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UK arms sales 'prolong Yemen war', says leading charity

UK arms exports to Saudi Arabia have surged since July [AFP]

Date of publication: 22 February, 2021

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Oxfam called on the UK to immediately end all arms 'that risk being used against civilians and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis'.
British arms sales to Saudi Arabia are prolonging the war in Yemen, a leading charity has said, in particular the export of air-to-air refuelling equipment allegedly used in bombing campaigns by the Riyadh-led coalition.

"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 refuelling equipment that facilitate airstrikes," said Sam Nadel, head of policy and advocacy at Oxfam.

Since July, the UK has authorised at least $1.4 billion in arms exports to Saudi Arabia after British cabinet ministers concluded that Riyadh's breaches of humanitarian law were "isolated incidents".

The Saudi-led coalition has been repeatedly accused of carrying out indiscriminate bombing campaigns in Yemen since 2015.

Since then, some 8,750 civilians are estimated to have been killed in Saudi-led airstrikes.

"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 conflict and exacerbating the humanitarian crisis," Nadel added.

His comments come as conflict around the Yemeni government's last northern stronghold has intensified. Houthi rebels are determined to capture Marib, prompting the Saudi-led coalition to launch a succession of airstrikes to repel their advance.

The UK's arms sales have including airborne refuelling equipment, a technology which can be used to help war planes fly longer missions when fighting surges.

In January, 10 percent of 125 recorded coalition airstrikes targeted civilians while 13 percent hit military targets, according to the Yemen Data Project.

Four-fifths of airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition are estimated to be "dynamic" - when a war plane identifies an opportunity to strike ground targets in-flight. Air-to-air refuelling allows planes to remain in a combat zone for longer.

The UK government has resisted pressure to follow Washington and Rome in ending arms sales to the Riyadh-led coalition.

Read more: US lawmakers urge UK to help end Yemen war

London's military support has been criticised as fuelling the war, while ignoring its responsibilities as UN Security Council pen-holder for Yemen, which means that it could draft a resolution to end the conflict at any time.

Yemen's conflict has left some 3.3 million people displaced and 24 million - more than two-thirds of the population - in need of assistance, according to the UN.

Last week, UN representatives warned the Security Council that the war in Yemen had seen a "sharp escalatory turn" and that 5 million civilians were "just one step away from famine".

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