GENEVA (Reuters) - A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has killed 109 civilians in air strikes in the past 10 days, including 54 people at a crowded market and 14 members of one family on a farm, the top U.N. official in the country said on Thursday.
The fighting is futile and absurd, U.N. resident coordinator Jamie McGoldrick said, in unusually direct criticism of the campaign being waged by the coalition against the Iran-aligned Houthi movement.
The Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the United States, Britain and others, denounced the charges, saying the information lacked credibility. McGoldrick appeared to be taking the Houthi side in the conflict, the Saudis said.
Citing initial reports from the U.N. human rights office, a statement by McGoldrick said air strikes hit a crowded market in the Al Hayma sub-district of Attazziah in Taiz governorate on Tuesday, killing 54 and injuring 32.
Eight of the dead and six of the injured were children, according to the reports.
On the same day, an air strike on a farm in Attohayta district of Hodeidah governorate killed 14, and air strikes elsewhere killed a further 41 civilians and injured 43 over the past 10 days.
“These incidents prove the complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led coalition, continue to show in this absurd war that has only resulted in the destruction of the country and the incommensurate suffering of its people, who are being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides,” McGoldrick said.
Under international law, the warring sides must spare civilians and civilian infrastructure, he added.
A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition said he regretted the information that came in McGoldrick’s statement.
“This statement creates a continuous state of doubt about the information and data used by the United Nations, and challenges its credibility,” the coalition spokesman said in a statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA.
“As the coalition spokesman condemns this biased stand, he asserts the need for the United Nations to review the mechanism of humanitarian work and the competence of its employees working in Yemen and to monitor their performance,” SPA said, citing the statement.
The United Nations has no up-to-date estimate of the death toll in Yemen. It said in August 2016 that according to medical centers at least 10,000 people had been killed.
The United Nations says Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with about 8 million people on the brink of famine, a cholera epidemic that has infected 1 million people, and economic collapse in what was already one of the Arab world’s poorest countries.
Reporting by Tom Miles; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean, Larry King