As It Happens

More than 130 civilians killed in an air strike on a Yemen wedding

Saudi Arabia denies responsibility for the deadly air strike in Yemen that hit a wedding party. But our guest says the evidence is clear that the Saudi coalition is behind the attack.
This still image taken from video shot on Monday, Sept. 28, 2015, shows destruction to buildings after an air strike hit a wedding party in al-Wahga, a village near the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandab, Yemen. (The Associated Press)

It's the deadliest single air strike in Yemen, since the Saudi-led coalition began bombing last spring. Yesterday, 131 people were killed in an attack in Yemen's central province. But, according to reports, the dead were not armed Houthi rebels. They were civilians in a wedding party.

"Out of the blue, fighter jets showed up in the sky. There was a missile, which was followed, seven minutes after the first missile, a second missile, and it killed 130 people," Hisham Al-Omeisy tells As It Happens host Carol Off.

Al-Omeisy is a Yemeni activist and analyst. He spoke with people who witnessed the aftermath of the attack, including his friend, Abdullah Al-Haj. He describes the disturbing scene:

"He heard the missiles. He heard the explosions. But it was strange because he knows that area is very remote. It's only a fisherman's village, so he rushed to that area. As soon as he got there, he saw the massacre," Al-Omeisy explains. "He saw the bodies torn apart. It was a missile, after all, and it hit a tent full of humans."

Al-Omeisy said Al-Haj tried to help drive some of the critically-wounded victims to hospital. But he explains that his friend's attempts were futile. The hospital was closed and he didn't have enough gas to get them to the next one, so his passengers died.

For the past six months, the Saudis have imposed a commercial blockade in and out of Sana'a.

"Yemen imports 90 per cent of its food, 100 per cent of its fuel, again 100 per cent of its drugs, the drugs that were not available today or yesterday to help the victims of the air strikes. With that kind of blockade, it's the people that suffer. It's not only the Houthis, it's the majority of the population."

Al-Omeisy has no idea why the wedding party was targeted. He says that the Saudi coalition have denied that they had fighter jets near the remote fishing village. But Al-Omeisy finds that hard to believe.

He asks, "If you Saudis and the coalition control Yemen's air space, you're enforcing a full blockade, who else could it be?"

Some reports suggest that the groom at the wedding had some association with the Houthi rebels, but Al-Omeisy still finds it hard to justify the horrific attack.

"In going after a guy who is suspected of having Houthi ties, you killed 130 civilians, most of whom are women and children," he laments.

When asked why the war in Yemen is largely under reported, Al-Omeisy argues the problem is that the Yemeni media cannot compete with the sweeping control of the Saudi media. He adds that the international media stands to gain from catering to Saudi Arabia.

"They are tip-toeing around Saudi Arabia. They don't want to step on Saudi Arabia's toes, especially when they have a lot of contracts with them, contracts that even have to do with the current war. They are selling them a lot of weapons, so you end up with a media blackout."

Al-Omeisy insists the coverage has polarized the conflict, but that the vast majority of people in Yemen don't support either side.

"They don't really care about this myth of a war. What they care about is their own lives, the current blockade making their lives much much worse than it was."


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