Saudi Arabia admits ‘mistakes’ in airstrike that killed 40 Yemeni children
Over 50 people, including 40 children, were killed in the airstrike, which targeted a bus that Saudi intelligence officials said they believed was carrying senior Houthi rebels. Seventy-nine people were injured, including 56 children, while it remains unclear if any Houthi fighters were killed.
WATCH: Hospital treats crying children injured after Yemen air strikes (WARNING: Graphic images)
The attack drew condemnation from the United Nations, following which U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis said that continued U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen would depend on efforts to mitigate civilian casualties.
On Saturday, the coalition said it had reviewed the findings of its internal investigative body, the Joint Incidents Assessments Team (JIAT), and accepted that mistakes were made.
In a statement published by the Saudi Press Agency, the coalition expressed regret for the incident and extended sympathies to the families of the victims.
The coalition said it will “undertake legal proceedings to hold the ones who committed mistakes accountable,” and said it would work with the Yemeni government to identify the injured and the families of the dead in order to arrange for compensation.
WATCH: Yemen holds mass funeral for children killed in air strike as Saudi Arabia insists raid was ‘legitimate’
The rare admission comes a week after Human Rights Watch released a report slamming the JIAT for being little more than a Saudi tool to cover up war crimes in Yemen.
“For more than two years, the coalition has claimed that JIAT was credibly investigating allegedly unlawful airstrikes, but the investigators were doing little more than covering up war crimes,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Governments selling arms to Saudi Arabia should recognize that the coalition’s sham investigations do not protect them from being complicit in serious violations in Yemen.”
Yemen’s civil war has pitted the Saudi-led coalition, which supports Yemen’s government, against Houthi rebels backed by Saudi Arabia’s regional rival Iran.
Over 6,500 civilians have been killed in the conflict, which has raged for three and a half years. Most of the deaths are attributable to airstrikes by the coalition, according to the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Airstrikes have also destroyed hospitals and water facilities, and been blamed for cholera outbreaks that have killed over 2,000.
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