Third Deadly Attack on Yemen Market in a Month Sparks Calls for Investigation
“The parties responsible for this, and other atrocities, must be held accountable.”
Both the United Nations and the Saudi-led Arab military coalition in Yemen promised on Thursday to hold an investigation into a recent deadly attack in a market in the Yemeni city of Saada. According to international media reports, the attack claimed the lives of at least 17 civilians in a market place and is the third attack on the market this month.
Preliminary reports by the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Coordination, led by Lise Grande, said that 12 of the 17 killed were Ethiopians and an additional 12 others were injured during the strike which came on Tuesday. The strike targeted the al-Raqw market in Saada, which is adjacent to the Saudi border and is under the control of Houthis.
According to a statement issued by Grande, Tuesday’s attack on the market is not the first. Previous attacks on the market occurred on November 20 and 27. Grande sounded deeply troubled by the repeated attacks, saying, “The parties responsible for this, and other atrocities, must be held accountable.”
The total of those killed in the three attacks on the al-Raqw marketplace stands now at 89.
For over five years, now, the Saudi-led Arab military coalition has been engaged in a fight against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Both sides have exchanged extensive fire and caused thousands of civilian casualties. The Saudi coalition has previously hit civilian targets including a school bus. markets, mosques and more.
Houthis Point Finger at Saudi Coalition
Meanwhile, the Houthi-run al-Masirah TV broadcast a statement issued by the Houthis in which the group claimed that the Tuesday’s market attack was a result of artillery fire from the Saudi side of the border.
A spokesman for the Houthis, Yehia Sarea, commented on the marketplace attack on Twitter saying, “The Saudi-coalition could be behind such crimes and the victims would be avenged.” Sarea also posted images of the causalities from Tuesday’s attack.
Yet, a spokesperson for the Saudi coalition, Colonel Turki al-Malki, told the Saudi News Agency that an initial investigation showed that the fire on the Saada market was a result of “incidental losses and collateral damage.” Colonel Malki further noted that the coalition is now assessing the incident in line with international humanitarian law.
Over the past few months, the United Nations has been trying to mediate an end to the conflict between the Saudi-coalition forces and the Houthis. The Yemen War has so far killed thousands of civilians and caused millions of others to live on the brink of famine.
Last month, the UN reportedly brokered a prisoner swap deal between the Saudi-led coalition and the Houthi rebels which gave hope that an end to the conflict was near.
Fighting in Yemen
Fighting in Yemen began five years ago when Houthi rebels took control of large parts of the country, including the capital Sanaa, in late 2014. Mass protests and the Houthi rebel group forced the internationally recognized government of President Abdrabbuh Mansur Hadi from power in 2015. Hadi is now reportedly residing in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
The civil war has its roots in the 2011 Arab Spring, which led to a 2011 Yemen uprising that eventually forced the end of the 32-year-long regime of Yemen’s late president, Ali Abdullah Saleh. The uprising grew into a military conflict in 2014 and has since caused the death of thousands of people and the displacement of hundreds of thousands more.
Since March 2015, the Saudi-led military coalition has enforced both a land and sea blockade in rebel-held Yemen territories in an attempt to prevent the possible smuggling of weapons. A year later in 2016, the coalition shut down Yemen’s primary international airport the Sanaa International Airport, thus imposing an air blockade on Yemen.