Monday, 30 March 2015

30th March 2105, airstrikes hit camp for the displaced on Yemen border

On 30th March 2015, Saudi led coalition air strikes targeted Al Mazrak camp for displaced people in Yemen's Hajjah province, resulting in at least 29 deaths and 41 injuries. This camp is next to the Saudi border, part of a cluster of camps which are home to thousands of Yemenis displaced by over a decade of wars between the Houthis and the Yemeni state, as well as East African migrants.

Amnesty International reported:

29 civilians, including children, were killed in airstrikes on a bridge at al-Mazraq camp for internally displaced persons (IDPs) on 30 March in Sa'ada, in northern Yemen near the border with Saudi Arabia.

Action on Armed Violence reported:
There have been several air strikes which have resulted in a large number of civilian deaths and injuries in Yemen, such as the bombing of a displacement camp in Mazraq on 30 March which killed at least 40 people..

MSF reported:

More than two dozen people injured in an airstrike today at a displaced persons camp in northern Yemen have been treated by the international medical humanitarian organization Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF).

The bombardment this morning hit the Al Mazraq Camp, located in Hajjah Governorate. At least 34 people wounded in the attack were brought by ambulance to the MSF-supported hospital in the town of Haradh. Twenty-nine people were dead on arrival, among them women and children. According to witnesses, the airstrike may have caused a larger number of wounded. 

“People in Al Mazraq camp have been living in very harsh conditions since 2009, and now they have suffered the consequences of an airstrike on the camp,” said Pablo Marco, operational manager for Yemen. “We call all parties to spare civilians from violence, respect the neutrality of medical facilities and staff, and allow unhindered access to medical assistance for the wounded.”

Al Mazraq Camp was established in 2009, when thousands of people fled fighting between government troops and Houthi forces in Saada Governorate. Roughly 500 new families arrived in the camp over the last two days, escaping bombings in the western area of Saada.

HRW reported: 

The airstrikes by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition that hit a displaced persons’ camp in northern Yemen on March 30, 2015, raised grave concerns about violations of the laws of war. The airstrikes killed at least 29 civilians and wounded 41, including 14 children and 11 women. They hit a medical facility at the camp, a local market, and a bridge, according to initial reports from the World Health Organization.

Sometime before 11 a.m. on March 30, one or more warplanes of unidentified nationality struck multiple sites at one of the three camps for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Mazraq, in Hajja governorate of northern Yemen, about six kilometers from the border with Saudi Arabia.

Khaled Mareh, one of the camp managers, told Human Rights Watch that at 10:50 a.m., as he was standing at the camp gate, an explosion knocked him back: “I first heard the sound of a distant plane, then the deafening explosion. I saw body parts scattered in front of me, charred bodies, torn tents, and a large amount of shrapnel that hit the gate and charred the cars.” He said he saw a second explosion hit a section of the camp about 500 meters away, which he later learned killed several children from the camp who were walking to school. From a distance, he saw a third explosion at the western gate of the camp, and a fourth that hit the market.

A local aid worker present at the time said that he saw one aircraft carry out a strike at the camp: “I saw the plane strike 500 meters from the International Organization for Migration office. It shook the building and rattled the windows.” The United Nations Humanitarian Coordinator to Yemen, Johannes Van Der Klaauw, stated on March 31 that all the structures hit constituted civilian infrastructure.
Mareh, the camp manager, said that Ansar Allah has a security office at the camp, near the market, but that it had been empty for three days, since the guards left to join military operations at the border. He said he did not hear any artillery or other fire in the area before the strikes, and that the camp authorities never allow armed people to enter the camp, including that morning. Another witness told Human Rights Watch that he did not see any armed men at the camp prior to the strikes, nor did he hear any fire.

None of the countries participating in the coalition have provided information that the camps are a legitimate military target. When asked about the strikes, a Saudi military official, Brig. Gen. Ahmad al-Assiri, said, “It could have been that the fighter jets replied to fire, and we cannot confirm that it was a refugee camp.”
Following the attack, over 400 residents fled the camp and are seeking refuge elsewhere, Mareh said.

WARNING, the videos below are EXTREMELY GRAPHIC and DISTRESSING. They are put here as evidence to support the call for an independent enquiry into war crimes and to call on the West to stop supplying arms to Saudi Arabia.

The following is a report from the  Legal Center for Rights and Development for the same date, confirming the incident:

This is the initial daily report from the Legal Center for Rights and Development that lists this incident as well as others that happened on the same day.

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