Amid continuing criticisms over the conduct of the war in Yemen, the United Arab Emirates signed $1.3 billion in weapons deals during a military exhibition on Sunday. According to an Associated Press (AP) report, one manufacturer displayed a model of a machine gun on sale that's now in the hands of the Emirati-backed militiamen in Yemen, while the armored personnel carriers and tanks used in the war in the Arab world's poorest country could also be seen at the show.
The UAE entered Yemen's war in March 2015 alongside Saudi Arabia to back Yemen's internationally recognized government, which the Houthis had pushed out of the capital, Sanaa.
The Emirates has largely handled ground operations in the conflict while the Saudis have bombed from the air. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the former Saudi defense minister, and Saudi Arabia's allies launched Operation Decisive Storm in March 2015. The ongoing war has resulted in the worst humanitarian crisis in the world, with an estimated 24 million people, close to 80 percent of the population, in need of assistance and protection in Yemen, according to the U.N.
The World Health Organization says some 10,000 people have been killed since the coalition intervened in 2015, but rights groups state the death toll could be five times as high.
Many atrocities have been reported so far, which reveals violations of human rights. Saudi airstrikes have hit markets and hospitals, killing civilians. AP investigations have shown how the UAE negotiated secret deals with al-Qaida in Yemen, and that coalition forces tortured and sexually abused detainees. Meanwhile, the Houthis have indiscriminately laid land mines, employed child soldiers and tortured political opponents.
The U.S. had backed the Saudi-led coalition with midair refueling and targeting information. American lawmakers, angered by the Oct. 2 assassination and dismemberment of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul, have been pushing to withdraw U.S. support. However, the latest report shows that the U.S. is still supporting the Saudi-led military coalition in Yemen, an American army general told AFP Sunday, days after lawmakers voted to end involvement in Riyadh's war effort. The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly last Wednesday to direct President Donald Trump to end, within 30 days, all participation in hostilities "in or affecting Yemen," where Washington supports the Saudi-led coalition against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. Should the Senate pass the resolution on Yemen, it could force Trump to issue the first veto of his tenure.