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Saudis to probe air strike which caused child deaths in Yemen’s Saada

After calls from the United Nations for an investigation into the death of at least 29 children when airstrikes hit a school bus in Saada last Thursday, August 9th 2018, the Saudi-led coalition has announced it will investigate the air strike and any ‘collateral damage’, reports the BBC.

However, AFP highlights the concerns raised in regard to the coalition’s investigation, including the likelihood that such unsupervised internal investigations of the coalition’s own actions will be problematic given their previous record of such investigations.

It remains unlikely that an independent investigation, as called for by the UN Secretary-General, will be supported by the coalition, though according to the Associated Press, Yemen’s Houthi rebels welcomed this call. Senior Yemeni rebel leader, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said on twitter that the rebels were willing to cooperate to ensure a full investigation.

The western political backers of the Saudi-led coalition have also come under further scrutiny since the airstrike. According to Vox, a Pentagon spokesperson, Army Maj. Josh Jacques, said of the strike: “We may never know if the munition [used] was one that the US sold to them.”

Other news outlets have alleged that fragments of a US-made bomb may have been found at the scene of the bus strike. Whether such assertions are true of this airstrike, numerous investigations have found US-bomb fragments at the scene of airstrikes which have caused civilian deaths. Additionally, on the day prior to the airstrike, Amnesty International released an article, Exposed: British-made bombs used on civilian targets in Yemen, asserting that UK-made bombs have been used to kill civilians in Yemen.

Despite the findings of previous investigations and pressure from human rights groups, the UK, France and the US, have continued to supply arms to Saudi Arabia. In early 2018, the US approved a proposed $1bn arms sale to Saudi Arabia. And, last year the Independent reported that UK sales of bombs and missiles to Saudi Arabia had increased by almost 500% since start of the Yemen war.

The United Nations referred to Thursday’s airstrike as the “single worst attack since 2015”. According to UNICEF, some 2,400 children have been killed and 3,600 maimed in the country since the conflict between the pro-Government forces and Houthi rebels escalated in 2015. Whilst around 1.8 million Yemeni children are at risk of diarrhoea diseases and 1.3 million are at risk of pneumonia.

Action on Armed Violence (AOAV) records casualties (i.e. people killed and injured) from explosive violence around the world as reported in English-language news sources.

In the first half of 2018, AOAV recorded a 32% increase in civilian casualties from explosive violence in Yemen, compared to the same period last year (703 to 926).

An increase in civilian casualties from Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in 2018 is responsible for much of the harm, with a 37% increase in civilian casualties from airstrikes (with 778 civilian casualties in the first half of 2018, compared to 567 during the same period in 2017).

AOAV strongly condemns the use of violence against civilians and calls upon all states and groups to stop using weapons with wide-area impacts in populated areas, due to the severe impact these have on civilians.

AOAV calls upon all signatories and parties to the Arms Trade Treaty to comply with their legal obligations and stop the export of lethal military equipment which clearly risks being used in violation of International Humanitarian Law. The sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and other states has direct humanitarian consequences – and preventing their sale could have direct humanitarian benefit in curtailing further slaughter.