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Children among 13 killed in air strikes in Yemen

Thirteen people, including children, were killed in air strikes in Yemen’s northern province of Saada, the rebels and medical sources said Tuesday, as international aid groups condemned the raids.

Iran-backed Huthi rebels and Yemen’s internationally-recognised government — supported by a Saudi-led military coalition — have been at war since 2014, creating what the United Nations calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The Huthis’ Al-Masirah TV said 13 people, including four children, were killed late Monday in coalition air strikes on their vehicle in the rebel stronghold of Saada.

Medical sources confirmed to AFP that four children were among those killed.

“We’re horrified to learn of the deaths of 13 civilians, including four children, today in Yemen,” said the country director for Save the Children, Xavier Joubert.

This comes on the heels of UN chief Antonio Guterres’s decision to remove the Saudi-led coalition from a list of groups violating children’s rights.

The UN’s newly-published annual report on children in conflict zones said the toll had fallen since an agreement signed in March 2019.

Both the coalition and the rebels have been accused by the UN and rights groups of committing violations in Yemen that could amount to war crimes.

“It’s a very sad irony that this attack happened on the day that the annual UN report on Children and Armed Conflict is coming out,” said Joubert.

Oxfam and other international organisations, including the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), also condemned the raids.

“We condemn all violence by all parties to the conflict,” said Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam country director in Yemen.

Mohamed Abdi, NRC’s country director, said “an investigation must take place, and warring parties responsible for their deaths must be held accountable”.

The Saudi-led coalition, for its part, said it intercepted on Tuesday a ballistic missile launched by the rebels from Saada towards the border region of Najran.

The launch came a day after the coalition destroyed a number of “bomb-laden” drones targeting the southern Saudi city of Khamis Mushait, according to the official Saudi Press Agency.

The coalition did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment on the Saada air raids.

The coalition intervened in Yemen in 2015, shortly after the Huthis seized the capital Sanaa. Tens of thousands of people, many of them civilians, have since been killed.