A Saudi-led airstrike killed at least 12 civilians, including children, in Yemen, all members of the same family, in the west coastal town of Hudayda, Reuters reported Monday while local news outlets reported that 16 people were killed.
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Medics say a missile destroyed the family's house in the al-Hali district, where many of the two million displaced Yemenis have settled during the war.
“We take this report very seriously and it will be fully investigated as all reports of this nature are, using an internationally approved, independent process,” said a spokesperson of the international coalition led by Saudi Arabia. “Whilst this is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further.”
Hudayda is a port town controlled by Houthi rebels where most of the humanitarian aid reaches Yemeni civilians, impoverished by an under-reported civil war, which makes it a target for the Saudi-led coalition that kicked off more than three years ago with the objective of restoring President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government.
The Ansarallah group, popularly known as “Houthis,” ousted President Hadi in 2015 and established a Supreme Revolutionary Committee after several failed dialogue attempts.
But the rebellion wasn't approved by Yemen's powerful neighbors and an international coalition composed of Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Senegal, Sudan, Qatar and other regional allies began a military intervention that led to a serious humanitarian crisis in which more than 13,000 have died due to attacks, famine and sicknesses, all with the blessing of the United States and other western allies.
The Yemeni “civil war” is often portrayed as a Shia-Sunni conflict by Western media and governments, who claim Iran is backing the Houthis, a Shia militant organization, in an effort to expand their influence in the Sunni-controlled Arabian peninsula.
The Houthis, however, don't have the military equipment and intelligence necessary to respond to the Saudi-led coalition in a proportionate way.
Last week the Houthis launched a flurry of missiles at Saudi Arabia, which were intercepted over Riyadh according to Saudi government reports. Debris from the missiles fell on a home, killing one person.
The controversial rights group Human Rights Watch said Monday the Houthi attack had violated the laws of war by indiscriminately targeting populated areas.
“The Houthis should immediately stop their indiscriminate missile attacks on populated areas of Saudi Arabia,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, Human Rights Watch director for the Middle East and North Africa.
“But just as unlawful coalition airstrikes don’t justify the Houthis’ indiscriminate attacks, the Saudis can’t use Houthi rockets to justify impeding life-saving goods for Yemen’s civilian population,” Whitson added..
When the Houthis fired missiles at Riyadh last November, the coalition responded by shutting Yemen’s airports and ports. The United Nations said that blockade raised the danger of mass starvation. After massive international backlash Saudi Arabia only partially lifted the blockade.