Children among dead in latest attack on Yemen civilians

At least 14 killed as suspected Saudi-led coalition raids hit Sanaa with rescuers rushing to pull victims from rubble.

People search under rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air strike in Sanaa
People search under rubble of a house destroyed by a Saudi-led air raid in Sanaa [Khaled Abdullah/Reuters]

At least five children were among 14 people killed in an air raid in a residential neighbourhood of Yemen’s capital Sanaa, the second day of mass civilian deaths in the war-torn country.

The attack destroyed two buildings on Friday in the southern district of Faj Attan, leaving people buried under debris.

Mohammed Ahmad, who lived in one of the buildings, said he was among residents who had taken nine bodies to a hospital.

“We extracted them one by one from under the rubble,” he said. “Some of them were children from a single family.”

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“When the rocket hit, one of the buildings was immediately destroyed which caused the building next door to collapse too. Some residents got out, but others were trapped.”

The death toll was feared to rise further as rescuers pull more victims from the rubble.

“There is no military base anywhere near the site of the attack, it’s a residential area,” Hakim Al Masmari, the editor in chief of Yemen post, told Al Jazeera.

“The entire country is mourning the deaths. It is unexpected and unbearable when civilians are killed.”

Coalition comment

The air raids were believed to be carried out by the Saudi-led coalition. The coalition said in a statement on Friday it was aware of reports of the incident and would review all its operations in that region and at that time.

When the review was complete it would announce the results, it said.

The alliance’s rules of engagement were based on the regulations of international humanitarian law, the statement said, adding it was committed to protecting civilians.

“What happened today in Fag Attan in the capital by the fighter jets against the civilians requires an investigation by the coalition,” Yemeni Foreign Minister Abdel-Malek al-Mekhalfi posted on Twitter, in what appeared to be a rare show of discontent at the government’s main backer, Saudi Arabia.

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Earlier this week, coalition fighter jets attacked a hotel in Arhab, north of Sanaa, killing at least 41 people.

Liz Throssell, a spokeswoman for the UN’s High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), told all parties in the Yemen conflict to “ensure full respect for international humanitarian law” after the air raids on Friday.

Witnesses said eight members of a single family were killed as a result of the attack by the Saudi-led coalition, including the family’s one-year-old baby.

“Eight of the victims were members of the same family, including five children between three and 10 years old,” said Carlos Morazzani, the deputy head of ICRC’s delegation in Yemen, after visiting the site of the attack.

“Such loss of civilian life is outrageous and runs counter to the basic tenets of the law of armed conflict.”

Speaking in Geneva, Throssell called on authorities to start “comprehensive and impartial investigations” into Friday’s bloodshed.

UN humanitarian chief Stephen O’Brien last week described the conflict between the Saudi-backed Yemeni government and the Houthis as a “deplorable, avoidable, completely man-made catastrophe” in a briefing to the UN Security Council.

The number of air raids per month is now three times higher than last year, and monthly reports of armed clashes are up 50 percent, he said.

The conflict in Yemen has escalated dramatically since March 2015, when Saudi-led forces launched a military operation against rebels.

Since fighting began, more than 10,000 people have been killed, and millions have been driven from their homes.

The country is also facing a health crisis, with close to 2,000 people having died from cholera since April, more than half a million people infected, and another 600,000 expected to contract the infection this year.

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Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies