Describing the Saudi bombing of a school bus in Yemen that killed 51 people as “a horror show”, US President Donald Trump admitted that Riyadh’s misuse of weapons supplied by America was the cause of death.
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“I think it’s a terrible situation,” Trump said in an interview with Axios that aired yesterday on HBO. After saying that his administration was studying the war “very, very carefully,” he criticised Saudi conduct of the aerial campaign, saying the government shouldn’t have people “who don’t know how to use the weapons shooting at buses with children. We teach them how to use the equipment.”
“It is probably right now the worst place on Earth… I’ll be talking about a lot of things with the Saudis, but certainly I wouldn’t be having people that don’t know how to use the weapons shooting at buses with children,” Trump added.
In September Saudi admitted to killing 51 people including 40 children in northern Yemen, Saada during an airstrike in August in the northern Yemeni province that hit a bus carrying children from a summer camp.
Trump’s comments about Saudi incompetence are another indication that the US is turning the heat on Riyadh since the killing of Washington Post journalist, Jamal Khashoggi. Despite international outcry at the humanitarian situation in Yemen, which the UN has said is the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, the US has continued its backing of the Saudi-led coalition.
Last week the two biggest suppliers of Saudi weapons, the US and UK, stepped up their pressure for a ceasefire in the Yemen war. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and his British counterpart, Jeremy Hunt called for a halt to the conflict.
There have been ongoing international calls, including from allies, to do more to limit civilian casualties in the three-and-a-half-year civil war that has killed more than 10,000 people and pushed the already impoverished country to the brink of famine. The rare admission by Trump is likely to be seen as a sign that the US sees its continued support for Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman as a liability.
Yemen is one of the poorest Arab countries and faces the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, exacerbated by a nearly four-year-old war that pits the Houthis against the internationally recognised government backed by Saudi Arabia, the UAE and the West.