At least seven children and two women were killed in Yemen, the UN confirmed after field reports from Hajjah. The Saudi-led coalition has said it will investigate "the possibility of an accident.”

Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi group wave up their weapons as they shout slogans during a gathering of Houthi loyalists on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen July 8, 2020.
Tribesmen loyal to the Houthi group wave up their weapons as they shout slogans during a gathering of Houthi loyalists on the outskirts of Sanaa, Yemen July 8, 2020. (Reuters)

Houthi rebels have accused the Saudi-led coalition of killing children and women in an air strike in northwest Yemen, the latest escalation of a conflict that has killed thousands of civilians and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The air strike killed at least seven children and two women, the United Nations said on Monday.

The youngest child to be killed was two years old.

The UN humanitarian office in Yemen said field reports appeared to confirm an attack that left nine dead and wounded another two children and two women in Hajjah province.

Frequent errant strikes

“It is truly appalling to hear accounts of lifeless children being dragged out of the rubble,” said Xavier Joubert, Save the Children’s country director in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition said it would investigate the strike “to consider the possibility of an accident.”

“Based on what was revealed ... about the possibility of civilian casualties during an operation targeting a gathering of Houthi leaders, all documents were transferred to the Joint Incident Assessment Team for consideration,” said coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al Maliki.

Saudi Arabia has frequently drawn international criticism for errant airstrikes that have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing thousands of civilians.

War during pandemic

The coronavirus pandemic, which has surged across war-torn Yemen and overwhelmed its deficient health system, has created new urgency for peace efforts.

But UN-backed proposals to bring about a ceasefire between the internationally recognised government, backed by the coalition, and the Iran-supported Houthi rebels, have so far failed to gain traction.

“It is incomprehensible that in the middle of the Covid pandemic, when options for a ceasefire are on the table, civilians continue being killed in Yemen,” said Lise Grande, UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen.

“Yemen can’t take much more,” said Grande, with each month bringing some new measure of civilian misery. 

“Health and water programs are shutting, famine is stalking the country again, and people all across the country are being hit hard by Covid.”

READ MORE: Almost 2.4 million children on 'brink of starvation' in Yemen – UN

Nearly 80 percent of the country’s 24 million people require aid. 

Aid falls short

Meanwhile, a UN humanitarian appeal for Yemen this month fell $1 billion short of what aid agencies needed. As a result, some 75 percent of UN programmes for the country have shut their doors or rolled back operations.

The conflict erupted in 2014 when the Houthis overran Sanaa and much of the country’s north.

The Saudi-led coalition, with support from the US, intervened several months later to oust the Houthis and restore the internationally recognised government.

The war has killed over 112,000 people, including 12,600 civilians, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project.

Both sides step up attacks

The coalition has stepped up air strikes, including on the capital, Sanaa, and the Houthis have escalated their cross-border attacks on the kingdom. 

Yehia Sarea, the Houthi military spokesman, claimed on Sunday that the rebels had launched a large-scale attack on Saudi airports and military bases.

Houthi forces hit a large oil facility in the southern Saudi Arabian city of Jizan in drone and missile attacks overnight, a Houthi military spokesman said on Monday.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthis said earlier it had intercepted and destroyed four missiles and six explosive drones fired by the Houthis over the border towards Saudi Arabia.

There was no Saudi confirmation of where they were intercepted or whether anything was hit.

Oil company Saudi Aramco operates a 400,000-barrel-per-day refinery in the Red Sea city of Jizan, which lies around 40 miles from the Yemen border.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies