Blind Air Strikes - Executive Summary
Blind Air Strikes
Civilian victims of Saudi Arabia-led coalition' air strikes in Yemen
On the early hours of March 26, 2015, the Saudi Arabia -led Arab coalition launched aerial attacks on military installation in the capital city of Sana’a. The airstrikes took place following the announcement issued by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia marking the beginning of a Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition of nine Arab states' military campaign targeting forces of both former president Ali Abdullah Saleh and Houthi armed group-Ansar Allah - which took over power in Yemen by force on September 21, 2014.
This military intervention as cited above started only two days following a request by the Yemeni Interim President Abdraboo Mansoor Hadi. The request was forwarded to the leaders of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and was justified on grounds of restoration of the powers and legitimacy of the Interim President in the face of the rapid advancement of Houthi forces towards the city of Aden. This came on the heel of the timely fleeing of President Hadi and his subsequent settlement in the Saudi Arabian capital Riyadh,.
Since March 26, 2015, the Saudi Arabia-led jet fighters launched thousands of airstrikes targeting military installations and units loyal to former President Saleh and the Houthis though many of these aerial attacks struck and caused substantial damage to civil targets and resulted in unabated blood-shedding among civilians including women and children. Most of these casualties were concentrated in nine provinces details of which will be featured in due course within the framework of this Executive Summary.
Despite the statements issued by the Spokesman of the Arab Allied Forces –Brigadier General Ahmed Aseeri- that all precautionary measures were taken to avoid civilian casualties and to ensure the safety and security of all Yemenis, a sizable number of the coalition' aerial attacks did target civilian areas and resulted in killing and injury of civilian, damage of homes, civil institutions and infrastructures. These violations may tantamount to war crimes in accordance with the International Humanitarian Law.
This report focuses in particular on 44 incidents of aerial attacks conducted by the Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition which targeted civilians in nine Yemeni provinces including Sana’a, Ta'iz, Lahj, Ibb, Hodaidah, S’adah, Hajja, AL- Baidha and Dhamar over the period from March to October 2015.
These aerial attacks were conducted at times when people were pursuing their normal lives either at homes or in public places in markets, or entertaining themselves in public parks. These aerial attacks targeted places totally distinct from military camps and far away from military installations.
Casualties resulting from the coalition' air strikes on Al-Makha sea city western Ta'iz province were the most obvious example of the pain inflicted on civilians.. The casualties among civilians there stand as a living testimony of the horrors of war and of the grave errors associated with the Saudi Arabia-led military campaign against this impoverished nation.
A residential compound in Al-Makha city was subjected to air bombardment on the evening of July 24, 2015. These attacks were the most bloody resulting in the killing of 65 civilians of which 13 were children and 12 were women. In addition, 36 were seriously injured of which 14 were children and 13 were women when the attacks hit a housing compound accommodating employees of a power plant in Al-Makha. The housing compound is composed of 200 apartments.
People living in the villages of Sanaban , will never forget 7 October 2015. They told how a joyful wedding event turned all of a sudden into disaster. It is also equally difficult for residents of Waheja village in northwest Ta'iz to forget events of 28 September 2015 when a wedding party attended by female members of village turned into a wake.
On October 7, 2015 an aerial attack by the Saudi Arabian led coalition hit Sanaban –a rural village- in Mayfa’h east of Dhamar province. The unexpected horrific bombardment struck a wedding party there. 40 civilians were killed of which 15 were children and 14 were women. Number of injuries were estimated 42 of which 14 were women and 13 were children. The aerial attacks also resulted in the demolition of a three-story building where the wedding invitees from at least 3 neighboring villages were.
On September 28, 2015, a small village named Waheja on the North-West of Taiz province southern Yemen, was subjected to the same ordeal following an attack by the Saudi Arabia led coalition hitting a wedding celebration which was attended exclusively by women.
Another aerial attack by the Saudi Arabia led coalition on Wahija villege took place on September, 28, 2015 once again hitting a wedding celebration and resulted in the death of 26 civilians of which 13 were children and 12 were women. Two camp sites where the wedding celebration took place were hit: one of the camps was was ear-marked for men and the other site was exclusively marked for women in attendance of the wedding event.
Mwatana carried out field investigative research on the 44 incidents of airstrikes and conducted interviews with 155 persons including victims, families of the victims, eye- witnesses and medical sources.
The field research and investigations conducted by Mwatana confirm that in the nine Yemeni provinces at least 615 civilians were killed among whom 120 were women and 220 were children. Moreover, at least 678 civilian were injured including 125 women and 167 children.
The report's conclusions show that most of these airstrikes hit targets far away from military compounds and depots.
The Saudi Arabia -led aerial attacks did not only affect the lives of victims, their families and their homes. The l damage extended to affect the whole communities. Large numbers of people became internally displaced as a result of the airstrikes. This was also associated with heightened fear among the most vulnerable groups in these communities (i.e. the poor and helpless) who simply could hardly afford to live due to lack of sufficient resources. The problem has further been exacerbated by the non-existence of public shelters for internally displaced people. Under such unbearable conditions, internally displaced people may have no alternatives other than resorting to valley and low areas and caves at night time for fear of being the victims of further aerial attacks. In addition, under constant fear, women have become accustomed to sleep in their Abayas in anticipation of an aerial attack and subsequent escape to the unknown.
The report concludes with a set of recommendations directed to all warring parties, particularly the Saudi Arabia led coalition
The Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition in particular are called upon to:
- Immediately halt all military operations targeting innocent civilians, infrastructures and civil institutions. All military actions which may cause damage to the civilian populations must be avoided by all means and measures;
- Open an impartial and transparent inquiry to investigate all the incidents featured in this report or any other incidents by the Saudi Arabia-led airstrikes which has resulted in the death and injury of civilians, and holding those responsible accountable.
- Provide reparation to all civilian victims of the indiscriminant shelling. Compensations should cover all casualties whether human or of material nature;
- Assess all military operations by Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition to ensure compliance of these operations with the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law;
- Stop using indiscriminate attacks or weapons of mass destruction when targeting military installations adjacent to civil populations;
- Release publicly all information regarding military targets which may have led to damage among civilians, as well as disclosing the parties to such military actions
- Take the necessary measures to reduce casualties among civilians. To this effect, any declaration deeming entire cities as military targets should be abolished and scrapped;
- Refrain from launching aerial attacks on military targets adjacent to heavily populated areas, roads and highways particularly during working hours when such venues are likely to be highly congested;
- Stop attacking the homes of Houthi or Saleh military commanders which may contain civilian dwellers.
To the United Kingdom, United States of America as well as all other countries supporting the military campaign of the Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition. The report urges all these countries to:
- Mount the necessary pressure to hold an impartial investigation over alleged violations by Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition, particularly those violations where logistic and intelligence support were provided by the United Kingdom and the US and resulted in civilian causalities;
- Stop selling arms which could be used by the Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition to inflict damage on civilian populations since such actions may tantamount to war crimes.
To the Houthi armed group and forces of former President Saleh are called upon to:
- Refrain from using areas populated with civilians as depots for militants or military equipment;
- Stop deploying and installing anti aircraft weapons in civilian areas and neighborhoods;
- Halt categorically the launch of ballistic missiles from sites adjacent to heavily populated civilian areas and housing compounds;
- Prevent military commanders from settling in heavily populated civilian areas particularly during war times;
- Remove all obstacles germane to delay the delivering of humanitarian assistance to all war-affected areas under their control and mandate.
- Huothi and Saleh’s forces should take the necessary measures to facilitate the delivery and equitable distribution of humanitarian assistance and to refrain from any interference in this process.
The report calls on United Nations Human Rights Council to:
- Form an internationally independent inquiry commission to all flagrant violations of the provisions of the International Humanitarian Law by Saudi Arabia-led Arab coalition.
- Mount increasing pressure on the Saudi-led Arab coalition and the supportive countries so they may comply with the provisions and instruments of the International Humanitarian Law & instruments together with the set of recommendations embedded in this report.
Yemeni Government is called upon to:
- Denounce categorically violations of International Humanitarian law by the Saudi Arabia -led Arab coalition. In addition, Yemeni Government is called upon to take the necessary measures to bring the recommendations embedded to this report to bear on reality particularly with regard to the delivery of needed assistance to affected victims;
- Urge the Saudi Arabia -led Arab coalition to allow for public access to information regarding military targets affected by their aerial attacks and resulting in civilian causalities;
- Support the call for the institution of an internationally independent commission to investigate all alleged war crimes targeting innocent civilians;
- Allow all international humanitarian organizations wishing to work in areas under its control to engage in the delivery of Humanitarian assistance with no delay, hindrance and/or intervention.