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Mwatana: The Saudi-led Coalition Has Been Targeting Civilians in Yemen for Two Years

An Immediate Embargo on Arms Sales to Saudi Arabia Must be Enforced and an International Independent Investigation Mechanism Must Be Established
A group of residents searching survivors under debris of a devastated house aftermath of an aerial attack by Saudi-led Arab coalition in al-Qasimi neighborhood at the old city of Sana'a-Yemen. June 12, 2015. Photo by: Mohammed Yaseen      
Fri - (24 Mar 2017) - Press Releases

Yemen- Sana’aو March 24, 2017

Mwatana Organization for Human Rights declared that the Saudi-led Arab coalition must immediately stop apparent targeting civilians and civilian objects in Yemen.

In a statement on the second anniversary of the start of the Saudi-led Arab coalition’s military operations in Yemen, Mwatana appealed to states that support the coalition, especially the United States and the United Kingdom, to enforce an embargo on arms due to their possible use against civilians and civilian objects. Instead, Mwatana urges states that support the coalition to support civilian victims through putting pressure to establish an international independent mechanism to investigate the coalition’s violations.

Mwatana has documented at least 132 attacks launched by the Saudi-led Arab coalition between March 2015 and March 2017 in 13 Yemeni governorates: Sa’ada, Hajja, Hodeida, Mareb, Jawf, Sana’a, Amran, Ibb, Taiz, Lahj, Aden, Shabwa and al-Bayda. Theses attacks killed at least 1630 civilians including 418 children and 192 women. At least 1872 civilians were injured including 308 children and 168 women.

 

Also, Mwatana documented cases where the coalition targeted 12 civilian industrial facilities in Sana’a, Hajja and Hodeida governorates. In addition, the coalition targeted 13 historical and archaeological sites in seven Yemeni governorates: Jawf, Mareb, Sana’a, Mahweet, Sa’ada, Aden and Taiz.

On this occasion, chairperson of Mwatana for Human Rights, Radhya al-Mutawakel, says: “ For two years now, civilians in Yemen have witnessed, the reckless conduct of the Saudi-led coalition in many of its attacks that resulted in thousands of Yemeni victims among whom are women and children. The attacks also destroyed civilian objects as well as historical and archaeological sites. Justice must take its course against those responsible for such violations that may amount to war crimes. The world must open its eyes to this forgotten blood.”

Al-Mutawakel added: “States that support the coalition and those that conduct arms sales deals with Saudi Arabia share responsibility with the coalition for its contrary to the International Humanitarian Law blind airstrikes. The United States and the United Kingdom must present themselves to Yemenis through knowledge and science and not through the bombs and missiles the coalition throws on the heads of innocent civilian Yemenis.”

In its report titled “Blind Airstrikes”, published in December 2015, Mwatana documented 44 incidents of airstrikes launched by the Saudi-led coalition in 9 Yemeni governorates. Among these incidents, an attack was launched on a residential compound for the steam power plant employees in the city of Mokha, Taiz governorate. This attack was one of the bloodiest attacks in 2015.

On Friday 24 July 2015, at night, the coalition’s airstrikes on the compound killed 65 civilians including 13 children and 12 women. 36 others were injured including 14 children and 13 women according to a list that Mwatana acquired from the manager of the thermal power station in addition to interviews with eyewitnesses and families of victims as well as interviews with injured victims.

 

Nabeel Mokred, deputy director of the maintenance department at the plant and an eyewitness, clarified in an interview with Mwatana that the first bomb fell on the compound around 10:30 pm. He pointed that residents of the area were walking and children were playing right before the incident took place.

 

Mokred narrates some of what he saw saying: “I was in my apartment when the first airstrike took place. I moved to the living room. My wife came in with my sister and they were both extremely frightened. We heard the sounds of the jets hovering above us. Around 2 or 3 minutes later, we heard a stronger explosion than the first. The windows’ glass was shattered and the apartment’s door broke wide open because of the amount of pressure as the second bomb fell on the cafeteria. Three minutes later, a third bomb fell on one of the houses. Women were screaming and the situation was very frightening. My family and I left the apartment and moved to the first floor of the building. We remained there for sometime before fleeing to the coast. We felt that we were being bombarded with cold blood. The scene was too painful outside. People were crying, the elderly were not able to walk and people’s screams for help were all over the place as ambulances were delayed by the severity of airstrikes that night.”

Ahmed Othman, whose 3 nephews were all killed and niece was injured in the attack, says: “ I cannot believe that human beings are capable of doing this. This family suffered from airstrikes in the 1994 war where the father and 3 of his children were killed in an airstrike on this compound. And now the same scene is repeated where the rest of the siblings were killed and only one sister is left suffering from her injuries.”

Witnesses told Mwatana that there were no military camps or militants’ sites that belong to Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) or Saleh’s forces anywhere near the residential compound. They added that the area never encountered any armed conflicts during that period. The witnesses also clarified that the closest military site to the compound is an air force military base, located southeast 600-800 meters away from the compound.  

 

The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), which includes member states in the Arab coalition, issued a statement on 4 August 2016 that includes the coalition’s response to 8 different incidents including the one where the residential compound in Mokha was attacked. The team mentioned that the attack on the residential compound was “unintentional and based on inaccurate intelligence information.” The team recommended “providing compensation to the families of the victims after they submit their official and documented claims to the Reparations Committee.” Until this moment, victims are still not provided with any reparations.

 

At 7:30 pm, on Wednesday, 21 September 2016, the Saudi-led coalition hit the Republican Palace in the city of Hodeida. The airstrike resulted in injuring 4 civilians including a child who were in their small houses located around the palace. Around 30 minutes later, the coalition launched another attack on al-Honood neighborhood, a traditional neighborhood around 1 kilometer away from the Republican Palace. People in the neighborhood were gathered to offer condolences in a funeral when the attack took place. The airstrike killed at least 23 civilians including 5 children and injured 94 others including 3 children.

Mwatana interviewed Mohammed Ahmed Abduljaleel, a 50-year-old relative of some of the victims, where he said: “My in-law relative Abdulmalik’s body was found without a head. His son Nader was killed as well as my other relative Wael Othman Bat. All those were at the funeral offering condolences died except my son Hamada Mohammed (25 years old) and we were able to find him only later at 10:00 pm. He is now at the intensive care unit in al-Amal hospital (up until the moment of the interview).”

The Saudi-led coalition’s attacks on Khamis Mastaba traditional market in Hajja governorate on 15 March 2016 as well as the coalition’s attack on the Grand Hall in Sana’a on 8 October 2016 are considered two of the bloodiest attacks in the year 2016. The attack on Khamis Mastaba market killed at least 131 civilians including 23 children and injured at least 84 civilians including 1 woman and 4 children. The attack on the Grand Hall killed at least 84 and injured at least 550 according to information gathered by Mwatana.

 

JIAT mentioned that Khamis Mastaba market was targeted based on trusted intelligence information, which stated that, a militant gathering of Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) was at the location. However, the interviews Mwatana conducted did not point to any militant gathering or military targets in the area.

 

On 15 October 2016, JIAT issued a statement regarding targeting the Grand Hall saying that the target’s information was provided by members of the Yemeni military general staff. The information mistakenly indicated that leaders from Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) were present at the location. JIAT stated that the targeting took place without obtaining approval from the coalition’s leadership.

On Friday 10 March 2017 at around 5:30 pm, the Saudi-led coalition launched an airstrike on a qat market in al-Khoukha roundabout in Hodeida governorate. The airstrike resulted in killing 21 civilians including 3 children and injured 7 others.

When Mwatana visited the location of the attack, the area was covered in blood in addition to cars’ rubble. This area has been heavily resided by internally displaced persons who fled the armed conflict between the coalition fighting alongside president Hadi’s armed forces against Ansar Allah armed group (Houthis) who are fighting alongside former president Saleh’s armed forces in the city of Mokha. This qat market is located 200 meters away to the east of Abu Mousa al-Ashari’s military camp. The camp was targeted with two bombs before the third fell on the market.

Fadl Mohammed Fadawi (45 years old), a restaurant owner in the market, says: “The market was full of people and I was at the restaurant. We heard the jets hovering but we did not care as we got used to hearing the nearby military camp repeatedly hit before. The camp was hit twice and 10 minutes later a third bomb fell on the market. The explosion was huge. Shrapnel flew to the restaurant and nearby stores. My head and hand were injured. Fire was everywhere and people were burning. The jet was still hovering and nobody was able to aid the injured.”

Fadawi’s eyes were full of tears during the entire time of the interview and his voice was trembling.  He would constantly repeat: “ People burned and nobody was able to help them.”

 

Attacks on Factories and Civilian Facilities:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented attacks by the Saudi-led coalition on 12 civilian facilities located in Hajja, Hodeida and mostly in Sana’a.

These airstrikes resulted in the destruction of these facilities as well as killing 22 civilians including 5 women and 1 child. 49 others were injured as a result of these attacks while hundreds of people lost their jobs and incomes due to the destruction of these facilities.

 

On Sunday 17 January 2016, the coalition launched an airstrike at around 2:00 am on al-Rashid industrial complex in Matnah, Bani Matar district in Sana’a governorate. A bomb fell on a factory that manufactures eggs’ carton packages. The factory is among a complex that manufactures carton packages and leather products.

Ghaleb al-Maswari, one of the complex owners and residents of the area said that the factory stopped its night shifts three days after previous incidents of coalition attacks on factories. Al-Maswari told Mwatana in an interview that the complex guards were close by, 15 meters away from the factory, at the time of the attack. The first bomb was heard but the location was unknown and a bit later the second bomb fell on the factory and caused a massive explosion.

Before this incident, the coalition hit Radfan’s ceramic factory on Wednesday 23 September 2015. The factory was 2.4 kilometers far from al-Rashid industrial complex.

During its visit, Mwatana did not observe any militants or military targets in the surroundings of the complex.

Attacks on Historical and Archaeological Sites:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented incidents of airstrikes launched by the Saudi led coalition on 13 historical and archaeological sites in 7 governorates in Yemen in the period between April 2015 and September 2016.

The coalition’s airstrikes caused grave damage to the “Tourists’ Pavement” located in al-Bingsar in Tawahi district in Aden governorate in July 2015. On 16 July 2015, the coalition targeted the historical mosque known as “al-Husaini Mosque” in Sirah district in Aden governorate and destroyed it completely.

On 12 April 2015, the coalition targeted the archaeological city of Baraqish “Aythel”, located in Majzar district, al-Jawf governorate. The same site was hit again by the coalition on 1 July 2015, 8 August 2015 and 6 March 2016. The airstrikes resulted in grave damage to the archeological temple and fence.  The historical city of Baraqish is considered one of the oldest historical cities in Yemen as it is dated to 1000 years B.C.

The coalition’s airstrikes targeted the historical site of al-Hadi mosque and tomb in Bab al-Yemen in Sa’ada governorate on 9 and 10 May 2015 and caused medium damage to the site. Also in Sa’ada governorate, the coalition targeted al-Obala’a, an archaeological site also known as “al-Sunara” in the village of Rahban on 5 October 2015.  Al-Qofl’s archaeological site in Saqayn district in Sa’ada governorate was targeted and gravely damaged by the coalition on 15 June 2016.

 

Attacks on Hospitals and Schools:

Since it began its operations in March 2015, the Saudi-led coalition’s attacks did not spare schools and hospitals. Mwatana for Human Rights documented incidents where the coalition targeted 34 schools in 10 Yemeni governorates between March 2015 and March 2017.

Mwatana also documented the coalition’s attack on MSF’s hospital in Abs in Hajja governorate on 15 August 2016. The attack resulted in killing 19 people and injured 24 others according to MSF’s internal investigation, which was released on 27 September 2016.

Weapons Used by the Saudi-led Arab Coalition:

Mwatana for Human Rights documented the Saudi-led coalition’s use of various types of weapons in its attacks in Yemen among which are US and UK manufactured weapons.

In two incidents; the coalition’s attack on Radfan’s ceramic factory in Bani Matar district in Sana’a on 23 September 2015 as well as the attack on the community college in Bilad al-Rus district in Sana’a on 8 and 10 January 2016, analysis of the weapons remnants showed that UK manufactured Paveway bombs were used in the two attacks. The weapons remnants had the “Marconi Dynamics GEC” company trademark.

 

On 13 April 2016, Mwatana presented written evidence to the UK Committees on Arms Export Controls. The written evidence confirms the Saudi-led coalition’s use of UK manufactured weapons in attacks on civilian objects. 

The coalition also used a UK manufactured Paveway bomb in its attack on al-Sunaidar factory in Sana’a on 12 September 2016 as the weapons remnants analysis from the location showed.

In the afternoon of 5 October 2016, at around 3:00 pm, the coalition used cluster bombs in an attack launched on the coastal village of al-Hayma in al-Khoukha district in Hodeida governorate. The attack resulted in killing the fisherman, Mohammed Omar Modraj (40 years old) who was by the coast at the time of the attack. According to the interviews conducted by Mwatana, eyewitnesses mentioned that the bomb dropped what resembled an umbrella that dropped other small bombs. This is a description that applies to the internationally banned cluster bombs.

During the inspection of the used weapons remnants, it appeared that the bombs are US manufactured. The umbrella had the trademark of Parachute Colombia Company USA. Additionally, the bomb’s dispenser (BLU-108 Sub-Munition Dispenser) was found at the location, which is manufactured by US defense systems company “Textron”.

 

At dawn, on Saturday, 8 October 2016, and at around 3:00 am, 1 man and 1 woman as well as 4 children were killed and 1 woman was injured in a coalition’s attack on Der al-Hajari village in Bajel district in Hodeida governorate. Analysis of weapons remnants that were found at the location and used in the attack found an Italian manufactured suspension lug.

Mwatana for Human Rights emphasizes its demand for the establishment of an international independent mechanism to investigate violations committed by all conflict parties in Yemen including the Saudi-led Arab coalition.

Background:

The Arab coalition consists of 9 states led by Saudi Arabia. The coalition began its military operations in Yemen on 26 March 2015 to support president Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi after Ansar Allah group (Houthis) seized control over the capital Sana’a on 21 September 2014. Ansar Allah group (Houthis) later on 20 January 2015, forced house arrest on both president Hadi and prime minister, at the time, Khaled Mahfouz Bahah. Ansar Allah group (Houthis) was also able to form an alliance with armed forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and together they seized control over the city of Aden. President Hadi was able to flee to the Saudi capital, Riyadh on 25 March 2015

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