US, British bombs killed or injured nearly 1,000 Yemeni civilians, study shows

A boy walks in front of a checkpoint manned by the Abu al Abbas militia in the old city of Taiz, Yemen.


By SUDARSAN RAGHAVAN | The Washington Post | Published: March 6, 2019

CAIRO — American and British-made bombs may have killed or injured nearly 1,000 Yemeni civilians, including women and children, since the beginning of the country's civil war, according to a new report released Wednesday by human rights groups.

The report comes as lawmakers in both countries have mounted efforts to stop arms sales and end their respective countries' involvement in the four-year-old conflict that has created what the United Nations describes as the world's most severe humanitarian crisis.

The United States, in particular, has sold billions of dollars in weaponry to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, their key allies in the Middle East. Both nations are leading a regional coalition seeking to oust northern rebels known as Houthis and restore Yemen's internationally recognized government.

Washington is also supporting the coalition with intelligence, training and other logistical support.

In their 128-page report, the U.S.-based University Network for Human Rights and a well-known Yemeni rights group, Mwatana, investigated 27 coalition airstrikes between April 2015 and April 2018, all against civilian targets.

In 25 of the assaults, investigators determined that U.S.-made munitions, including banned cluster bombs, were likely used. In five of the strikes, British-made weaponry was likely deployed, the report said.

In total, the airstrikes killed 203 people and injured at least 749, the report found. At least 122 children and 56 women were among the dead and wounded.

The airstrikes included 16 attacks on civilian gatherings or homes, five attacks on educational and health facilities, five attacks on civilian businesses and one on a government cultural center.

The report strongly suggested that the air assaults could be unlawful under international law and constitute potential war crimes.

"Many of the attacks appeared to take place far from any potential military target," the report said. "Others caused harm to civilians that vastly outweighed any likely military benefit. In no case did it appear that coalition forces took adequate precautions to minimize harm to civilians, as required by international humanitarian law."

Neither a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition nor the Pentagon was reachable for comment. In 2017, the coalition said it would launch a training program to reduce what it described as accidental targeting of civilians. But those pledges fell short. In the year since the announcement, civilian deaths were 7 percent higher than the previous year, according to United Nations data.

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