Funerals held for children killed in school bus attack

Grieving parents were among those burying loved ones in Yemen on Monday after an air raid killed dozens of people, including at least 29 children.

On Thursday a school bus in the Dahyan area of Houthi rebel-controlled Saada province in the north of the country was hit by the Saudi-UAE military alliance.

Days later, body parts remain unidentified and some families are desperately searching for the remains of their children. 

Abdelhakim Amir searched the wreckage of the burned-out bus in the hope of finding some sign of his son, Ahmed.

“I just found some of what the child was wearing,” he said. “I didn’t find any of his remains, not his finger, not his bone, not his skull, nothing. I looked through all the remains in the hospital and I didn’t see anything.”

Twenty-nine small graves were dug at a cemetery in Saada where the children will be buried. The funerals were to take place on Saturday but were delayed because of security concerns. Houthi fighters said such gatherings could be targeted by more coalition air raids.

Some families are still searching the wreckage for their loved ones’ remains [Kareem al-Mrrany/AP]

The Saudi-UAE military alliance initially denied targetting civilians, saying the attack was part of an “legitimate military operation” in response to Houthi missile fire into southern Saudi Arabia the previous day.

The coalition has since promised to investigate the incident with Houthi fighters saying they are willing to cooperate with the inquiry.

Worst place on Earth

The children were returning from a school summer camp early on Thursday when the bus was hit as it travelled through a busy market. 

At least 50 people were killed in the attack and more than 77 wounded, according to local officials cited by the International Committee of the Red Cross.

Images and footage of young survivors covered in blood and reeling from shock in the aftermath of the attack provoked international condemnation. 

The United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for a “independent and prompt” probe into the incident.

Geert Cappelaere, regional director in the Middle East and North Africa at UNICEF, said there was “no excuse” for continued complacency towards the bloody three-year conflict in Yemen.

“Does the world really need more innocent children’s lives to stop the cruel war on children in Yemen?” he said on Twitter.

The charity Save the Children called Yemen the worst place in the world to be a child. Millions are struggling with hunger and disease as relief efforts are exasperated by frequent blockades of its air and seaports.

Peace talks 

With logistical support from the United States, Saudi Arabia and the UAE have carried out attacks in Yemen since March 2015 in an attempt to reinstate the internationally recognised government of President Abu-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

In 2014, Hadi and his forces were overrun by Houthi rebels who took over much of the country, including the capital Sanaa.

At least 10,000 people have been killed in the war. However, this death toll has not been updated in years and is certain to be much higher.

In June, Saudi and UAE forces carried out 258 air raids on Yemen, nearly one-third of which targeted non-military sites. 

The UN special envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, recently announced plans for negotiations between the warring parties.

The peace talks will begin in Geneva on September 6 and focus on building a transitional government and laying down arms.

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