Thou­sands march af­ter over 140 killed in airstrike

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - NEWS - By Ahmed Al-Haj

SANAA, YE­MEN >> Thou­sands of Ye­me­nis marched in the cap­i­tal Sanaa on Sun­day to protest an airstrike a day ear­lier by the U.S.-backed, Saudi-led coali­tion fight­ing Shi­ite Houthi rebels, one of the dead­li­est sin­gle at­tacks in the im­pov­er­ished Arab coun­try’s re­lent­less civil war.

The airstrike, which hit a fu­neral hall packed with hun­dreds of mourn­ers, killed over 140 peo­ple. It was the lat­est in a string of bomb­ings by the coali­tion that have struck hos­pi­tals, mar­kets and other places where civil­ians con­gre­gate, in an ef­fort to stamp out a rebel al­liance bat­tling the in­ter­na­tion­ally rec­og­nized gov­ern­ment of Pres­i­dent Abed Rabbo Man­sour Hadi.

The ca­su­alty toll, given by a U.N. of­fi­cial, also men­tioned more than 525 wounded. The rebel-con­trolled Health Min­istry gave a lower fig­ure, say­ing that 115 bod­ies had been counted but that the num­ber will likely rise be­cause “charred re­mains” were still be­ing iden­ti­fied. Of the 600 wounded it tal­lied, it said many cases were se­ri­ous and at least 300 peo­ple needed treat­ment abroad.

In­side a hos­pi­tal treat­ing the wounded, survivors spoke of suc­ces­sive airstrikes dur­ing the fu­neral ser­vice, which was held for the fa­ther of an of­fi­cial from the rebel gov­ern­ment con­trol­ling the cap­i­tal.

“The strike hit the door, and the se­cond fell nearly on top of us, and then the whole struc­ture fell,” said Hasaan Nagi, who lost a leg. “I was in­jured in the first hit, and of course I was pray­ing to God and then a part of the metal roof started to fall on me.”

At the demon­stra­tion out­side the U.N. build­ing in south­ern Sanaa, some blamed the or­ga­ni­za­tion for not end­ing the con­flict and urged an in­de­pen­dent in­ves­ti­ga­tion. Oth­ers bran­dished au­to­matic weapons, while rebel sup­port­ers in the crowd called on peo­ple from the re­gion to rise up and at­tack Saudi Ara­bia.

The Saudi mil­i­tary an­nounced early Sun­day it would launch an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into “re­ports about the re­gret­table and painful bomb­ing” in Sanaa, with­out ac­knowl­edg­ing that its coali­tion bat­tling rebels in Ye­men is the only force with air power in the con­flict.

“The place has been turned into a lake of blood,” said one res­cuer, Mu­rad Taw­fiq.

Ye­meni of­fi­cials said the dead and wounded in­cluded mil­i­tary and se­cu­rity of­fi­cials from the ranks of the Shi­ite Houthi rebels and their al­lies, loy­al­ists of for­mer Pres­i­dent Ali Ab­dul­lah Saleh.

Houthi leader Ab­dulMalek al-Houthi de­cried the at­tacks in a tele­vised ad­dress, say­ing that they had been done with U.S. weapons and with a “green light” from Wash­ing­ton. Saleh also took to state TV to call on ci­ti­zens to head to the Saudi bor­der and at­tack sol­diers there to avenge the deaths.

Satur­day’s fu­neral was held for Sheikh Ali al-Raw­is­han, the fa­ther of Galal alRaw­is­han, the in­te­rior min­is­ter in the rebel-led gov­ern­ment. Among those killed was Maj. Gen. Ab­dul-Qader Hi­lal, head of the cap­i­tal’s lo­cal coun­cil, of­fi­cials said, while Galal al-Raw­is­han was se­ri­ously wounded.

In the af­ter­math of the strike, hun­dreds of body parts were found strewn in and out­side the hall. Res­cuers col­lected them in sacks. The strike left the build­ing lit­tle more than a shell, with most of its walls and roof gone. Cars parked out­side were man­gled by the blast.

Mo­hammed Ab­dulSalam, the Houthi spokesman in Sanaa, an­grily de­nounced the airstrike as the lat­est act of “geno­cide” by the Saudi-led coali­tion.

“The si­lence of the United Na­tions and the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity is the mu­ni­tion of the mur­der­ers,” he said. “Those mur­der­ers will not es­cape di­vine jus­tice.”

In a state­ment early Sun­day, Saudi Ara­bia said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion would be launched into the strike. Pre­vi­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tions by the Saudis have blamed Houthi or rebel forces for gath­er­ing near the sites of their at­tacks.

“The coali­tion sup­port­ing the le­git­i­mate gov­ern­ment in Ye­men has an­nounced that it is aware of re­ports about the re­gret­table and painful bomb­ing of the Great Hall in Sanaa today, which led to the killing and in­jur­ing of ca­su­al­ties, as re­ported,” the state­ment read.

It added: “The coali­tion con­firms that its troops have clear in­struc­tions not to tar­get pop­u­lated area and to avoid civil­ians.”


Peo­ple in­spect the af­ter­math of a Saudi-led coali­tion airstrike in Sanaa, Ye­men, on Satur­day.

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