The UN chief has strongly condemned a reported attack in Yemen blamed for the deaths of an estimated 131 civilians at a wedding party, while calling for an investigation.
The incident happened on Monday, with local medical officials accusing the Arab coalition of causing the deaths while bombing a village near the Red Sea port of al-Makha (Mocha).
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies launched an air campaign in March against the Iran-allied Shia Houthis, after they forced Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi into exile.
More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in the ongoing conflict, according to the UN.
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency carried no comment on the reports of the deaths in al-Makha, but the spokesman for the Arab coalition rejected the claims of air attacks in the area.
“Any intentional attack against civilians is considered a serious violation of international humanitarian law,” Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said in a statement on Monday.
“Violations of international law should be investigated through prompt, effective, independent and impartial mechanisms to ensure accountability.”
Reports said the fatalities include children.
Tribal leader’s account
A local tribal leader told DPA news agency that coalition aircraft first struck a pavilion for female guests at the wedding in Wagha village, while the women were gathering around the bride.
A second strike then hit the separate pavilion for male guests, Sheikh Abdullah al-Fadhli, the tribal leader, said after visiting the scene of the attack.
Fadhli, a member of al-Makha’s local council, said there were no military positions or Houthi fighters in the vicinity of the wedding party.
Local residents and witnesses said that coalition aircraft had carried out intense raids against Houthi positions in the al-Makha area in recent days.
A Saudi official told the European Parliament that his country was abiding by international law in its military campaign.
“Of course there is always going to be some casualties in any military conflict,” Mohammed bin Amin al-Jefri, deputy speaker of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly, said in Brussels.
Jefri made no specific reference to Monday’s incident but said Saudi Arabia had been “very, very careful, and the government has been declaring that they have been taking all measures to ensure that this is to the bare minimum possibility in this area”.
Separately, Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asseri, the Arab coalition spokesman, denied the report in an interview to Reuters.
“There have been no air operations by the coalition in that area for three days,” Asseri said.
“This is totally false news.”
A local Yemeni official said Arab coalition air strikes on a village in the northwestern province of Hajja killed 19 people on Sunday.
An air strike on a market last week in northern Saada province, the stronghold of the Houthis, killed 73 people, according to Yemeni health ministry officials.
Al Jazeera could not independently verify the claims by the government officials.
Al Jazeera’s Hashem Ahelbarra said there are no signs that coalition-led strikes are slowing down.
“The problem that the international community faces in Yemen is that they don’t see any potential political way out of the crisis,” he said.