At least 10 children have been killed and 28 others injured in an airstrike in Yemen, according to Medecins Sans Frontieres, Sky News reports. A spokesman for the Paris-based aid agency, Malak Shaher, said the Saudi-led attack hit a Koranic school in the northwestern town of Haydan in Saada province.
Mr Shaher said: “We received 10 dead children and 28 wounded, all under the age of 15, who are victims of airstrikes.” But this has been disputed by a Saudi general, who says the raid hit a rebel training centre, not a school, and that the rebels used “children as recruits”.
Houthi rebels, who are backed by Iran, posted pictures and videos on Facebook of dead and bloodied children wrapped in blankets. Rebel spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said warplanes “targeted” children at the Jomaa bin Fadhel school, in what he described as a “heinous crime”.
The attack has been confirmed by UNICEF, the United Nations children’s agency. It warned that “with the intensification in violence across the country in the past week, the number of children killed and injured by airstrikes, street fighting and landmines has grown sharply.
“UNICEF calls on all parties to the conflict in Yemen to respect and abide by their obligations under international law. “This includes the obligation to only target combatants and limit harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure.” Since March last year, Yemen has been the target of an air campaign launched by an Arab coalition, led by Saudi Arabia.
It was requested by Yemen President Abd Rabbuh Mansur Hadi’s government, which is waging a civil war against the Houthi movement. It recognises former president Ali Abdullah Saleh as Yemen’s legitimate leader.
In June, Saudi Arabia reacted angrily to a decision to blacklist the coalition after a UN report found the Arab alliance responsible for more than half of the 785 deaths of children in Yemen last year. UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon has accused Saudi Arabia of threatening to cut off funding to UN aid programmes over the blacklist, although this is denied by the Saudis.
The UN says more than 6,400 people, most of them civilians, have been killed in Yemen since the airstrikes began.