Yemen: Death toll from Saudi raid on vegetable market rises to 21

The death toll from a Saudi air strike on a vegetable market in western Yemen has risen to 21, with a local health official reporting children among the fatalities.

Abdullah Shahawi, director of the Bayt al-Faqih hospital, said all the victims from Wednesday’s attack were civilians and included at least two children.

Video obtained by Al Jazeera showed the aftermath of the strike, with body parts lying scattered across the okra market and coffins lined up in the hospital.

The video could not be independently verified, but it corresponded to events reported by the Associated Press news agency.

Citing a health ministry source, news website Middle East Eye reported the attack targeted the market in Bayt al-Faqih, 70km south of Hodeidah, killing mostly factory workers and farmers.

It reported that around half of the victims were killed instantly.

The Saudi-UAE alliance, which has carried out more than 16,000 air raids in Yemen, said it would investigate the incident.

“We take this report very seriously and it will be fully investigated, as all reports of this nature are, using an internationally approved, independent process,” the alliance’s spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said.

“While this is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” he said.

Lise Grande, the United Nation’s humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, slammed the attack, saying: “Civilians are paying a shocking price because of this conflict.”

“This is the third time this month the fighting has caused mass casualties in Hodeidah,” she said.

In June, forces loyal to Yemen’s government, alongside Saudi and Emirati forces, launched an offensive to retake Hodeidah from the Houthis, who control large parts of northern Yemen.

Hodeidah’s port is the main gateway for commercial imports and relief supplies into the country, and also carries strategic importance for the alliance.

Saudi and Emirati officials have alleged it is the main entry point for Iranian arms shipments to the Houthis, a charge Tehran and the rebels deny.

US deeply engaged in this war’

While not directly involved in the fighting, the United States and the United Kingdom have sold more than $12bn worth of weapons to Saudi Arabia, including warplanes and the payloads they drop on Yemen.

Accordoing to the Yemen Data Project, between June 1 and September 30, the alliance carried out at least 335 air raids on Hodeidah province, with civilians frequently bearing the brunt.

At least 15 people were killed in September when raids hit a highway linking the city of Hodeidah with the capital, Sanaa.

However, following a recent air attack on a school bus that killed 40 children, individual members of the US Congress have called on the country’s military to clarify its role in the war and investigate whether support for the air raids could render American military personnel “liable under the war crimes act”.

In an op-ed for the New York Times on Wednesday, US Senator Bernie Sanders urged Congress to end what he called “the carnage in Yemen”.

“The US is deeply engaged in this war. We are providing bombs the Saudi-led coalition is using, we are refueling their planes before they drop those bombs, and we are assisting with intelligence,” Sanders wrote.

“I very much hope that Congress will act, that we will finally take seriously our congressional duty, end our support for the carnage in Yemen, and send the message that human lives are worth more than profits for arms manufacturers,” he wrote.

According to the UN, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed since the war began in 2014, leaving nearly two-thirds of Yemen’s population of 27 million relying on aid and over eight million at risk of starvation.

The war began when Houthi rebels, traditionally confined to the north of the country, swept south taking over much of the country, including the southern port of Aden, forcing Yemen’s President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee.

Conflict escalated in March 2015, when a Saudi-UAE led alliance began a campaign to roll back Houthi gains.

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