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29 Oct, 2016 11:56

At least 17 civilians killed by Saudi-led coalition airstrike in Yemen — officials

At least 17 civilians, including 11 members of one family, were killed in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike in the war-torn western city of Taiz, Yemeni officials said, adding that the airstrike targeted the house of a citizen in a southern district called al-Salw.

Reuters reported about 17 civilians killed, citing local officials and residents, while the Associated Press reported about 11 members of one family killed, citing security officials.

Taiz has been fought over between coalition-backed forces and Houthi rebels for the past 18 months. The district that came under attack is close to the front line, with officials saying it is often hard to distinguish rebels from government forces, AP reported.

Earlier this month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes following an airstrike on a funeral in Yemen. On October 8, at least two air-dropped munitions penetrated the roof of a hall containing over 1,000 mourners during the funeral ceremony of Ali al-Rawishan, the father of the Sana’a-based administration’s interior minister, Jalal al-Rawishan. At least 140 people were killed and 610 wounded.

The coalition attacked the funeral after receiving incorrect information that armed Houthi leaders were allegedly in the area, an investigative body set up by the coalition later concluded.

“After unlawfully attacking schools, markets, hospitals, weddings, and homes over the last 19 months, the Saudi-led coalition has now added a funeral to its ever-increasing list of abuses,” Sarah Leah Whitson, HRW’s Middle East and North Africa director, said.

After interviewing survivors of the tragedy and examining information relating to the strike, the New York-based organization concluded that the Saudi strike was a deliberate action – first of all, because the funeral service, which was attended by over 1,000 mourners, was made public ahead of time via a Facebook post.

In addition to the Saudis, HRW said that the US and the UK are indirectly complicit in the deaths of civilians in the strike, and the overall severity of casualties in the 19-month long civil war in Yemen.

According to HRW’s record, since the beginning of the Saudi-led air campaign in Yemen (which began on March 26, 2015), the Saudi coalition, with direct military support from the US and assistance from the UK, have conducted at least 58 “unlawful airstrikes,” with other human rights organizations and the UN documenting dozens more.

HRW has repeatedly criticized the coalition’s use of US and UK-produced weapons, including cluster munition in Yemen. Yet despite calls by US officials to review its support for its Middle Eastern ally, the HRW noted that the US continues to sell arms to Saudi Arabia, approving more than $20 billion in military sales in 2015 alone.

Commenting on the lack of punishment for the alleged atrocities carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen and the recent news that Saudi Arabia will remain on the UN Human Rights Council, political analyst Behnam Khoshcheshm told RT that it was “ridiculous.”

“It’s another piece of evidence showing that the UN and relevant bodies have unfortunately become a kind of toy in the hands of the United States and its allies.

“It’s the life in the 21st century where the US and its allies do whatever they want and the Western media do what they think is fit,” Khoshcheshm said.

“This campaign by the Saudis is almost entirely dependent upon British and American manufactured munitions, which continue to be supplied to this day. British and American assistance in refueling facilities and intelligence gathering and logistics, and even in the control rooms coordinating the targeting,” Charles Shoebridge, security analyst and former UK counter-terrorism intelligence officer told RT earlier this month.

Saudi Arabia intervened in the Yemen conflict to restore ousted Sunni president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power in March 2015. The intervention claimed the lives of at least 10,000 people, including almost 4,000 civilians, according to UN data.

The majority of victims were killed in airstrikes. Since the beginning of the war, there have been reports of Saudi jets targeting schools, hospitals, marketplaces and other civilian buildings.

Peace talks mediated by the UN which aimed to bring hostilities to an end faltered in August, and fighting continued.

In August, a UN report said that the airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen are responsible for the majority of civilians killed in the ongoing conflict.

Around 1.5 million children in Yemen are malnourished, and half of the population lives in hunger, the UN children's agency UNICEF said at a press briefing in Geneva on Friday.

“It is really a dire situation on the ground. When you see mothers, who have little to eat themselves and they see their children slipping away, it just breaks your heart,” World Food Program (WFP) spokeswoman Bettina Luescher said.