JIAT: Yemen funeral targeted based on wrong information; Coalition accepts findings

Forensic experts inspect a destroyed funeral hall in Sanaa, Yemn, on Oct. 10, 2016, two days after a deadly airstrike targeted it. (AP Photo/Hani Mohammed)
Updated 15 October 2016
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JIAT: Yemen funeral targeted based on wrong information; Coalition accepts findings

JEDDAH: A joint investigation team on Saturday found that the Saudi-led Coalition bombed a funeral ceremony in Sanaa last week based on wrong information that the hall was packed with Houthi leaders. 
Some 140 people were killed in the bombing and more than 600 were wounded in the air strike on Oct. 8, prompting condemnations. 
The Joint Incidents Assessment Team (JIAT) said the wrong information was provided by “a party affiliated to the Yemeni Presidency of the General Chief of Staff.”
It said the information claimed that there was a gathering of armed Houthi leaders “and insisted that the location be targeted immediately as a legitimate military target,” the investigators said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency (SPA).
JIAT is an oversight body composed of representatives from coalition states, including Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Yemen, created in January to look into complaints about the coalition’s conduct in its “Decisive Storm” campaign in Yemen.
The report said the Air Operation Center in Yemen directed a “close air support mission” to target the site without getting approval from the coalition’s command, a violation of protocol.
"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," the report said.
It called for a review of rules of engagement and compensation for the families of victims. 
Houthis and the group of former Yemen president Abdullah Saleh have seized on the bombing incident to discredit the Coalition, which had intervened in Yemen in April 2015 to restore the UN-recognized government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.
The investigation said the source of the information insisted the location was “a legitimate military target.” A number of Houthi leaders were said to be among those killed or wounded in the funeral, which was of the father of a senior Houthi rebel commander.
Nonetheless, the JIAT said “appropriate action must be taken against those who caused the incident.”
JIAT’s statement said the team is “still gathering and analyzing data related to the incident, namely reports about some sides that used this erroneous bombing to increase the number of victims, in coordination with the relevant agencies of the legitimate Yemeni government and concerned states, and will announce the results as soon as its investigations are complete.”
The Hadi government has yet to publicly comment on the October 8 bombing.
Yemen’s chief of staff is Maj. Gen. Mohammed Ali Al-Maqdishi, a close ally of the powerful army general Ali Mohsen Al-Ahmar, now serving as vice president. 
 
Coalition accepts JIAT findings
In a statement on SPA, the Coalition Forces Command said it had examined the results of the JIAT investigation into the Great Hall incident and “affirms that it accepts the results of the investigation, and has begun to implement the JIAT's recommendations.”
“The coalition command expresses its regret at this unintentional incident and the ensuing pain for victims' families. The incident is not in line with the coalition's objectives, namely protecting civilians and restoring safety and stability to Yemen.” the statement said.
In a letter to the United Nations Security Council last weekend, Saudi Arabia expressed “deep regret" over the attack.
Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Salman subsequently directed the King Salman Center for Relief and Humanitarian Aid (KSRelief) to coordinate with the Arab coalition, the legitimate Yemeni government, and UN organizations to facilitate the transfer abroad of the injured who need to be treated in the funeral bombing.
KSRelief has been instructed to allocate the amount of SR200 million for the operation, with Sudan as the possible host country to treat the wounded.
An Agence France Presse report on Saturday said an Omani aircraft landed in the rebel-held Yemeni capital on Saturday to evacuate 115 of the most seriously wounded, but it was not clear whether the treatment would be done in Sudan or Oman.
Oman is the only Gulf Arab state that is not part of the coalition fighting the Houthi rebels and has previously organized evacuations from Sanaa of Westerners and others who had been detained by the insurgents.
The Omani aircraft also flew home to Sanaa the rebel negotiating team which had been stranded in the sultanate’s capital Muscat since the collapse of UN-brokered peace talks in Kuwait in August because of the air blockade, said the report.
 
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

Palestinians celebrate the resignation of Israel's defense minister. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Four police officers wounded in Jerusalem attack

  • The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip

JERUSALEM: A knife-wielding Palestinian attacker sneaked into a Jerusalem police station and lightly wounded four police officers before he was shot and captured, Israeli police said on Thursday.

The assault came on the heels of a fragile truce that was reached between Israel and militants in the Gaza Strip that ended two days of heavy fighting, the area’s most severe violence since the 50-day Gaza war in 2014.

Police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said the knife-wielding attacker climbed over the station’s fence late on Wednesday night and began stabbing officers inside. Other officers then shot the assailant and captured him; he was later taken to hospital.

In the two days of heavy fighting, Palestinian militants had fired 460 rockets and mortars into Israel, while Israel carried out airstrikes on 160 Gaza targets. Seven Palestinians, including five militants, were killed. A rocket fired from Gaza killed a Palestinian laborer in Israel.

The latest round of violence was triggered by a botched Israeli raid on Sunday that left seven Palestinians and a senior Israeli military officer dead. Before the raid, Egyptian and UN mediators had made progress in reducing tensions.

In recent days, Israel had allowed fuel shipments to increase the power supply in Gaza, which suffers from frequent blackouts, and agreed to additional Qatari assistance to allow Hamas to pay the salaries of its thousands of government workers.

The cease-fire led to the resignation of Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Lieberman, who had demanded a far stronger Israeli response to the Palestinian rocket attack but appeared to have been overruled by Premier Benjamin Netanyahu.

Resignation

The resignation threw the government into turmoil and pushed the country toward an early election. Netanyahu presented the decision to step back from a full-blown conflict as a unified one made by his Security Cabinet and based on the military’s recommendations. 

But Lieberman and fellow hard-liner Education Minister Naftali Bennett later expressed reservations, saying they favored a stronger response.

Hamas has staged  near-weekly border protests since March in an effort to lift the Israeli-Egyptian blockade imposed after the Islamic militant group seized control of the coastal strip in 2007.  This has inflicted heavy damage on Gaza, but Hamas remains firmly in power. Demonstrators each week approach the border fence, throwing firebombs, grenades and burning tires at Israeli troops. Israeli snipers have killed about 170 people, most of them unarmed.

Bennett of the far-right Jewish Home party was demanding to be given the defense portfolio or he would withdraw his eight seats from Netanyahu’s governing coalition.

Another key coalition partner, Finance Minister Moshe Kahlon of center-right Kulanu, reportedly told Netanyahu elections should be called as soon as possible because a stable government was needed to keep the economy on track.

Premier Netanyahu’s political popularity is in large part due to his reputation as Israel’s “Mr. Security,” as he has often been dubbed, and he has defended his decision saying: “Our enemies begged for a cease-fire.

“In times of emergency, when making decisions crucial to security, the public can’t always be privy to the considerations that must be hidden from the enemy,” he said.