Senior United Nations officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have condemned an attack in the Yemeni capital, Sana'a, that killed more than 140 people and injured at least five hundred more. They also called for swift and impartial investigations into the incident.
“The Secretary-General notes that any deliberate attack against civilians is utterly unacceptable and calls for a prompt and impartial investigation of this incident,” said a statement issued by Mr. Ban's office late yesterday.
“Those responsible for the attack must be brought to justice,” it added.
Mr. Ban further expressed condolences and sympathies to the families of the victims and wished a speedy recovery to those injured. He also reminded all parties to abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law – including the fundamental rules of proportionality, distinction and precaution – to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure against attack.
According to initial reports, the attack, said to have been airstrikes by the Coalition, hit an event hall where thousands of mourners were gathered for a funeral ceremony.
The attack took place against the backdrop of worsening humanitarian situation across Yemen. According to the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), four out of every five of the country's 28 million people are in real and immediate need of assistance.
In a separate statement, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O'Brien said he was “horrified and extremely disturbed” at the attack.
“This horrendous and heinous attack displayed an utter disregard for human life. It highlights once again the disproportionate risk for civilians when explosive weapons are used in urban areas,” said Mr. O'Brien, also the UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs. “The few hospitals left able to operate continue to receive the dead and injured so the casualty figures may well rise further,” he added.
Surely enough is enough.Stephen O'Brien, UN Emergency Relief Coordinator
Mr. O'Brien, who had visited Sana'a last week, described the situation in the city as “heart-breaking.” He said that medical facilities were without medicines; parents were struggling to feed their children even once a day; and entire communities were without access to basic services or livelihoods.
Calling on all parties to protect civilians and stop using explosive weapons or conducting aerial bombardments in civilian-populated places, Mr. O'Brien expressed: “Surely enough is enough.”
Further yesterday, Jamie McGoldrick, UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen, on behalf of the UN agencies and international non-governmental organizations in the country, expressed “shock and outrage” at the incident and called on the international community to exert pressure and influence on all parties to the conflict to ensure civilians are protected.
He also hailed the work of Yemeni first responders who, in difficult circumstances, mobilized quickly to the scene and attended to those killed and injured in what he called a “senseless act.”