The bombing of a wedding party in Yemen by an apparent Saudi Arabia airstrike has killed 135 people. The Saudi-led coalition, which has air supremacy in the area, denied responsibility for the tragedy.
Two missiles tore through two tents in the Al-Wahijah village in southwestern Yemen, where a wedding celebration was underway. According to media reports, the ill-fated wedding reception was held by a local man affiliated with the Houthi rebels, who are being targeted by Saudi-led airstrikes.
The UN estimates that 135 people died in the attack. Many of the dead were women and children, witnesses said.
The bombed wedding celebration took place not far from the Red Sea port of Mokha, which has “witnessed aerial bombardment on many occasions,” Yemeni-based journalist, Muhammad Al-Attab, told RT.
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UN chief Ban Ki-moon has condemned the airstrikes, once again stressing that “there is no military solution to the conflict.”
“This may be the single deadliest incident since the start of the conflict,” UN human rights agency spokesman Rupert Colville told reporters.
A senior official in the Yemeni government told AP that attack was conducted by a Saudi-led coalition which struck the wedding by “mistake.”
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The coalition rejected the accusations saying that it did not carry out any airstrikes in the region.
“There have been no air operations by the coalition in that area for three days. This is totally false news,” Coalition spokesman Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asseri told Reuters.
“The coalition knows its responsibility and will always acknowledge a mistake if we make it. Take into consideration the chaotic situation in Yemen, with several armed elements and forces active around the country. Also, people sometimes cannot distinguish between canon, mortar and Katyusha (multiple launch rocket systems),” he added.
The tragedy in Al-Wahijah village is not the first time Coalition missiles have hit crowded places in Yemen, Belkis Wille from Human Rights Watch, said.
“There have been many airstrikes since the beginning of this war that led to large civilian casualty numbers. I’ve documented several strikes since the beginning of the war on market places, because market places are going to be crowded. In one strike you see 60-65 people killed all at once, all civilians,” she said. “By the laws of war you can’t target them, especially when there is no military around,” Wille said
Sanaa-based political analyst, Hisham Omeisy, also pointed the finger at the Saudi-led forces, saying, “the Houthis don’t have fighter jets.”
“The UN and the international community need to directly condemn the Saudis for these attacks, they need to take a harder line,” he told RT.
The editor of London-based ‘al-Quds al-Arabi’ paper, Abdel Bari Atwan, called the bombing of the wedding “a massacre,” adding that “this is a daily routine now that Saudi-led coalition warplanes are bombing civilians in Yemen under the pretext of shelling the Houthis and Ali Abdullah Saleh’s opposition.”
The Saudi-led coalition launched its anti-Houthi campaign in March, 2015, after the “Ansar Allah” Houthi movement captured huge territories in Yemen including the capital of Sana’a and the country’s second largest city, Aden. Official UN figures illustrate that almost 4,900 people have been killed since Saudi forces began their bombardment of Yemen.
The bombing of the wedding comes just a day after Saudi-led coalition helicopters reportedly killed more than 30 people – primarily civilians – in a northern Yemeni village.