An air strike by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shia rebels has struck a bus at a busy market in northern Yemen, killing least 50 people, including children, and wounding 77 others.
The Saudi-led coalition said it had targeted the rebels, known as Houthis, in the Dahyan market in Saada province after they had fired a missile at the kingdom’s south on Wednesday, killing one person.
Al Masirah TV aired dramatic images of wounded children, their clothes and schoolbags covered with blood as they lay on hospital stretchers.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Twitter that its team at a hospital in Saada received the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years old.
It also received 48 wounded people, including 30 children.
Saada province, a Houthi stronghold, lies along the border with Saudi Arabia.
The bus was ferrying local civilians, including many children, according to Yemeni tribal leaders.
Colonel Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the attack in Saada targeted the rebels who had fired a missile at the kingdom’s south, killing one person and wounding 11 others.
The coalition said the projectile, fired toward the southwestern Saudi city of Jizan, was intercepted and destroyed but its fragments caused the casualties.
The statement added that the missile was launched “deliberately to target residential and populated areas”.
Col al-Malki insisted Thursday’s attack carried out in Saada is a “legitimate military action” and is “in accordance with international humanitarian law and customs”.
He also accused the Houthis of recruiting children and using them as human shields.
Saudi Arabia backs Yemen’s internationally recognised government and has been at war with the Houthis since March 2015. The rebels control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.
“Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of ten,” the head of the ICRC in Yemen, Johannes Bruwer, said on his Twitter account, adding that the ICRC in Yemen is “sending additional supplies to hospitals to cope with the influx”.
Later on Thursday, air strikes hit the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and sounds of the blasts reverberated across the city’s southern and western areas. There was no immediate word on casualties.
Yemen’s three-year war has killed more than 10,000 people, badly damaged Yemen’s infrastructure and crippled its health system. The coalition faces widespread international criticism for air strikes in Yemen that kill civilians.
Impoverished Yemen, on the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula, is in the grip of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, with more than 22.2 million people in need of assistance.
- Press Association