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Saudi-Led Airstrike at Yemen Wedding Kills at Least 20

FILE - Smoke billows following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, May 27, 2015.
FILE - Smoke billows following an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition in Sanaa, Yemen, May 27, 2015.

An airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition hit a wedding party in northern Yemen, killing at least 20 people, health officials said Monday, as harrowing images emerged on social media of the deadly bombing, the third to hit Yemeni civilians since the weekend.

Khaled al-Nadhri, the top health official in the northern province of Hajja, told The Associated Press that most of the dead were women and children who were gathered in one of the tents set up for the wedding party in the district of Bani Qayis. He says the bride was also among the dead.

Hospital chief Mohammed al-Sawmali said the groom and 45 of the wounded were brought to the local al-Jomhouri hospital. Health authorities appealed to people to donate blood.

Ali Nasser al-Azib, deputy head of the hospital, said 30 children were among the wounded, some in critical condition with shrapnel wounds and severed limbs.

Footage that emerged from the scene of the airstrike shows scattered body parts and a young boy in a green shirt hugging a man's lifeless body, screaming and crying.

Health ministry spokesman Abdel-Hakim al-Kahlan said ambulances were initially unable to reach the site of the bombing for fear of subsequent airstrikes as the jets continued to fly overhead after the initial strike.

This was the third deadly airstrike in Yemen since the weekend. Another airstrike on Sunday night hit a house elsewhere in Hajja, killing an entire family of five, according to al-Nadhri.

On Saturday, at least 20 civilians were killed in an airstrike by the Saudi-led coalition after fighter jets bombed a bus carrying commuters near the war-torn district of Mowza in western Yemen, near the city of Taiz which has been locked in fighting for three years.

FILE - Men inspect the site of an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2018.
FILE - Men inspect the site of an airstrike in Sanaa, Yemen, April 20, 2018.

The Saudi-led coalition declined to comment on the strikes when reached by the AP. The coalition has been waging a war on Yemen's Shiite rebels known as Houthis, who control much of the north, and the capital, Sanaa, to restore the internationally recognized government to power.

According to the independent monitor Yemen Data Project, a third of the 16,847 airstrikes since the war started have hit non-military targets.

Over the past three years, more than 10,000 civilians have been killed and tens of thousands wounded while over 3 million people have been displaced because of the fighting.

U.N. officials and rights groups accused the coalition of committing war crimes and of being responsible for most of the killings. Airstrikes have hit weddings, busy markets, hospitals and schools.

The Saudi-led coalition blames the Houthis, saying they are using civilians as human shields and hiding among the civilian population. The United States and European countries have also been criticized and accused of complicity in the coalition's attacks in Yemen because of their support for the alliance and for supplying it with weapons worth billions of dollars.

Saudi Arabia, meanwhile, has faced a flurry of attacks by the Houthis, with the kingdom's defense forces saying they have intercepted missiles targeting the capital, Riyadh, and other cities.