Saudi-led coalition opens investigation after 40 children killed in Yemen airstrike

The coalition said it is probing the "collateral damage" that killed 51 people and injured 79

Saudi-led coalition opens investigation after 40 children killed in Yemen airstrike

Bloodstained children's backpacks at the site of the coalition airstrike in Saada, Yemen, 10-08-2018. Image: AP Photo/Kareem al-Mrrany

The Saudi-led coalition of Gulf States waging war on rebel forces in Yemen has opened an investigation into an airstrike that killed 40 children at a market yesterday.

Authorities in the north-western city of Sa'dah said 51 people died after the airstrike hit a bus carrying children from summer camp.

They said a further 79 people were injured - including 59 children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the majority of those killed were under the age of ten.

One of the hospitals the ICRC supports received "the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years old" in addition to 48 injured people, including 30 children.

The wreckage of the bus at the site of the coalition airstrike in Saada, Yemen, 10-08-2018. Image: AP Photo/Kareem al-Mrrany

Last night, UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the attack and expressed his "deepest condolences to the families of the victims."

A spokesperson said Mr Guterres had called on all parties to "their obligations under international humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack."

"The Secretary-General emphasizes that all parties must take constant care to spare civilians and civilian objects in the conduct of military operations," he said.

Independent investigation

Mr Gutterres called for an " independent and prompt investigation" into the attack.

He urged all parties to "de-escalate and to engage constructively in the political process" and warned that inclusive talks between both Yemeni sides in the conflict remains the only way to bring an end the bloodshed.

Fighting between Iranian-backed Houthi rebels and the ousted Yemeni government – supported by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states – has been ongoing in the region for three years.

An injured child rests in a hospital a day after an airstrike in Saada, Yemen, 10-08-2018. Image: AP Photo/Kareem al-Mrrany

"Collateral damage"

Yesterday, State-owned media in Saudi Arabia claimed that a number of Houthi leaders were killed in the airstrike.

The official spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Colonel Turki al-Malki insisted the attack was a  "legitimate military action" targeting those responsible for launching a rocket attack on the Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday night.

He said the strike was "implemented in accordance with international humanitarian law and customary rules."

He said the strike had targeted Houthi militia members who were inside the bus, accusing them of using children as "tools and covers for their terrorist acts."

This afternoon, a senior coalition official said a probe had been opened up into what he called the "collateral damage" to the bus during the attack.

This image taken from video shows children injured in the airstrike being treated at a hospital in Saada, Yemen, 09-08-2018.