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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

Yemen investigation panel accuses Houthis of putting bases near hospitals  

The accusations were among the findings of a wave of incident reports in Yemen by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, which investigates accusations of civilian casualties.

An investigation panel set up by the Saudi-led coalition has accused Houthi rebels in Yemen of using sites close to hospitals and schools to conduct their operations and host military barracks.

The accusations were among the findings of a wave of incident reports in Yemen by the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, which investigates accusations of civilian casualties.

"The Houthi and the ousted militias are using sites adjacent to hospitals,” Mansour Al Mansour, the assessment team spokesman, said at King Salman Airbase on Monday.

He was referring to a report on an incident in September 2015 when two infants were killed in a coalition airstrike near to Al Sabeen Maternity Hospital in Sanaa, which is controlled by the rebels.

Mr Al Mansour said coalition forces were targeting a Houthi base in Al Zaydiyah security building just 80 metres from the hospital and that the hospital building suffered collateral damage.

Mr Al Mansour showed aerial images of the Houthi base to show its location near the hospital.

The assessment team also reported on a number of other incidents where civilians had been killed. In each case, they said the coalition had attacked legitimate military targets.

Mr Al Mansour addressed a Human Rights Watch report into an attack on Al Sham water bottling plant, which killed 14 workers in August 2015.

Brigadier General Ahmed Al Assiri, the coalition spokesman at the time said the plant was being used by Houthis to make explosives.

However, the assessment team investigation found that coalition forces were targeting ground defences positioned close to the factory using a laser-guided bomb. Due to poor weather conditions and unpredictable clouds, the bomb missed the target landing in the factory’s yard.

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Although the panel found the original aim of the bombing was intended for a “legitimate military target” the assessment team said coalition forces should apologise for “this unintentional error and provide assistance to the families of victims”.

The team also addressed a report by the UN Panel of Experts on Yemen that found coalition forces targeted a resort in Ibb province, which was used as a military headquarters by the Houthi militias. The attack hit a building killed nine civilians.

The assessment team found the building represented a legitimate military target, as the original target was located one kilometre from the building where the civilians were killed.

Mr Al Mansour said the team concluded that the coalition procedures were correct, and in accordance with international humanitarian law.

He also said an investigation into coalition airstrikes, which damaged the Sala’a Palace Museum in Taiz in 2016, found that Houthis had seized part of the museum and used it as a barracks and to store weapons.

The assessment team investigations come as the Saudi-led coalition is under mounting international pressure to end ease restrictions at Yemen’s ports and border crossings.

The coalition tightened control at the ports earlier this month after rebels launched a missile at Riyadh.

Coalition forces have also foiled an attempt by Houthi rebels to place mines in the Bab El Mandeb strait, one of the world’s busiest shipping routes.

The war has since killed over 10,000 people, mostly civilians, injured about 35,000 others and displaced more than three million people.

Aid agencies are warning that thousands of people could die from hunger and disease if aid supplies are unable to reach areas of Houthi-controlled territory.

Adel Al Jubeir, the Saudi foreign minister said last week that no country has given more to Yemen than Saudi Arabia, including a $2 billion injection into Yemen’s central bank.

The minister said Houthis are withholding billions of riyals in trade tariffs coming in from the Red Sea Port of Hodeida.

The head of World Food Programme in Yemen said on Monday aid deliveries cannot get to those in need because of the continuing blockade in Yemen, AP reported.

Of a population of 26 million, some 17 million Yemenis do not know where their next meal is coming from and 7 million are totally dependent on food assistance, Stephen Anderson said.

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