SANNA:- Air strikes have killed at least 22 civilians, including women and children, in a village in the northern Yemen province of Hajjah over the past 48 hours, the United Nations said on Monday.
The bombardment came as the Houthis overran a group of fighters who had been trying to kick the rebel group out from the Hajawr area of Hajjah province during more than a month of fighting.
Dozens of fighters, including local tribal leader, Sheikh Abu Muslim al-Zaakari, who rallied the group to battle, were killed and many others were arrested as the Houthis recaptured the area, according to an MEE correspondent.
The air strikes were said to have targeted Hajawr, including al-Za’akari’s home. Meanwhile, the Yemeni government officials called on international aid organisations to help Hajawr’s residents, thousands of whom have been under siege and living off stocked food during the weeks of battle.
The UN has not said who was responsible for the bombing over the past two days, but Houthi media outlets have accused the Saudi-led coalition fighting on the side of the Yemeni government of being behind the bombardment.
A coalition spokesman did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for a comment, but Saudi-owned Al Arabiya TV said the Houthis were behind the attack.
Medical sources quoted by the UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Yemen said the attacks in Kasher district, in Hajjah Province, killed 10 women and 12 children and wounded 30 people, including 14 under the age of 18.
“Many of the injured children have been sent to hospitals in Abs district and in Sanaa for treatment and several require possible evacuation to survive,” the UN Coordinator in the country, Lise Grande, said in a statement.
The Houthis’ Al Masirah television said the air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition had killed 23 civilians.
Houthi official Deifallah al-Shami accused the coalition of “deliberately committing… this massacre,” in a statement carried by the rebels’ Saba news agency.
Tribal leader challenges Houthis
The Houthis took control of most of Hajjah province, and the entire Hajawr area, in September 2014, the same month the movement seized the capital Sanaa, and have held the area ever since. Occasional opposition to Houthi control over the past five years has been quickly put down.
But in February, al-Zaakari, the local tribal leader, rallied a group of fighters from Hajawr to return home and open a front against the rebels.
‘Absurd front’: Thousands besieged in north Yemen battle that no one can win
Analysts told Middle East Eye that the fighters – which numbered hundreds in the face of thousands of Houthis – were unlikely to win the battle, with one calling it an “absurd front” which would only benefit arms dealers and political leaders abroad.
The Houthis accused some of the fighters led by al-Za’akari of stockpiling weapons provided by Saudi Arabia and said they had breached a six-year-old truce that had maintained Hajawr as a neutral area throughout the current conflict, Al Jazeera reported.
However, those in Hajawr have claimed that the Houthis had repeatedly shelled the Kasher district with heavy artillery.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people, displaced more than two million and driven the impoverished Arabian Peninsula country to the verge of famine.