Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen, which has now entered its fourth year, has led to the worst kind of humanitarian crisis with millions of civilians displaced and 17,000 individuals reportedly killed, especially by airstrikes.
Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes have caused the brutal killing of civilians — including children.
In a particularly heinous act, a recent airstrike on a bus killed more than 40 school-going children — most of them under the age of 10. The bomb used in the strike was American made, according to a report by CNN.
Now, Saudi Arabia has conceded “mistakes were made” in the onslaught that claimed innocent children’s lives.
In a rare acceptance of responsibility, the coalition released a statement which said it regretted the fatal “mistakes” and would punish those accountable. The coalition also extended its “condolences and solidarity with the families of the victims and wishes for a speedy recovery for the injured.”
The apology — although it does nothing for the loss of life and millions dying every day from diseases and hunger in Yemen — is in stark contrast with the coalition’s initial stance on the airstrike, where they termed it “a legitimate military action” against Houthi rebels and claimed the rebels were using children as human shields.
Lt. Gen. Mansour al-Mansour, a legal adviser for the coalition’s internal investigations body, said the bus was carrying rebel leaders and execution delay in the airstrike causes civilian deaths.
He called the 40 dead children, “collateral damage.”
While the apology may seem like a striking change of action for the coalition, it should be noted it comes amid immense pressure from the United Nations. A recent U.N. report accused the coalition’s killings of civilians amounting to war crimes.
Airstrikes were a particular target of rebuke in the investigation, which found “such airstrikes have hit residential areas, markets, funerals, weddings, detention facilities, civilian boats and even medical facilities.”
The report also blasted the coalition targeting civilian rich areas.
Soon after the U.N. report, the United States, which has long been an arms supplier to the Gulf kingdom, warned their “support is not unconditional.” U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis directed the coalition to be precautious of loss of civilian blood.
Another interesting event in the timeline is the upcoming U.N.-sponsored negotiations in Geneva next week involving all the variants involved in Yemen, in an effort to bring an end to the conflict.
So while the coalition “regrets its mistakes,” the apology seems rather strategically timed.
Thumbnail/ Banner Credits: REUTERS/Naif Rahma