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US failed to assess civilian casualties in Yemen war, government report says

The report finds that deadly attacks by the Saudi-led coalition from 2015-2021 used jets and munitions supplied and maintained largely by the United States
Supporters of Yemen's Houthi rebels rally in the capital Sanaa on 3 June 2022, a day after the country's warring parties agreed to renew a two-month truce (AFP)

The US government failed to evaluate civilian casualties and the use of American-made weapons in the killings caused by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, according to an internal government report seen by the New York Times.

The report by the Government Accountability Office focuses on attacks between 2015-2021 by the Saudi-led coalition, which has been at war with Yemen's Houthi rebels since March 2015.

"The alliance has carried out deadly strikes using combat jets and munitions that have been supplied and maintained largely by American companies with the approval of the State Department and the Pentagon," the report said.

According to the Times, the report has not been released publically because the executive branch determined that it contains "classified information or controlled unclassified information".

The newspaper said the report has been circulating in congressional offices because of budget legislation. 

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According to the Times, it is the second major report by a US agency that discusses the shortcomings of the government in preventing civilian causalities in the war in Yemen.

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The first report was released by the State Department in 2020 and said the agency failed to take proper measures to reduce civilian deaths.

News of the report comes as President Joe Biden is scheduled to visit Saudi Arabia. 

On Monday, several top US lawmakers urged Biden to rework Washington's relationship with the kingdom and told him to warn Riyadh against pursuing more strategic cooperation with China on ballistic missiles amid reports of his trip.

"Saudi Arabia is one of the worst offenders of human rights violations in the world. They fuel modern-day slavery, repress women’s rights, torture and kill dissidents, suppress democratic organising and are responsible for the ongoing humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen," Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, a vocal critic of the kingdom, told Middle East Eye.

"Putting human rights at the center of our foreign policy means being consistent about calling out human rights offenders. And Saudi Arabia should be at the top of that list."

The report also comes a week after a bipartisan group of US lawmakers introduced a War Powers resolution that would bring an end to all remaining support for the Saudi-led coalition at war in Yemen, strengthening Biden's pledge last year to end assistance to the coalition.

Yemen has endured years of chaos since Houthi rebels seized the capital Sanaa in 2014 and ousted then-President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi from power.

The conflict metastasised into a regional power struggle in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and its regional allies, including the United Arab Emirates, intervened to roll back the Iran-aligned Houthis.

Since then, the protracted conflict has seen an estimated 377,000 people killed, four million displaced, and a staggering 80 percent of the country forced to depend on aid for survival.

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