A bus carrying Yemeni children was hit by airstrikes from the U.S.-backed Saudi coalition Thursday, according to reports citing the International Committee of the Red Cross. Many of the victims were reportedly under the age of 10.
The airstrikes hit the busy Dahyan market in Sa’ada province, which borders Saudi Arabia. Ghani Nayeb, head of a health department in Sa’ada, told Reuters the death toll stood at 43 with 61 others wounded.
It is unclear how many of the dead are minors, but the ICRC said school children were on the bus, and that local hospitals had received "dozens" of dead and wounded.
The pro-Houthi rebel TV network Al Masirah said the bus was carrying a group of students attending summer classes to learn the Holy Quran. The channel also posted gruesome videos claiming to show the aftermath of the attack.
Johannes Bruwer, who heads up ICRC’s delegation in Yemen, tweeted: “Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of ten.”
The Saudi-back alliance issued a statement confirming the airstrikes, but saying it was targeting missile launchers.
"[The airstrikes] conformed to international and humanitarian laws," a statement quoting coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said, according to the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network.
Others challenge the claim. “The place is known to be a market, [and] there is no military installation nearby … but the Saudis are known to have done this many times — target schools, weddings and so on,” Nasser Arrabyee, a Yemeni journalist, told Al Jazeera.
The U.S. military provides logistical support to the coalition forces backed by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have been carrying out strikes on Yemen since March 2015. They are fighting the Houthi rebels, who are aligned with Iranian forces.
The war has ravaged the country, killing at least 10,000 — many of them civilians. The country is also in the grip of a devastating famine, with the World Health Organization warning 8.4 million people are living in pre-famine conditions. The U.N. has called Yemen the “worst humanitarian crisis in the world.”
Last month dozens of civilians — including women and children — were killed in a coalition-led attack on the rebel-held port of Hodeidah, through which 80 percent of humanitarian aid comes.
“It is high time for these relapsing tragedies to stop in Yemen,” Robert Mardini, ICRC’s regional director, said. “No one should allow putting children in harm’s way and making them pay such an unacceptable price.”
Cover image: A Doctor tends a boy injured by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen on August 9, 2018. (/REUTERS/Naif Rahma)