CAIRO – An internal investigation committee said on Tuesday that the Saudi-led military coalition accidentally bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Yemen, which killed 19 people and forced the international group to pull out from northern Yemen.
Mansour al-Mansour, the committee spokesman, said that an inquiry into the August bombing of the MSF hospital in the northern city of Abs showed that the coalition has received intelligence that rebel leaders were gathering north of the hospital. After bombing the site of the meeting, a warplane tracked a car that headed southward near the hospital. He said that the hospital building had no clear markings.
Mansour in his report suggested the coalition should apologize, offer assistance to those impacted by the bombing, and hold those responsible accountable.
The Associated Press reported last month that the targeted vehicle is actually a civilian one and it was carrying a wounded ice-cream vendor who was passing by the site of the initial strikes. The AP also reported that the hospital carried clear markings on the roof, identifying the building as an MSF hospital and that it was listed among the 23,000 buildings in the no-target list provided by a United Nations body to the coalition to secure them from the airstrikes.
The committee, which is named the Joint Incidents Assessment Team or JIAT, was formed by the Saudi-led coalition and this is its third report since the coalition started its campaign in Yemen in March 2015, under the banner of fighting Houthi rebels, which the coalition accuses of acting as an Iranian proxy.
In its report, the committee published results of four other incidents where warplanes bombed two schools, one market and one factory leaving dozens of civilians dead. In all, the committee either denied that the coalition holds responsibility or that the targets were used for military purposes and therefore bombing them was justified.
The coalition has been accused of targeting gatherings of civilians such as busy markets, weddings, hospitals, and schools. Human rights groups and experts believe that the attack on the MSF hospital and other incidents amount to war crimes and called for an independent international investigation.
Houthi rebels and allied forces have also faced allegations by rights groups of committing violations to international humanitarian law such as using civilians as human shields.
The conflict in Yemen pits Houthi rebels and forces loyal to Yemen's ousted president against the internationally-recognized government which fled after Houthis seized the capital, Sanaa, in Sept. 2014.
The war has left over 4,000 civilians dead and thousands wounded, pushed the Arab world's poorest nation to the brink of famine, and displaced over three million people. All rounds of peace talks and attempts to hold a ceasefire have collapsed.
The coalition came under heavy international pressure after the latest lethal bombing of a funeral hall in the capital Sanaa in October that left over 140 people dead and more than 600 others injured. Because of its intelligence and logistical support in addition multi-billion-dollar arms deals, the United States and other Western countries also faced mounting criticism.