Dozens dead in Yemen after school bus carrying children hit by airstrike

Arturo Kim
August 10, 2018

An airstrike blamed on the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen hit a bus in a busy market on Thursday in the country's north, killing at least 20 people, including children, Yemeni tribal leaders said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the coalition air strike and called on all parties to spare civilians and "to respect their obligations under worldwide humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack", U.N. deputy spokesman Farhan Haq said.

The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said that a hospital it supports in Saada had received 29 dead bodies of "mainly children" under 15 years of age, and 40 injured, including 30 children.

"Today's attack in Saada was a legitimate military operation. and was carried out in accordance with global humanitarian law", the Arabic-language coalition statement said, quoting spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki.

On Aug 2, attacks on a hospital and a fish market in the strategic rebel-held port city of Hodeida killed at least 55 civilians and wounded 170, according to the ICRC.

On Wednesday, the official Saudi Press Agency carried a statement by the Saudi-led coalition saying fragments of a missile fired by the Houthis into the kingdom's south killed one civilian and wounded 11.

The missile was sacked from the rebel-held Yemeni province of Amran towards Jizan, the coalition said. But the coalition denied carrying out any attacks in the city, saying it follows a "strict and transparent approach based on the rules worldwide law".

"A total of 43 people, mostly pupils under the age of 10, were killed and 64 were injured when two Saudi-led airstrikes hit passenger buses in Dahyan popular market", Yahya Shayem, head of Saada Health Office, told Xinhua news agency.

Colonel al-Maliki said the coalition will take all necessary actions against the criminal, terrorist acts of pro-Iranian Houthi militias, such as the recruitment and placement of children on battle fronts and "using them as tools to cover for their terrorist acts".

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The bus targeted by the coalition forces was carrying a group of young school children attending summer classes of the Holy Qur'an, Yemen's al-Masirah television network reported.

Houthi media aired gruesome footage appearing to show the bodies of children in school uniform.

"Targeting Saudis and residents in Saudi is a red line", coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki later told Al Arabiya TV.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday condemned the air strike and called for an "independent and prompt investigation", his spokesman said.

After today's strike, Lise Grande, United Nations humanitarian coordinator in Yemen, urged all parties to come to the table.

He said: "No there were not children on the bus".

The Iran-backed Houthis have in recent months ramped up missile attacks against Saudi Arabia, which Riyadh usually says it intercepts.

A U.S. military spokeswoman said USA forces were not involved in Thursday's air strike.

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