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Saudi-led coalition defends deadly Yemen bus attack

Dozens of children were killed in the Saudi-led coalition airstrike [Getty]

Date of publication: 9 August, 2018

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A deadly airstrike on a bus in Yemen that killed dozens of children was claimed by the Saudi-led coalition which claimed it was targeting "Houthi combatants".

The Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi rebels in Yemen confirmed it carried out a deadly attack in the rebel-held north on Thursday which killed dozens of children.

The coalition called the strike a "legitimate military action" that targeted elements responsible for a rebel missile attack on the Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday, a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency reported.

The International Committee of the Red Cross said the attack hit a bus filled with children, causing dozens of casualties.

""A hospital supported by our team in Yemen received the bodies of 29 children under the age of 15 and 48 wounded, including 30 children," the ICRC said on Twitter.

A spokesman for the Red Cross in Sanaa told AFP the toll was not final as casualties from the attack were taken to several hospitals.

"Under international humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflict," it added.

The children were on a bus heading back to school "from a picnic when the driver stopped to get a drink”, according to Save The Children.

"Save the Children condemns this horrific attack and is calling for a full, immediate and independent investigation into this and other recent attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure," it said.

The Houthis' al-Masirah TV, quoting the rebel health ministry, reported that 50 people were killed and 77 wounded, "mostly children", though it was not possible to verify that toll.

Footage provided by the rebels' Ansarullah Media Centre showed a number of wounded children lying two to a hospital bed, while in a separate shot medics tend to casualties in a crowded room.

The UN children's agency UNICEF said it was "very concerned with the initial reports of children being killed”.

But coalition spokesman Turki al-Maliki told AFP that claims by aid organisations that children were inside the bus were "misleading", adding that the bus carried "Houthi combatants".

The coalition, which also includes the United Arab Emirates, intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government after the rebels drove it out of the capital Sanaa.

On Wednesday, Saudi Arabia shot down a missile fired by the Houthis with debris killing a Yemeni man and wounding 11 others, the coalition said.

The missile was fired from the rebel-held Yemeni province of Amran towards Jizan, the coalition said.

Last Thursday, 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.

The coalition denied responsibility for those attacks.

Airstrikes have also destroyed much of Yemen's already basic infrastructure, leading to the world's worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN.

Malnutrition, cholera and other diseases have killed or sickened thousands of civilians over the years.

Martin Griffiths, the UN's special envoy for Yemen, said earlier this month that he will invite warring sides in Yemen for talks on 6 September in Geneva to discuss a framework for peace negotiations.

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