Air strikes kill schoolchildren in Yemen

Residences in Jizan hit by the shrapnel after Saudi Royal Air Defense Forces intercepted a ballistic missile launched by the Houthi rebels. SPA

A Saudi-led coalition said on Friday it would investigate an air strike that killed dozens of children in Yemen, an apparent shift of stance on an attack Riyadh initially portrayed as a legitimate military action against its Houthi foes.

At least 50 people were killed in the attack on a market in Saada on Thursday, according to the Houthi-controlled health department.

The charity Save the Children said it had been told by its staff that the children were on their way back to school from a picnic when the driver of their bus stopped to get a drink.

He could not confirm when funerals for the victims would take place.

The Iranian backed Houthi rebels seized the capital of Sanaa in 2014 and overthrew the internationally recognised government led by President Abdrabu Mansur Hadi during a transition of power from former president Ali Abdullah Saleh.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres urged an "independent and prompt" probe, while State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said Washington was "calling the Saudi led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident". "We take all credible accounts of civilian causalities very seriously".

A doctor treats children injured by an airstrike in Saada, Yemen, Aug. 9, 2018.

Ahmed al-Mansouri, the hospital's director, condemned what he called the "massacre of children".

A Yemeni military source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Arabic-language al-Masirah television network that the projectiles hit the designated targets with great precision.

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Earlier in the day, Yemeni troopers and their allies had fired a short-range Badr-1 ballistic missile at al-Jarbah base in Dhahran district of Asir region, though no reports of casualties were quickly available. "The attack today was a follow-up process to neutralise that threat".

The Saudis have accused the Houthis of using children as human shields, a charge the rebels deny.

"Our support to the coalition consists of aerial refuelling and intelligence support to assist our partners in securing their borders from cross-border attacks from the Houthis". Fragments from a missile launched at the Jizan Industrial City in southern Saudi Arabia late on Wednesday, killed one Yemeni civilian and wounded 11, Saudi state media said earlier on Thursday. They continue to try to attack civilian infrastructure in Saudi Arabia, for example.

A week ago, at least 55 civilians were killed and 170 others wounded in a series of attacks on the rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hudaydah. "Are they part of the elements responsible for the attack [last night], I think that question should be asked of the Houthi and they need to answer it".

Aid agency CARE International noted that Thursday's strike came a week after the Hodeida bombardment.

A U.S. military spokesperson said United States forces were not involved in Thursday's air strike.

"It is beyond cruel; innocent children's lives have been lost".

The war has left almost 10,000 people dead and unleashed what the United Nations describes as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

The Yemen war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country to the verge of starvation, according to the United Nations.

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