Contrary to misinformation, the Saudi intervention in Syria is intended to help the country and protect civilians there
Further, the Kingdom itself has been attacked by these rebels and is in part exercising its right to self-defense. Finally, the destabilisation caused by this rebellion has allowed Al Qaeda and Daesh to flourish, representing a clear threat to the region and to the international community.
Thus, Saudi Arabia considers it vital to address and remedy this destabilisation as an integral part of the war on terrorism.
Further, the campaign being carried out by the Kingdom is in full compliance with international humanitarian law, and British military advisors are providing training to their Saudi counterparts.
For instance, UK military personnel are providing assistance in targeting and its legal aspects, precision weapons are being used over cluster munitions, and targets are thoroughly examined to ensure the avoidance of civilian casualties. All foreign observers have expressed satisfaction with the safeguards in place.
Finally, previous allegations that the Saudi-led aerial campaign has broken international law or bombed the Iranian embassy in Sanaa have proven false by independent observers.
What’s more, the press is ignoring the fact that the majority of civilian casualties in Yemen have come at the hands of the illegitimate Houthi rebels who have not only positioned themselves in hospitals, schools and civilian homes, but have admitted to shelling civilian populations and blaming it on the Saudis. And it should also be noted that the UN Report itself is based solely on satellite imagery and eyewitness testimony, which have proven to be highly unreliable in the past.
Nevertheless, because the Kingdom takes very seriously the issue of abiding by international humanitarian law, the Saudi military spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed Asseri, has announced the establishment of a new independent committee that will work with the British and other foreign advisors to examine military activities in civilian areas in order to minimise possible casualties.
This committee will assess the coalition’s rules of engagement involving civilians so it might better respect international law and prevent unnecessary deaths.
The committee will consist of senior officers, military advisers, and experts in the field of weapons and international humanitarian law to assess accidents and verification procedures as well as the mechanism of targeting and how it can be improved. The goal of the committee will be to come out with a clear, full, and objective report for each case. It will also include conclusions and lessons learned and recommendations for future actions.
On top of this committee, the Saudi-led military bloc has reaffirmed its full cooperation with the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the local Yemeni commission looking into human rights violations.
Further, it has announced a new hotline in collaboration with the organisation Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) that will help protect its Yemeni staff. Teresa Sancristobal, MSF’s emergency unit coordinator, has said that these actions are “a step in the right direction.”
Ultimately, Saudi Arabia is seeking a political solution in Yemen. Its objective is not to completely eradicate the Houthis or perpetuate an endless state of war. The Kingdom realises that more can always be done to protect civilians from the targeting errors that are endemic to war.
This is why, in a recent news conference, General Asseri not only acknowledged that mistakes had been made, but he voiced the Kingdom’s commitment to change via the actions described above. As these actions express, Saudi Arabia cares very deeply about preventing the death of civilians and will do everything in its power to limit any such casualties in the future.