An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition fighting in northern Yemen killed at least 20 people and injured dozens more who were gathered for a wedding celebration, health officials said Monday.
Most of those killed were women and children who were inside a tent set up for the wedding party in the province of Hajja, Khaled al-Nadhri, the top health official in the Houthi-controlled area told the Associated Press. The bride was among the dead, he added.
Eyewitnesses say two missiles first struck a tent set up for women and then, several minutes later, a separate tent for the groom and other male members of the wedding party. Footage of the aftermath circulated on social media, showing body parts and a young boy in a green shirt hugging a man’s corpse.
The groom and 45 other wounded people were brought to the local al-Jomhouri hospital, where officials appealed for people to donate blood. At least 30 of the wounded were children, some in critical condition with severed limbs and shrapnel wounds, officials said.
“Due to many casualties from the coalition-led wedding attacks, field hospitals were made near the site of the attacks giving injured civilians medical treatment in order to save lives,” said Abdul Hakim Alkhulani, a spokesman for the Houthi-held Health Ministry, according to CNN.
“Tens have been killed and the final toll for victims is still not clear. The United Nations have proven that it has no influence to force coalition forces to end massacres against civilians,” Alkhulani added.
The ongoing war between the Saudi-led coalition and Iran-supported Houthi rebels in Yemen has been described by international observers as the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Since 2014, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed and roughly 3 million people have been displaced because of the fighting. Millions more are at risk of death by starvation and disease due to the coalition’s blockade of major Yemeni ports.
Humanitarian groups have accused Saudi Arabia of war crimes for deliberately targeting civilian infrastructure. The Saudi-led coalition, on the other hand, blames the Houthis for civilian deaths, saying they are using women and children as human shields.
Saudi coalition airstrikes are responsible for roughly 60 percent of civilian deaths in the conflict, a report by the United Nations human rights agency found last year. Indiscriminate shelling and small weapons fire by the Houthi rebels account for most of the remaining dead, according to the report.
Since the conflict began in 2015, the U.S. has supported the Saudi coalition by refueling its fighter planes and providing battlefield intelligence and surveillance information. Such assistance has come under increasing scrutiny from lawmakers of both parties, who accuse the Trump administration of abetting Saudi attacks on innocent civilians.
Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy, who along with Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee sponsored a resolution to halt U.S. support for the Saudi-led coalition, says Washington bears some responsibility for Monday’s airstrike and others like it.
“We sell them the planes and the bombs,” Murphy wrote Monday on Twitter. “We provide intel and help them select the targets. We refuel their planes mid attack. There is a U.S. imprint on every civilian death in Yemen.”
U.S. defense officials have said American support for the coalition reduces civilian casualties by making airstrikes more precise than they otherwise would be. About one-third of the more than 16,000 coalition airstrikes have hit non-military targets, according to the Yemen Data Project, an independent conflict monitoring group.
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