UN condemns attack that killed 17 civilians in north Yemen

NOHA ELHENNAWY

CAIRO (AP) — The United Nations has condemned the shelling of a busy market that killed at least 17 people earlier this week in northern Yemen, a region which has been under control of Yemen's Iran-backed rebels known as Houthis.

The office of the U.N. human rights coordinator in Yemen did not say who was behind the attack. However, a Saudi-led coalition has been waging war against the Houthis since 2015, trying to restore the internationally recognized government. Thousands of Yemeni civilians have died in airstrikes.

The U .N. statement released Wednesday said that along with the 17 killed, including 12 Ethiopian migrants who had reached Yemen in search of a better life, another 12 civilians were wounded in the strike on the Al-Raqw market in the northern province of Saada on Tuesday.

It was the third time in a month that the market was targeted, the U.N. added, saying the number of killed and wounded in the three attacks has reached 89. Local Houthi rebel authorities heavily restrict access to journalists and rights groups into the region of Saada, which has seen some of the war's worst fighting.

Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency quoted spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki on Thursday as saying his coalition command is investigating an attack that targeted Houthi rebels Tuesday in Saada's district of Monabbih. That's the same area where Al-Raqw market exists. He said the attack might have resulted in “accidental losses” and “collateral damages.” He said the results of the investigation will be made public.

The attacks on the market are deeply troubling, said Yemen U.N humanitarian coordinator Lise Grande. “Every attack of this kind is a gross violation," she said. “The parties responsible for this, and other atrocities, must be held accountable.”

Yemen’s conflict erupted in 2014, when the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north, pushing out Yemen's internationally recognized government and ushering in a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people. The fighting has also left millions suffering from food and medical shortages and pushed the country to the brink of famine.

Houthi spokesman Yehia Sarea tweeted later Wednesday that “these crimes” by the Saudi-led coalition “will not go by unnoticed" and pledged that the victims would be avenged. He put the death toll at least 20. The conflicting tolls could not immediately be reconciled.

Sarea also posted images on social media purporting to show the casualties from the attack.

Yemen’s conflict erupted in 2014, when the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north, pushing out Yemen's internationally recognized government and ushering in a civil war that has killed tens of thousands of people. The fighting has also left millions suffering from food and medical shortages and pushed the country to the brink of famine.