WASHINGTON - The United Nations has condemned recent airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen, which have killed more than 100 civilians this week alone.
Zeid Raad al-Hussein, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, said Friday that two air attacks Tuesday on a crowded market in northwestern Yemen were among the deadliest incidents since the Saudis and their Arab partners in the Gulf began attacking Yemen's Houthi rebels last year.
Saudi Arabia announced late Thursday, just hours before the U.N. issued its statement, that the Arab military coalition was scaling down combat operations in Yemen.
Zeid said the latest attack was one of "these awful incidents [that] continue to occur with unacceptable regularity." Despite many previous complaints about civilian casualties caused by indiscriminate military action, he said the Saudi coalition failed to take actions to avert such incidents, or to report any progress on investigations of the carnage.
"Looking at the figures, it would seem that the coalition is responsible for twice as many civilian casualties as all other forces [in Yemen] put together — virtually all as a result of airstrikes," Zeid said.
The human-rights official said airstrikes carried out by Saudi pilots and their allies from the Gulf states "have hit markets, hospitals, clinics, schools, factories, wedding parties and hundreds of private residences in villages, towns and cities, including the capital, Sana'a."
U.N. Human Rights office staff in Yemen who visited this week's attack site and interviewed survivors "could find no evidence of any armed confrontation or significant military objects in the area at the time of the attack," U.N. officials reported.
The rights commissioner said the scope of the destruction in Yemen and the attackers' apparent failure to distinguish between legitimate military targets and civilians, who are protected under international law, raise the possibility that "international crimes" were committed.
Since the fighting in Yemen began a year ago, the U.N. Human Rights Office said it has recorded just under 9,000 casualties. including 3,218 civilians killed and a further 5,778 injured.