Sana’a, January 23, 2017: On another front, the Arab coalition forces are accused by local and international human rights organizations of perpetrating large violations against civilians including women and children. Local and international human rights NGOs warned of using the cities and the civilian’s residences as lawful targets by the Saudi-led coalition forces with no discrimination. The strikes targeted schools, hospitals and residences amongst other civilian institutions.
The coalition denied some of the allegations against it and acknowledged some of its operations that reached some civilian sites by mistake which killed and injured civilians. The coalition promised to run an investigation and took some procedures to compensate but until the end of 2016, nothing has been done in this regard.
For example, 27 people were killed from the family of Abdullah Ali Al-Ibbi, most of them women and children, by the Saudi Arabian-led coalition strikes on their houses on May 6, 2015 in Sa’adah city on the Saudi border. Only the father and three other family members survived.
This airstrike is one of many others launched by the coalition targeting civilian targets, despite the claims of the coalition that their strikes only target military targets of the Houthi rebels and the Saleh-affiliated forces. The airstrikes targeted many civilian locations including markets, residential gatherings, petrol stations and infrastructures, which is a serious violation of the laws of war and the rules of engagement.
On October 26, 2015, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) claimed that some of its hospitals were attacked by the coalition fire jets resulting in casualties. Subsequently, MSF decided to evacuate all of its medical cadres from six hospitals and medical centers in Sa’adah and Hajjah governorates. MSF justified that some of its medical institutions were targeted by the Saudi-led coalition airstrikes and did not accept the coalition assurances.
The organization said in an online statement on its website that “Following the August 15 aerial bombing of Abs Hospital in Yemen’s Hajjah governorate, which killed 19 people and injured 24, the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) has decided to evacuate its staff from the hospitals it supports in Sa’adah and Hajjah governorates in northern Yemen.”
It also explained that MSF withdrew its staff members from Haydan, Razeh, Al Gamhouri and Yasnim hospitals in Sa’adah governorate and Abs and Al Gamhouri hospitals in Hajjah governorate, stating “The airstrike on Abs Hospital was the fourth and the deadliest attack on an MSF-supported medical facility during this war, while there have been numerous attacks on other health facilities all over Yemen”.
On March 30, 2015, an airstrike launched by the coalition killed 29 people, at least, in Al-Mazraq, an IDPs’ camp in Hajjah city, north Yemen, nearby the Saudi boarders, according to international human rights organization and UN agencies.
International Organization for Migration said that the number of causalities reached 45 people. Pablo Marco, the operational manager of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), said that MSF’s hospital received 34 injured people. The spokesperson of the coalition denied targeting the IDPs’ Camp, while the Yemen’s foreign minister, Riyadh Yasin, accused the Houthi of committing the attack on the camp.
On October 30, 2016, Houthi declared that 65 people were killed and other tens were injured due to an airstrike by the coalition on a prison belongs to the judiciary and security management compound in al-Zaidiah area, in Hodeida city—located at the coasts of the Red Sea (West of Yemen).
Rights Radar reported that the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s fighter jets attacked the buildings of the prison and the security management in Al-Zaidiah area, north Hodeida, with three airstrikes. Residents in the area told Rights Radar that this security building was supervised by the Houthis and used for their periodic meetings. The building’s rooms was crowded with an estimated number of 100 prisoners. Most of the prisoners were civilians, abducted by the Houthis and imprisoned in this building and taken as human shields. Survivors of the airstrikes told Rights Radar that the prisoners attempted to escape after the first airstrike calling for the prison’s guards to release them but there was no response. The militias seemed determined to use them as human shields. The coalition denied targeting the prison but it confirmed attacking a meeting of Houthi officials in the security building.
On May 12, 2015, the Saudi-led coalition committed a horrible incident by attacking a local market in Zabid city in Hodeida governorate, south of Yemen. The airstrikes killed 71 people and injured other 100. Local resources said that the airstrikes targeted a building used by the Houthi, which is nearby the local market located directly on the main street of Zabid city.
On July 24, 2015, the coalition’s fighter jets attacked a residential city in al-Makha, a coastal city in Taiz governorate, south of Yemen. As a result, around 102 civilians were killed and other tens of people were injured.
In early 2016 the Arab coalition created an independent body named Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) in consisted of 14 members with solid military and legal experiences. Some of its members are from the Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, and Yemen, according to state-owned Saudi Press Agency.
The JIAT’s spokesperson Mansour Ahmed Al-Mansour said that the investigations have already started on the claims of the coalition’s violation during its operations in Yemen. The team began investigating some of these incidents and issued reports concerning eight claims against the coalition.
Al-Mansour spoke in a news briefing on August 4, 2016 that the “JIAT’s work in assessing the accidents depends on ensuring the legal aspects of target operations that are compatible with the international law, and on using the American and British mechanism to assess accidents in addition to the law of armed conflict, he JIAT prepares a report for each individual case, including the facts, circumstances surrounding each accident, backgrounds, timings, lessons learned, recommendations and future actions to be taken,” according to SPA.
The Arab coalition questioned the validation of the accusations holding the coalition responsible for firing airstrikes on civilian targets during the war. But the coalition admitted that there were mistaken operations that killed civilians and it vowed to take the necessary measures to compensate the damage. But as of the end of 2016, the coalition has not taken any practical measures in this regard.
The Arab coalition said that the claims of these organizations are characterized with hastiness as most of them are not present on the ground especially in Hajjah city (North east Sana’a) where the coalition targeted the Houthi militia. These organizations claimed that tens of civilians were killed as a result.
The deadliest attack was on a funeral gathering for the al-Rwaishan clan held in the Grand Hall in October 2016. The coalition launched double tap strikes on the hall, killing 140 people and wounding hundreds of others, according to Houthi sources. Amongst the casualties were military and security leaders loyal to the former president Saleh. The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) issued an investigation and found that the bombing was carried out based on wrong information that the hall was filled with Houthi leaders. The Coalition Forces Command affirmed that it accepts the results of the investigation and expressed its “regret” for the unintended mistake, and the coalition started taking the necessary measures to apply the recommendations.
“The coalition command expresses its regret at this unintentional incident and the ensuing pain for victims’ families. The incident is not in line with the coalition’s objectives, namely protecting civilians and restoring safety and stability to Yemen,” read the statement. The JIAT team responsible for the investigation said in the same statement “Because of non-compliance with coalition rules of engagement and procedures, and the issuing of incorrect information, a coalition aircraft wrongly targeted the location, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries.”