Operation Storm of Resolve, in Yemen, has been carried out for over 15 days and the Saudi-led coalition's performance has been criticised by a very few (e.g. HRW and some Middle East media) however, they were extremely coy in their criticism – exposing, therefore, an interesting double-standard.
“Saudi Arabia has vowed to do 'whatever it takes' to prevent the fall of its ally President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, accusing Shiite Iran of backing the Huthi rebels' power grab." (source)
Whatever it takes...does this include violating the international law?
Violation of the International Humanitarian Law
The Saudi-led coalition has been striking several Houthi positions, in Yemen, in order to decrease the Houthi ability to respond militarily, thus, weakening the group; a basic combat strategy (although it doesn't seem to be working, since it has been reported that the Houthis seem to have approached Saudi territory). However, we have to ask ourselves whether the international humanitarian law (IHL) applies to the Arab-coalition at all, when it has also been reported that civilian objects have been targeted with almost an absolute impunity. Where is the international outrage?
Based on information gathered from open sources, the Saudis seem to have violated:
Rule 12 Indiscriminate Attacks:
(a) which are not directed at a specific military objective;
(b) which employ a method or means of combat which cannot be directed at a specific military objective; or
(c) which employ a method or means of combat the effects of which cannot be limited as required by international humanitarian law;
and consequently, in each such case, are of a nature to strike military objectives and civilians or civilian objects without distinction.
The coalition reportedly hit a dairy factory and a refugee camp: both civilians objects. The Saudi didn't offer an explanation (backed up by solid evidence) to why these civilian objects were attacked, therefore until proven contrary we should look at these incidents as a possible war crime.
Rule 13 Area Bombardment
Attacks by bombardment by any method or means which treats as a single military objective a number of clearly separated and distinct military objectives located in a city, town, village or other area containing a similar concentration of civilians or civilian objects are prohibited.
The airstrike against a refugee camp is a clear violation of this rule. Moreover, if a military objective, such as a military facility occupied by the enemy, stands near a civilian object, the attack is to be deferred until the area is cleared of civilians. This is a calculation that needs to be made by the military leadership in any campaign. Which takes us to the next rule...
Rule 14 Proportionality in Attack
Launching an attack which may be expected to cause incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians, damage to civilian objects, or a combination thereof, which would be excessive in relation to the concrete and direct military advantage anticipated, is prohibited.
It could be said that the attack on a school (resulting in the death of circa 6 children) raises questions because there is the probability that the coalition was targeting a military building nearby, having thus the school been a mere collateral damage; however, it could also be argued that any such attack should've been postponed, until civilian lives were cleared from the area (there's a precedent to this sort of decision). Some would even say that the distance between civilian objects and military objectives should be “at least sufficiently large to permit the individual military objectives to be attacked separately” but, as we know, urban planning doesn't always take these details into account; therefore, the best option is to get the proper intel before striking. But then there is that interesting dilemma: do we save the lives of six innocent children and risk the enemy having access to weapons, or any other military advantage, that will result in the death of hundreds, thousands, of other civilians and military forces; or do we sacrifice them for a greater good? This kind of decision is what proportionality is all about, in a military campaign.
Rule 32 Humanitarian Relief Objects
Objects used for humanitarian relief operations must be respected and protected.
Hitting a refugee camp is clearly a violation of this rule, unless the Saudis can prove that the camp was being used as a training camp for the enemy, weapon cache etc, which would in turn mean that the UN had violated the international law. No further comments required.
Attacking With US Weapons
The doublethinkers and Newspeakers (i.e. International Left) always attack certain countries, when they are at war, for attacking the “poor Muslims” with US weapons. They argue that the problem lies not in defending oneself from a terrorist group but in defending itself with American weapons (“how can American citizens tolerate that?” they ask). Well, now the Saudis are attacking “poor Muslims” with US weapons...where's Reza Aslan now, for instance?
As mentioned before, Saudi Arabia hasn't offered any suitable explanation to why civilian objects are being indiscriminately attacked. Where is the international Left's indignation and decrial: aren't the Yemenite Arab enough or are the Arabs in Palestine more than other Arabs in the Middle East?
Operation Storm of Resolve exposed one important thing: when it's Arabs indiscriminately attacking Arabs, the international law must never be evoked; when it's Israelis ethically defending themselves from Arab aggression, the international law must be evoked at each military decision.