SANAA, Yemen (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition targeting Yemen’s Shiite rebels mistakenly struck a wedding party on Monday, killing at least 38 people, Yemeni security officials said.
The strikes hit the celebration in al-Wahga, a village near the strategic Strait of Bab al-Mandab, said the officials, who remain neutral in the conflict that has splintered Yemen.
At least 40 people were wounded in the two airstrikes, they said. The strikes, a senior government official said, were “a mistake.” Many of the victims were women and children, according to several villagers.
Yemen has been embroiled in fighting that pits the rebels, known as Houthis, and forces loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against the Saudi-backed and internationally recognized government as well as southern separatists, local militias and Sunni extremists. The U.S.-backed coalition has been carrying out airstrikes against the rebels and their allies since March.
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Further details and circumstances that led to the wedding party being mistakenly hit were not immediately known, but the village in which it took place lies in the battered Taiz province, where civilians routinely fall victim to daily Saudi airstrikes as well as rebel mortar shells.
Only seven of Taiz’s 21 hospitals are currently open but they are “totally overwhelmed” and have run out of essential medication, Hassan Boucenine of the Geneva-based aid group Doctors Without Borders, also known as Medecins Sans Frontieres or MSF, said earlier this week.
The conflict in Yemen has killed at least 2,100 civilians so far, according to U.N. figures.
All officials and local residents spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media or fear reprisals.