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Press briefing on Yemen and Gaza

Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights: Rupert Colville
Location:   Geneva
Date: 19 December 2017
Subject:   (1) Yemen casualties (2) Gaza shooting

(1)  Yemen casualties

We are deeply concerned at the recent surge in civilian casualties in Yemen as a result of intensified airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, following the killing of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh in Sana’a on 4 December.

Our Office in Yemen verified that 136 civilians and non-combatants were killed and some 87 injured as a result of airstrikes in Sana’a, Sa’ada, Al Hudaydah and Taizz governorates in the period from 6 to 16 December.

Among the incidents we were able to verify, four civilians were killed and four injured on 9 December when Coalition airstrikes hit the official Yemen TV Channel, Qanat Al Yemen, which has been under the Houthis control since September 2014.

At least seven civilians were killed when airstrikes struck a hospital in Al Hudaydah on 10 December. Some Houthi military vehicles were reported to be next to the hospital compound at the time of the airstrikes.

The Coalition carried out seven airstrikes on 13 December that struck a military police compound in the Shaub district of Sana’a. Based on information gathered by our Yemen Office, the airstrikes first hit the compound’s prison building, and then the prison yard, killing at least 45 people and injuring 53.  All the victims were reported to be detainees and said to belong to the Resistance Forces loyal to President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

On 16 December, one woman and nine children, who were returning home from a wedding party, were killed as a result of Coalition airstrikes in Harib Al Qaramish district of Marib Governorate. In addition, we have just verified reports that 20 civilians, including 14 children, were killed and four children injured on 15 December when Coalition airstrikes hit a farmhouse in Al Khawkhah district of Al Hudaydah Governorate.

We urge all parties to the conflict to respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including their obligation to respect the principles of distinction, proportionality and precaution. They should take all feasible precautions to avoid, and in any event to minimise, the impact of violence on civilians.   
Our Office is also greatly concerned about reported recent violations by Houthis against members of Saleh’s political party, the General People’s Congress – the GPC - including attacks and arbitrary detentions.

On 3 December, Houthi-affiliated forces detonated bombs around the house of a GPC member in Hajjah governorate, killing four people and injuring four. On 5 December, another house said to belong to a GPC member was bombed by Houthis, also in Hajjah.

There have also been unconfirmed reports of summary killings and detention of people affiliated to the GPC, although verification of these reports by our Office has been difficult as witnesses fear possible repercussion from the Houthis.

Since March 2015 and as of 14 December, our Office has documented a total of 5558 civilians killed and 9,065 injured.

(2)  Gaza shooting

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said Tuesday he was “truly shocked” at the killing of a wheelchair-bound amputee by Israeli Security Forces close to the fence between Gaza and Israel last Friday.

“The facts gathered so far by my staff in Gaza strongly suggest that the force used against Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was excessive,” Zeid said. “International human rights law strictly regulates the use of force in the context of protests and demonstrations. The lethal use of firearms should only be employed as the last resort, when strictly unavoidable, in order to protect life. However, as far as we can see, there is nothing whatsoever to suggest that Ibrahim Abu Thurayeh was posing an imminent threat of death or serious injury when he was killed. Given his severe disability, which must have been clearly visible to those who shot him, his killing is incomprehensible – a truly shocking and wanton act.” 

Full press release: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=22550&LangID=E


For more information and media requests, please contact Rupert Colville (+41 22 917 97 67 / rcolville@ohchr.org), or Liz Throssell (+41 22 917 94 66 / ethrossell@ohchr.org)

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