Photo: Aftermath of airstrikes that turned 14 houses to rubble near Sana’a international airport in Yemen on 26 March 2015. © Zakarya Dahman, courtesy of The Yemen Times.
At least six children under the age of 10 were among a reported 25 people killed in Saudi Arabian-led airstrikes in the Yemeni capital Sana’a early this morning, Amnesty International confirmed after speaking to hospital officials and eyewitnesses.
The organization spoke to medical personnel at four different hospitals where the dead were taken after being pulled from the rubble of 14 houses that were hit in a residential neighbourhood near the city’s international airport. The rest of those killed were men, mostly in their 30s and 40s. It is believed that more people may still be buried beneath the rubble, and at least 20, including four women, were admitted to hospital with mainly shrapnel injures.
This high toll of civilian deaths and injuries in these attacks raises concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law. Saudi Arabian and any other armed forces carrying out airstrikes in Yemen are required to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians.Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme
“This high toll of civilian deaths and injuries in these attacks raises concerns about compliance with the rules of international humanitarian law. Saudi Arabian and any other armed forces carrying out airstrikes in Yemen are required to take all feasible precautions to spare civilians,” said Said Boumedouha, Deputy Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme.
“This includes verifying that targets are in fact military objectives and giving civilians effective advance warnings unless circumstances do not permit.
“The Huthi armed groups and the Yemeni armed forces also have obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians under their control from the effects of attacks, including by avoiding, to the extent feasible, locating their fighters and weaponry within residential neighbourhoods.”
Given the civilian deaths and injuries, Saudi Arabia and other states involved in these airstrikes must investigate whether violations of international humanitarian law were committed. And if there is evidence that war crimes were committed they must prosecute the suspects in fair trials.
Yemen’s Ministry of Health today said the airstrikes killed 25 people and injured some 40 – it is not yet known if there were any fighters among the casualties.
According to a paramedic who witnessed the aftermath, the airstrike near the airport occurred shortly before 3AM local time, in a residential area called Beni Hawat. Huthi armed groups had allegedly been operating a checkpoint around 100m away, as well as al-Dailami base around 500m away.
Saudi Arabian officials today stated they had destroyed “all Huthi air defences” at al-Dailami base next to Sana’a International Airport.
Beni Hawat was among a number of sites around the city hit by airstrikes overnight as Saudi Arabia announced it was launching a military intervention by a coalition of 10 countries, including five Gulf Cooperation Council states, against the Huthi armed groups. The US government today stated it had “authorized the provision of logistical and intelligence support” to this military intervention, and other governments, including the UK and Turkey, endorsed the move.