Scores of civilians, mostly children, were killed and injured in an airstrike on Thursday by U.S. allies on a bus in a crowded market in northern Yemen, according to health officials and international aid agencies.
In a tweet, the International Committee for the Red Cross said the attack targeted a bus carrying children in Dahyan market in Saada province, which borders Saudi Arabia. A hospital supported by the aid group has received “dozens of dead and wounded,” adding that “under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflict.”
The group’s head of delegation in Yemen, Johannes Bruwer, tweeted “scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10.”
The assault was the latest in a string of airstrikes to target civilians by an American-backed regional coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. The coalition entered Yemen’s civil war more than three years ago to fight northern Houthi rebels who seized power away from Yemen’s internationally recognized government.
The United States is helping the coalition, the only party in the conflict to use war planes, with refueling, intelligence and billions in weapons sales. That assistance has come under sharp criticism from Congress and the international community as civilian deaths have continued to multiply, even as the coalition promises not to target civilians.
According to the United Nations human rights office, more than 16,000 civilians have been killed or injured since the war began, the vast majority by airstrikes.
In a statement Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition said the strike was a “legitimate military action to target elements that planned and carried out” an attack that targeted civilians in Jizan, a border city in southwest Saudi Arabia.
On Wednesday, a Saudi-led coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki said the kingdom’s air defense had intercepted a ballistic missile fired by the Houthi rebels at a densely populated civilian area in Jizan, according to the Saudi Press Agency. The alleged attack left one Yemeni resident dead and 11 civilians wounded, Maliki said.
Washington Post writer Kareem Fahim contributed to this report.
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