HODEIDA, YEMEN —
At least 22 civilians were killed Friday and dozens wounded when a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a market in western Yemen causing a fire to break out, a local official said.
Missiles launched by fighter jets of the Arab alliance hit a market selling the mild narcotic leaf qat, which is popular among Yemenis, near the Red Sea fishing town of Khoukha.
Rescue workers Friday night were battling a blaze in the market caused by the attack and pulling bodies out of the rubble some of which were burned beyond recognition, according to Hashim Azazi, deputy governor of Hodeida province.
"All of those killed were civilians, none were holding weapons," Azazi said.
A coalition spokesperson was not immediately available to comment.
Port city a target
Khoukha and the nearby city of Hodeida are controlled by Iran-allied Houthi fighters who in 2014 overran Yemen's capital Sanaa and forced the Saudi-backed government of President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi to flee into exile.
Yemeni government forces backed by Gulf Arab troops recaptured control of the southern Red Sea city of al-Mokha last month in a push that paved the way for an advance on Hodeida, the country's main port city.
The fighting on Yemen’s west coast has displaced nearly 50,000 people in the last six weeks among them children suffering from malnutrition forced to live in schools and in tents on streets, a United Nations refugee agency spokesman tolda news briefing in Geneva on Friday.
The blocking of main roads by warring parties is hampering humanitarian access to those in need.
“The incident at Khawkhah resulted in a number of civilian deaths and injuries. We’re deeply saddened by this tragic loss of life,” UNHCR spokeswoman for Yemen Shabia Mantoo told Reuters.
Friday’s attacks were the latest in a series of coalition-led strikes that have hit schools, hospitals, markets and private homes.
Coast Guard hits mine
Also Friday, the Associated Press reported, a Yemeni coast guard vessel hit a naval mine suspected of being planted in the Red Sea by rebels and the explosion killed two sailors and wounded eight, including the ship's captain, security officials said.