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Saudi-led coalition denies air strike targeted civilians in Yemen

UN officials have said all parties in the war show a 'disregard for the protection of civilians'
A Saudi F-15 fighter jet landing at the Khamis Mushayt military airbase (AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition battling Houthi militias in Yemen has denied targeting a civilian home after a local health official said nine civilians were killed in an air strike.

Three women and six children were killed on Friday in the northwestern Saada province in an air strike on their home, the head of the local health department Abdel-Ilah al-Azzi said.

"Colonel Turki al-Malki, official spokesman for the coalition to support legitimacy in Yemen, denied that coalition forces targeted a house in the Muhaddah area southwest of Saada," it said in a statement posted on Saudi press agency SPA.

Malki said the coalition was coordinating with its allies in Yemen's internationally recognised government to investigate the incident but acknowledged that civilian casualties had occurred in Yemen, saying that he “expressed profound regret for the occurrence of civilian casualties among Yemeni people”.

The spokesman blamed rival Houthi rebels for civilian deaths saying they were “using civilian homes and civilian objects to conceal all forms of weapons, which is a flagrant violation of the international law”.

“[Malki] commanded the humanitarian organisations, the media outlets to be careful and accurate, for not blaming the coalition forces without accurate information, data and the results of a final investigation,” the statement said.

'Disregard for civilians'

Yemen has been racked by a civil war between the exiled government of President Abd Rabbuh Mansour Hadi and the Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who control the nation’s capital Sanaa and most of the north.

A group of nations led by Saudi Arabia has backed the internationally recognised Yemeni government of Hadi and has been conducting air strikes in support of government forces.

The denial comes days after the UN's humanitarian coordinator in Yemen Jamie McGoldrick expressed concern about the report saying that it was an example of the “disregard” for civilian safety shown by all combatants in the war.

"All parties to the conflict continue to show a disregard for the protection of civilians and the principle of distinction between civilians and combatants in the conduct of hostilities,” he said.

The Saada province where the strike took place is a stronghold for Houthi militants and has been repeatedly targeted by coalition air strikes.

The war in Yemen has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than three million and destroyed much of the nation’s infrastructure.

Aid organisations have warned that malnutrition and a lack of basic healthcare in Yemen were leading to a cholera epidemic.

Last week the medical NGO Save the Children warned that more than a million malnourished children under the age of five were at risk from the disease.

Oxfam has projected the number of cholera infections could rise to more than 600,000, which would make it the largest outbreak on record.