Airstrikes on a market in northern Yemen on Thursday killed dozens of people, including at least 29 children in a school bus, drawing international condemnation and putting a spotlight on a U.S.-backed Saudi military coalition accused of carrying out the attack.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said medics in the Yemeni city of Saada, where the attack took place, had received the bodies of the children, all of them under 15 years of age. It also received 48 wounded, including 30 children.
The health ministry controlled by Yemen’s Houthi rebels put the death toll higher Thursday evening, at 50 killed and 77 wounded. The Iran-allied rebels blamed the Saudi coalition for the attack.
A spokesman for the coalition said the group had carried out airstrikes in Saada province on Thursday in a “legitimate military action,” targeting militants responsible for a missile attack the day before on southern Saudi Arabia, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.
The spokesman didn’t draw an explicit link between the coalition strikes and the school bus death toll, but he accused the Houthis of recruiting child soldiers, putting them on battlefields and using them to cover up terrorist acts.
The Saudi-led military coalition is fighting to remove the Houthis from power in the capital, San’a, and often carries out airstrikes against the rebel group. The strikes’ civilian toll, however, has brought growing rebukes from aid groups and politicians abroad.
The United Nations estimates that Saudi coalition strikes have killed more than 4,000 civilians since the war began more than three years ago. In the U.S., the toll has led to congressional opposition to American support for the coalition, which includes aerial refueling and targeting assistance.
“The U.S. must stop supporting these barbaric attacks,”
Rep. Ro Khanna
(D., Calif.) said Thursday. “Now more than ever we must end our complicity in this slaughter.”
State Department spokeswoman
said the U.S. was concerned about the reports and called on the Saudi-led coalition to carry out a thorough and fair investigation, but called Saudi Arabia “an important strategic partner.”
The Houthis’ political office condemned the killing of children, while their defense ministry vowed an unspecified response.
“The massacres against children in Yemen by the collation forces proved that children’s rights are a big lie,” said
a Houthi spokesman.
The Houthis launched a “Badr 1” missile at an industrial complex near Jizan, Saudi Arabia, on Wednesday evening, according to the group’s official news agency. Saudi forces intercepted it, but shrapnel from the interception killed one person and injured 11 more, the coalition spokesman said Wednesday.
Jan Egeland, the head of the Norwegian Refugee Council, which provided aid to about 762,000 people in Yemen last year, decried Thursday’s attack as “grotesque, shameful” in a tweet.
“Blatant disregard for rules of war when [a] bus carrying innocent school children is fair game for attack,” he wrote.
The attack comes as diplomatic efforts to resolve Yemen’s protracted war heat up.
the U.N. envoy to Yemen, said a week ago he would invite the sides to talks in Geneva on Sep. 6, the first round of talks in two years.
—Dion Nissenbaum contributed to this article.
Write to Asa Fitch at email@example.com
Appeared in the August 10, 2018, print edition as ‘Airstrikes in Northern Yemen Kill Dozens.’