Destruction in Yemen's Saada 'could amount to war crimes'

Destruction in Yemen's Saada 'could amount to war crimes'
Airstrikes on Yemen's city of Saada have destroyed houses, markets and a school, killing dozens of people in what could amount to war crimes, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
2 min read
30 June, 2015
Many buildings have been destroyed or damaged since the conflict began [AFP]
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes killed at least 59 people in the Houthi stronghold of Saada between April 6 and May 11, including 14 women and 35 children, according to the US-based Human Rights Watch.

Satellite imagery showed more than 210 impact locations in the Yemeni city, damaging or destroying hundreds of buildings, said the group in a report released on Tuesday.

Six houses were hit in Saada, as were an empty school, a cultural centre, five markets and a petrol station crowded with motorists.
     Not only were these attacks unlawful but they contributed to civilian hardship

In one of the deadliest attacks, a bombing raid on May 6 killed 27 members of one family, including 17 children.

Attacks on houses alone have killed 51 people, all of them civilians, according to Human Rights Watch, which dispatched two researchers to the city last month to interview witnesses.

"Not only were these attacks unlawful because of the apparent absence of any military target, but they contributed to civilian hardship in the city, where people are suffering from shortages of food, water, and fuel," said the report.

Human Rights Watch called on the coalition to investigate the attacks that have apparently targeted civilians and may constitute a violation of international humanitarian law.

HRW researchers who travelled to Saada reported that they saw Houthi vehicles mounted with anti-aircraft weapons.

The coalition authorities last month declared all of Saada to be a military target, and warned its residents to leave.

Andreas Krieg, a consultant to the Qatar armed forces and a lecturer at King's College in London, said the coalition was seeking to avoid civilian casualties.

Many civilians have been killed because of the terrain which includes inaccessible valleys and cities, said Krieg.

He stressed that the Houthis "use civilians as human shields" by hiding among them.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has demanded a full investigation after Saudi coalition airstrikes hit a UN compound in the southern city of Aden on Sunday, injuring a guard and seriously damaging the building.

The nine-nation Saudi-led coalition launched airstrikes on Yemen on March 26 to halt an advance by the Houthis who drove the president into exile.

Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies are demanding that the Houthis pull back from territory seized in their offensive and that President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi be restored to power.

A week of UN-brokered talks in Geneva earlier this month failed to narrow differences.