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Saudi-led raids kill 20 civilians in Yemen port: official

yemen

ADEN, YEMEN: Saudi-led coalition air strikes have killed 20 civilians in a rebel-held port city in Yemen, a government official said in a rare admission of a possible “error” by the alliance.

The strikes came as Riyadh faces mounting international scrutiny over civilian casualties in its 18-month campaign against rebels in Yemen.

The raids hit the Suq al-Hunod district in the Red Sea port of Hodeida Wednesday night, the official in the government of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi said.

The official said the residential neighbourhood was “probably hit in error.”

US officials – whose country supplies bombs dropped by the coalition – have regularly urged their Middle East ally to avoid harming non-combatants.

The rebel administration in the capital Sanaa also reported the Hodeida strikes, saying there were civilian casualties.

The Huthi rebels had been celebrating the second anniversary of their seizure of Yemen’s capital city.

Khaled Suhail, a doctor at Hodeida’s Al-Thawra Hospital, said his facility received 12 dead and 30 wounded from the strikes.

Pictures from Suq al-Hunod showed residents combing the rubble under arc lights in a search for survivors.

The body of one child lay in a morgue, his head bloody above a left eye which remained open in death.

Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition are suspected of causing around half of all civilian deaths in Yemen, a United Nations report said last month.

It called for an independent international body to investigate an array of serious violations by all sides in Yemen, where nearly 4,000 civilians have died.

“It’s difficult to see what strategic advantage the Saudis are gaining from their bombing campaign outside of the front lines,” Peter Salisbury, an associate fellow at London’s Chatham House think tank, said before the Hodeida incident.

He said Saudi aircraft and weapon suppliers, Britain and the United States, “are under growing pressure” to explain why they cannot influence the Saudis over civilian casualties.

Last month the US military said it had slashed the number of intelligence advisers directly supporting the Saudi-led coalition’s air war in Yemen.

The reassignment of personnel, around June, came because “there was not the same sort of requests coming in for assistance”, Fifth Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey said.

 

Targets picked by Saudi

US cooperation with Saudi Arabia mostly involves “imagery that allows them to better assess the situation on the ground, and then advice and assistance”, he said.

Targeting is ultimately decided by the Saudis, McConnaughey added.

Riyadh formed the Arab coalition which began air raids in March last year, and later sent in ground forces, to support Hadi’s internationally recognised government after the Huthis and their allies overran much of Yemen.

Coalition spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed Assiri was not immediately available for comment.

The coalition has said it uses highly accurate laser- and GPS-guided weapons and verifies targets many times to avoid civilian casualties.

Yet allegations of strikes on civilian facilities continue.

Last month the charity MSF (Doctors Without Borders) decided to withdraw staff from six hospitals in Yemen after 19 people died in an air raid on a hospital it supported.

Amnesty International on Monday said the weapon involved was an American made Paveway-series precision-guided aerial bomb.

It called on Washington and London to stop supplying the coaliton with arms.

A coalition team is conducting “independent” probes into the hospital strike and an air raid two days earlier on a Koranic school that MSF said killed 10 children.

Civilians have also died on the Saudi side of the border. More than 30 non-combatants been killed in the border district of Najran by rebel fire including from Katyusha rockets.

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