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Saudi Arabia-led coalitions airstrike kills 140 at Yemen funeral

  • Published at 04:07 pm October 9th, 2016
Saudi Arabia-led coalitions airstrike kills 140 at Yemen funeral
Saudi-led warplanes struck a funeral at a community hall in the Yemeni capital Sanaa, the country’s Houthi-run administration said on Saturday, but the coalition denied any role in the attack. More than 140 mourners were killed, according to local health officials cited by the United Nations, in an attack that prompted a strong rebuke from Washington, a key Saudi ally. The death toll was 82, according to Ghazi Ismail, the administration’s acting health minister. The reason for the discrepancy in numbers was not immediately clear. The UN said reports from health officials in Yemen also indicated more than 525 were wounded in the attack. The death toll was one of the largest in any single incident since the Saudi-led alliance began military operations to try to restore President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power following his ousting by the Iran-aligned Houthis in March 2015.

‘Shocked and outraged’

Jamie McGoldrick, the UN humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, said in a statement that the humanitarian community in the country is “shocked and outraged” by the airstrikes. He condemned the “horrific attack” and reminded all parties to the conflict “that under international humanitarian law, they are obliged to protect civilians and civilian infrastructures.” He called for an immediate investigation into the incident.

US’ deeply disturbed’ by the violence

The United States has been backing the Saudi-led coalition, but White House national security council spokesperson Ned Price said the US is “deeply disturbed” by the reports on the funeral hall airstrike which “if confirmed, would continue the troubling series of attacks striking Yemeni civilians.” He warned that US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia “is not a blank check.” “In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen’s tragic conflict,” Price said in a statement late Saturday.

Latest tragedy in country’s civil war

Saturday’s funeral was held for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, father of Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan, an ally of both the Houthis and President Saleh. The Saudi-led coalition backs Hadi’s government which, together with its own allies, is fighting the Houthis and Saleh loyalists in a civil war that broke out in 2014. Roughly 3,799 civilians have been killed since the Saudi-led air campaign began in March of last year, according to a recent report by the UN’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. The UN and rights groups estimate the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 9,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million more in the Arab world’s poorest country. According to the report, coalition airstrikes were responsible for 60% of civilian deaths over a year-long span starting in July last year. Just under one-quarter — 475 — civilian deaths were attributed to rebel forces like those loyal to Saleh, and another 113 to affiliates of al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group.
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