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The U.N. says the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition is committing war crimes in Yemen

“In the past three years, air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.”

by David Gilbert
Aug 28 2018, 10:00am

Getty Images

A U.N. report published Tuesday claims that all sides involved in the conflict in Yemen have committed war crimes — singling out the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition as the worst offender.

The 41-page document alleges that forces loyal to the Yemeni government, their Saudi-led backers and the rebel Houthi movement have all failed to minimize civilian casualties.

The U.N.-appointed panel accused the Saudi-led coalition of perpetrating the main attacks against civilians.

“Coalition air strikes have caused most of the documented civilian casualties,” the report said. “In the past three years, such air strikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.”

Just this month more than 50 children have been killed in coalition airstrikes, with at least 29 dying after a missile hit a school bus. Even though many of the victims were under the age of 10, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said the airstrikes “conformed to international and humanitarian laws.”

The U.S. and U.K. provide intelligence, logistical and arms support to the alliance of Sunni Muslim Arab nations led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The report did not specifically mention the U.S., U.K., or Iran, which is backing the Houthi rebel forces, however in a thinly veiled criticism it called on the international community to “refrain from providing arms that could be used in the conflict.”

Yemenis dig graves for children killed when their bus was hit during a Saudi-led coalition air strike, that targeted the Dahyan market the previous day in the province of Saada, on August 10, 2018. (STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images)

All parties in the war were also accused of arbitrary detentions, torture, enforced disappearances and recruiting children.

The war has ravaged the country, killing at least 10,000 — many of them civilians. Yemen is also in the grip of a devastating famine, with the World Health Organization warning 8.4 million people are living in pre-famine conditions. The U.N. has called Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”

The U.N. panel also criticized the coalition’s blockade of the rebel-held port of Hodeidah and the effective closure of Sanaa airport, saying these actions amount to violations of international humanitarian law.

READ: A Saudi coalition airstrike hit a bus of children in Yemen

The coalition claims the Houthi rebels have been smuggling weapons into the country via these entry points — but the report says no such weapons have been found to date.

The document also criticized the Houthis for their actions in the southern city of Taiz, which has been besieged for three years, and accused rebel forces of indiscriminately using “weapons with wide area effect” in urban settings, targeting civilians in their homes, while fetching water at local wells, or on their way to purchase food or seek medical attention.

The United Arab Emirates Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Anwar Gargash, said Tuesday the country would “review and respond to the experts’ report.”

The U.N. panel called for a cessation of violence ahead of talks in Geneva next week between the Houthi rebels and government officials.

However, hours after the report was published, Saudi Arabia announced it had successfully intercepted a Houthi missile fired at the city of Najran.

Cover image: People gather at the site of an alleged Saudi-led airstrike in Sadaa, northern Yemen, 10 August 2018. (Abdulkareem Al-Zarai/picture alliance via Getty Images)