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David Cameron accused of silently taking Britain into Saudi Arabia’s brutal war in Yemen

Britain is supplying military equipment, weapons, and advisors to Saudi Arabia

Published 20/01/2016

Employees walk on the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Employees walk on the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Yemeni blind men hold a banner during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind men shout slogans during a demonstration gathering disabled people to protest after a center for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni man inspects the damage at a site reportedly hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemeni blind and disabled people shout slogans during a demonstration to protest after a centre for the blind was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni man inspects the damage at a site reportedly hit by Saudi-led airstrikes in the capital Sanaa on January 6, 2016. Nearly 6,000 people have been killed since March, according to UN figures. At least 2,795 of them are civilians. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

David Cameron has been accused of silently dragging Britain into another conflict in the Middle East without parliamentary approval or oversight.

Angus Robertson, the Scottish National Party’s leader at Westminster, said the Prime Minister should admit to British involvement in Saudi Arabia’s invasion of Yemen – where the UK is providing arms, training and advice.

The call comes as new figures released by the Government show that British bomb and missile exports to Saudi Arabia have increased by 11,000 per cent from £9 million to £1 billion over three months last year.

Saudi Arabia has been accused of war crimes by human rights groups and the legality of British military assistance to the country has been questioned by campaigners.

“Thousands of civilians have been killed in Yemen, including a large number by the Saudi air force and they’ve done that using British-built planes, with pilots who are trained by British instructors, dropping British-made bombs, who are coordinated by the Saudis in the presence of British military advisors,” Mr Robertson said during Prime Minister’s Questions.

“Isn’t it time for the Prime Minister to admit that Britain is effectively taking part in a war in Yemen that is costing thousands of civilians lives and he has not sought parliamentary approval to do this?”

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A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images
A Yemeni worker looks at the damage at the Noor Centre for the Blind after it was reportedly destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in the capital Sanaa on January 5, 2016. AFP/Getty Images

The Prime Minister rejected the suggestion that the UK was taking part in the conflict but admitted that British advisors had a role in Saudi Arabia.

“I think the Right Honourable Gentleman started in a serious place and then wondered off. It’s in our interest to back the legitimate government of Yemen. We have some of the most stringent arms control procedures of any country in the world,” he replied.

“Just to be absolutely clear about our role: we’re not a member of the Saudi-led coalition, British military personnel are not directly involved in the Saudi-led coalition’s operations, personnel are not  involved in carrying out strikes, directing or conducting operations in Yemen or selecting targets and we’re not involved in the Saudi targeting decision making process.

“But yes – do we provide advice, help and training in order to make sure that countries actually do obey the norms of humanitarian law? Yes we do.”

Saudi Arabia is intervening in Yemen to fight Houthi rebels, who control the country’s capital but are not internationally recognised as its government. The Kingdom was asked to join the conflict by the country’s Government, which has been pushed out of much of the country’s heartland.

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A general view shows the rubble of the building of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was destroyed during air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
A general view shows the rubble of the building of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry which was destroyed during air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

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Criticism of the Saudi military operation have however included the bombing of multiple hospitals run by the charity Médecins Sans Frontières and the deaths of thousands of civilians, including 130 at a single wedding.

While international observers have recognised abuses on all sides, in late December UN human rights chief Zeid Raad al-Hussein said that a “disproportionate” number of attacks of civilians in Yemen had come from the Saudi-led invasion force.

“I have observed with extreme concern the continuation of heavy shelling from the ground and the air in areas with high a concentration of civilians as well as the perpetuation of the destruction of civilian infrastructure – in particular hospitals and schools – by all parties to the conflict, although a disproportionate amount appeared to be the result of airstrikes carried out by Coalition Forces,” Mr Zeid said.

Human rights group Amnesty International UK has also accused the Government of ignoring “overwhelming evidence” of civilian targeting by the Saudi Arabian air force.

Yemenis look at destruction in the street following air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images
Yemenis look at destruction in the street following air strikes on the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

"Angus Robertson has raised an important point about the UK’s involvement in Saudi Arabia’s indiscriminate bombing campaign in Yemen, a campaign we’re told involves British advisers actually located in the Saudi ‘control room’,” said Allan Hogarth, the group’s head of Policy and Government Affairs.

"Thousands of Yemeni civilians have already been killed in a barrage of indiscriminate Saudi airstrikes in the country and whatever advice Britain has been giving to the Saudis has apparently done little to prevent this appalling death toll.

"Meanwhile, the UK is selling billions of pounds worth of weapons to the Saudis in the full knowledge of the grave risk that they’ll be used to kill Yemeni civilians.

An employee inspects a room inside the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An employee inspects a room inside the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
A man uses his mobile to take pictures of the rubble of the Chamber of Trade and Industry headquarters after it was hit by a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa, Yemen, Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
An employee inspects a building destroyed by Saudi-led air strikes in Sanaa, Yemen (AP)
TOPSHOT - Yemeni construction workers walk with their rollers for painting in the the capital, Sanaa, on January 5, 2016. AFP PHOTO / MOHAMMED HUWAIS / AFP / MOHAMMED HUWAISMOHAMMED HUWAIS/AFP/Getty Images

"Instead of brushing aside Mr Robertson’s questions, the prime minister should immediately suspend export licences for all further UK arms bound for Saudi Arabia and allow a full investigation into allegations of serious breaches of international humanitarian law by Saudi Arabia in Yemen.”

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