The Saudi-led coalition battling Houthis in Yemen said Saturday that one of its warplanes had “wrongly targeted” a funeral in the capital Sana’a, killing more than 140 people, and announced disciplinary proceedings.
The Oct. 8 strike prompted an international outcry and strong criticism even from Saudi Arabia’s closest Western allies.
“Because of non-compliance with coalition rules of engagement and procedures, and the issuing of incorrect information, a coalition aircraft wrongly targeted the location, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries,” an inquiry team found.
“Appropriate action… must be taken against those who caused the incident, and… compensation must be offered to the families of the victims.”
The strike was one of the deadliest in the coalition’s nearly 19-month-old bombing campaign in support of Yemen’s fugitive former government.
More than 6,700 people have been killed in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country since the coalition first intervened, nearly two-thirds of them civilians, according to the United Nations.
Britain is to present a draft resolution to the UN Security Council next week calling for an immediate ceasefire in Yemen, after an earlier text condemning the funeral bombing was rejected by Russia as not strong enough.
The inquiry team called on coalition commanders to change their procedures to prevent any repetition of the failings that led to the strike.
“Coalition forces must immediately review their rules of engagement and update their procedures to ensure adherence in future,” the team said, AFP reported.
The air raid, which targeted the funeral of the father of a senior Houthi commander, also wounded at least 525 people, more than 300 of them critically.
The outcry over the number of civilian casualties prompted the coalition to announce an easing of the air blockade it has enforced since March last year to allow the evacuation of the most seriously wounded for treatment abroad.
An Omani aircraft landed in the Houthi-held Yemeni capital Saturday to evacuate 115 of the most seriously wounded, a Houthi official said.
Oman is the only Persian Gulf Arab state that is not part of the coalition fighting the Houthis and has previously organized evacuations from Sana’a of Westerners and others who had been detained by the insurgents.
Human Rights Watch said that the strike on the funeral was an “apparent war crime.”
“While military personnel and civilian officials involved in the war effort were attending the ceremony, the clear presence of several hundred civilians strongly suggests that the attack was unlawfully disproportionate,” the New York-based watchdog said Thursday.
The coalition initially denied responsibility but after condemnation from Western governments, it promised an investigation of the “regrettable and painful” event.
A letter sent to the UN Security Council last weekend “expressed the kingdom’s deep regret” over the “attack”.
There was huge pressure on the coalition to publish the findings of its investigation into the raid as swiftly as possible.