United Nations officials have condemned two recent Saudi-led coalition airstrikes in Yemen that killed at least 26 children, renewing calls for “an impartial, independent and prompt investigation” into attacks targeting civilians in the crisis-hit Arab country.
United Nations Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock said at least 22 children and four women lost their lives on Thursday, when Saudi-led military aircraft struck them as they were fleeing violence in the embattled al-Durayhimi district of Yemen’s western coastal province of Hudaydah. He said an additional airstrike in the area killed four more children.
“This is the second time in two weeks that an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition has resulted in dozens of civilian casualties,” he added in a statement.
On August 9, a Saudi-led aerial attack hit a bus carrying a group of young schoolchildren attending summer classes of the Holy Qur’an from a camp at a busy market area in the Dhahyan district of Sa’ada province, UN spokesman, Farhan Haq, said in a statement.
According to Yemeni medical sources, over 50 people, including 40 children, were killed and 77 injured in the strike.
Lowcock noted that “those with influence” over the warring sides in Yemen must ensure that civilians are protected.
Executive Director of the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) Henrietta Fore also said, “I had hoped that the outrage that followed the Sa’ada attack in Yemen two weeks ago would be a turning point in the conflict. Yesterday's reported attacks in al-Durayhimi, killing 26 children, indicate that it was not.”
She then asked the parties involved in the Yemen conflict and the Security Council to “take action and end this conflict once and for all.”
The Saudi-led coalition announced that it was opening an investigation into deadly airstrikes in Yemen, but rights groups and advocates insist that any probe should be impartial.
Human Rights Watch has stressed that the Riyadh-led military alliance has failed to properly investigate war crimes emanating from airstrikes against civilian targets.
Sarah Leah Whitson, the Middle East and North Africa director at the international non-governmental organization, said the Saudi-led coalition's investigators “were doing little more than covering up war crimes.”
Saudi Arabia and a number of its regional allies launched a devastating military campaign against Yemen in March 2015, with the aim of bringing the government of former president Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi back to power and crushing the country’s Houthi Ansarullah movement.
Some 15,000 Yemenis have been killed and thousands more injured since the onset of the Saudi-led aggression.
More than 2,200 others have died of cholera, and the crisis has triggered what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian disaster.