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Dozens dead in Yemen as bus carrying children hit by airstrike

Red Cross says strike hit bus at market in Dahyan in rebel-held north of country

Dozens of civilians, mostly children, have been killed and more wounded in an airstrike by the US-backed, Saudi-led coalition in Yemen that hit a bus in the rebel-held north of the country.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), one of the few humanitarian institutions helping civilians on the ground in the war-torn country, said a hospital supported by the organisation had received dozens of casualties after the attack at a market in Dahyanin Saada governorate.

Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflict, the organisation tweeted. Johannes Bruwer, head of delegation for the ICRC in Yemen, tweeted: Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10.

It was not possible to confirm the death toll, but Abdul-Ghani Nayeb, a health department chief in Saada, said 43 were killed and at least 61 injured, according to Reuters. Houthi-controlled Al Masirah television broadcast unverified footage of dead and bloodied children being transferred to a hospital. Children are seen screaming as medical teams treat them.

The Saudi-led coalition accused said the strikes were aimed at missile launchers used to attack Jizan industrial city in southern Saudi Arabia, a statement carried by state news agency SPA said. “[The air strikes] conformed to international and humanitarian laws,” the statement said, quoting coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki. The statement accused the Iran-aligned Houthis of using children as human shields.

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A doctor treats an injured child. Photograph: Naif Rahma/Reuters

The coalition, also backed by the UAE, launched a military intervention in Yemenin 2015 aimed at countering the advances of Iran-backed Houthis, who are viewed by Riyadh as Iranian proxies. The Saudi intervention is also aimed at reinstating the ousted president, Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Riyadh and Tehran are on the opposing ends of the three-year conflict. In recent months, Saudi Arabia and UAE forces have advanced towards the port city of Hodeidah, which is held by the Houthis. Most aid and food for Yemen comes through the port.

In response, Houthis have intensified missile attacks on Saudi targets. Two Houthi missile attacks on oil tankers off the Yemeni coast led to Saudi Arabia temporarily suspending oil shipments through the strategic shipping lane of Bab al-Mandeb.

The Saudi-led coalition was accused of carrying out airstrikes on 2 August near a fish market and hospital in Hodeidah that killed 55 people and injured 130 more.

The UN office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs said that since June, when fighting around Hodeidah escalated, its partners in the area had registered 50,500 displaced households.

Weve said this before and we are saying it again: parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and civilian infrastructure. This is not a voluntary commitment, it is mandatory on all belligerents, Lise Grande, the UNs Yemen humanitarian coordinator, said on Thursday. So many people have died in Yemen this conflict has to stop.

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Smoke rises after an airstrike over Yemen. Photograph: Mohamed Al-Sayaghi/Reuters

The coalition has been criticised for repeatedly targeting civilian areas, including markets and hospitals, during the conflict, which has claimed more than 10,000 lives and left millions of people on the brink of starvation.

The Saudi-UAE coalition carried out 258 airstrikes on Yemen in June alone, nearly one-third of which hit residential areas, according to the Yemen Data Project, an independent group collecting data about the conflict.

Saada has been a target of Saudi airstrikes before. In August 2016, an attack hit a school in the Haydan district, killing 10 students who were all under 15, according to Mdecins Sans Frontires. An attack on the same day in Razih district hit the house of a school principle, killing his wife, four children and relatives.

The situation in Yemen has been described as the worlds greatest humanitarian crisis. Between January and May, aid agencies helped 7.5 million people, the UN O said this month. The Houthis also stand accused of causing civilian deaths. On Wednesday Saudi Arabias official news agency said that fragments of a missile fired into the country killed one civilian and wounded 11.

According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the UK has licensed 4.7bn worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015, including 2.7bn worth of aircraft, helicopters, and drones, and 1.9bn worth for weapons systems such as grenades, bombs and missiles.

Andrew Smith, from the organisation, said: This atrocity cannot be ignored. The UK government has been utterly complicit in the destruction. It has armed and supported the Saudi-led coalition right from the start. The death toll has spiralled, and the humanitarian crisis has only got worse, and yet the arms sales have continued.

Martin Griffiths, the UNs special envoy for Yemen, told the security council this month that he would convene the countrys first talks in two years to try to secure peace between the Saudi-backed forces and Houthi rebels. He has said that time was long past for negotiations to resume, adding he would bring the parties together on 6 September in Geneva.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2018/aug/09/dozens-dead-in-yemen-as-bus-carrying-children-hit-by-airstrike-icrc

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