Sanaa (Yemen), Jul 26: Saudi-led coalition airstrikes hit a residential area in a quiet Red Sea town in Yemen, killing at least 120 people in the deadliest strike against civilians since the March offensive began, security and medical officials said.
Hours later, the coalition unexpectedly announced that it would start a five-day humanitarian pause today, just before midnight. The airstrikes late Friday hit workers' housing for a power plant in Mokha, flattening some of the buildings to the ground, the officials said.
A fire erupted in the area, charring many of the corpses, including children, women and elderly people. Wahib Mohammed, an eyewitness and area resident, said some of the bodies were torn apart by the force of the blast and buried in a mass grave yesterday.
Some of the strikes also hit nearby livestock pens, he said. Human and animal blood pooled on the ground of the surrounding area. The deadly strike highlights growing concerns that the Saudi-led coalition's airstrikes are increasingly killing civilians as they continue to target Shiite rebels known as Houthis.
"It just shows what is the trend now of the airstrikes from the coalition," said Hassan Boucenine of the Geneva-based Doctors Without Borders.
"Now, it's a house, it's a market, it's anything." He added that many of the workers had families visiting for the Eid al-Fitr holiday at the end of the holy month of Ramadan. Mokha, populated largely by fisherman, had a reputation as one of the safest places in the country embroiled in war, said Boucenine.
Saudi officials could not be reached for comment, and the government's official media did not issue a statement about the deadly strike. Over the course of the war, rights groups like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed concern that the Saudi-led coalition is violating laws of war and not doing enough to prevent or minimize civilian casualties.
It is not clear why the workers' housing was hit. Yemeni security officials said the closest Houthi outpost to Friday evening's strike is at least 5 kilometers away.
Four airstrikes hit the residence after Saudi-led coalition planes launched dozens of missiles on positions of Shiite Houthi rebels and their allies in the surrounding area.
The strikes in the area continued yesterday as dozens of families fled, security officials and eyewitnesses said.