Saudi-led air attack kills 20 Yemenis fleeing fighting in home town

UN refugee agency condemns attack on makeshift camp in Mawza, Taiz, which killed members of family who fled fighting in nearby Mokha

At least 20 Yemeni civilians who fled fighting in their home town have been killed in a Saudi coalition air attack on their makeshift camp in the province of Taiz, witnesses and the UN said on Wednesday.

The attack on Tuesday hit a group of civilians in the Mawza district of Taiz, the UN refugee agency UNHCR said, adding that most of those killed were extended family.

Local residents said the attack was carried out by a jet from the Saudi-led coalition, which is fighting the Houthi movement in support of Yemen’s UN-recognised government.

The UNHCR said it was “deeply shocked and saddened at reports of the deaths and injuries of a number of internally displaced persons in an aerial attack” on the area.

The statement said the civilians had fled fighting in the nearby Mokha district, on the Red Sea coast, which Saudi-backed forces had captured in February.

“This latest incident once again demonstrates the extreme dangers facing civilians in Yemen, particularly those attempting to flee violence, as they disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict,” the statement said.

The coalition launched a military operation against the rebels in March 2015 as Houthi rebels closed in on government forces in their southern refuge in Aden, forcing the president, Abd Rabbuh Hadi, to flee to Riyadh.

He remains in exile.

The World Health Organisation says more than 8,000 people have been killed in Yemen’s conflict, most of them civilians, since March 2015. Other reports from the UN suggest that figure is at least 10,000.

Millions of Yemenis have fled their homes to escape fighting, the country is on the brink of starvation due to a Saudi-led blockade, and a cholera epidemic has infected at least 300,000 people.

Saudi Arabia has been accused by human rights groups of committing a string of war crimes by specifically targeting civilians and civilian infrastructure. Riyadh denies the charges.