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

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

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

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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Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections
Updated 16 January 2021

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections

Abbas announces long-awaited Palestinian elections
  • The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide
  • The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat

RAMALLAH: Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Friday announced dates for the first Palestinian elections in more than 15 years, setting legislative polls for May 22 and a July 31 presidential vote.
Abbas’s Fatah party, which controls the Palestinian Authority based in the occupied West Bank, and the Hamas group, who hold power in Gaza, have for years expressed interest in taking Palestinians back to the polls.
A long-standing rivalry between the two main Palestinian factions was seen as a leading factor in stalling progress toward a new vote.
But Fatah and Hamas have lately been engaged in unity talks, reaching an agreement in principle in September to hold elections in 2021.
Hamas on Friday welcomed Abbas’s announcement.
“In recent months, we have worked to overcome obstacles in order to reach this day,” it said in a statement.
It added that it looked to “free elections in which voters can express themselves without pressure and without restrictions, in all fairness and transparency.”
A statement on the official Palestinian Wafa news agency said Abbas has signed “a presidential decree concerning elections,” specifying the May and July dates.
“This announcement was eagerly awaited,” Palestinian analyst Arif Jaffal, head of the Arab World Democracy and Electoral Monitor, told AFP.
“It is a very important step,” he said.
The 2005 Palestinian presidential vote saw Abbas elected with 62 percent support to replace the late Yasser Arafat.
There has been no indication from Fatah as to whether the 85-year-old Abbas intends to seek re-election.
A rare poll by the Palestinian Center for Policy and Research carried out last year said Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh would beat Abbas in a presidential election.

The statement from Abbas said he expects polls will be held “in all governorates of Palestine, including east Jerusalem,” which was annexed by Israel following the 1967 Six-Day War but is considered occupied territory.
Israel bans all Palestinian Authority activity in east Jerusalem, and there was no indication the Jewish state would allow a Palestinian vote within the city.
Israel’s right-wing Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who faces his own re-election contest in March, describes Jerusalem as Israel’s “undivided capital.”
Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammed Shtayyeh said his government “was ready to get things going to facilitate the electoral process, in total transparency, while waiting for pluralism.”
Some 2.8 million Palestinians live in the West Bank, while the densely populated Gaza Strip is home to two million.
The last Palestinian parliamentary elections in 2006 saw Hamas win an unexpected landslide.
The polls resulted in a brief unity government but it soon collapsed and in 2007, bloody clashes erupted in the Gaza Strip between the two principal Palestinian factions, with Hamas ultimately seizing control of Gaza.
Numerous attempts at reconciliation, including a prisoner exchange agreement in 2012 and a short-lived coalition government two years later, have failed to close the rift.
But experts have said intra-Palestinian reconciliation talks have taken on greater urgency following a series of US-brokered normalization agreements signed between Israel and four Arab states.
The deals to normalize ties with Israel signed by the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco and Sudan were condemned across the Palestinian political spectrum.
They also broke with decades of Arab League consensus against recognition of Israel until it reached an agreement to end the Palestinian conflict that included the creation of Palestinian state, with a capital in east Jerusalem.
Palestinian leaders have also voiced hope that the incoming administration of US President-elect Joe Biden will lead to renewed diplomacy on the Palestinian cause.
The PA cut ties with President Donald Trump’s administration, accusing it of egregious bias toward Israel.