The Trump administration gave the green light for continued US military support for the war in Yemen on Wednesday, paving the way for multi-billion dollar arms sales to continue.
“I certified to Congress yesterday that the governments of Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates are undertaking demonstrable actions to reduce the risk of harm to civilians,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement.
The certification comes one month after the Saudi-led coalition carried out a deadly raid on a school bus in a crowded marketplace in northern Yemen.
The Aug. 9 strike killed 25 children on the bus and three teachers, as well as a child, teacher and two bystanders in the market, according to witnesses interviewed by Human Rights Watch. The International Committee of the Red Cross put the toll higher, saying local hospitals had received the bodies of 29 children.
The rights watchdog labeled the attack an apparent war crime and urged the US and other allies of the coalition to suspend weapons sales.
The White House last year approved the sale of $7 billion worth of precision-guided weapons to Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported, part of the Trump administration’s touted $110 billion arms agreement announced on his landmark visit to Riyadh.
Pompeo, whose State Department must approve those sales, has insisted in Congressional testimony that the sale of precision weapons “actually decreases the risk” of civilian casualties.
In the case of the bus, the target was deliberate. The coalition initially insisted the bus was carrying Houthi insurgents.
The Saudi-led alliance last week backtracked, expressing “regret” for the attack and flagging “mistakes in compliance to the rules of engagement” and promising compensation to the victims’ families.