Yemen rebel strikes killed 376 civilians in Saudi border regions

Friday 29/01/2016
On alert to counter those who ‘fire and escape’

RIYADH - Yemeni rebels and their allies have killed more than 370 civilians in Saudi border regions since a Saudi-led military operation began against the rebels last March, the coalition said Tuesday.

Its spokesman Brigadier General Ahmed al-Assiri said the civilian death toll was now 376.

He also said that more than 40,000 mortar bombs, Katyusha rockets and other projectiles have been fired into the kingdom from Yemen since the Arab coalition began its campaign to push the rebels from seized territory in the neighbouring country.

That is an average of more than 129 projectiles per day.

They were fired by the Iran-backed Huthi rebels and their allies, elite troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, Assiri said.

"Twelve Scud missiles were intercepted," he added.

The number of civilian casualties exceeds those which have been previously reported by the official Saudi Press Agency.

Citing Civil Defence and security sources, SPA has reported around 90 civilians and soldiers killed in shelling and skirmishes.

Assiri said the coalition figure "is the total of what the Civil Defence reported", and it has the victims' names.

But he said he had no figure for the number of soldiers and border guards killed.

It is difficult to stop the rebels who "fire and escape" from mountains, valleys and other hideouts in the rugged region, Assiri said.

Thousands of civilians have been relocated from the border since a previous conflict with the Huthis in 2009-2010.

With its air strikes and ground troops, the coalition is backing the Yemeni government and local anti-rebel forces in a bid to push out the Huthis who seized the capital Sanaa in 2014.

In Yemen, more than 5,800 people have been killed since last March, about half of them civilians, according to the United Nations.

There has been widespread international concern about the high number of civilian casualties in Yemen.

On Sunday, the coalition announced that "an independent team of experts" would examine incidents allegedly involving civilians.

A panel of UN experts, in a report obtained last week, said the coalition has carried out 119 sorties that violated humanitarian law, and it called for an international commission of inquiry.