SANAA - at least 40 people were killed when a wedding hall in southwest yemen was bombarded Monday in a suspected Saudi-led coalition air strike, medics and witnesses said.
“The bodies of 31 people, including children, have been taken to a hospital in Mokha,” said a medical source, who later raised to 40 the death toll at the hall in the Red Sea city. He said dozens of people were wounded, most of them seriously.
Witnesses reported that warplanes struck the wedding hall in Mokha, which is controlled by Huthi rebels.
However, one resident who requested anonymity said: “I didn’t hear any warplanes.”
There was no immediate comment from the Saudi-led Arab coalition, which launched an air war on the Huthi rebels in late March in support of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi. “This is a new crime that is added to the massacres committed by the Saudi regime against the people of yemen ,” said the rebel-controlled Saba news agency, citing official statements protesting the bombing.
Several coalition air strikes have hit non-military facilities killings dozens of civilians over the past six months, prompting condemnation from rights groups.
In late August, an air raid struck a bottled-water factory in the northern province of Hajja, killing 17 civilians and 14 rebel fighters.
Warplanes in July attacked the residences of employees of a power plant in Mokha, killing 65 civilians, while a raid on a dairy plant in the Red Sea port city of Hodeida in April left 35 civilians dead.
The United Nations says nearly 4,900 people, including a vast number of civilians, have been killed in Yemen’s conflict since late March.
In July, coalition-backed loyalist forces evicted the rebels from the southern city of Aden and four other provinces in the south. They have since set their sights on advancing on rebel-held Sanaa.
On Monday, loyalist forces backed by Saudi-led ground and air support attacked rebels near the ruins of the ancient Marib dam, east of Sanaa, an AFP correspondent reported. “We have attacked the Huthis from three fronts: north, south and the east,” said Marib province’s deputy governor, Abdul Wahed al-Gibli.
The head of police special forces in Marib, General Abdo al-Sayani, said 22 rebels had been killed since Sunday. In the central city of Taez, two sisters and their grandmother were killed Sunday in rebel bombing, the state news agency said.
yemen descended into chaos after the 2012 ouster of longtime strongman Ali Abdullah Saleh, and security has broken down since Huthi militiamen swept into the capital unopposed last year.