saudi arabia

Investigation clears coalition over Yemen air strikes

Panel says strikes largely justified due citing presence of armed militants at homes, schools and clinics

12:45 September 13, 2017

Riyadh: A panel set up by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen to investigate civilian casualties found a series of deadly air strikes largely justified, citing the presence of armed militiamen at the homes, schools and clinics that were targeted.

The Joint Incidents Assessment Team said on Tuesday it had discovered mistakes in only three of 15 incidents it reviewed, and maintained the coalition had acted in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Saudi Arabia and its allies have been bombing Iran-aligned Al Houthi militants since Al Houthis seized much of northern Yemen in 2015 in a coup.

Al Houthis have in turn fired rockets towards Saudi cities and villages. They say their attacks are in response to Saudi strikes on Yemeni cities and villages. The war has killed more than 10,000 people.

Speaking in the Saudi capital Riyadh on Tuesday, the panel’s legal advisor, Mansour Ahmad Al Mansour, told journalists the coalition had made “an unintended mistake” in bombing a water well-drilling rig north of Yemen’s capital Sana’a last year after confusing it with a ballistic missile launcher.

The raid reportedly killed 30 people and JIAT recommended the coalition provide “appropriate humanitarian assistance”.It urged the same for strikes in Sana’a in June and September 2015 when bombs targeting military objectives mistakenly hit civilian buildings due to “a technical malfunction in aircraft systems”.

Mansour denied the coalition hit a UN compound in Aden in June 2015, which the UN secretary general said at the time caused serious structural damage and one casualty.

About a January 2016 attack near Saada which killed a Medecins Sans Frontieres ambulance driver and at least five other people, Mansour disputed the vehicle was clearly marked and said the coalition had legitimately targeted it and an ammunition depot it was parked beside.

“The vehicle was used for military purposes due to the secondary explosion in the vehicle, which was obvious,” he said.

The investigators also absolved the coalition of responsibility for attacks on a Coca-Cola factory in December 2015 and a centre for the blind the following month.