RIYADH: An airstrike by the Arab Coalition to Restore the Legitimacy in Yemen last month that killed dozens of people traveling on a bus, lacked military justification and requires a review of the rules of engagement, a coalition body said on Saturday.
Mansour Ahmed Al-Mansour, legal adviser to the Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT), said the strike had been based on intelligence indicating that the bus was carrying Houthi leaders, a legitimate military target, but delays in executing the strike and receiving a no-strike order should be investigated.
“There was a clear delay in preparing the fighter jet at the appropriate time and place, thus losing (the opportunity) to target this bus as a military target in an open area in order to avoid such collateral damage,” Al-Mansour told reporters in the Saudi capital.
“The team believes that the coalition forces should immediately review the application of their rules of engagement to ensure compliance...” he said.
The Joint Forces Command of the Arab Coalition on Saturday reviewed JIAT’s findings regarding the allegations surrounding the operation carried out by coalition forces in the Saada governorate.
The International Committee for the Red Cross said at least 29 children were killed and dozens more injured when the bus was hit in Dahyan area in Saada province on Aug 9 .
The conclusions of JIAT’s investigation indicated that the raid on Dahyan area did not comply with the coalition’s rules of engagement.
As a result the coalition’s Joint Forces Command expressed regret over the mistakes and extends its deepest sympathies, condolences and solidarity to the families of the victims, saying its accepts the JIAT’s results and findings.
Upon receiving the official findings, the Joint Forces Command will undertake legal proceedings to hold those responsible and accountable for committing mistakes, according to the rules and regulations related to such cases.
The coalition said it will “continue to revise and enhance its rules of engagement, based on the operational lessons learned, in a manner that guarantees the non-recurrence of such incidents.”
The Joint Forces Command said it will also task the Joint Committee to grant voluntary assistance to the families affected in Yemen, and communicate with the legitimate Yemeni government to acquire their names and identities so compensations can be provided under regulatory measures.
The Joint Forces Command reaffirmed its continued commitment to the International Humanitarian Law (IHL), its customary rules and relevant conventions. It pledged to continue “applying the rules of engagement in accordance with
the highest international standards and practices, which will guarantee respect of the law and the preservation of civilian lives and possessions.”
During the press conference, Al-Mansour said that “an order had been given not to target the bus, which was among civilians, but the order arrived late.”
Another error was that “the target did not pose an immediate threat and that targeting the bus in a residential area was unjustified at that time,” he said.
The JIAT’s investigation into the attack on the bus examined the flights on the day and video footage of the aircraft that carried out the raid, he added.
Mansour repeated on Saturday that information from intelligence services suggested the bus had been “transporting Houthi leaders.”
But Mansour admitted the strike had “caused collateral damage.”
He also recommended that the coalition hold those responsible for the error accountable and compensate victims.
He said a coalition probe had found that errors were made before the strike, and called for those responsible to be “punished.”