Yemen’s Iranian backed Shiite Houthi rebels supported a call by the United Nations for an investigation into the legality of recent Saudi airstrikes as the humanitarian toll in Yemen continues to rise.
The call comes after the Saudi-led coalition, backed by the United States, launched an airstrike on a busy market in the Dahyan district of northern Yemen that killed dozens of civilians, including many children, in an incident that drew international criticism.
On Thursday, U.N. General Secretary António Guterres urged Yemen’s warring factions to take “constant care to spare civilians” as they conduct military operations, while also calling for an “independent and prompt investigation.”
Senior Houthi rebel leader Mohammed Ali al-Houthi confirmed that his side welcomed a call for a U.N. probe and that his forces would cooperate any such investigation.
“We welcome the call of the secretary general [of the United Nations] and we are ready to cooperate,” he wrote on Twitter. According to the International Committee of the Red Cross, their doctors received the bodies of 29 dead children and treated a further 48 people for injuries.
However, Saudi authorities maintain the airstrike was targeting missile launchers used to attack the southern Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday and was a “legitimate military action” fully in accordance with international humanitarian law. They also claimed that the Houthis were using children as human shields.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said that the U.S. was “certainly concerned about the reports that there was an attack that resulted in the deaths of civilians.”
“We call on the Saudi-led coalition to conduct a thorough and transparent investigation into the incident,” she continued. “We take all credible accounts of civilian casualties very seriously.”
The executive director of UNICEF, Henrietta Fore, also argued that the “horrific” bus attack “marks a low point in [Yemen’s] brutal war.”
“The question now is whether it will also be a turning point — the moment that must finally push the warring parties, UN Security Council and the international community to do what’s right for children and bring an end to this conflict,” she said.
The ongoing civil war has left Yemen in what can only be described as the world’s most pressing humanitarian crisis, with over 22.2 million people in need of assistance.