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Saudi-led Yemen coalition announces probe into possible abuses

The coalition statement made no mention of the UN call for an inquiry into reports of violations of humanitarian law

Saudi-led coalition has conducted 119 air attacks that violated humanitarian law, according to UN panel (AFP)

The Saudi-led Arab coalition battling Shia rebels in Yemen announced on Sunday the creation of an independent commission of inquiry to examine charges of possible abuses against civilians in the conflict.

The coalition command, in a brief statement published by the official Saudi SPA news agency, said it had formed "an independent team of experts in international humanitarian law and weapons to assess the incidents and investigate the rules of engagement".

The coalition said the objective was to "develop a clear and comprehensive report on each incident with the conclusions, lessons learned, recommendations and measures that should be taken" to spare civilians.

A panel of UN experts in a report on Tuesday said the coalition had carried out 119 sorties that violated humanitarian law, and it called for an international commission of inquiry.

The report said the UN Security Council should consider setting up the inquiry to "investigate reports of violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law in Yemen by all parties and to identify the perpetrators of such violations".

The panel said it had documented coalition strikes on civilian targets including refugee camps, weddings, buses, residential areas, medical facilities, schools, mosques, markets, factories, food warehouses and airports.

Sunday's coalition statement made no mention of the UN recommendation, nor did it elaborate on the names or nationalities of its own experts.

Yemen descended into chaos when the coalition began air raids last March to support the government and stop Iran-backed Shia Houthi rebels who had taken over the capital Sanaa.

More than 5,800 people have since been killed and 27,000 wounded, according to UN figures.

About 60 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries were caused by air-launched explosives, the report said.

The UN experts documented at least three alleged cases of civilians fleeing residential bombings and being chased and shot at by helicopters.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has been increasingly vocal in his criticism of the Saudi campaign in Yemen.

Earlier in January, he warned that cluster bomb attacks by the coalition on Sanaa could amount to a war crime. The coalition later denied using them.