Coalition seeks review of Yemen air strike after UN reports civilian casualties

Coalition says Joint Incident Assessment Team was asked to investigate the 'possibility of an accident'

Saudi Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al Malki. EPA
Saudi Defence Ministry spokesman Colonel Turki Al Malki. EPA

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has asked for an independent assessment of a recent air strike following reports of civilian casualties.

Coalition spokesman Turki Al Malki said the Joint Incident Assessment Team was asked to study Sunday’s strike on a gathering of Houthi commanders in the Washhah district of Hajjah governorate “to consider the possibility of an accident”.

“Based on what was revealed about the possibility of civilian casualties during an operation targeting a gathering of Houthi leaders, all documents were transferred to the Joint Incident Assessment Team for consideration,” said Col Al Malki.

On Monday, the UN humanitarian office in Yemen said that field reports appeared to show an attack killed seven children and two women.

The incident came less than two weeks after the coalition restarted military operations in Yemen following a unilateral ceasefire in May brought about by the coronavirus pandemic.

After calls from the UN, Saudi Arabia announced a halt in operations on May 20, but the move was rejected by the Houthis, who continued their ground offensives.

Of Sunday’s operation, Col Al Malki said that coalition leadership expected the highest standards in all aspects of operations and that the principles of international humanitarian law and customary rules applied to all military engagements.

Forces, he said, took all measures possible to avoid accidents and maintain responsibility and transparency.

The coalition intervened in Yemen at the request of the internationally recognised government in 2015 after the Iran-backed Houthi rebels took control of Sanaa, the capital, in a coup.

Col Al Malki also said that forces "intercepted and destroyed seven drones and four ballistic missiles" launched by the Houthis against civilian targets in Saudi Arabia.

UN officials again called for a de-escalation in the conflict they described as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

“Yemen can’t take much more,” said Lise Grande, humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen. “Health and water programmes are shutting, famine is stalking the country again, and people all across the country are being hit hard by Covid-19.”

Updated: July 14, 2020 06:23 PM

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