Sun, 2018-08-12 16:48
RIYADH: Airstrikes on a crowded market in Yemen that killed 54 civilians were targeting Houthi militia troops and vehicles, investigators said on Sunday.
The Saudi-led Arab Coalitions Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT) said the bombing of the site in Taiz Province last year took place after the Houthis had indiscriminately shelled a nearby village in the days leading up to the strike, causing civilian casualties and forcing families to flee. The airstrikes were called in by forces on the ground on Dec. 26.
Video recordings of the attack showed the gathering of “militants and vehicles belonging to armed elements of the Houthi militia,” JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour said in Riyadh. The video showed no evidence that the bombing site on a crossroads was a popular market, he added.
The JIAT found that the coalition had not deliberately targeted the market and that the procedures followed in pursuing the military objective were consistent with international humanitarian law.
Speaking at the King Salman Air Base in Riyadh, Al-Mansour also announced the findings of investigations into four other incidents. He said three of those operations were also found to be in accordance with international humanitarian law, while a fifth incident was an unintentional error.
Airstrikes in June 2015, on houses in Saada province reportedly killed 11 members of a family. The JIAT found a Houthi leader had been at the premises and weapons and military equipment were stored inside. As a result the reports said the site was a high-value, legitimate military target.
Intelligence reports from Yemen had placed a gathering of Houthi leaders inside a building in Lahj province in May 2016. Coalition airstrikes hit the building in Mahalla village, killing six people. The JIAT said the presence of the militants made the building a “legitimate military objective.”
In May, the coalition bombed three “suicide boats” anchored in the port of Hodeidah that were part of a Houthi mission to attack shipping in the Red Sea. The JIAT said there were no civilians in the area and no damage to commercial shipping.
The JIAT also investigated an airstrike in September 2017 that hit a vehicle in Marib province, killing 12 people. In this instance the investigators said a report by a UN panel of experts on Yemen was correct.
The JIAT recommended to “present assistance for unintentional error in targeting the civilian single cap truck.”
Al-Mansour said the JIAT had been ordered to immediately investigate the attack on a bus in Saada on Thursday that killed 29 children.
“Once we have gathered all the information it will be made public,” Al-Mansour said.
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