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50 Killed in Saudi-UAE Strike on School Bus in Yemen

Saudi-UAE coalition airstrike that killed dozens of children traveling on a bus, which has been seen as an outright crime, has drawn widespread criticism, with the United Nations calling for an independent investigation into the attack
A child hurt in Saudi-UAE airstrike in Saada, Yemen, on August 9A child hurt in Saudi-UAE airstrike in Saada, Yemen, on August 9
In unverified videos uploaded to social media, bereaved parents could be seen pleading with hospital staff for updates, as dead bodies literally began piling up, on top of each other

Grief and anger has gripped Yemen's war-ravaged province of Saada after the Saudi-UAE military alliance, backed by the US, bombed a school bus carrying children heading to a Quran class on Thursday.

Al Masirah, a pro-Houthi TV network, said at least 50 people, including dozens of children, were killed in the attack which struck the bus as it was approaching a crowded market in Dahyan city, Al Jazeera reported.

Johannes Bruwer, head of a delegation for the International Committee of the Red Crescent in Yemen, said in a Twitter post that according to local officials, 77 were also injured. "Of these, the ICRC hospital in Al Talh received 30 dead and 48 injured, of which the vast majority were children."

Mohammed Jabber Awad, the governor of Saada, told Al Jazeera that the bus was carrying 30 students, but as many as 60 people may have been killed in the raid.

According to the ICRC, one of the few humanitarian institutions helping civilians in the country, all of the children who were admitted to its hospital were under the age of 15.

>Independent Investigation

Yemen's Houthi group welcomed on Friday a call by the United Nations for an independent investigation into the airstrike. "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.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres on Thursday condemned the airstrike and called for an "independent and prompt investigation," his spokesman said, Reuters reported.

Henrietta Fore, executive director of the UN Children's Fund UNICEF, said in a statement on Friday that the "horrific" bus attack “marks a low point in [Yemen's] brutal war."

"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 Saudi-UAE alliance has issued a statement to the Saudi-owned Al-Arabiya network saying it launched the attacks on Saada, and accused Houthi fighters of using the children as human shields.

"[The airstrikes] conformed to international and humanitarian laws," a statement quoting coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki contended.

The coalition carried out new airstrike 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.

>Dead Bodies Piling

In unverified videos uploaded to social media, bereaved parents could be seen pleading with hospital staff for updates, as dead bodies literally began piling up, on top of each other.

In one video, a father could be seen struggling to contain his grief after he found his dead son under a heap of corpses in the boot of a Nissan pick-up truck.

In a second video, one of the children who survived the attack refused to receive medical attention until doctors updated him on the fate of his two younger brothers. "I have two brothers, Hassan and Yehia, who are smaller than me," the boy said. "Where are my brothers? ... I don't want help until I see my brothers."

Pictures from the scene of the attack showed homes and businesses destroyed, with trails of blood on the roads and UNICEF rucksacks splattered with blood.

"I am watching with horror the images and videos coming from Saada in #Yemen and I have no words. How was this a military target? Why are children being killed?" tweeted Meritxell Relano, UNICEF's resident representative in Yemen.

>Deafening Silence

Yemen's Ministry of Defense issued a statement early on Friday, saying, "The silence of the international community legitimized [the Saudi-UAE alliance's] continuing aggression and brutality. By staying silent about these crimes, they are accomplices in the deaths of women and children."

Hussain al-Bukhaiti, a pro-Houthi activist, told Al Jazeera that the death toll was expected to rise. "Most of the hospitals and clinics in Saada have either been completely destroyed or are badly damaged, and most lack basic medicines. So how will they treat them?"

Al Jazeera's Mohammed Adow, reporting from neighboring Djibouti, said this latest attack would enrage Yemenis who are already aggrieved over the rising civilian death toll.

"The Saudis tend to deny these kinds of actions, which have sadly become all too common," he said. "It's all too rare for either party [the alliance or the Houthis] to take responsibility."

With logistical support from the US, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have carried out attacks in Yemen since March 2015. The war effort is ostensibly an attempt to reinstate the ousted government of Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

 

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