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Air strike on Yemen aid facility could be violation: HRW


Map of Yemen-yalibnan

Map of Yemen-yalibnan

An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition on a warehouse of the aid group Oxfam appears to have violated the laws of war, Human Rights Watch said on Thursday.

The strike occurred on April 18 at Oxfam’s facility in the northern city of Sadaa, a traditional stronghold of the Shiite Huthi rebels targeted by the coalition.

Under the laws of war “civilians and civilian objects may never be deliberate targets of attack,” the New York-based watchdog said in a statement.

“The fact that the Oxfam warehouse should have been known to the coalition forces raises concerns that the attack was deliberate.”

The coalition has not commented on the incident.

Its spokesman, Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri, stated repeatedly during the initial 27-day coalition air campaign that its forces were being careful to avoid civilian casualties.

On April 13 he accused the Huthi militia of using civilian infrastructure, including schools, hospitals and stadiums to store military equipment.

Oxfam’s Yemen country director, Grace Ommer, called the warehouse attack “an absolute outrage.”

She said the British-based charity told the coalition where its offices and storage facilities were located.

“The contents of the warehouse had no military value,” but contained material related to the group’s provision of clean water to thousands of households in Sadaa, Ommer said in a statement.

According to the United Nations, millions of people have been affected by conflict in Yemen, where they are struggling to access healthcare, water, food and fuel.

“The dire humanitarian situation in Yemen is made worse by attacks on relief supplies,” Human Rights Watch said.

On Tuesday night the coalition said it was ending its initial Operation Decisive Storm bombing campaign that aimed to halt the Iran-backed Huthis’ advance.

It said it was starting a new phase aiming to resume Yemen’s political process, deliver aid and fight “terrorism”.

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