Skip to main content

Saudi-led coalition announces probe of Yemen air strike, rebels report 40 children dead

Yemenis dig graves for children, who where killed when their bus was hit during a Saudi-led coalition air strike, that targeted the Dahyan market the previous day in the Huthi rebels' stronghold province of Saada on August 10, 2018. - An attack on a bus at a market in rebel-held northern Yemen killed at least 29 children on August 9, the Red Cross said, as the Saudi-led coalition faced a growing outcry over the strike. (Photo by STRINGER / AFP)STRINGER/AFP/Getty Images

STRINGER/Getty Images

A Saudi-led Arab military coalition said on Friday it would investigate an air strike that killed dozens of children in Yemen, an apparent shift of stance on an attack Riyadh has portrayed as a legitimate action against its Houthi foes.

At least 40 children were killed in Thursday’s strike on a bus in northern Yemen, the Houthi group that controls Yemen’s capital said. That raised the toll of children killed in the raid from 29.

The strike by the Western-backed alliance of Arab countries outraged human-rights groups and was strongly condemned by UN officials. Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children’s Fund, Unicef, said the “horrific” attack marked “a low point in [Yemen’s] brutal war.”

Story continues below advertisement

People in Saada started to dig graves in preparation for funerals to be held on Saturday.

“God may give us patience,” said Hussein Hussein Tayeb, who lost three sons on the bus, on a trip with other pupils to visit a mosque and tombs.

“I was one of the first to arrive on the scene, seeking to rescue the wounded; I lifted a body and I found that it was Ahmed’s face. I hugged him, he was my son.”

Ahmed was 11. His brothers Yusef and Ali were 14 and 9, respectively.

UN chief Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation of the raid, which hit the bus as it drove through a market in Dahyan, a town in the Houthis’ home province of Saada.

The UN Security Council on Friday called for a “credible and transparent” investigation after receiving a closed-door briefing on the strike by a senior UN official.

A Reuters TV crew saw boys injured in the strike lying on beds in the Dahyan hospital, many with their heads wrapped. The face of one was covered in lacerations.

Story continues below advertisement

The Arab states carried out new air strikes on Friday, killing a girl and injuring several other people whose home was targeted in the province of Marib, east of the capital, Sanaa, the Houthis’ al-Masirah TV said.

Announcing the investigation into the strike on the bus, the Saudi Press Agency quoted an alliance official as saying: “The coalition is firmly committed to investigating all claims regarding mistakes or violations of international law, to sanction those who caused these incidents and to provide assistance to the victims.”

The Saudi-led Arab alliance, whose members receive Western political support and buy billions of dollars a year in arms from the United States, Britain and France, has been fighting for three years to drive out the Houthis, Iran-aligned fighters who pushed a Saudi-backed government out of the capital in 2014.

Yemen is the poorest country in the Arabian Peninsula, and the United Nations says the war has created the world’s most urgent humanitarian disaster, with millions of people totally dependent on aid and at risk of famine if supply lines are cut.

“LEGITIMATE”

The Arab states initially said the air strikes on the bus were “legitimate military action” against missile launchers, carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law.

Houthi-run al-Masirah TV cited the group’s health minister, Taha Mutawakil, as saying the estimated number of casualties stood at 51 killed, including 40 children, and at least 79 people wounded, of whom 56 were children.

Story continues below advertisement

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) reported the same toll on Friday, citing authorities in Saada. It had said on its Twitter account on Thursday that its medical team at the ICRC-supported hospital in Saada had received the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years old. The hospital also received 48 wounded people, among them 30 children.

Al-Masirah TV said on Friday the Houthis had fired a number of ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia, targeting Jizan and Aseer provinces, which lie at the border. Saudi Arabia intercepted two missiles fired at Jizan, al-Arabiya TV reported.

The head of the Houthis’ supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, hailed Friday’s call by Mr. Guterres for an independent investigation into the air strike.

In Paris, the French Foreign Ministry said France condemned the strike and backed a UN call to bring all parties in the war together for talks in Geneva on Sept. 6.

The Houthis have, however, barred without explanation the head of the UN’s human rights office in Yemen from returning to the country, a UN spokeswoman said on Friday.

Elobaid Elobaid, a Canadian citizen, had been based in Yemen since October, 2016, leading 17 staff in Sanaa and 13 monitors in 11 of Yemen’s provinces, or governorates. His visa expired in June but was not renewed.

The UN human rights office has frequently accused all sides of violating international law and committing war crimes.

The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen says it will investigate Thursday's airstrike that hit a bus full of schoolchildren. But the UN wants an independent investigation, and neither option will likely bring comfort to the parents of the dead. Matthew Larotonda reports. Reuters
Report an error
Comments

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff. Non-subscribers can read and sort comments but will not be able to engage with them in any way. Click here to subscribe.

If you would like to write a letter to the editor, please forward it to letters@globeandmail.com. Readers can also interact with The Globe on Facebook and Twitter .

Welcome to The Globe and Mail’s comment community. This is a space where subscribers can engage with each other and Globe staff.

We aim to create a safe and valuable space for discussion and debate. That means:

  • All comments will be reviewed by one or more moderators before being posted to the site. This should only take a few moments.
  • Treat others as you wish to be treated
  • Criticize ideas, not people
  • Stay on topic
  • Avoid the use of toxic and offensive language
  • Flag bad behaviour

Comments that violate our community guidelines will be removed. Commenters who repeatedly violate community guidelines may be suspended, causing them to temporarily lose their ability to engage with comments.

Read our community guidelines here

Discussion loading ...

Due to technical reasons, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this fixed soon. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to feedback@globeandmail.com. If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to letters@globeandmail.com.
Cannabis pro newsletter