Thousands of mourners on Monday buried dozens of children killed in a Saudi-led coalition air strike on a bus in northern Yemen, one of the deadliest attacks on civilians in the three-year-old war.
At least 40 children were killed in Thursday’s raid which hit the bus as it drove through a market of Dahyan, a town in Saada, the armed Houthi group which controls the province said.
Amid outrage from international human rights groups and U.N. officials, Riyadh defended the raid as a “legitimate military action” intended to hit Houthi leaders, a day after it authorized a coalition investigation of the strike.
The Gulf Arab states are leading the alliance of Sunni Muslim countries that intervened in Yemen’s war in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government that was expelled from the capital Sanaa by the Houthis in 2014.
The coalition said on Friday it would investigate the strike after U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the attack and called for an independent probe.
But on Saturday, state news agency SPA said Riyadh’s mission to the world body delivered a message to Guterres reiterating that the raid was “legitimate” and targeted Houthi leaders “responsible for recruiting and training young children”.
“War can’t be a clean operation unfortunately,” UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash told reporters in Dubai when asked about the Saada attack. “But I will say all parties need to accept their part in what they are doing today.”
The coalition initially said after the attack that the strike had targeted missile launchers that were used by the Houthis to attack the southern Saudi province of Jizan.
The Houthis’ health minister Taha Mutawakil said last week that the number of casualties stood at 51 killed including 40 children, and at least 79 people wounded, of which 56 were children. The International Committee of the Red Cross reported the same toll on Friday, citing authorities in Saada.
Story by Reuters