Sanaa (AFP) – An air strike killed eight women and a child at a funeral reception near the Yemeni capital, witnesses said Thursday, adding to the conflict’s mounting civilian death toll.
At least 10 other women were wounded in the overnight raid on the district of Arhab, 40 kilometres (25 miles) north of Sanaa, medics sent to the site told AFP.
The United Nations gave the toll as at least six women and one girl killed, with Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the UN’s special envoy to Yemen, branding such attacks on civilians as “unjustifiable”.
The Iran-backed Huthi Shiite rebels, who seized large parts of the country including the capital in 2014, accused the Saudi-backed Arab coalition supporting the Yemeni government of carrying out the strike.
A coalition statement sent to AFP said the group was “investigating the reports” that civilians were killed in the raid near Sanaa.
Mohammed Al Nakii, whose home medics said was hit, told an AFP correspondent at the site that at the time of the bombing he had been receiving condolences for his brother who died on Sunday.
He said his own wife was among those killed.
Nakii said he saw four women die immediately at the scene, describing the attack as “barbaric”.
It was not immediately clear if the house was deliberately targeted.
An AFP photographer said the stone building had been totally demolished except for three remaining arches.
Bloodstains, clothing and shoes were seen among the rubble.
The home had been built on a plot of land with no other buildings visible in the immediate vicinity.
Yemen’s war pits the internationally recognised government of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi against Huthi insurgents allied with forces loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The Saudi-led Arab coalition that intervened in 2015 on the side of Hadi says it does not target civilians, but it has faced repeated allegations of deliberately striking weddings, funerals, schools and hospitals.
In October the coalition admitted to killing 140 people in an air strike on a funeral in Sanaa, blaming the deaths on “incorrect information”. It had initially denied involvement.
“Women and children in particular have been subjected to unspeakable suffering in this brutal conflict,” Ould Cheikh Ahmed said in a statement condemning the latest strike. “This should stop immediately.”
– Red Coast raid –
A separate raid Wednesday targeted a Huthi post in Khokha, south of the major Red Sea port of Hodeida, killing 15 rebels and wounding 20 others, according to military sources allied with the Arab coalition.
The sources said the raid, which comes as government forces prepare for an assault to retake rebel-held Hodeida, targeted armoured vehicles at a base in Khokha.
Khokha lies between Hodeida and government-controlled Mokha further south on the Red Sea coast.
Forces loyal to the government took full control of Mokha last week as part of a major offensive to oust the Huthis and their allies from Yemen’s southwestern coast.
The Huthis have carried out retaliatory rocket strikes on Saudi Arabia and engaged in firefights along the border since the start of the coalition campaign.
Saudi Arabia said Thursday that it had intercepted another missile fired by Huthi rebels at its territory.
The state-run Saudi Press Agency reported the missile had been headed for the city of Khamis Mushait, about 100 kilometres (60 miles) from the Yemeni border.
Khamis Mushait is home to an airbase central to the coalition campaign.
More than 7,400 people, including around 1,400 children, have been killed in two years of fighting in Yemen, according to the UN.
Three million others have been displaced, according to the UN.
New York-based group Human Rights Watch on Thursday released a report blaming the coalition for a January 10 air strike that hit a market in the rebel-held northern province of Nihm, killing five people including at least one child.
A 14-member independent team tasked with investigating strikes on Yemen last year acknowledged “shortcomings” in some coalition strikes.
The team includes coalition states Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, as well as Yemen.