Saudi-led air strikes hit buses, kill at least 17 and wound 20 in Yemen
SANAA - When the battles calm, residents of conflict zones in Yemen often flee their homes, fearing that the fighting will become more intense.
But for some, this journey turns out to be their last.
As residents of Hodeidah's Jabal Ras district were trying to make their way in two buses towards safe areas on Saturday, Saudi-led air strikes targeted them and killed at least 17 and wounded about 20, including children and women.
The Houthi health ministry, Taha al-Mutawakel, on Saturday confirmed to Middle East Eye: "The casualties of the air strikes were taken to several hospitals in Hodeidah, and at least 17 were killed and about 20 are suffering from critical injuries, so the number of deaths may increase in coming hours."
A source in the health office in Hodeidah told MEE that the wounded are being moved among hospitals in Hodeida because there is a lack of doctors, health equipment and medicines, adding: "The wounded people need intensive care."
The war in Yemen has crippled the healthcare system. More than half of the people have little access to basic healthcare, less than 45 percent of the hospitals work properly and health personnel cannot cope with the demands, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.
A military source in Hodeidah province said that two Saudi-led air strikes targeted two buses of people trying to flee while they were on the main road in Jabal Ras district.
He told MEE: "The air strikes targeted the buses in a safe area after they had fled the conflict zone."
The brother of a man who was killed by a Saudi-led airstrike in Sanaa last year said that Saudi-led air strikes are driving people to side with the Houthis against the Saudi coalition.
"One of my brothers was killed by a Saudi-led air strike while he was at home in Sanaa, so another brother joined the war against the Saudis to take revenge," he told MEE.
"This did not happen only with my brother, but has been happening with many people since the beginning of the war; the number of people joining against the Saudis is increasing every day," he added.
The Saudi-led coalition admitted to a mistake in a deadly strike on a civilian bus in August that killed 40 children but has not commented on other cases. Still, the coalition has not stopped targeting civilian buses.
The brother of the victim said: "I believe that there is a puzzle behind targeting buses, and we cannot solve this puzzle. The Saudis know very well that killing civilians is something people hold against them, so why do they keep targeting civilians?"
He has excluded the explanation of mistakes, he said, because errors cannot be repeated so many times.
The coalition led by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates and armed by the West has engaged in more than three years of war in Yemen to restore the internationally recognised government of Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by Houthi rebels from Sanaa in 2015.
By January 2017, the UN estimated 10,000 people had been killed, more than half of them civilians, and 55,000 injured, although according to Human Rights Watch and other rights groups, the actual casualty count is likely much higher.
The conflict has turned Yemen into "a living hell for children," with 11 million children facing the threat of food shortages, disease, displacement and acute lack of access to basic social services, according to UNICEF.