376 civilians killed, wounded in Saudi border zone

376 civilians killed, wounded in Saudi border zone
The spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemeni rebels said 376 civilians were killed or wounded by rebels in Saudi border regions since the military operation began last March.
2 min read
03 February, 2016
Saudi tribe volunteers guard their areas in Jizan province, near the Saudi-Yemeni border [AFP]

Yemeni rebels and their allies have killed or wounded more than 370 civilians in Saudi border regions since a Saudi-led military operation began against the rebels last March, the coalition said on Tuesday.

Its spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri told AFP the civilian death toll was now 376.

He also said that more than 40,000 mortar bombs, Katyusha rockets and other projectiles have been fired into the kingdom from Yemen since the Arab coalition began its campaign to push the rebels from seized territory in the neighbouring country.

That is an average of more than 129 projectiles per day.

They were fired by the Iran-backed Houthi rebels and their allies, elite troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Assiri said.

"Twelve Scud missiles were intercepted," he added.

The number of civilian casualties exceeds those which have been previously reported by the official Saudi Press Agency and monitored by AFP.

Citing Civil Defence and security sources, SPA has reported around 90 civilians and soldiers killed in shelling and skirmishes, according to AFP's monitoring.

Assiri said the coalition figure "is the total of what the Civil Defence reported", and it has the victims' names.

But he said he had no figure for the number of soldiers and border guards killed.

It is difficult to stop the rebels who "fire and escape" from mountains, valleys and other hideouts in the rugged region
- Coalition spokesman

It is difficult to stop the rebels who "fire and escape" from mountains, valleys and other hideouts in the rugged region, Assiri said.

Thousands of civilians have been relocated from the border since a previous conflict with the Houthis in 2009-2010.

With its airstrikes and ground troops, the coalition is backing the Yemeni government and local anti-rebel forces in a bid to push out the Houthis who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

In Yemen, more than 5,800 people have been killed since last March, about half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

There has been widespread international concern about the high number of civilian casualties in Yemen.

On Sunday, the coalition announced that "an independent team of experts" would examine incidents allegedly involving civilians.

A panel of UN experts, in a report obtained by AFP last week, said the coalition has carried out 119 sorties that violated humanitarian law, and it called for an international commission of inquiry.

This is an update of the story as AFP has on 3 February corrected this report to add that the toll included both dead and wounded