An air raid struck a building in Yemen’s capital on Friday, killing at least 12 people, six of them children, when an adjacent apartment block collapsed, residents said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) denounced the loss of life as outrageous and put the death toll in the early morning attack on the Faj Attan area of Sanaa at 14, with 16 wounded.
Seven people from one family were among the dead including four children aged 10 and under, the ICRC said, adding that a total of three buildings in the residential area were hit.
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“Such loss of civilian life is outrageous and runs counter to the basic tenets of the law of armed conflict,” the deputy head of ICRC’s delegation in Yemen, Carlos Morazzani, said after visiting the site. “From what we saw on the ground, there was no apparent military target.”
Residents and rescuers dug frantically through debris, retrieving the bloodied, dust-covered bodies of several children. Chunks of masonry lay strewn beside gaping fissures in walls that revealed the apartments’ shattered interiors.
People at the scene told Reuters the warplanes were from a Saudi-led Arab coalition, which has been fighting the Iran-aligned Houthi movement in a war that has lasted more than two years and killed at least 10,000 people.
“There was a heavy overflight that lasted a little while, then four missiles were fired and a strong explosion happened,” said a resident who lives nearby and gave her name as Arwa.
“Minutes later we heard people screaming. That’s when it appeared the building was hit.”
Residents said the strike did not target the apartment house where people were killed, but instead hit a vacant building next to it. The apartment house contained eight flats and appeared to have wooden ceilings, a witness said.
“The air force of the countries of the American-Saudi aggression carried out a hideous massacre against the citizens in Faj Attan,” an official Houthi movement website said.
WORSENING HUMANITARIAN CRISIS
In a statement, the coalition said 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, it said, adding it was committed to protecting civilians.
The Houthis and their ally, former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, control much of the north of the country, including Sanaa. Yemen’s internationally recognised government is backed by the Saudi-led military alliance and is based in the south.
The United States and Britain provide arms and logistical assistance to the alliance for its campaign. The issue has caused controversy in Britain over the toll on civilians.
The foreign minister in the internationally-recognised government, Abdel-Malek al-Mekhlafi, called in a Twitter posting for an investigation by the coalition “which will have to announce the results of such an investigation”.
As well as striking military targets, air strikes have hit hospitals and ports, exacerbating the humanitarian crisis.
The U.N. human rights office called for an independent probe of coalition strikes on a hotel near Sanaa on Wednesday. Those attacks killed more than 30 people.
The hotel was a guest house usually used by farm workers, said U.N. refugee agency spokesman William Spindler.
The coalition has said those killed at the hotel on Wednesday were Houthi fighters, not civilians.
Some two million people have been displaced by the war, according to the United Nations, which on Friday reminded all parties to the war to respect international humanitarian law. (Reuters)