ssociated Press & Vice News & Al Jazeera & World Beyond War – 2016-03-21 22:00:35
Saudi Arabia to Scale Down Military Operations in Yemen;
Death Toll from Saudi-led Strike on Market Jumps to 119
Ahmed Al-Haj and Maggie Michael / Associated Press
SANAA, Yemen (March 17, 2016) — Saudi Arabia said Thursday its military coalition will scale down operations in Yemen, an announcement that came as the death toll from an airstrike by the alliance on a market north of the Yemeni capital this week nearly doubled, reaching 119.
A UN official said 22 children were among those killed on Tuesday in the Hajja province, an area controlled by Yemen’s Shiite rebels known as Houthis, the latest in a series of similar airstrikes that have killed hundreds of civilians since the Yemen war began.
The conflict pits the Shiite rebels and military units loyal to a former president against the internationally-recognized government, which is largely confined to the southern city of Aden. The fighting has killed more than 6,200 civilians, displaced millions and pushed the Arab world’s poorest country to the brink of famine.
The US-backed, Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states intervened militarily in Yemen a year ago, launching first an airstrikes campaign in support of the internationally recognized government, then sending in elite forces, mostly from Gulf Arab states, in an effort to roll back the rebel gains.
The Houthis seized the Yemeni capital of Sanaa in 2014 and later swept across much of this country at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.
Saudi military spokesman Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri told The Associated Press over the phone from the kingdom’s capital, Riyadh, that his country and its coalition partners would continue to provide air support to Yemeni forces battling the Houthis and their allies.
“The aim of the coalition is to create a strong cohesive government with a strong national army and security forces that can combat terrorism and impose law and order across the country,” al-Asiri said.
Only “small” teams of coalition troops would remain on the ground to “equip, train, and advise” Yemeni forces, which are gradually replacing coalition forces, he said, adding that the coalition’s primary task will from now on be to help build a Yemeni army. “This takes time and it needs patience,” he said.
Scaling down military operations, however, will not impact on the size of coalition naval and air assets deployed to protect Yemen’s porous coastline on the Red Sea and the Arabian Sea, he stressed.
Meanwhile, Meritxell Relano, UNICEF’s deputy representative in Yemen, told the AP of the new death toll — almost double the 65 who were initially reported killed in Tuesday’s strike on the market in Hajja — came from a UNICEF field team at the site.
The airstrike in the Houthi-controlled town of Mastaba also wounded 47 people, she said, and warned the death toll could rise further.
The attack on the market marked the second deadliest in Yemen since the Saudi-led airstrikes began, after an airstrike hit a wedding party in September, killing at least 131 people.
After the strike, the Houthis’ TV network al-Masirah showed graphic footage of dead children and charred bodies next to sacks of flour and twisted metal. Witnesses said houses, shops and restaurants were also damaged, while cars caught fire.
Al-Asiri, the Saudi military spokesman, said the coalition was investigating the Mastaba attack, arguing that Tuesday’s airstrikes targeted a “gathering area” for Houthi fighters, located about 10 kilometers (6 miles) away from the market.
“Initial, independent and field sources say that 80 percent of the deaths are Houthi forces,” said a comment scribbled on a map of the area he sent to the AP in Cairo.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the airstrike.
“Attacks directed against civilians and civilian objects, including populated markets, are strictly prohibited,” he said, urging a “prompt, effective, independent, and impartial investigations into all allegations of serious violations.”
Yemen at War: Sanna Under Attack
(May 20, 2015) — For more than six weeks, nine countries led by Saudi Arabia have been carrying out airstrikes on Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest nation. Whole neighborhoods have been destroyed and communities reduced to rubble.
Yemen Conflict: Civilians Killed in Air Strikes
SANAA (February 2016) — Air strikes in Yemen have killed 40 people in a market northeast of the capital Sanaa, residents say. Saturday’s air strikes in the Nehm district in Sanaa province wounded 30 others, they told Reuters news agency, adding that most of the casualties were civilians.
The attack hit Khulaqa market, which is known for selling qat, a mild narcotic that is chewed throughout Yemen, witnesses said. Residents said the strikes were carried out by the Arab coalition, a force assembled by Saudi Arabia. The Arab coalition has yet to comment on the report.
The coalition is battling the Houthis and forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh in a bid to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi. Coalition-backed loyalists have been advancing in Nehm against the rebels as they try to close in on Sanaa.
The UN says nearly 6,000 people have been killed in the fighting, which began after the Houthis advanced on the southern port city of Aden, where Hadi had been based. Hundreds of thousands have been displaced.
The coalition launched in late March 2015 an air campaign against the rebels. Saudi Arabia sees the Houthis as a proxy for Iran, its main regional adversary.
The Houthis and Saleh accuse the coalition of launching a war of aggression. Rights groups have repeatedly urged the coalition to avoid causing civilian casualties. Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch, the monitoring group, accused the coalition of using US-supplied cluster bombs.
The coalition last month announced that an independent inquiry would examine charges of possible abuses against civilians in the conflict. A panel of UN experts says the coalition has carried out 119 sorties that violated humanitarian law, and called for an international probe.
The Houthi-led rebels have controlled Sanaa since September 2014 and had placed Hadi under house arrest. But he escaped, initially seeking refuge in Yemen’s second city, Aden, last year before fleeing to the Saudi capital, Riyadh, as the rebels advanced on the southern port.
Hadi returned to the southern city after the loyalists, backed by the coalition, drove the rebels out of Aden and four other southern provinces. But Hadi and senior officials continue to spend most of their time in Riyadh against a backdrop of worsening security in Aden, the temporary base of the government.
Donors at a conference in Qatar pledged on Wednesday $220 million of aid to Yemen. Hadi’s government accused this week Lebanon’s Hezbollah of sending fighters to support the Houthis, saying it had evidence of the Shia group’s involvement.
Also on Saturday, the UAE, a key member of the Arab coalition, said one of its soldiers died in Yemen when his military vehicle overturned. The UAE has lost more than 70 soldiers in Yemen since the launch of the coalition campaign.
Yemenis Sue Germany for Ramstein Role in US Drone Warfare
World Beyond War
(May 22, 2015) — Three Yemenis vs Germany: Survivors of a US drone strike file legal action against German government. The European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR) and the international human rights organization Reprieve are supporting the lawsuit.
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