Middle East

'Almost one child a day has been killed': Australia urged to halt arms sales to countries involved in Yemen war

A child injured in a deadly Saudi-led coalition airstrike rests in a hospital in Yemen Source: AAP

Human rights groups have urged Australia to halt arms sales to countries involved in the Yemen war, as the civilian death toll, which includes nearly 1000 children, continues to mount.

Almost one year after a United States-supplied bomb killed 40 boys on a bus in Yemen, the death toll of children in the war-torn country continues to rise.

Since the deadly airstrike attack in Sa'ada on 8 August, more than 335 children have died in the fighting and almost 600 have been injured, according to new figures by the United Nations.

Humanitarian agencies said international arms sales are fuelling the conflict and have urged Australia and US governments to immediately halt weapons exports to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director Muhsin Siddiquey said the amount of children killed in the past year is equivalent to another eight buses being hit. 

The August 9 attack in Yemen killed 40 boys who were being taken on a school trip.
The August 9 attack in Yemen killed 40 boys who were being taken on a school trip.
AAP

“The world was rightly appalled by an attack that took the lives of so many young, innocent school children. Yet almost one child a day has been killed in the year since and violence remains a daily threat for Yemenis, alongside the struggle against hunger and disease,” he said.

“All parties to the conflict and those with influence over them should do all in their power to end this deadly war now.”

Since the latest figures were gathered, even more children have been killed or injured.

Just last week an attack on a market killed at least 10 civilians, including children, in Sa’ada while in Taizz, five children were injured by shelling.

Airstrikes and shelling in Al Dale’e in May killed 10 children.

In March, five children were killed in clashes in Taizz city while an attack on the Kushar district of Hajjah governorate killed 14 children.

Over the year, there have been 30 incidents involving schools and 18 involving hospitals.

The conflict, between the Houthis and the internationally recognised government, backed by an international coalition that includes Saudi Arabia and the UAE, is now in its fifth year.

The UN has estimated that if the war continues until 2022, more than half a million people will be killed by fighting, hunger and disease.

The Houthis and the internationally recognised government of Yemen reached an agreement at talks in December, which included a ceasefire deal for the key port of Hudaydah, but moves to implement it have been long delayed.

The government and the Saudi-led coalition have accused the Houthi forces of over 5,000 violations of the Stockholm agreement, while the Houthis have in turn blamed the coalition and government forces for more than 27,000 violations.

The international community is coming under increasing pressure to stop selling arms to Saudi Arabia and other members of the coalition.

Oxfam Australia is also calling on the Australian Government to provide further humanitarian aid for the response.

“Seventy years after the creation of the Geneva Convention, which seeks to protect civilians in and around war zones, children in Yemen still find themselves in the firing line,” Mr Siddiquey said.

“The international community should focus on protecting the lives of Yemeni civilians and ending this war, not profiting from it through arms sales.”

Department of Defence defends sales

In a statement to SBS News, the Department of Defence said all applications to export military goods are subject to a rigorous risk assessment process that takes into account Australia’s international obligations. 

"This includes the Arms Trade Treaty, and the impact the export could have on foreign policy, human rights, national security and regional security," it wrote.

"Assessment within the Arms Trade Treaty considers whether there is an overriding risk that the exported items could be used to commit or facilitate a serious violation of international humanitarian law or human rights law.

The Department of Defence said it was also aware of the recent decision of the United Kingdom’s Court of Appeal ruling arms sales unlawful and is "considering the implications of that judgment."

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