World News

Two killed in Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen: residents

DUBAI (Reuters) - Air strikes killed a woman and a young girl in northern Yemen on Wednesday in a series of attacks by an Arab coalition fighting the country’s Iran-aligned Houthi movement, residents told Reuters.

The Saudi-led alliance, which has intervened in Yemen’s war since 2015 to try to restore president Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power, has conducted frequent air strikes and has sometimes hit civilians, although it denies ever doing so intentionally.

On Monday, a panel set up by the coalition to investigate civilian casualties, the Joint Incidents Assessment Team, said air strikes carried out in 2017 “were in accordance with international humanitarian law and many of the alleged strikes were falsely attributed to the Coalition”.

The Houthis have controlled much of Yemen including the capital Sanaa since driving Hadi out three years ago. Saudi Arabia and its Sunni Muslim allies say the Houthis are armed by Shi’ite Iran and pose a threat to the region.

Residents said the attack early on Wednesday morning on the suburbs of the northern city of Saada, the stronghold of the Houthis, killed a woman and a young girl and also wounded several children from the same family, according to a Reuters witness at the local hospital.

“There were three [strikes] on our house and one on my father’s house,” said Helal Ahmed Saleh, one of those of injured during the strike.

“When they hit mine, I was running and calling for someone to help us, but then the fourth one hit my father’s house and the shrapnel hit me.”

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than two million and driven the country - already the poorest on the Arabian Peninsula - to the verge of widespread famine.

In a speech to the U.N. Human Rights Council on Wednesday, U.N. human rights chief Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said Yemeni civilians had suffered indiscriminate shelling and sniper attacks by Houthi and affiliated forces, as well as air strikes conducted by the Saudi-led coalition.

On Friday, the U.N. High Commission for Refugees reported that seven displaced Yemeni civilians were killed in Saada on Feb. 28, the first IDP deaths in 2018 the team had verified.

The UNHCR did not confirm the nature of the incident, but residents had told Reuters earlier that air strikes killed nine civilians in Yemen on that day, with four of the deaths occurring in Saada’s suburbs.

“We have seen that as conflict prolongs in Yemen, the protection of civilians continues to rapidly deteriorate,” Shabia Mantoo, a spokesperson for the U.N. refugee agency in Yemen, told Reuters, commenting on the Feb 28 incident.

“It’s especially tragic and deplorable that these civilians who died had tried to flee for safety and protection, only to face danger in the area to which they fled. This shows that nowhere in Yemen is particularly safe.”

Additional Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay in Geneva, Editing by William Maclean