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Sanaa: A boy looks on as he attends a protest by women loyal to the Houthi movement against an alleged rape of a woman by a coalition soldier on Monday.—Reuters
Sanaa: A boy looks on as he attends a protest by women loyal to the Houthi movement against an alleged rape of a woman by a coalition soldier on Monday.—Reuters

ADEN: An air strike near the Yemeni port of Hodeida on Monday killed 16 people in a building where Houthi rebels were gathering, security sources said.

There were conflicting reports on the number of rebels versus civilians killed in the strike which was believed to have been carried out by the Saudi-led coalition.

The coalition said it was investigating the reports and could not immediately comment.

The strike occurred in the district of Al-Hali in Hodeida province, which is controlled by the Iran-backed insurgents.

The security sources said a second air strike targeted the house of a Houthi commander in the same area, but there were no immediate reports of casualties.

The rebels’ Al-Masirah news outlet also reported two air strikes in Al-Hali district, saying they targeted a camp for displaced people and that most of the victims were women and children.

The security sources said there was no camp for the displaced in the area.

In a statement, coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki said: “We take this report very seriously and it will be fully investigated as all reports of this nature are.” The coalition is the only force known to carry out air strikes on Houthi rebel-held territory and has previously admitted to “erroneous” strikes that caused civilian casualties.

Saudi Arabia and its allies launched a military intervention in Yemen in 2015 with the aim of rolling back the Houthi rebels who had seized the capital and restoring the government to power.Medics and a civilian who saw the wreckage said the air strike had destroyed a house in the al-Hali district, where displaced civilians from other provinces were settled.

Hodeidah is home to the impoverished country’s biggest port from where most of the humanitarian aid reaches millions of civilians on the brink of famine. The operation of the port, controlled by the Iran-aligned Houthis, was not affected by the air strike.

Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates intervened in a civil war in Yemen in 2015 against the Houthis to restore the internationally recognised government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

The alliance, which includes other Sunni Muslim states, has conducted thousands of air strikes targeting Houthi fighters and has often hit civilian areas, although it denies ever doing so intentionally.

The war has killed more than 10,000 people, displaced more than 2 million and driven the country — already the poorest on the Arabian Peninsula — to the verge of famine.

Published in Dawn, April 3rd, 2018