was licensed to the Riyadh regime last summer when arms restrictions were lifted, and London approved an additional £1.4 billion ($1.96 billion) sale of other weapons, British daily newspaper the Guardian reported on Monday.

“As the US has called for an end to the conflict in Yemen, the UK is heading in the opposite direction, ramping up its support for the brutal Saudi-led war by increasing arms sales and refueling equipment that facilitate airstrikes,” Sam Nadel, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam, said.

On February 4, President Joe Biden announced an end to United States support for Saudi-led military offensive operations in Yemen.

However, a senior Yemeni official cast doubt on the purported intention of the new US administration, demanding that the Yemeni nation put up resistance in the face of the Saudi-led aggression and siege.

“The United States is seeking to lessen international hatred towards itself at the same time as building up pressure on Yemeni people through a blockade. The Yemeni nation is fairly familiar with such a ploy and trusts in God,” Yemeni Information Minister Dhaifallah al-Shami said.

Late last month, Italy decided to halt arms exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have been waging a devastating war on impoverished Yemen for years.  

“Today I am announcing that the government has revoked the authorizations under way for the export of missiles and aircraft bombs to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates," Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said.

He added, “[This is] an act that we considered due, a clear message of peace coming from our country. For us, respect for human rights is an unbreakable commitment.”

Italy’s Peace and Disarmament Network, a campaign group, hailed the move as “historic” and said the move would stop the supply of at least 12,700 bombs.

It “puts an end, once and for all, to the possibility that thousands of ordnance manufactured in Italy could strike civilian facilities, cause casualties among the population or contribute to worsening the already serious humanitarian situation”, the group said.

This is while the UK has resisted pressure to follow suit as the humanitarian situation worsens in Yemen.

British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab and International Trade Secretary Liz Truss agreed to a surge in arms exports to Saudi Arabia in the third quarter of last year, after they claimed following a court-mandated review that there were only “isolated incidents” of humanitarian law breaches in Saudi Arabia’s atrocious military campaign against Yemen.

Oxfam also called on parties to the conflict in Yemen to adopt an urgent ceasefire, and on the UK to halt all arms exports that could be used in the crisis.

“The UK claims to support peace in Yemen. It can start by immediately ending the sale of all arms that risk being used against civilians and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis,” Nadel added.

Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched the war on Yemen in March 2015, with the goal of bringing the government of former president, Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi, back to power and crushing the popular Ansarullah movement.

According to the United Nations, 80 percent of Yemen’s 30 million people need some form of aid or protection. About 13.5 million Yemenis currently face acute food insecurity, UN data shows.

Ansarullah, backed by the Yemeni armed forces and allied popular groups, has gone from strength to strength against the Saudi-led invaders, and successfully defended Yemen against the aggression, leaving Riyadh and its allies bogged down in the county.

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