Third of Saudi-led coalition strikes hit 'Yemeni civilian sites'

Third of Saudi-led coalition strikes hit 'Yemeni civilian sites'
New data shows that a third of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes have been on civilian sites, raising questions about the coalition's commitment to avoiding civilian casualties in Yemen.
2 min read
17 September, 2016
Some sites have been bombed multiple times, the report found [AFP]

More than a third of all airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen have hit civilian sites, including school buildings, hospitals, markets and mosques, according to a comprehensive study of the conflict published on Friday.

The findings of the survey, which was conducted by the Yemen Data Project, run contrary to claims by Riyadh that the coalition is diligently avoiding civilian casualties.

The data will also add to pressure on the UK government to cease arms sales to Saudi Arabia, who are accused of war crimes in Yemen.

"Despite consistent evidence showing targeting of civilians, first Cameron and now May's governments have continued their hypocritical defence of Saudi Arabia's brutal campaign in Yemen," the Guardian quoted the UK Liberal Democrat Party's foreign affairs spokesman Tom Brake as saying in resonse to the report.

Based on open-source data, the survey recorded over 8,600 aerial attacks between the start of the Saudi coalition's campaign in March 2015 and August 2016.

The data shows that 3,577 of these strikes hit military targets, while 3,158 struck non-military sites.

The study identified 1,882 "unknown" strikes, where the nature of the target could not be identified.

Also listed are 942 attacks on residential areas, 114 on markets, 34 on mosques, 147 on schools, 26 on universities and 378 on transport.

Multiple hits

The data also lists repeated attacks on certain civilian targets, further calling into question whether the Saudi coalition is taking precautions to avoid civilians.

A market in Sirwah, Marib governorate, was found to have been struck 24 times, while a school in the Taiz governorate in the Yemeni highlands has been bombed nine times.

Such incidences undermine Saudi claims that their forces are using precision weapons manned by trained professionals.

Nonetheless, the kingdom has defended its aerial campaign over Yemen and has blamed the Houthi rebels for militarising civilian sites.

In response to questioning about the reports, Saudi foreign minister Adel al-Jubeir said that the Houthis have "turned schools and hospitals and mosques into command and control centres.

"They have turned them into weapons depots in a way that they are no longer civilian targets. They are military targets. They might have been a school a year ago. But they were not a school when they were bombed," said Jubeir.

According to the United Nations, more than 10,000 people have been killed in Yemen since the start of the Saudi-led coalition's bombing campaign 18 months ago.

The war's exacerbation of Yemen's dire humanitarian situation has drawn mass condemnation from rights groups and international bodies, who have accused both sides in Yemen's conflict of war crimes.