CAIRO – In a rare admission, a US-backed Saudi-led coalition claimed responsibility for an airstrike last month in a school bus in northern Yemen that killed dozens of people, including at least 40 children.
The coalition's statement called the attack unwarranted and vowed to punish those involved.
The coalition said that an internal investigation had concluded that mistakes had been made in complying with the rules of engagement. I regret these mistakes and express condolences and solidarity to the relatives of the victims and wish the injured a speedy recovery.
The apology fell in a conflict now in its fourth year with the Saudi-led coalition seeking to eliminate Houthi rebels and restore the internationally recognized government of Yemen
More than 17,000 civilians have been killed or injured by air strikes since the beginning of the war, fights have exacerbated the world's worst humanitarian crisis and millions are starving, ill and displaced.
The apology followed the increasing pressure of the United States and its allies on the coalition Last week, the United Nations published a devastating report accusing all parties of possibly committing war crimes in Yemen, in particular coalition attacks, and the Coalition rejected the report's findings.
A few hours after the report was released, Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis publicly stated that the continued military support of US allies in the conflict was" not unconditional "and improved efforts towards Dependence on civilian casualties depended
The Pentagon supports the coalition in the refueling of combat aircraft, the exchange of intelligence information and the sale of weapons worth billions.
The apology also goes back to the UN-sponsored negotiations in Geneva next week about all parties in Yemen ]
The coalition had initially claimed that the 9 August air strike in the province of Saada was "a legitimate one Military action "against the Houthi rebels a day earlier shot down a ballistic missile in a border city in southwestern Saudi Arabia. The rocket attack killed a civilian and injured 11, the coalition said. He also claimed that the rebels used children as human shields.
Speaking to reporters in the Saudi capital Riyadh, Major General Mansour al-Mansour, a legal adviser to the Coalition's internal investigative body, said the intelligence services had hinted bus was carrying rebel leaders, making it a legitimate target.
But delays in the execution of the attack led to the civilian casualties, he said, describing them as "collateral damage". Local Witnesses said the bus transported children returning from a summer school trip
The coalition said it would start the legal process to "hold responsible those who made mistakes" and also plans to Yemeni to compensate victims. It further committed itself to better prevent civilian killing.
"The coalition will continue to review the rules of engagement and seek to improve them so that these errors are not repeated in accordance with past experience of operations," the statement said.
Kareem Fahim in Istanbul contributed to this report.