Mattis: Don’t restrict US support to Saudi-led forces in Yemen

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis.. (AFP)
Updated 18 March 2018
0

Mattis: Don’t restrict US support to Saudi-led forces in Yemen

WASHINGTON: US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis defended US military support to Saudi Arabian-led coalition forces in Yemen on Thursday as he explained a personal appeal to lawmakers who are considering whether to end Washington’s involvement in the devastating conflict.
The Trump administration has been warning Saudi Arabia since last year that concern in Congress over the humanitarian situation in Yemen, including civil casualties in the war, could constrain US assistance.
Since it began in 2015, the conflict has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven Yemen – already the poorest country on the Arabian Peninsula – to the verge of widespread famine.
Mattis said the US assistance, which includes limited intelligence support and refueling of coalition jets, was ultimately aimed at bringing the war toward a negotiated, UN-brokered resolution.
“We need to get this to a negotiated settlement, and we believe our policy right now is correct for doing this,” Mattis told reporters, as he flew back to Washington from the Middle East.
A bipartisan group of senators, Republican Mike Lee, independent Bernie Sanders and Democrat Chris Murphy, are attempting to take advantage of a provision in the 1973 war powers act that allows any senator to introduce a resolution on whether to withdraw US armed forces from a conflict not authorized by Congress.
Their resolution would force Trump “to remove United States Armed Forces from hostilities in or affecting the Republic of Yemen,” except operations against Al-Qaeda or associated forces. Those are authorized under a 2001 congressional authorization.
Their action is the latest salvo in an ongoing battle between the US Congress and the White House over control of military conflicts.
In a March 14 letter to Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, and copied to other lawmakers, Mattis described the US assistance as “non-combat support” focused on helping reduce the risk of civilian casualties.
“New restrictions on this limited US military support could increase civilian casualties, jeopardize cooperation with our partners on counter-terrorism and reduce our influence with the Saudis — all of which would further exacerbate the situation and humanitarian crisis,” Mattis wrote.
Mattis also warned that a withdrawal would embolden the Iran-aligned Houthi rebels, who have fired missiles at Saudi Arabia and targeted commercial and military vessels off Yemen’s coast.
Lawmakers have argued for years that Congress has ceded too much authority over the military to the White House. Under the Constitution, Congress – not the president – has the authority to declare war.
But divisions over how much control they should exert over the president have stymied efforts to pass new war authorizations.


Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

Updated 19 April 2018
0

Gaza field hospitals prepare for another day of bloodshed

  • At least 33 Palestinians have been killed in Gaza since the ‘Great March of Return’ began last month
  • Gaza suffers from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces

GAZA: A tent consisting of nine beds and some basic medical equipment is all that will serve as a field hospital in the Zeitoun area of Gaza when Palestinians gather at the Israeli border to take part in a mass protest against the occupation on Friday.

Eleven doctors and 12 nurses work at the facility during what has become a weekly ritual of defiance and bloodshed for the people of this besieged coastal enclave. With access to only rudimentary supplies, the staff must deal with injuries caused by live ammunition, rubber bullets and tear gas.

When Arab News visited the hospital southeast of Gaza City last week the sound of ambulances rushing back and forth was almost non-stop as the medics worked tirelessly amid the chaos. But no one expects any respite in the month ahead, with the protesters due to return every Friday until mid-May.

“In one hour we have received more than 30 injuries, about 26 of which are to the lower limbs and from live bullets,” said Khalil Siam, a doctor who works at the hospital from 8 a.m. until 10 p.m.

Gaza’s “Great March of Return” began on March 30, when tens of thousands of protesters traveled in buses from across the strip to five locations along the Israeli border. 

The demonstration was timed to coincide with “Land Day,” an annual event when Palestinians remember the deaths of six Arab citizens killed by Israeli forces during demonstrations over land confiscations in northern Israel in 1976. It is due to continue until May 15, when Palestinians commemorate the Nakba, or catastrophe — the creation of
Israel.

On the first day of the protest at least 17 Palestinians were killed and more than 1,000 were injured as Israeli troops opened fire on the huge crowds, causing the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to call for “an independent and transparent investigation.”

Then on April 6 several more Palestinians were killed as protesters threw stones and set fire to piles of tires at the border, sending thick clouds of black smoke spiralling into the air.

A handful of field hospitals run by both volunteers and government doctors have been set up to deal with the constant stream of casualties each Friday, but they struggle to cope. Protesters critically wounded in the upper part of the body are rushed straight to Gaza’s main hospitals but staff here also find themselves increasingly overwhelmed by the sheer scale of the bloodshed.

According to the Palestinian Ministry of Health, a total of 33 Palestinians have been killed and 4,300 have been injured between the start of the protests last month and April 14. Thirteen of the casualties have required amputations.

Even before the demonstrations began, Gaza suffered from a lack of medical facilities and supplies as a result of an 11-year land, sea and air blockade by Israeli forces and ongoing divisions between the two main Palestinian political factions, Fatah and Hamas.

Ashraf Al-Qidra, a spokesman for the Ministry of Health in Gaza, told Arab News that all hospitals were facing a situation of “severe attrition.”

“A large number of drugs and medical items have been drained from emergency departments, operating rooms and intensive care units due to the large number of casualties,” he said.

The Israeli government initially refused to allow injured protesters to be moved to the occupied West Bank until Israel’s High Court ruled unanimously on Monday that Yousef Al-Karnaz, a 19-year-old Palestinian, should be allowed to receive urgent medical care in Ramallah.

Al-Karnaz was shot and wounded by Israeli troops on March 30 but was not allowed to leave the strip. As a result, his left leg was amputated.

Ismail Al-Jadbah, director of the vascular department at Shifa Hospital in Gaza City, told Arab News that the strip had enough doctors to cope with the casualties but lacked the necessary resources to give them the best possible care.

“In addition to a shortage of medicine, the large number of injured has put a great burden on us. Treating injuries in the right way, and in the right time, is very difficult,” he said.