1,000 child casualties in Yemen since 2018 school bus bombing, aid group says

The bombing of a school bus in Yemen has become an emblem of war crimes.

August 7, 2019, 12:09 PM

In the year since the Saudi and Emirati coalition in Yemen bombed a school bus and killed 41 children, the conflict in Yemen has killed or injured nearly 1,000 more children, according to a humanitarian organization.

At least 335 children have been killed and another 590 injured, according to Oxfam International, citing data from the U.N. Civilian Impact Monitoring Project.

The bus bombing in August 2018 galvanized opposition of America's role in the 5-year-old war.

But the Trump administration has remained a stalwart supporter of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their military campaign against Houthi rebels in neighboring Yemen.

A State Department spokesperson told ABC News the administration is committed "to work with our international partners to bring peace, prosperity, and security to Yemen" and "ensuring that our partners reduce civilian casualties."

A decades-old insurgency, the Houthis took control of an anti-government movement during the Arab Spring and seized the capital, Sanaa. Concerned by their ties to Iran, Saudi Arabia's young defense minister and nowcrown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has launched airstrikes against them.

That effort has been linked to potential war crimes ,with the United Nations saying the attacks have targeted civilian infrastructure and are responsible for "most direct civilian casualties."

PHOTO: Wounded Yemeni children lay on a bed receiving treatment at a hospital after being injured in an alleged Saudi-led airstrike in the northern province of Saada, Yemen, Aug. 9, 2018.
Wounded Yemeni children lay on a bed receiving treatment at a hospital after being injured in an alleged Saudi-led airstrike in the northern province of Saada, Yemen, Aug. 9, 2018.

The bombing of a school bus in Saada, Yemen, has become an emblem of that. Saudi airstrikes hit the bus while it was on a summer school trip in the city. Initially, the coalition's spokesperson, Col. Turki al-Malki, said it was targeting Houthi fighters launching missiles on the Saudi city of Jizan. The coalition ultimately said the strike was made in error.

Throughout it all, the U.S. has continued to offer military support -- sharing intelligence and reconnaissance, assisting with training and, until November, providing midair refueling of aircraft. Despite a second strike that killed a dozen children just one week later, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo certified to Congress weeks after the bus bombing that the administration believes the Saudi coalition is doing more to avoid civilian casualties, prompting bipartisan outrage on Capitol Hill.

That outrage crescendoed in a series of historic votes in late 2018 and in 2019. In April, Congress passed a War Powers resolution, the first of its kind and with bipartisan support, to withdraw U.S. support of the coalition. In July, Congress voted to block $8 billion worth of arms sales to the Saudis and Emiratis that the Trump administration signed off on without congressional approval.

Two of President Donald Trump's three vetoes were to block those efforts and continue supporting the coalition. Some of that $8 billion worth of weapons, equipment and training already in is coalition hands, and U.S. military assistance has continued.

In support of that assistance, the State Department has said that "U.S. engagement with the Coalition is resulting in tangible improvements that translate into a safer environment for Yemenis," as the spokesperson told ABC News Wednesday.

Overall, statistics about the war are difficult to come by, but the Armed Conflict Location and Event Data Project has estimated that more than 90,000 people have been killed. In addition to the fighting, Yemen has been gripped by famine and a cholera epidemic that have killed countless more in what the U.N. has called the world's worst humanitarian crisis. According to Save the Children, a humanitarian aid group, 85,000 children have died just from starvation.

The warring factions did sign a U.N.-brokered agreement in Stockholm to start winding down the conflict, but since then have repeatedly violated ceasefire conditions while accusing the other side of violating ceasefire conditions.