Yemen: At least 20 civilians dead in Sanaa after Saudi-led airstrikes

Published May 1st, 2015 - 05:00 GMT
Saudi-led airstrikes began in Yemen over a month ago, when exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi sought military intervention from Gulf allies against Shiite Houthi rebels launching an offensive against his government. (AFP/File)
Saudi-led airstrikes began in Yemen over a month ago, when exiled Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi sought military intervention from Gulf allies against Shiite Houthi rebels launching an offensive against his government. (AFP/File)

At least 20 civilians were killed on Friday in airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition in the Yemeni capital Sana'a, medical officials said, amid growing international concern about civilian casualties in the country's ongoing violence.

Coalition warplanes bombed the residential area of Sawan in the north-eastern part of Sana'a - in addition to the dead leaving more than 50 wounded, a medical official told dpa.

"Most of the victims are women and children," he said on condition of anonymity.

Local residents, reached by dpa, said that the strikes completely destroyed houses in the area.

"Rescue teams and surviving residents pulled victims out of the rubble," one resident said. "The search operation continued until afternoon."

International organizations have repeatedly warned that Yemen's conflict was exacting a heavy toll on the impoverished country's people.

Saudi Arabia and eight fellow Sunni Arab countries started in late March an air campaign in Yemen against Shiite Houthi rebels.

The Saudis have accused the Houthis, who control vast areas of Yemen, of positioning their military hardware in residential areas.

The Houthis, who hail from Yemen's far north, have charged that the coalition warplanes carry out indiscriminate hits.

On Thursday, UN chief Ban Ki-moon warned that Yemen's infrastructure, including telecommunications, health, water and sanitation systems, were "on the brink of collapse."

According to the UN, more than 1,200 people have died and 300,000 have fled their homes in the past six weeks. 

On Friday, a brief humanitarian truce failed to hold in Aden, Yemen's second city, where backers and opponents of exiled President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi have battled for more than a month.

Hadi loyalists in the southern city had declared a two-hour ceasefire, following appeals from humanitarian organizations to allow trapped civilians to move to safer areas and retrieve dead bodies from the city's streets.

Local journalists in Aden said that the rebels - bitter enemies of Hadi - had not observed the truce.

"Houthi snipers fired at civilians although they left their houses raising white banners," a journalist told dpa by phone.

He added that at least 13 civilians and eight pro-Hadi militiamen were killed by the rebels during the unilateral truce.

"As a result, a number of families are still stranded in troubled areas. Several dead bodies of civilians, including women and children, remain scattered in destroyed buildings," the journalist said on condition of anonymity because of safety concerns.

The Houthis allegedly took advantage of the truce to beef up their forces and weaponry in the area adjoining Aden airport, which is divided between them and Hadi's backers.

The Houthis, who are widely understood to be backed by Shiite Iran, have for weeks been trying to gain control of Aden, Hadi's stronghold.

In late March, Hadi, who is a Sunni, fled to Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran.

Saudi Arabia said that overnight into Friday its troops repulsed a cross-border attack by the Houthis, killing dozens of the rebels.

Three Saudi soldiers were killed in the fighting, the Saudi Defence Ministry said.


© 2019 dpa GmbH

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