SANAA, Yemen (AP) — At least three dozen people, including 26 children and six women, were killed in airstrikes by Saudi-led forces in Yemen over the weekend, Yemen's Houthi rebels said, raising the death toll.
The Iranian-backed rebels have said the Saudi-led coalition carried out retaliatory airstrikes early on Saturday in the mountainous northern province of Jawf, after their fighters shot down a coalition warplane there the previous day.
The coalition said it was investigating “possible collateral damage” following an operation to rescue the Tornado fighter jet's two-man crew. It said that the whereabouts of the two pilots remains unknown.
The Saudi-led coalition of mostly Arab states has been fighting the rebels since early 2015, wehn it intervened to restore the collapsing authority of the internationally recognized government headed by Yemeni President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi.
A statement by the Houthi-run health ministry on Monday said the airstrikes hit civilian houses in al-Maslub district. The attack killed at least 35 people and wounded 23 others, including 18 children and a women.
The Saudi-led coalition has said some of the injured have been transported to Saudi Arabia for medical treatment.
Local residents said the coalition was targeting Houthi fighters, who had taken cover in a residential area near the crash site.
At least three houses were destroyed in the coalition airstrikes, killing all people inside, they said.
The Associated Press could not confirm if there were Houthi fighters among the casualties. The local residents spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Col. Turki al-Maliki, a spokesman for the coalition, said Saturday that the pilots managed to eject safely before the crash. He said the Houthi rebels were responsible for the pilots' “life and safety.”
The weekend crash and airstrikes came amid heavy clashes between Yemeni government forces and Houthis in the provinces of Marib, Jawf and Sanaa. Hundreds of people, mostly fighters, were killed in the recent clashes that have also forced at least 4,700 families to flee, according to the U.N.
In a relentless campaign, Saudi-led airstrikes have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties and killed thousands of Yemeni civilians. The Houthis have used drones and missiles to attack Saudi Arabia.
The war has killed over 100,000 people, including fighters and civilians, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project, which tracks violence reports in Yemen. The war also created the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, leaving millions suffering from food and medical shortages.