Saudi-led airstrikes targeting Shiite rebels in Yemen hit a bus Thursday, killing at least 43 people, many of them children, Yemeni health officials said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said that a hospital it supports received 29 bodies of children under the age of 15 and another 48 wounded in the attack, including 30 children. Other accounts said more than 60 were wounded.
The attacks occurred in the Houthi rebel stronghold in northern Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia, with the bus hit in the Dahyan market in Saada province. Witnesses and video footage of the scene showed bloodied and bandaged children lying on stretchers and being treated by doctors.
The Saudi-led coalition fighting the Shiite rebels called the attacks “a legitimate military operation” and said they were “carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law.”
Col. Turki al-Malki, a spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Houthis for more than three years, said the airstrikes targeted the rebels who had fired a missile at Saudi Arabia’s southern region on Wednesday, killing one person and injuring 11.
The coalition said the Houthi missile was shot down, but its fragments had caused the casualties in Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Arabia and Sunni Muslim allies intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Houthi rebels, supported by Iran, seized control of much of the country, including the capital of Sanaa, and drove the internationally recognized government into exile in Saudi Arabia.
The Yemen fighting has killed more than 10,000 people and displaced more than 2 million, according to the United Nations, and the country is on the verge of famine.
The United States and other Western powers have supplied arms and intelligence to the Saudi-led alliance. Human rights groups have criticized the coalition over airstrikes that killed hundreds of civilians, many of them at hospitals, schools and markets.
The coalition has said that it does not target civilians and accused the Houthis of recruiting children and using them in battlefields as human shields.