DUBAI (Reuters) - Air strikes by a Saudi-led Arab coalition on the northern Yemeni city of Saada, a Houthi rebel stronghold, have killed dozens of civilians and wrecked homes and markets, Human Rights Watch said on Tuesday.
The action was an apparent violation of the rules of war, the international rights group said in a report.
Coalition forces have been bombing Houthi-held areas since March in support of the exiled government, which was driven from power in March by Houthi fighters who have since taken over much of the country.
The air raids and clashes between the Houthis and pro-coalition Yemeni fighters have killed more than 2,800 people without reversing the Houthis’ gains.
Human Rights Watch said it had documented a dozen airstrikes on Saada that destroyed or damaged civilian homes, five markets, a school, and a petrol station although there was no evidence they were being used for military purposes.
“Saada City’s streets are littered with bomb craters, destroyed buildings, and other evidence of coalition airstrikes,” HRW’s Sarah Leah Whitson said in the report.
“The civilians still living there can do little to protect themselves from the air attacks, which add to their daily suffering.”
In the deadliest incident, an air strike on a cultural center and neighboring house killed 27 members of same family, including 17 children.
The researchers said that Houthi fighters had positioned anti-aircraft guns in some civilian districts.
There was no immediate Saudi comment to the findings and HRW said the kingdom had not responded to a request for more information on the bombing incidents it studied.
Due to border clashes and knocked-out communication networks, little information from Saada and other northern areas has reached the outside world. It is one of the most impoverished and isolated areas in Yemen, itself among the poorest countries in the Middle East.
Reporting By Noah Browning; Editing by Angus MacSwan