Yemenis Claim 80 Civilian Casualties from Saudi Coalition Airstrikes

“Saudi-led airstrikes killed at least 80 people near Yemen’s border with Saudi Arabia and in the capital Sanaa Wednesday, residents said, the deadliest day of bombing in over two months of war in Yemen,” writes Reuters.

There are reasons to be skeptical of this claim, without dismissing the possibility of significant collateral damage from the airstrikes entirely.

The Reuters report is inconsistent about how many of the casualties were innocent civilians caught in the crossfire. The border bombing is said to have killed “at least 40 people, most of them civilians,” according to “local inhabitants.”

One of those inhabitants told Reuters over the phone, “Houthi gunmen were attacking Saudi border positions from this area but the coalition’s planes failed to hit the fighters and bombed civilians.”

Would any portion of the blame for that fall upon the Houthi gunmen for positioning themselves so close to civilians? That’s become a standard tactic for neutralizing air power with everyone from the Palestinian gangsters of Hamas to the Islamic State.

Next, we learn that one of the “local inhabitant” sources for this report is the Houthi news agency Saba. “Around 40 people were martyred and more than 100 others were wounded, according to a preliminary toll, in bombing by the Saudi aggression’s planes on the Sabaaeen area in the capital Sanaa today,” read a Saba dispatch, an account Reuters says was “confirmed by residents.”

The veracity of a report on civilian collateral damage is not enhanced by referring to the dead as “martyrs.”

Finally, Reuters delivers this account from a soldier serving in a Houthi-aligned Yemeni military unit loyal to long-deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh: “So far we’re not sure how many are dead. There were many people at the entrance to the warehouse, getting their weapons, farmers, cooks (and also soldiers); these poor people were standing at the entrance to the warehouse. Two strikes, two hits, (occurred) one right after the other. The warehouses are completely destroyed.”

The farmers and cooks were lined up at the warehouse “getting their weapons?” Either something was lost in translation there, or the definition of “civilian” has become very elastic.

Reuters also reports a major air and naval assault on Yemen’s largest military port, in the Houthi-aligned city of Hodeida, sinking one warship and damaging another.

“Houthi forces shelled the southern city of Aden, a bastion of resistance against their moves into Yemen’s south, and local fighters built on gains against the Houthis in recent days by seizing their last military post in the nearby city of Dalea,” Reuters adds, curiously neglecting to mention how many civilians were injured or killed by that Houthi shelling.


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