Thousands of Yemenis marched in the capital Sanaa on Sunday to protest a Saudi-led coalition air strike a day earlier that hit a funeral hall packed with hundreds of mourners, killing more than 140 people.
The casualty toll, given by a UN official, also mentioned more than 525 wounded in what was one of the deadliest single attacks of the country’s civil war. The rebel-controlled Health Ministry gave a lower figure, saying that 115 bodies had been counted but that the number will likely rise because “charred remains” were still being identified. Of the 600 wounded it tallied, it said many cases were serious and at least 300 would need treatment abroad.
Some of the demonstrators who marched outside the UN building in southern Sanaa blamed the organization for not ending the conflict and urged an independent investigation. Some protesters brandished automatic weapons and rebel supporters in the crowd called on people from the region to rise up and attack Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi military announced early Sunday it would launch an investigation into “reports about the regrettable and painful bombing” in Sanaa, without acknowledging that its coalition battling rebels in Yemen is the only force with air power in the conflict.
It is the latest in a string of bombings by the coalition that have struck hospitals, markets and other places where civilians congregate.
“The place has been turned into a lake of blood,” said one rescuer, Murad Tawfiq.
Yemeni officials said the dead and wounded included military and security officials from the ranks of the Shiite Houthis rebels and their allies, loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
Houthi leader Abdul-Malek al-Houthi decried the attacks in a televised address, saying that they had been done with U.S. weapons and with a “green light” from Washington. Mr. Saleh also took to state TV to call on citizens to head to the Saudi border and attack soldiers there to avenge the deaths. The rebel alliance is battling the internationally-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
In the aftermath of the strike, hundreds of body parts were found strewn in and outside the hall. Rescuers collected them in sacks. The strike left the building little more than a shell, with most of its walls and roof gone.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, the Houthi spokesman in Sanaa, angrily denounced the air strike as the latest act of “genocide” by the Saudi-led coalition.