At least 20 dead after airstrike hits bus carrying children in Yemen

Residences in Jizan hit by the shrapnel after Saudi Royal Air Defense Forces intercepted a ballistic missile launched by the Houthi rebels. SPA

Residences in Jizan hit by the shrapnel after Saudi Royal Air Defense Forces intercepted a ballistic missile launched by the Houthi rebels. SPA

Declarations of outrage were followed by demands for an immediate investigation on Thursday after reports that the USA -backed Saudi coalition slaughtered dozens of innocent civilians, including many children traveling on a school bus, when it bombed an area near a crowded market in Yemen.

In a statement Thursday, the Saudi-led coalition said the strike was a "legitimate military action to target elements that planned and carried out" an attack that targeted civilians in Jizan, a border city in southwest Saudi Arabia.

In a message on Twitter, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen said a hospital it supports had received dozens of casualties.

The ICRC said one attack hit the bus driving children in Dahyan market, in northern Saada, adding hospitals there had received dozens of dead and wounded.

"The Secretary-General calls on all parties to respect their obligations under worldwide humanitarian law, in particular the fundamental rules of distinction, proportionality and precautions in attack", his spokesperson, Farhan Haq, said Thursday.

The Huthi rebels' Al-Masirah TV reported that 39 people had been killed and 51 wounded, "mostly children".

The attack was also denounced by the United Nations children agency, UNICEF.

Col. Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the attack in Saada targeted the rebels who had fired a missile at the kingdom's south, killing one person and wounding 11 others.

The "Coalition to Restore Legitimacy in Yemen" said it had carried out a legitimate military action in the area targeting Houthis responsible for a deadly missile attack on Jazan on Wednesday.

Images broadcast by Houthi media showed scores of bloody children, some still wearing their backpacks as they were loaded onto stretchers. It also said the missile was launched "deliberately to target residential and populated areas".

The following year, a coalition of Arab states led by Saudi Arabia intervened in the conflict.

Col. Al-Maliki stressed: "The Joint Forces Command of the Coalition will take all deterrent measures against such barbaric, frivolous launches in conformity with the worldwide humanitarian law, and those who support these terrorist crimes will be held accountable for their actions".

The Western-backed alliance fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthi group in Yemen accused the Houthis of using children as human shields.

Aid agency CARE International noted that Thursday's strike came a week after the Hodeida bombardment.

The Saudi-led coalition is fighting to defeat Houthi rebels who expelled the Yemeni government from the capital and took control of vast swathes of the country.

The coalition denied responsibility for those attacks.

The Houthis have fired a number of ballistic missiles at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and other cities.

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