Arab Coalition in Yemen confirms Sanaa blood bank was bombed by mistake

JIAT spokesman Mansour Al-Mansour
Updated 03 October 2019

Arab Coalition in Yemen confirms Sanaa blood bank was bombed by mistake

  • The incident was one of four reviewed by Coalition forces

RIYADH: The Arab coalition in Yemen has admitted accidentally bombing the National Center for Blood Transfusion and Research in Sanaa.

According to a report by Yemen’s National Committee for the Investigation of Allegations of Human Rights Violations, the medical facility was struck on April 27 this year by a concrete bomb that destroyed part of the building and much of the equipment inside.

The incident was one of four reviewed by Coalition forces. The results of the reviews were announced on Wednesday by Mansour Al-Mansour, a spokesman for the Coalition’s Joint Incident Assessment Team (JIAT).

He said that investigators had examined the scene of the airstrike at the blood transfusion center and taken statements from medical and administrative staff who work in the building, which is about 200 meters from a gas station at a Yemeni Special Security Forces camp.

A defect in the bomb was blamed for the mistake and he added that Coalition nations will provide assistance to repair the damage caused by the bomb.

Al-Mansour said that JIAT refuted the remaining three allegations. In the first, it was claimed that a farmhouse had been bombed in Aslan, in the Baqim district of Saada governorate, on Nov. 2, 2017, killing seven members of the farmer’s family, including three children.

Al-Mansour said JIAT found that Coalition forces carried out only one air mission that day, which targeted a legitimate military target: a building used as a weapons depot by Houthis, located 3.8 kilometers from Baqim.

Coalition forces were also accused of striking a house near Al-Nasr school in the Qabbaytah district of Lahj governorate on June 21, 2016. There was no mention of any injuries or deaths. Al-Mansour said that JIAT reviewed all air missions on that date and established that the coalition was not responsible for the attack.

The third alleged coalition incident involved an air strike in Sanaa on May 27, 2018 that injured an unknown number of civilians, including children, according to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

After reviewing the daily mission schedules, JIAT said that the day before the date of the claim, Coalition forces carried out an aerial mission on a legitimate military target, a gas station, in Sanaa. This attack was previously reviewed by JIAT and the findings announced on May 22, 2019. The day after the date of the latest claim, Coalition forces carried out an aerial attack on a cave being used as a weapons store in a Houthi militia camp. Two guided bombs hit the target, which was 20 km from Sanaa. Al-Mansour added that JIAT found the Coalition did not carry out any aerial missions in Sanaa on the date of the claim.

Missing boy’s death exposes Houthi child recruitment

A boy holds a weapon while Shiite rebels known as Houthis protest against coalition airstrikes, during a rally in Sanaa, Yemen, Wednesday, April 1, 2015. (AP)
Updated 16 min 10 sec ago

Missing boy’s death exposes Houthi child recruitment

  • Barman said the Houthis have never been ashamed of their recruitment of children despite local and international criticism

AL-MUKALLA: When 15-year-old Abdul Aziz Ali Al-Dharhani went missing, his family visited the local Houthi officials of their small village in Yemen’s Dhale province to ask for information. The Iranian-backed rebels said they knew nothing about their son’s whereabouts.

The family were certain the officials were lying, because their son had attended Houthi religious sessions at a local mosque before he went missing. Family members circulated Al-Dharhani’s image on social media and asked people to help find him.

A local Houthi figure, despite claiming to not know about the child, called the family 10 days later to congratulate them on the “martyrdom” of their son.

Abdurrahman Barman, a Yemeni human rights advocate and director of the American Center for Justice, investigated the boy’s disappearance and said Al-Dharhani was brainwashed by Houthis and sent to battle where he was killed.

Barman added that his investigation revealed that Houthis actively recruit child soldiers.

“Before joining them, the boy was friendly and got on with people,” he told Arab News.

After joining sessions at the mosque, where he was lectured on jihad and Houthi movement founder Hussein Al-Houthi, Al-Dharhani isolated himself from family and friends. He left home without telling anyone, leaving his family in fear and panic.

“The Houthis give recruited children nicknames to convince them they are men and can fight,” Barman said, adding that he learned the boy was sent to the front line without any military training.

“He was killed shortly after,” Barman said.

Houthis held a long funeral procession where his body was wrapped in slogans. Houthi media quoted local officials as saying that Al-Dharhani was a “hero” who fought Israel, the US and other enemies.

Barman said the Houthis have never been ashamed of their recruitment of children despite local and international criticism.

“The Houthi movement boasts about the deaths of their child soldiers. Even some Houthi-affiliated rights activists describe dead children as heroes and martyrs.”

Yemeni government officials, human rights groups and experts said the story of Al-Dharhani represents only the tip of the iceberg. Houthis are alleged to have recruited thousands of children over the last five years to shore up troop numbers amid the increasingly costly war.

The Yemeni Coalition to Monitor Human Rights Violations, known as the Rasd Coalition, recently reported that Houthis had recruited 7,000 children from heavily populated areas under their control.

Nadwa Al-Dawsari, a Yemeni conflict analyst, told Arab News that Houthis are responsible for most child soldiers in Yemen and use specific strategies to draw children to the front line.

“Houthis are aggressive when it comes to recruiting children. They are responsible for over 70 percent of child soldiers in Yemen according to the UN. They lure children to fight with them by brainwashing them through mosques and religious activities, sometimes without the knowledge of their families,” she said.

On the battlefield, the recruited children take part in fighting or logistical work, while some operate as spies. Al-Dawsari said Houthi ideology helps explain why they brag about recruiting children.

“They are a radical Jihadist group that doesn’t hesitate to spill blood to achieve their political objectives. They want to ensure Abdulmalik Al-Houthi and the Hashemite bloodline rule Yemen for good,” she said.

Rehabilitation center

In the central city of Marib, the King Salman Humanitarian Aid and Relief Center founded a institute to rehabilitate soldiers in Yemen in 2017. The center has rehabilitated about 480 child soldiers. Mohammed Al-Qubaty, the center’s director, told Arab News that children are usually lured into joining through financial and social incentives. Enlisted children are given salaries, arms and food, while others are forced to take up arms, he said. “Children are cheap and easily influenced. They quickly learn how to use arms and are obedient to their commanders,” he added.