Coalition airstrikes led by Saudi Arabia hit a bus carrying children in rebel-held northern Yemen on Thursday, killing and wounding dozens.
The bus had been travelling through a busy market in Dahyan district, northern Saada, at the time of the raid. The Houthi rebels’ health ministry said 43 people died, including 29 children.
According to Save the Children, they were heading back from a picnic when the driver stopped to get a drink.
"Scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10," Johannes Bruwer, head of delegation for the International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) in Yemen, stated in a Twitter post.
The ICRC said one of the hospitals it supports was treating the wounded. In a video recorded in the immediate aftermath of the attack, one boy covered in dirt trying to stand up was seemingly unable to move.
"My leg won’t get up," he told the man behind the camera.
Mohammed Abdul-Salam, a Houthi spokesman, accused the coalition of showing a "clear disregard for civilian life" by targeting a crowded public place. Footage from the hospital showed young children, some still wearing their backpacks, bleeding and apparently injured.
"It is high time for these relapsing tragedies to stop in Yemen," said Robert Mardini, the ICRC’s regional director. "No one should allow putting children in harm’s way and making them pay such an unacceptable price."
The Houthi rebels control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa.The Dahyan district hit on Thursday lies close to the Saudi border.
In recent months, rebels have fired missiles into the neighbouring kingdom, including on Wednesday in an attack that killed one person. Col Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, said the attack in Saada targeted the rebels who had fired it.
He said it was carried out "in accordance with international and humanitarian law and customs," and accused the rebels of using the children as human shields.
The coalition intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognised government to power after it was driven out of Sanaa by Shia rebels.
The coalition, which receives support and funding from the US and UK, has been criticised for its often indiscriminate bombing of civilian areas. According to the Campaign Against Arms Trade, the UK has licensed £4.7billion worth of arms sales to Saudi Arabia since 2015.
Andrew Smith, from the organisation, said: "This atrocity cannot be ignored. The UK government has been utterly complicit in the destruction. It has armed and supported the Saudi-led coalition right from the start.
"The death toll has spiralled and the humanitarian crisis has only got worse, and yet the arms sales have continued." Thursday’s strike was a relatively high single-day death toll for the war, which has so far claimed the lives of about 10,000 people and described by aid workers as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
A Saudi blockade of Yemen left millions there on the brink of starvation and lacking the medicines needed to treat an outbreak of cholera.
Martin Griffiths, the UN special envoy for Yemen, has been urging the warring parties to restart peace talks and announced plans to invite both sides to Geneva on Sept 6. Rebecca Rebarich, a Pentagon spokesman, said: "US military support to our partners mitigates non-combatant casualties.
"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.
"Our non-combat support focuses on improving coalition processes and procedures, especially regarding compliance with the law of armed conflict and best practices for reducing the risk of civilian casualties."
‘No one should allow putting children in harm’s way and making them pay such an unacceptable price’