At least 29 children were killed and 30 wounded in a Saudi-led coalition bombing in northern Yemen, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross, which operates in the area.
At the time of the attack, on Thursday, the bus in which they were traveling through the Dahyan market in Saada province. The health ministry led by the Houthi rebel movement claims that 43 people have died and 61 have been injured.
The coalition, which is supporting Yemen’s government in a war against Houthis rebels, said its actions are “legitimate” and claims that it has never deliberately attacked civilians, but human rights groups have given it targeted bombing of markets , schools, hospitals and residential areas.
What is happening in Saada?
Elders from Yemeni tribes who live in the area told the Associated Press that the bus was hit while passing through the Dahyan market and carrying civilians – many of them students.
A team from the children’s rights organization Save the Children in the area said children were returning to school after a picnic when the bus driver stopped to buy something to drink.
The vehicle was stopped when the attack occurred, according to the NGO.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said a hospital serving the Saada area had received the bodies of 29 children, all of them under the age of 15, and served 48 injured, including 30 children.
The organization reinforced the delivery of medicines and materials to hospitals in the region to cover the volume of patients.
The Houthi-controlled Al-Masirah TV network says 47 people died in the attack and 77 were injured. The station issued images showing bodies of several children, some of them in school uniform.
Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdul-Salam accused the coalition of “clear disrespect for civilian life” by attacking public places.
The Red Cross stated that “international humanitarian law ensures that civilians are protected during conflicts.” Already the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland, said the attack was “grotesque and shameful” and showed “disrespect for the rules of war.”
It is unclear if the bus was the target of the attack. Saudi coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said the operation was a “legitimate military action, conducted in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
He said the attack hit “militants responsible for planning (attacks) and killing civilians” in the Saudi city of Jazan on Wednesday night. At the time, one Yemenite died and 11 others were injured by fragments of a missile launched by members of Houthis. The projectile would have been launched near the province of Amran.
Turki al-Malki accused the rebels of using children as “tools and shields for their terrorist acts.”
Hours later, there were reports of bombings in the Yemeni capital, Sanaa.
A week ago, at least 55 civilians were killed and 170 wounded in a series of attacks on the Yemeni city of Hudaydah in the Red Sea, which has a large rebel presence. The Saudi coalition denied that it carried out the bombing and blamed the rebels for the explosions.
Why is there a war in Yemen?
Yemen has been ravaged by violent conflict. It intensified in 2015 when the Houthi rebel group seized control of much of the western region of the country and forced President Abdrabbuh Mansour Al-Hadi to flee.
Afraid the group would increase Iranian influence in the region, the United States, Saudi Arabia and seven other Arab countries formed a coalition to restore Yemen’s rule.
About 10,000 people died, two-thirds civilians. Another 55,000 people were injured in the conflict, according to the UN.
The war and the partial blockade imposed by the coalition left 22 million people in need of humanitarian aid, creating the biggest food crisis in recent years. There was also an outbreak of cholera, which affected at least one million people.
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