Coalition’s air strikes accurate, investigations transparent, says Spokesman for JIAT in Yemen

RIYADH, The spokesman for the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) in Yemen has refuted claims on incidents raised by some international organisations against military operations carried out by the Coalition Forces in Yemen.

This came in a news conference Legal Counselor Mansour bin Ahmed Al-Mansour, held at the King Salman Airbase in Riyadh today.

He confirmed that the team follows transparency in announcing the results reached in all details, noting that it is the responsibility of the team to clarify the facts before the public, according to the Saudi Press Agency.

He stressed that the investigations and audits were based on procedures and rules of engagement, and after reviewing the schedule of daily tasks inventory, post-mission reports, satellite images, video recordings of the task carried out, and evaluation of evidence.

“The team follows transparency in announcing the results reached in all details, noting that it is the responsibility of the team to clarify the facts before the public. Moreover, the team has seen some of the tweets related to what was mentioned in this conference, specifically the case of accusing the coalition of bombing Husseini mosque,” he said.

He reviewed a number of cases, including case No. 20, as part of the report of the International Committee of the Red Cross dated 22/09/2017, mentioning that the coalition forces launched three air strikes on the village of Beit al-Athri, Arhab Directorate, governorate of Sana’a, at 3:00 am on August 23, 2017, pointing out that one of the strikes hit a building containing shops and a hotel accommodating farmers, out of whom 50 people were killed and 54 injured, according to the information passed to ICRC which also says the number of fighters is only two, while the rest are civilians, reportedly khat dealers.

The Legal Counsel stated that the JIAT had verified the incident and after having seen all relevant documents, including the procedures and rules of engagement, the air mission assignment, post-mission reports, satellite imagery and the evidence assessment, it was found that, based on intelligence information and pre-operation reconnaissance, a group of armed elements of the special battalion, affiliated to the Houthi militia, were stationed in the alleged building along with a military checkpoint opposite to it and that both buildings are used by the armed militia of Houthi, illustrating it as a high-value target according to the intelligence information.

Accordingly, Al-Mansour said, the Coalition Forces carried out an aerial sortie on 23/08/2017, against the two buildings in their capacity as two legitimate military targets, which if destroyed, a military advantage would be achieved. Using two guided bombs, the Coalition Forces hit their targets accurately in an endeavor to paralyse the movements of the Houthi militias at the entrances of the city of Sana’a, Al-Mansour said. He added that the JIAT concluded that the procedures followed by the coalition forces were correct and safe, in accordance with international humanitarian law and customary rules.

In the case No. 76, included in the annual report of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights accusing the Coalition Forces to have launched an air strike on 20/09/2016, which reportedly resulted in hitting a civilian vehicle in Al-Mansaf area, Al-Mutama directorate, Al-Jawf governorate, killing 15 civilians including 12 children, three women and injuring three others, and that the local residents told the UNHCR that the car belongs to a farmer and that the victims were on their way to work in the farm, Al-Mansour said that the JIAT had verified the incident and after having seen all relevant documents, including the procedures and rules of engagement, the air mission assignment, post-mission reports, satellite imagery and the evidence assessment, it was found that reliable intelligence information had been received by the Command of joint special operations inland Yemen from the Command of the sixth military zone, affiliated to the Yemeni forces related to the legitimate government, that the vehicle, branded as jeep (Chass), was carrying some commanders of the Houthi militias, a piece of information, verified by the coalition air forces in coordination with ground sources, proved true. After monitoring the vehicle until it reached an isolated area, with no buildings or civilians, the Coalition Forces, using a guided bomb, hit the target at 9 o’clock on Tuesday morning (19 Dhu al-Hijjah 1437 H) corresponding to (20/09/2016). A video footage of the mission proved that the vehicle was a one-cell jeep (chass brand), with no persons on its surface, he said, adding that a secondary explosion was observed in the aftermath of the bombing, indicating that the vehicle was carrying weapons and ammunition, as well as some commanders of the Houthi militias.

Al-Mansour explained that, in the light of this, the JIAT concluded that the coalition air forces targeted a vehicle that was laden with weapons and ammunition and carrying commanders and that the measures taken in dealing with the legitimate military target were safe and complied with international humanitarian law and its customary rules.

As to charges of human rights violations by the Coalition during the period from September 2016 until June 2017, the Coalition air forces carried out an airstrike on two buildings in Shibam Kaukaban in Al-Mahweet governorate, as there were prominent armed Houthi commanders and forces of the former Yemeni president. They also used the place as a barracks to shelter their armed men.

On the charges of human rights violations by the Coalition during the period from Sept. 2016 until June 2017 including targeting a house in Al-Mansourah district leading to the death of four people and injury of one child � all members of the Ruwais Al-Ghazali family as mentioned by relatives of the victims, Al-Mansour said after the JIAT investigations, it became clear that the Coalition forces did not carry out any airstrikes on the day the building was hit.

As to the claims that it was an airstrike that took place near the Court building in Camp Al-Suairah district in Maqbanah on 18/05/2017 resulting in 16 deaths and several injured, Al-Mansour said JIAT investigations revealed that there were no air operations in Maqbanah, Taiz governorate, on that date.

Source: Emirates News Agency