ADEN, (Reuters) – Saudi-led coalition air strikes on Thursday killed dozens of people, including children travelling on a bus through a market, in Yemen’s Saada province, a Yemeni health official and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
The Western-backed alliance fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi group in Yemen said in a statement that the air strikes targeted missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday, killing a Yemeni civilian there.
It accused the Houthis of using children as human shields and said the strikes were carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam said the coalition showed “clear disregard for civilian life” as the attack had targeted a crowded public place in the city.
The ICRC said a strike hit the bus driving children in Dahyan market, in northern Saada.
“Our shops were open and shoppers were walking around as usual. All of those who died were residents, children and shop owners,” witness Moussa Abdullah, who was being treated in hospital for wounds, told Reuters.
The ICRC said on its Twitter account that its medical team at the ICRC-supported hospital in Saada had received the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years old. The hospital also received 48 wounded people, among them 30 children.
That was the toll at just one hospital.
Abdul-Ghani Sareeh, from Saada health department, told Reuters: “A bus carrying children was targeted today while they were coming from summer school resulting in 43 martyrs and almost 63 wounded.”
White plastic body bags filled the floor of a room in the ICRC-supported hospital.
Injured children, bloodied, bandaged and screaming, lay on stretchers as doctors treated them, friends and relatives having carried some of them in their arms to be treated.
“Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10,” Johannes Bruwer, head of the delegation for the ICRC in Yemen, said earlier in a Twitter post.
It was unclear how many of the dead in total were children and how many air strikes were carried out in the area, in northern Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslim allies intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 against the Houthis, who control the most populous areas of Yemen, including the capital Sanaa, and drove the internationally recognised government into exile in 2014.
The United States and other Western powers provide arms and intelligence to the alliance, and human rights groups have criticised them over coalition air strikes that have killed hundreds of civilians at hospitals, schools and markets.
A U.S. military spokeswoman said U.S. forces were not involved in yesterday’s air strike.