Skip to main content

Dozens of casualties feared in suspected airstrike on Yemeni wedding

Locals blame Saudi-led coalition for deadly attack, which came as Houthi rebels signalled willingness to join UN-brokered peace talks
Yemenis walk through rubble of a wedding hall hit by a coalition strike in July (AFP)

At least 30 people are feared dead and dozens missing in Yemen after a suspected Saudi-led airstrike targeted a wedding party in the second such attack in a week.

Large numbers of people were attending the event at a family home in the small town of Sanban, some 100 kilometres south of the capital Sanaa, when the airstrike hit on Wednesday evening.

Families had gathered to celebrate the joint wedding of three sons from the Sanabali family, according to one of their cousins, Tawfiq al-Sanabali, who spoke to the New York Times newspaper on Thursday.

Medics on the ground told Houthi-owned news site 21 Sept that two of the sons who were due to be married were killed, along with one of the brides, whose wedding convoy reportedly arrived at the house just before the airstrike.

Estimates of the death toll varied widely on Thursday morning, although CNN put the number of those killed and injured at about 100, saying at least 30 people were dead.

Locals allege that the raid was launched by planes from the Saudi-led coalition that has been trying to dislodge Houthi rebels over the past seven months.

“Warplanes were heard in the area ahead of the attack,” eyewitness Taha al-Zuba told AFP.

“Coalition warplanes launched the attack. The house was completely destroyed.”

But the Saudi-led coalition denied any involvement in the incident, with a spokesperson telling AFP: "There were no strikes there. Definitely."

"Not every explosion that takes place in Yemen is an airstrike," coalition spokesperson Ahmed Assiri told CNN.

"It could be a missile, car bomb, or weapons cache."

Saudi-owned news site al-Arabiya did not carry news of the claimed strike, alleging instead that shelling launched by the Houthis on Wednesday night killed “dozens” of civilians in Sanbar.

The alleged raid in Sanbar on Wednesday night was the second to target a Yemeni wedding party in just over a week.

On 28 September planes thought to be from the Saudi-led coalition bombed a wedding party in the Red Sea port town of Mocha, killing some 130 people in what the UN says could be the single deadliest attack in seven months of war.

The missiles hit as a man linked to the Houthi movement celebrated his wedding in the town.

The coalition also denied responsibility for that attack, saying the force had launched no strikes in the area.

However, Yemeni officials who spoke to the Associated Press confirmed that the deaths were the result of an airstrike, saying the attack had been a “mistake”.

In the wake of the most recent wedding strike there were calls for retribution from locals.

Translation: After the incident in Sanban, the whole Ans tribe must deploy on the front lines to get revenge on the murderous family of Al Saud and [King] Salman

Wednesday’s strike came hours after Houthi leaders signalled their willingness to abide by the terms of a UN resolution aimed at ending the bloody conflict.

The Houthis, and their allies from deposed president Ali Abdullah Saleh’s party, said on Wednesday afternoon that they agreed to the terms of Resolution 2216, which calls on them to lay down their arms and withdraw from areas under their control.

“This is an important step,” the UN chief’s spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, told reporters in New York.

Amid ongoing peace talks hosted by UN envoy Ismail Ould Sheikh in Oman, the only Gulf state not taking part in the Saudi-led military campaign against the Houthi rebels, UN deputy chief Jan Eliasson headed to Saudi Arabia on Thursday to discuss the humanitarian fallout of the conflict.

Stay informed with MEE's newsletters

Sign up to get the latest alerts, insights and analysis, starting with Turkey Unpacked

Middle East Eye delivers independent and unrivalled coverage and analysis of the Middle East, North Africa and beyond. To learn more about republishing this content and the associated fees, please fill out this form. More about MEE can be found here.