SADAA, YEMEN — At least 14 civilians, including four children, were killed and at least 26 injured when Saudi Arabia targeted the crowded Al-Thabit Market in the border town of Qataber in Yemen’s Sadaa province on Monday. The airstrike occurred at a time when the market was crowded with shoppers. At least 10 of the wounded are in critical condition, according to Yemen’s health minister, who said that the death toll was likely to rise.

The rubble of burnt and mangled fruit and vegetable stalls littered the marketplace on Monday, as rescuers lined up bodies onto nylon sheets near the market while efforts to recover more bodies continued.

Taha Mutawakil, Yemen’s health minister, said more than 20 people, including 12 children, were critically injured and that the remains of some of the victims had not yet been identified. Mutawakil called on international organizations to assist in rescue efforts and to press the Saudi-led Coalition to lift its blockade on the Sana’a International Airport so that the wounded could be sent abroad for treatment.

Victims of a Saudi airstrike on the Al-Thabit Market in Yemen. Photo | AMC

Saleh Qorban, the head of the Republican Hospital in nearby Sadaa said that 36 dead and wounded had arrived at the hospital’s emergency room, adding that the hospital, one of the largest in the province, could not cope with the flood of casualties given the lack of facilities, equipment, and medical personnel.

Yemen’s health minister confirmed in the wake of the attack that most of the province’s health centers have already been completely destroyed by Saudi airstrikes as the Riyadh regime presses ahead with its bombing campaign against the province.

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For its part, Saudi Arabia has accused the Houthis of being behind the attack, claiming they used a Katyusha rocket launcher to attack an area under their own control in order to exact “collective punishment for the people’s rejection of the Houthi rebellion, their realization of the danger of the Houthi project, and its disruption of the social fabric and its igniting of a futile war against the legitimate authority.” Yemeni officials ridiculed these statements, pointing out that previous attacks were initially denied by Saudi Arabia and later confirmed to have been carried out by the Kingdom, including an attack on a school bus full of children.

Billions in U.S. weapons headed to Saudi Arabia

This latest Saudi attack against civilians in Yemen comes after the U.S. Senate permitted the controversial sale of $ 8.1 billion in weapons to Saudi Arabia on Monday by failing to override President Donald Trump’s veto of congressional resolutions blocking the deal. The move has increased anger against the United States in Yemen.

Trump sought approval for 22 separate sales of aircraft support maintenance, precision-guided munitions and other weapons and equipment to countries including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.  Both countries are heavily involved in the devastating war in Yemen.

A spokesman for Yemen’s Houthi movement strongly condemned the deadly strikes on the Al-Thabit Market. Houthi spokesman Mohammed Abdulsalam said, “The Kingdom’s heinous crimes are enjoying the support of the United States.” He was referring to Washington’s arms support and logistical backing for the war.

The Saudi attack could also complicate efforts to implement a UN-sponsored agreement in the port city of Hodeida. The agreement is meant to pave the way for peace talks to end the conflict, which the UN said has triggered the world’s worst humanitarian crisis

Since 2015, international human-rights organizations have documented thousands of unlawful Coalition airstrikes, which have hit homes, markets, hospitals, schools and mosques. Some of these attacks appear to amount to war crimes.

Death toll and destruction keeps rising

More than 70,000 people have been killed in Yemen since January 2016 according to a report by the Armed Conflict and Location Event Data Project (ACLED), including 10,000 people who were killed in the past five months alone. The ACLED report recorded 3,155 direct attacks that targeted civilians, resulting in more than 7,000 civilian deaths.

 Saudi airstrike Al-Thabit Market Yemen

Victims of the Saudi airstrike on the the Al-Thabit Marke at the Republican Hospital in Sadaa. Photo | Ahmed AbdulKareem

In retaliation for the Saudi attack on the Al-Thabit Market, Yemen’s Houthi-allied army announced it launched several drone strikes against a military airbase in southwestern Saudi Arabia, targeting war-plane hangars and important military sites.

On Monday, Army spokesman Yahya Sare’e said in the wake of the attack that Yemeni aircraft had also struck the King Khalid Airbase in Saudi Arabia’s Asir region. The counter-raid used Qasef 2K unmanned aerial vehicles, he added.

Feature photo | A man injured by a Saudi airstrike on the Al-Thabit Market in Yemen’s Saada province, July 29, 2019. Naif Rahma | Reuters

Ahmed AbdulKareem is a Yemeni journalist. He covers the war in Yemen for MintPress News as well as local Yemeni media.

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