Yemen‘s Houthi rebels say at least 22 children and four women have been killed by air strikes on a camp for internally displaced people in the flashpoint region of Hodeidah.
The Houthi-run Saba news agency reported on Thursday that fighter jets from the Saudi-UAE military alliance, which has been at war with the rebels since March 2015, targeted the IDP camp in Al-Kouai, Duraihami, which lies about 20km from the strategic Red Sea port city of Hodeidah.
Citing Abdulrahman Jarallah, the director of a health office in the province, Saba said doctors from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were unable to enter the area and recover victims from the attacks.
“[The victims were] dead children and women. [It was a] disgusting crime,” Majed Dahfah, a witness to one of the air strikes, told the Houthi-run Al-Masirah TV network.
Hussein al-Bukhaiti, a pro-Houthi activist based in Sanaa, said the first air strike targeted a village in Duraihami, “killing five people and injuring another two,” while the second killed 26 women and children who attempted to board a bus and flee.
“[The] second strike targeted that bus, killing everyone,” he told Al Jazeera.
Earlier on Thursday, the UAE state news agency WAM said the Houthis launched a ballistic missile in the same district, which resulted in the death of one child.
WAM said the missile attack in the recently recaptured village of al-Ghalifqa in Duraihami also wounded dozens of people, three of them seriously.
Neither side’s claims could be independently verified.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from neighbouring Djibouti, said the latest reports of civilian deaths will likely lead to calls for an investigation.
“There are reports from a number of independent sources and journalists in Yemen that the Saudi-UAE alliance hit a number of vehicles, we don’t know exactly what was being targeted, but in that attack, a number of children were killed.
“According to some people, they were concerned the camp they were living in was being used to fire missiles so they decided to move, and when they did, their cars were hit by the air strike.”
|Videos uploaded to social media showed dead bodies and limbs being collected from the blast site [Courtesy of AnsarAllah Media Centre]|
The reported attack comes just two weeks after an air strike killed 40 school boys as they travelled on a school trip.
The August 9 air attack sparked almost universal international condemnation with Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF’s regional director in the Middle East and North Africa, tweeting “NO EXCUSES ANYMORE!!”
“Does the world really need more innocent children’s lives to stop the cruel war on children in Yemen?” he said.
According to munitions experts, a US-made bomb was used in the attack, leading to further criticism over Washington’s role in the war in Yemen – described by the UN as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
“If it’s proved again that in this instance it was a missile from the US fired by the Saudi-led coalition, that will lead to greater calls and questioning of the US’ intervention and involvement in Yemen,” said Fisher.
Following the attack, individual members of congress called on the US military to clarify its role in the war and investigate whether support for the air raids could render American military personnel “liable under the war crimes act”.
The US has been the biggest supplier of military equipment to Riyadh, with more than $90bn of sales recorded between 2010 and 2015.
Fighting between Houthi rebels and Yemeni government forces, backed by the Saudi-UAE coalition, has intensified in recent weeks along the eastern outskirts of Duraihami as the two Gulf nations look to seize control of the strategic province.
Hodeidah has been under the control of the Houthis since 2014, along with other west coast ports and much of northern Yemen.
The city’s seaport was responsible for delivering 70 percent of Yemen’s imports – mostly humanitarian aid, food and fuel – before 2015.
Aid agencies have warned an assault on the port could shut down one of the last remaining lifelines for millions of hungry civilians.
More than 8 million Yemenis – a number greater than the entire population of Switzerland – are just a step away from famine.