Middle East

Coalition airstrikes kill nine people in Yemen

People gather at the site of an air strike that destroyed a house on the outskirts of the northwestern city of Saada, Yemen January 22, 2018. REUTERS/Naif Rahma

SAADA, Yemen / RIYADH: Arab-led coalition aircraft Monday struck a building in northern Yemen that housed a clinic, killing seven people, five of them children, residents said, the latest in a series of raids.

A spokesman for the coalition had no immediate comment on the attack, which residents said occurred early in the morning. The coalition says it does not target civilians in its war against the Iran-aligned Houthi group.

Yemen has been torn apart by nearly three years of conflict, with most of the populous north controlled by the armed Houthi group, while the south and east are run by the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbou Mansour Hadi, which is backed by a coalition of Arab states.

Residents of Sohar district, on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Saada, said warplanes had struck the building that housed a small clinic and a house. As well as the seven deaths, five people were injured, residents said.

“A bus that was parked here was thrown behind the house and that house was damaged by the size of the bomb,” said a man who identified himself as Abu Yasser as people gathered around the destroyed building.

In a separate raid in the same district Monday two other people – a woman in her seventh month of pregnancy and her husband – were killed when a hanger and flour mill were struck by the coalition, according to the woman’s brother-in-law.

A coalition spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for a comment on the attack.

The coalition says its pilots take extra precautions not to hit civilian targets and that it investigates each report of civilians being hit.

In the incident in southwestern Yemen, Houthi fighters fired rockets at a parade by special security forces in the town of al-Maafer, medics said.

The town is near Taiz, Yemen’s third-largest city, which is controlled by Hadi supporters.

The medics said one rocket hit the main viewing platform, killing 12 people, including two journalists covering the event, but the deputy interior minister in Hadi’s government, Nasser Lakhsha, who was attending the parade, escaped unharmed.

The Houthis have made no comment on the attack on Taiz.

Meanwhile, the coalition said it would commit $1.5 billion in new humanitarian aid for Yemen.

The U.S.-backed coalition said it had already completed the first aid flight of a new air bridge to the central city of Marib and had set up 17 overland corridors for aid shipments.

It also plans to install four cranes in three southern ports held by the government to boost the flow of imports, coalition officials told a news conference in Riyadh.

“We are backing a professionally planned and detailed humanitarian mission with military power and precision to guarantee that the humanitarian aid reaches the people who need it to lift their suffering,” spokesman Col. Turki al-Malki said.

Yemen is the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, where 8.3 million people are entirely dependent on external food aid and 400,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition, a potentially lethal condition, according to the United Nations.

The coalition has already pumped billions of dollars worth of aid into Yemen, yet the war has still cut food deliveries by more than half.

The new aid program seeks to boost monthly imports to 1.4 million metric tons from 1.1 million last year.

Malki said the coalition would extend by another month its permission for commercial ships to dock at Hudaida, a Houthi-held port on the Red Sea that is the country’s main entry point for food.

Malki added that after coalition talks with a United Nations body tasked with inspecting Yemen-bound ships and Djibouti, the United Nations would now be able to search all such vessels in the port for possible weapons .

Last week, Saudi Arabia deposited $2 billion in Yemen’s central bank after the Yemeni prime minister made a public plea for funds to prop up the currency and help stave off hunger.

The Yemen war has caused a major humanitarian crisis, killing more than 10,000, according to United Nations data released in 2016.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on January 23, 2018, on page 9.

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