Yemen crisis: Calls for UK Government to investigate whether British-supplied jets were used in Saudi airstrike on refugee camp which left dozens dead

Campaign groups are demanding the introduction of a 'full embargo on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia'

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The Independent Online

The Government is facing calls to investigate whether British-supplied jets flown by Saudi Arabian forces were used in an airstrike on a Yemeni refugee camp which left dozens dead.

Aid workers said that up to 40 people were killed and 200 injured in the raid on Monday at the Al Mazraq camp which was blamed on Saudi forces leading a pan-Arab coalition to halt the advance of the Iranian-backed Houthi militia in Yemen.

A pro-Houthi television station has broadcast footage which claimed to show the bodies of victims and casualties, including children, from the attack on the camp housing thousands of displaced Yemenis in the northwestern province of Hajjah, close to the Saudi border.

As Saudi and Houthi forces continued to exchange heavy fire across the border, aid agencies expressed alarm at high civilian casualties from the five days of air strikes across Yemen, which the United Nations in Geneva said had killed at least 93 civilians and left 364 wounded.

Media including the Saudi-owned Al Arabiya television station reported that British-made Tornado and UK-supplied Typhoon jets are among the 100 Saudi jets being used in the ongoing operation to destroy the Shi’ite militia which last week forced the Yemeni president to flee the country.


The ten-nation force continues to pound Houthi positions, for the first time using warships to bomb the rebel-held airport and eastern outskirts of the port city of Aden.

Iran called for talks between all sides but the Yemeni foreign minister, Riyadh Yasseen, called for an Arab ground intervention in the country “as soon as possible”.

The Saudi authorities said all steps were being taken to avoid civilian casualties and that they were seeking clarification of the incident at Al Mazraq, amid suggestions that the refugee camp may have been being used as a base for Houthi fighters.

But human rights groups said there was grave concern that British armaments being used in the campaign were responsible for civilian casualties, in particular at the Al Mazraq.

A spokesman for the Campaign Against Arms Trade said: “The UK has sold large numbers of fighter jets to Saudi Arabia and there is every reason to believe they have been involved in the bombing.

“The Government needs investigate if UK weapons have been used and take responsibility by announcing a full embargo on all arms sales to Saudi Arabia.”

Amnesty International said it was concerned that the ten-strong multinational force being led by Saudi Arabia was failing to take sufficient precautions to prevent civilian casualties after six people, including four children, burned to death in air strikes today.

Said Boumedouha, the group’s Middle East and North Africa director, said: “It is becoming increasingly apparent that the Saudi Arabian-led coalition is turning a blind eye to civilian deaths and suffering caused by its military intervention.”

There were differing reports of casualty figures from the Al Mazraq strike with the UN saying that at least 19 civilians died with 35 wounded, including 11 children. The International Organisation for Migration (IOM) said its staff had reported 40 dead and up to 200 injured.

Witnesses reported that the target of the strike may have been a truck carrying militants that was at the gates of the camp and the casualties included women and children in the vicinity.

Brigadier General Ahmed Al Asiri, a Saudi military spokesman, said: “It could have been that the fighter jets replied to fire, and we cannot confirm that it was a refugee camp.”

A Government spokesman said: ““It is for the Saudi-led Coalition to comment on the detail of military operations and we understand that they are urgently looking into this incident. The UK and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia have a long history of defence cooperation, including in the provision of training to ensure compliance with international humanitarian law.”