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For the second time in little more than four months the Saudi-led coalition has bombed a funeral gathering in Yemen.
An airstrike yesterday hit a house where women had assembled to mourn the death of another woman. At least five of them were killed in the attack and dozens wounded, according to AP. A later report from Reuters put the death toll at nine.
The attack, on a house in Arhab, 25 miles north-east of Sanaa, raises further questions about Saudi compliance with international humanitarian law and about British and American arms supplies. The British government, for example, has a legal obligation not to provide weapons "if there is a clear risk that there might be a violation of international humanitarian law".
Last October Saudi Arabia bombed a much larger funeral gathering in Sanaa, killing more than 140 people and injuring at least 525. That apparent war crime brought renewed pressure on Britain and the US to suspend arms supplies.
The pressure for suspension was eased when the coalition's Joint Incidents Assessment Team conducted a hastily-organised investigation. Saudi Arabia, which had initially denied any involvement in the massacre, then admitted responsibility – blaming a mixture of incompetence and indiscipline.
It said the attack had been instigated by the kingdom's Yemeni allies who provided false information that "a gathering of armed Houthi leaders" was taking place. It also said the attack had failed to comply with the coalition's rules of engagement, having been carried out without approval from the coalition command and without following the command's "precautionary measures" to ensure that the location was not a civilian one.
Although the coalition has often shown disregard for civilian lives, the investigators' report helped to create an impression that the funeral bombing was a one-off mistake. The report also proposed several measures to prevent a recurrence.
A recurrence has now happened, indicating that whatever new measures were put in place to safeguard civilians haven't worked and – perhaps worse – that the Saudis have little interest in making them work.
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