The Saudi-led coalition battling Yemen’s Houthi rebels announced on Friday an investigation into an, as pressure mounted on the U.S.-backed military coalition over the deadly strike. The announcement came after the Shiite Muslim rebels backed international calls for a probe into the airstrike in the country’s north which killed dozens the previous day.
The attack has drawn wide international criticism. Both the United Nations and the U.S. State Department called on the coalition, led by U.S. ally Saudi Arabia, to carry out an investigation.
A coalition of Arab States, led by Saudi Arabia, attacked Yemen’s main port city, Hodeidah, Wednesday in an attempt to cripple Houthi rebels. The Houthis, supported by Iran, hold the city. The attack on Hodeidah, the largest battle yet in the Yemen war, involved warplanes, warships, and ground troops. Most Yemeni people eat food that passes through Hodeidah, and 8.4 million Yemenis are close to famine.
Two U.S. citizens that were being held in Yemen were released on Sunday and have arrived in Oman, a White House official said. The Americans were being held by a rebel group in Yemen. Ned Price, spokesman for the National Security Council in the White House, said their families have been informed of their release.
People inspect buildings destroyed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen on Saturday, Sept. 5, 2015. (AP / Hani Mohammed)
SANAA, Yemen — Saudi Arabia’s military said Saturday that 10 of its troops were killed in a rebel missile strike a day earlier in Yemen, raising the death toll in the attack to at least 55 coalition troops killed.
It was the first public acknowledgement by the Saudis that they have ground troops in Yemen, where they lead a coalition targeting Shiite rebels known as Houthis and their allies.
The United Arab Emirates lost 45 troops in the attack Friday, when rebels hit an ammunition depot in Marib, about 120 kilometres (75 miles) east of the capital, Sanaa. It was the deadliest day for the UAE’s military in the nation’s 44-year history.
“Ten Saudi soldiers from the Arab coalition forces were martyred,” in the attack on the weapons depot, Saudi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asiri said in a statement.
The Saudi-led and U.S.-backed coalition, made up mainly of Gulf nations, has been launching airstrikes against the rebels since March, part of an increasingly assertive military policy by both the Saudis and the UAE in the region.
Before Saudi Arabia and the UAE confirmed their casualties in the attack, coalition countries had avoided acknowledging that they had troops on the ground in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country. On Friday, Bahrain’s state news agency also reported that five of its soldiers were killed in Yemen operations, although it did not specify where or how.
Yemeni security officials have said that Saudi, Emirati, Egyptian and Jordanian military advisers are training hundreds of fighters at a military base in Aden. The Saudis also are supplying weapons and providing military advice in the fight for control of their southern neighbour.
The rebels and army units loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh are fighting forces loyal to President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is in self-imposed exile in Saudi Arabia, as well as southern separatists and local militias.
Officials from the Houthis media office confirmed they had fired a Soviet-era Tochka missile in Marib, which had been a staging ground for what pro-government described as an upcoming assault toward the Houthis’ northern strongholds.
Also Saturday, pro-government Yemen officials said Arab coalition forces in Marib received reinforcements in the form of troops and supplies from neighbouring Saudi Arabia. They said the troops were from Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi Arabia, and also included Saudi-trained Yemeni forces.
The coalition also has launched almost-continuous airstrikes in the rebel-held capital of Sanaa since the rebels’ Friday missile attack, demolishing at least one building, Sanaa residents said. Shock waves from the explosions caused several small buildings to collapse as well. The residents spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
The airstrikes in the capital targeted weapons storage facilities and a police department in downtown Sanaa, which the rebels had turned into a military headquarters, independent security officials and witnesses said. The strikes knocked down a nearby house, killing four civilians and wounding three from the same family, they added. The Houthi-controlled Interior Ministry said 27 people have been killed by the intensified airstrikes since Friday.
Meanwhile in Jawf, a massive desert province north of Marib, hundreds of Saudi-trained Yemeni fighters and coalition troops have marched in and set up military encampments in the north-western al-Yetema crossing bordering Saudi Arabia, pro-government security officials and tribal leaders there said. The move came Thursday as part of the military plan to seize Jawf in order to advance on the neighbouring Sadaa, the heartland of the Houthis.
Sandwiched between rebel forces in Jawf and cities to the south like Bihan and Sirwah, which lie on supply routes with the rebel-held capital, the coalition forces in Marib are unable to advance north, independent security officials said. A breakout would require help from the reinforcements to Marib and Jawf, Yemeni analyst Mansour Haael said.
All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief reporters.
(AP)SANAA, Yemen – Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit a residential area in a quiet Red Sea town in Yemen, killing at least 120 people in the deadliest strike against civilians since the March offensive began, security and medical officials said.Hours later, the coalition unexpectedly announced that it would start a five-day humanitarian pause on Sunday, just before midnight.The airstrikes late Friday hit workers’ housing for a power plant in Mokha, flattening some of the buildings to the ground, the officials said. A fire erupted in the area, charring many of the corpses, including children, women and elderly people.Wahib Mohammed, an eyewitness and area resident, said some of the bodies were torn apart by the force of the blast and buried in a mass grave on Saturday. Some of the strikes also hit nearby livestock pens, he said. Human and animal blood pooled on the ground of the surrounding area.The deadly strike highlights growing concerns that the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes are increasingly killing civilians as they continue to target Shiite rebels known as Houthis.”It just shows what is the trend now of the airstrikes from the coalition,” said Hassan Boucenine of the Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders. “Now, it’s a house, it’s a market, it’s anything.”He added that many of the workers had families visiting for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Mokha, populated largely by fisherman, had a reputation as one of the safest places in the country embroiled in war, said Boucenine.Saudi officials could not be reached for comment, and the government’s official media did not issue a statement about the deadly strike. Over the course of the war, rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed concern that the Saudi-led coalition is violating laws of war and not doing enough to prevent or minimize civilian casualties.It is not clear why the workers’ housing was hit. Yemeni security officials said the closest Houthi outpost to Friday evening’s strike is at least 5 kilometers (3 miles) away. Four airstrikes hit the residence after Saudi-led coalition planes launched dozens of missiles on positions of Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies in the surrounding area. The strikes in the area continued Saturday as dozens of families fled, security officials and eyewitnesses said.A military official said the coalition had been given incorrect coordinates. He denied that the coordinates had come from anyone in the district and said he called the coalition to inform them of the high number of civilian casualties.All officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.Boucenine, of Doctors Without Borders, said the hospital in Mokha had closed weeks prior due to a lack of medical supplies and staff. Some of the injured died en route to the hospital in the city of Hodeida, 180 kilometers (112 miles) north. The provincial capital of Taiz was inaccessible due to ongoing fighting. Boucenine said the hospital confirmed 44 fatalities, though he expected the actual toll was significantly higher.Deif Allah al-Shamy, a Houthi leader, called Friday’s strike “an ugly crime and a flagrant violation of human rights.”Houthi rebels have also been criticized by rights groups for causing civilian casualties. Houthis and their allies randomly shelled a town earlier this week outside of Aden after losing control of some the port city’s neighborhoods, killing nearly 100 people, Doctors Without Borders said.Since March 26, at least 1,693 civilians have been killed in the Yemen fighting, with 3,829 wounded, the U.N. said earlier this week. It says civilians have been killed by mortar fire and ground fighting though “the majority of the casualties are reported to have been caused by air strikes.”The fighting in Yemen pits the Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants and loyalists of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is now in Saudi Arabia.The U.N. human rights office said in a statement this week that “since 17 June, there has been further destruction of civilian infrastructure, with at least 36 buildings, including hospitals, schools, court houses, power generation facilities, and communications institutions partially or totally damaged.”Less than a day after the deadly strike, the Saudi-led coalition announced it will start a five-day humanitarian pause in Yemen on Sunday just before midnight.The statement, carried on Saudi state media Saturday, said the pause came as a result of a request by Hadi to Saudi’s King Salman.It said the coalition will cease military operations, but that it will respond should Houthi rebels or their allies conduct any military actions or movements.The truce is intended to give pause to months of punishing fighting in the war-torn impoverished Gulf nation and allow for the dispersing of much-needed humanitarian aid.
The previous humanitarian pause, which was announced earlier this month and was expected to last until the end of the holy month of Ramadan, never truly went into effect as both sides blamed each other and civilian deaths continued.
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Rebel fire kills 20 civilians in Yemen’s AdenSANAA: Shia rebels and their allies randomly shelled an area north of Aden on Sunday, killing at least 45 people and wounding over 100, officials said.The rebels are pushing back against an offensive by their Saudi-backed rivals that uprooted them from areas they control in the strategic port city last week, including the Aden international airport.The officials said hundreds of residents fled Dar Saad, north of Aden, amid shelling that intensified Sunday from the rebels. They said at least 45 people, believed to be civilians, were killed. Ambulances rushed to various areas in the town, taking the wounded to various hospitals, including some operated by the international aid group Doctors Without Borders.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity as they weren’t authorized to brief journalists. Abdu Mohammed Madrabi, a 65-year old resident of the town, said he was in line outside the post office to collection his pension when the shells hit, causing chaos in the area. Madrabi, who was wounded in the neck, back and leg, said many private cars carried the wounded to hospitals because ambulances couldn’t cope. “We are now sitting on the floor of the hospital waiting for treatment,” he said. The shelling was intense in the neighbourhood of Sharqiya, hundreds of meters (yards) from the post office. Residents said shelling since early dawn kept them hiding at home.” It’s been one shell after the other since the morning. We are feeling the house is going to collapse over our head,” said Arwa Mohammed, a resident of Sharqiya, who has been locked up in one room with her seven-member family for safety. She said a shack nearby was burning from the bombing, adding that its residents fled only minutes before the shell landed.
“Balls of fire are falling over our heads amid screams of children and women,” said Anis Othman, a neighbour of Mohammed. “Why all that shelling? There are no weapons or fighters here. They (the rebels) want to terrorize us and drive us out. This is only rancour and hate.”
Hassan Boucenine, the head of Doctors Without Borders in Yemen, said the situation is “very, very difficult,” describing random shelling in Dar Saad that is coming from the north and east, wounding mostly civilians. He said his medical facilities have received 50 wounded people and 25 corpses. “There will be more,” he said. The Saudi-backed fighters, backed by Saudi-led coalition air strikes, pushed the rebels out of Aden’s airport and two major neighbourhoods last week. The rebels vowed to retaliate. Aden has been the scene of some of the war’s most intense ground fighting since March.