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Saudi Arabia announces end to Yemen airstrikes

March 17, 2016

Saudi Arabia's air campaign has come under frequent criticism over the past year for causing widespread civilian casualties. But they say they'll continue battle against Houthi rebels.

Yemenis inspect the damage following a Saudi-led airstrike on a neighborhood in Sana'a.
Image: picture-alliance/AP Photo/Y. Arhab

A day after the UN demanded an investigation into Saudi airstrikes in Yemen that reportedly killed dozens of civilians, Saudi Arabia said it will begin winding down its major combat mission in the neighboring state.

Brig. Gen. Ahmed al-Asiri said Thursday that the coalition will continue to provide air support to Yemeni forces battling Shiite Houthi rebels and Islamic militants on the ground.

Saudi Arabia's year-long air campaign has frequently come under fire for causing civilian casualties. Al-Asiri says the coalition will investigate the results of Tuesday's airstrikes, which reportedly killed at least 65 people and injured 55 more.

There are conflicting reports as to whether the majority of those killed were militants or civilians.

Karte Jemen umkämpfte Gebiete ENGLISCH

Saudi Arabia assembled a coalition of Sunni-Arab states, tacitly backed by the United States, last year to try and crush Iranian backed Houthi rebels who, in 2014, had seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa – and maintain control of it today.

UN condemnation on Wednesday, of the latest casualties, came from the top, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon.

"The secretary general condemns the airstrikes that hit al-Khamis market in Mastaba district in the Hajjah province of Yemen yesterday," Ban's office said. "This incident is one of the deadliest -- reportedly killing and wounding scores of civilians, including women and children -- since the start of the conflict.

"This is the second major incident of this kind in just over two weeks," Ban said, emphasizing that attacks on civilian areas like markets are a violation of international law.

bik/rg (AP, AFP)