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Coalition denies Yemen school targeted in deadly raid

Yemen's government had confirmed to the coalition that there is no school in this area

Yemen Civil War

AFP | PTI  |  Riyadh 

Yemen Flag
Yemen Flag

The Saudi-led coalition today denied targeting a Yemeni school in air strikes that killed 10 children, instead saying it bombed a camp at which Iran-backed rebels train underage soldiers.

Doctors Without Borders, a Paris-based relief agency also known as MSF, said the children were yesterday killed in coalition air raids on a school in Haydan, a town in rebel-held Saada province.

The coalition of Arab states has been battling the Huthi rebels since 2015 when the insurgents seized Sanaa before expanding to other parts of the country.

Ten days ago it acknowledged "shortcomings" in two out of eight cases it has investigated of strikes on civilian targets in Yemen that the UN has condemned.

Coalition spokesman General Ahmed Assiri said the strikes hit a Huthi training camp, killing militia fighters including a leader identified as Yehya Munassar Abu Rabua.

"The site that was bombed... Is a major training camp for militia," he told AFP. "Why would children be at a training camp?"

Yemen's government had confirmed to the coalition that "there is no school in this area," he said.

Assiri said MSF's toll "confirms the Huthis' practice of recruiting and subjecting children to terror."

"They... Use them as scouts, guards, messengers and fighters," Assiri said, noting previous reports from Human Rights Watch on the rebels' use of underage recruits.

"When jets target training camps, they cannot distinguish between ages," he added.

MSF spokeswoman Malak Shaher said those killed in the strikes on "a Koranic school" were all under the age of 15.

The United Nation's children agency, UNICEF, also reported the attack.

It warned that "with the intensification in violence across the country in the past week, the number of children killed and injured by air strikes, street fighting and landmines has grown sharply."

Huthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said warplanes "targeted" children at the Jomaa bin Fadhel school, in what he described as a "heinous crime".

The Arab coalition launched its air war against the Huthis on March 26, 2015.

After a three-month pause, it resumed them on Tuesday, less than 72 hours after UN envoy Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed announced the collapse of peace talks.

Coalition states have formed a 14-member investigative team which has probed claims of attacks on a residential area, hospitals, markets, a wedding and World Food Programme aid trucks.

It found the coalition guilty of "mistakenly" hitting a residential compound after receiving "imprecise" intelligence information and offered compensation to families of the victims.

The team also held the coalition responsible for air strikes on an MSF-run hospital, also in Haydan, but accused the rebels of having used the hospital as a hideout.

The coalition meanwhile announced that Saudi air defences intercepted a Scud missile fired from Yemen towards the kingdom.

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First Published: Sun, August 14 2016. 17:42 IST