Yemen’s Houthis welcome U.N. call for investigation into air strikes

DUBAI/GENEVA (Reuters) – Yemen’s Houthi group welcomed on Friday a call by the United Nations for an independent investigation into Saudi-led coalition air strikes that killed dozens of people a day earlier, including children traveling on a bus.

FILE PHOTO: A Yemeni man holds a boy who was injured by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen August 9, 2018./REUTERS/Naif Rahma

“We welcome the call of the secretary general (of the United Nations) and we are ready to cooperate,” the head of the Houthis’ supreme revolutionary committee, Mohammed Ali al-Houthi, said in a tweet.

A Yemeni health official and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday that an air strike had hit the bus carrying children as it drove through a market in northern Saada province.

U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres on Thursday condemned the air strike and called for an “independent and prompt investigation”, his spokesman said.

Henrietta Fore, executive director of the U.N. Children’s Fund UNICEF, said in a statement on Friday that the “horrific” bus attack “marks a low point in (Yemen’s) brutal war”.

FILE PHOTO: Smoke rises after an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen August 9, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

“The question now is whether it will also be a turning point — the moment that must finally push the warring parties, UN Security Council and international community to do what’s right for children and bring an end to this conflict,” she added.

The Western-backed alliance fighting the Iranian-aligned Houthis said the air strikes had targeted missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday, killing a Yemeni civilian there.

It accused the Houthis of using children as human shields and said the strikes were carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law.

The U.S.-led coalition carried out new air strikes on Friday, killing a girl and injuring several other people whose home was targeted in the Marib province, east of the capital Sanaa, the Houthis’ al-Masirah TV said.

The Houthi-run Saba news agency said their forces fired a short-range ballistic missile at a camp of military units backed by the Saudi-led coalition, south of Marib.

The coalition did not confirm carrying out new raids in Yemen nor the missile strike reported by Saba.

Yemen, where a Saudi-led coalition has been battling the Iranian-aligned Houthi movement in a three-year-old war, lies on one of the world’s most important trade routes for oil tankers, the Bab al-Mandeb strait.

Reporting by Maher Chmaytelli in Dubai and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Catherine Evans

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