Saudi-led coalition forces annihilated a bus full of children in their latest war crime committed in Yemen on Thursday 9 August.
51 civilians, including 29 children under 15 years of age, died or were injured in the attack in the Yemeni province of Saada. The coalition maintains that the attack was aimed at “legitimate military targets.”
The Saudi-led airstrike, backed by the U.S., targeted a bus carrying dozens of Yemeni children. The airstrike killed 50 people and wounded 77, including 29 children, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition military operations and air strikes have been accused repeatedly of targeting civilians. The latest of these was the crime committed a week ago in the city of Hodeidah, in which 52 civilians died.
One of the children who survived the attack on Saada appears in a video on social media. He was taken to the hospital covered with blood and screaming loudly “My head!,” which was peppered with bomb fragments. The boy clutched his school bag donated to him by UNICEF and begged the doctors to save him. Horrifying though the footage is, this was one of the least graphic videos of the aftermath of the attack posted online.
The Houthi channel, Al Masira, has published even more disturbing content. One clip shows a father searching for his son among the bodies, then collapsing as he discovers his child in a pile of dead bodies dumped on the trunk of a car. Another tape shows charred bodies, children’s limbs, and a child with a severed arm from the shoulder and missing right leg from the knee down and left foot from the ankle. The channel broadcasted images of the decimated school bus, with mothers, fathers, and relatives searching for their children among the unidentified dead.
On Friday, the Ansar Allah group, a Yemeni Houthi group, said three children were still missing. These children are just a few of the many children targeted by the coalition over the past three years.
Coalition spokesman, Turki al-Maliki, did not deny the crime and even admitted to targeting a bus. However, he denied targeting “children.” Targeting the bus “is consistent with international law,” he asserted. “The airstrikes carried out by the coalition in Yemen yesterday were against a legitimate military target,” Maliki said. He added that “elements that had planned and carried out the targeting of civilians in Jazan were targeted yesterday night in the city.”
Notwithstanding this denial, this latest war crime has shocked the world. Human rights organizations working in Yemen have called for a comprehensive investigation, but the Saudi-UAE coalition has repeatedly thwarted the efforts of human rights organizations to form an independent commission to investigate crimes against civilians in Yemen. The U.S. is aiding the coalition with military and intelligence support. The coalition also used U.S.-made weapons (including cluster bombs) to target the innocent, according to Human Rights Watch.
Last year, the organization documented 85 illegal coalition airstrikes that killed nearly 1,000 civilians, and destroyed homes, markets, hospitals, schools, and mosques, some of which are undoubtedly war crimes under the Geneva Convention.
552 children were killed and 764 have been injured in Yemen over the past year, according to the U.N. report “Children and Armed Conflicts” published in May. Coalition raids caused 51 percent of the casualties (300 killed and 370 wounded).
“Stop the brutal cruelty against children. There are no excuses,” UNICEF’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Khairat Kabalari wrote in a statement on the UNICEF Facebook page.
The UNICEF representative in Yemen, Meritxell Relano, expressed her deep concern over the deaths of dozens of children in the northern province of Saada on Thursday. She tweeted “I am watching with horror the images and videos coming from Saada in #Yemen and I have no words. How was this a military target? Why are children being killed? Is anyone listening out there?”
“Attacks on civilians, including children, are unacceptable,” Oxfam said in a statement on Facebook. “Today’s air raid on a bus in northern Yemen killed dozens of people.” The organization renewed its call for an “immediate ceasefire and respecting international humanitarian law for the protection of civilians.”
Antonio Guterres, U.N. Secretary-General, called for an “independent and quick investigation” and expressed his condemnation of the raid targeting a bus in Saada in the north of Yemen, the stronghold of the Houthis.
The U.S. State Department called on the Saudi-led coalition to investigate air strikes in Yemen that have killed dozens, including children. “We are certainly concerned about the reports that there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians,” said State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert in a press briefing. “We call on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident.”
At the same time as the coalition forces carried out their attack on the children, graphic artist Haifa Sabaawas spearheading a peace campaign in Yemen’s capital of Sanaa that calls for stopping the war. It is entitled: “Does the world really care about the lives of civilians in Yemen?”