In a rare change of public position, Saudi Arabia’s coalition has revised their stance on the August 9 attack on a Yemeni school bus full of children. Previously termed a “legitimate military target” by the coalition, the assessment team now says the attack was “unjustified.”
The assessment team cited the collateral damage in its determination, saying that “mistakes” had been made in the attack, and calling for those responsible to be held legally accountable. They were somewhat vague on what this would entail, and that raised a lot of skepticism from analysts.
Analysts were quick to note that the report did not amount to an apology, and only a weaker statement of “regret.” They likewise noted that nowhere in the report did it say that killing a busload of children as-such was a problem, but rather that it was unwarranted in this specific case.
The Pentagon was quick to endorse the statement, naturally, as their problems with the deaths was somewhat nebulous in the first place, and they just wanted anything that could be spun as accountability to allow them to move on from the issue.
But while the Saudi statement wasn’t everything it could have been, it is virtually unprecedented in a war where the UN empowered the Saudis to investigate themselves, and where that has meant, everywhere and always, a white-wash of large civilian death tolls.
In this case, the Saudis not only admitted to the attack, but declared it a “legitimate” attack on a busload of children. That’s a bold stance to take, and it’s clearly blown up in their face. But in the past the Saudis have always doubled down in the face of criticism, and this time, they’re offering at least a tacit admission that what happened shouldn’t have.