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    Tuesday, 14 August 2018

    40 children killed in Yemen bus strike: new Red Cross toll

    Forty children were among 51 people killed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a bus in rebel-held northern Yemen, the Red Cross said in a new toll Tuesday.
    Fifty-six children were also among the 79 people wounded in the Thursday strike on Saada province, a rebel stronghold that borders Saudi Arabia, the International Committee of the Red Cross said.
    The new casualty toll came after a mass funeral was held for many of the dead children on Monday at which thousands vented anger against Riyadh and Washington.
    Mourners raised pictures of the children and shouted slogans against Saudi Arabia and its ally and key arms supplier, the United States.
    The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 as Huthi rebel fighters closed in on the last bastion of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's government.
    The conflict has killed nearly 10,000 people since then, the vast majority of them civilians, and caused the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the United Nations.
    The UN Security Council called on Friday for a "credible" investigation into the deadly strike.
    But it stopped short of demanding an independent investigation, and experts and aid groups voiced doubts that a promised coalition probe would provide transparency or accountability.
    The coalition has been repeatedly blamed for bombing civilians, including a strike on a wedding hall in the Red Sea coastal town of Mokha in September 2015, in which 131 people died. The coalition denied responsibility.
    In October 2016, a coalition air strike killed 140 people at a funeral in the rebel-held capital Sanaa.
    The coalition has admitted a small number of mistakes, but accuses the rebels of using civilians as human shields.
    The high civilian death toll has been an embarrassment for Washington and other Western governments which supply the coalition with warplanes and other weapons.
    But Washington continues to provide replacement munitions as well as intelligence and refuelling support for coalition aircraft.
    The Saudi military coalition – which receives logistical support, weapons and political backing from the US and UK – has been accused of killing hundreds of children in Yemen, according to a confidential UN report.
    The report, which has yet to be made public and could still be changed, says that 51 per cent of all child deaths and injuries in Yemen last year were the result of the Saudi-led military operation. It says the deaths were “unacceptably high”. Saudi Arabia has insisted it is operating within international law.
    “Attacks carried out by air caused over half of all child casualties, with at least 349 killed and 333 injured,” said the report, which was obtained by Reuters.“The United Nations was informed of measures taken by the coalition in 2016 to reduce the impact of conflict on children. However, despite these measures, grave violations against children continued at unacceptably high levels in 2016.”
    Saudi Arabia has always insisted that its operations follow international guidelines. Its UN mission said in a statement there was “no justification whatsoever” for including the coalition’s name on the blacklist. 
    “We trust that the United Nations will make the appropriate decision on this matter, and the positive exchange of information” on the coalition’s activities, the statement said. It declined to comment on the findings in the draft report for 2016.
    Saudi Arabia is leading a nine-nation coalition in a bombing campaign that started in March 2015 to defeat Iran-allied Houthi rebels. The US and UK have offered logistical and political support.
    Britain has also continued to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia despite mounting worries over civilian deaths, believed to total around 3,000. Last month, a British court ruled that such sales could continue despite humanitarian concerns and rejected an appeal by the Campaign Against Arms Trade to stop them.
    The role of the UK and US in supporting Riyadh has come under mounting scrutiny as concern about civilian deaths has grown.

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