SANAA, Yemen: Airstrikes by a Saudi-led coalition in northern Yemen killed 11 civilians, including women and children, Yemen’s rebel-run news agency said Friday.
The overnight attack in the city of Saada, a stronghold of the Shiite rebels known as Houthis, came as Iran’s foreign minister dismissed claims from Saudi Arabia that his country had supplied Yemen’s rebels with missiles.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, on a visit to Saudi Arabia the previous day, said he was “deeply troubled” over Saudi photographs showing Iranian-supplied missiles being positioned along the Saudi-Yemeni border. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said such statements were “baseless accusations.”
In Yemen, the SABA agency, which is under control of the Houthis, reported that two houses located in the district of Baqam in the city of Saada were destroyed by airstrikes overnight. Rescue efforts were delayed due to fears of subsequent strikes as fighter jets continued to fly over the same district, it added. The report said the death toll was expected to rise because some of the wounded were in critical condition.
Houthi supporters and activists posted photographs on social media showing lifeless bodies of children and charred remains in the aftermath on the attack. The postings and SABA’s report could not be independently verified because of difficulties reaching witnesses in the remote area.
On Thursday, the U.N. human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein, called for an international investigation into rights abuses and violence in Yemen’s civil war, insisting that a domestic panel set up to look into violations has not been up to the task.
Fighting escalated in March 2015 with the start of Saudi-led airstrikes targeting the Houthis and their allies who are loyal to Yemen’s ousted president. Zeid’s office says an estimated 3,799 civilians have been killed since then. The U.N. and rights groups estimate at least 9,000 people overall have died. Some 3 million people have also been displaced inside the Arab world’s poorest country.
Saudi Arabia accuses the Houthis of being an Iranian proxy, which the rebels deny.
The coalition says it seeks to restore the internationally-recognized government in Sanaa, after Houthis captured it in 2014 and forced the government to flee abroad. Last month, the U.N. mediated peace talks between the rebels and the government collapsed over major differences on a political resolution.
The continuous air campaign came amid a flurry of meetings between Kerry and Saudi King Salman that focused on Yemen and Syria. The United States has backed the coalition with multi-billion dollar arms sales and provided logistical and intelligence support.
Kerry told reporters that he raised concerns about civilian causalities in Yemen in his meetings. He also voiced concerns about the Iranian involvement in the war, saying the U.S. is “deeply troubled” over Saudi photographs showing Iranian-supplied missiles being positioned along the Saudi-Yemen border, and rocket attacks fired at Saudi Arabia’s southern border from Yemen. The border violence has killed several civilians and Saudi border guards. Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Nayef showed Kerry the photos, which have not been made public.
Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said Kerry’s remarks show the U.S. government is “an accomplice in Saudi war crimes against the innocent people of Yemen.”