SANAA: More than 140 people were killed and more than 525 wounded Saturday when air strikes hit a funeral ceremony in Yemen, a United Nations official said, with Houthi rebels blaming the attack on the Saudi-led coalition.Senior health ministry official Nasser al-Argaly warned that the toll from the air strike that targeted a building where mourners had gathered in southern Sanaa could rise further.Emergency workers pulled out at least 20 charred remains and body parts from the gutted building while others scoured the wreckage in search for survivors, an AFP photographer at the scene said.
The rebel-controlled news site sabanews.net said that coalition planes hit a building in southern Sanaa where hundreds had gathered to mourn the death of the father of a prominent local official.
The Houthis did not say if the official ─ rebel interior minister Jalal al-Rowaishan ─ was present in the building at the time of the attack which they dubbed a “massacre” nor did they indicate if other senior figures were attending the funeral.
Rebel Almasirah television said Sanaa mayor Abdel Qader Hilal was among those killed.
People had come from all over Sanaa to attend the funeral, said Mulatif al-Mojani, who witnessed the air strikes.“A plane fired a missile and minutes later another plane pounded the building,” he told AFP.
Another witness, who declined to give his name, described the attack as “war crime”. “This was a funeral for one man in Sanaa and now it has turned into a funeral for tens of Yemenis,” he said. A security source, quoted by the rebel website, said a fire tore through the building after the strikes.
The United States (US) said Saturday it had launched an “immediate review” of the Saudi-led coalition in Yemen which was blamed for the strike.”US security cooperation with Saudi Arabia is not a blank check… In light of this and other recent incidents, we have initiated an immediate review of our already significantly reduced support to the Saudi-led Coalition and are prepared to adjust our support so as to better align with US principles, values and interests, including achieving an immediate and durable end to Yemen’s tragic conflict.”
The Saudi-led coalition said Sunday it would investigate the air raid after Washington announced it was reviewing support for the alliance. After initially denying any responsibility, the coalition said it was ready to launch a probe into the “regrettable and painful” strike.”The coalition will immediately investigate this case along with… experts from the United States who participated in previous investigations,” it said in a statement carried by the Saudi Press Agency.
“The coalition is also willing to provide the investigation team with any data and information related to its military operations today, at the incident’s location and the surrounding areas,” it said.
The UN said aid workers were “shocked and outraged” by the attack.
Houthis swept into Sanaa in September 2014 and advanced across much of Yemen, forcing the government of President Abd Rabbo Mansour Hadi to flee Sanaa.
More than 6,700 people ─ most of them civilians ─ have been killed in Yemen since the coalition intervened in support of Hadi, according to the United Nations.
Ambulance sirens blared as they transported the wounded away and residents said local hospitals had issued an appeal for blood donations.The so-called supreme political council set up by the Houthis and their allies — supporters of ousted president Ali Abdullah Saleh — urged the Yemenis to stage a protest Sunday outside UN offices in Sanaa to protest against “war crimes” committed by the Saudi-led coaliton.
The coalition has come under mounting international criticism in recent months over the civilian death toll in its aerial campaign.
A UN report in August said coalition air strikes are suspected of causing around half of all civilian deaths in Yemen.
It called for an independent international body to investigate an array of serious violations by all sides, after 4,000 civilians have been killed.
At dawn a suspected Saudi-led raid on a house near Bajil, in the Red Sea province of Hodeida, killed four civilian members of the same family, a local official said.
In addition to the mounting death toll, Yemenis are facing twin health and hunger crises.
The UN’s children agency Unicef estimates that three million people are in need of immediate food supplies, while 1.5 million children suffer malnutrition.
Unicef said Friday that cases of cholera had been reported in Sanaa and third city Taez, calling on the international community to fund medical aid efforts.