Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke Monday with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, but according to a State Department readout of the conversation, the top US diplomat made no mention of last week’s Saudi-led airstrike that hit a school bus in Yemen and killed dozens of children, many under the age of 10.
Pompeo and the White House have failed to publicly address the bombing in recent days, as reports continue to emerge detailing the tragic incident.
According to the State Department, Pompeo “thanked the Crown Prince for Saudi Arabia’s support for northeast Syria’s urgent stabilization needs, its engagement with the Iraqi government, and its offer to help Iraq address its water and electricity shortages” during Monday’s call.
The secretary and the Crown Prince discussed their support for a ceasefire in Afghanistan. The two also “reviewed the UN Special Envoy’s work to resolve the conflict in Yemen and other topics of mutual interest,” according to the statement.
State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert discussed the bombing only after she was asked by reporters last week. At the time, she said the US is “certainly concerned” by reports of the deadly strike, but that she could not confirm the “all the details because we are not there on the ground.”
The schoolboys on a field trip in Yemen were chatting and laughing. Then came the airstrike
“We call on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident,” she added.
Pentagon spokesperson Lieutenant Commander Rebecca Rebarich said Monday that a US 3-star general pressed Saudi Arabia to conduct a transparent investigation into the Yemen school bus strike and to release the results to the public.
“A 3-star general adjusted his already scheduled visit to Saudi Arabia to discuss the incident with the Saudis and look into the situation,” Rebarich said.
“The general discussed investigative processes and prevention of civilian casualties with the Saudis and the need for a timely and transparent investigation into this incident. He pressed the Saudis to devote the resources and oversight required to do a thorough and complete investigation and release the results to the public,” Rebarich said.
Rebarich said that Mattis “does urge the Saudis to expeditiously and thoroughly investigate this tragic incident.”
UN Security Council calls for probe into Saudi-led airstrike that hit Yemen school bus
Saudi Arabia intervened in Yemen’s civil war in 2015 in an attempt to sway the outcome against Iran-backed Houthi rebels, who took control of Yemen in an uprising and now say they are fighting to defend the country from outside attack.
The children were on a field trip when their bus was struck at a market, the first stop of the day, according to the Houthi-controlled Health Ministry.
Of the 51 people who died in the airstrike, 40 were children, Houthi Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said during a news conference Friday. He added that of the 79 people wounded, 56 were children.
After private discussions on the airstrikes, the United Nations Security Council said in a statement last week that there should be a “credible, transparent” investigation.
The Security Council said it “expressed grave concern” about the airstrike and all other recent attacks in Yemen.