Air strike kills 40 at Yemen wedding

Sanaa: A suspected Saudi-led air strike on a Yemeni wedding today killed at least 40 people, including women and children, prompting Iran-backed rebels to accuse the kingdom of committing another “crime”.

“The bodies of 31 people, including children, have been taken to a hospital in Mokha,” said a medical official, who later raised to 40 the death toll at the hall in the Red Sea city.

Dozens of people were wounded, most of them seriously.

Witnesses reported that warplanes struck the wedding hall in Mokha, which is controlled by the 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.

Human rights watchdogs have repeatedly criticised the coalition’s aerial bombardment of Yemen, saying they have struck areas without any military targets.

They have also accused the rebels of war crimes for what they have called “indiscriminate” shelling of civilian-populated areas.

Several coalition air strikes have hit non-military facilities killings dozens of civilians during the past six months.

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.

Loyalist forces today 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 yesterday.

In the central city of Taez, two sisters and their grandmother were killed yesterday 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. (AFP)