At least 78 civilians were killed and more than 100 injured when three Saudi airstrikes attacked a market in northern Yemen, three medical officials in Hajjah told CNN. The Yemeni Defense Ministry gave a higher death toll; it said up to 107 were killed and dozens injured.
Two of the airstrikes attacked the center of Khamees Market in Mustaba’a, Hajjah, during the busiest time of the day. The third hit near its gates. The market is one of the largest in the northern region of Yemen.
“Dozens of bodies were completely burned, and dozens others were unrecognizable after bodies were splattered in pieces from the airstrikes,” said Ali AlSharafi, a local shop owner who survived the attacks.
Among the killed were seven children. Graphic footage of their bodies was broadcast in a video released by AlMasirah TV, the outlet for Houthi rebels.
Ahmed bin Hassan al-Asiri, Saudi spokesman of Coalition Forces and the adviser at the Saudi Defense Minister’s Office, said on his Facebook page that the pictures circulating on social media are not necessarily an indication that the shelling that targeted the market is a Saudi airstrike.
Asiri said others may be behind the bombing. He also emphasized that there will be an inquiry to investigate the claims and that the results will be published to the public.
Medecins Sans Frontieres said on its Twitter account that at least 40 people, all civilian victims from the attack, were treated in its hospital in the Hajjah province after the airstrikes.
Last month, at least 30 were killed when Saudi airstrikes targeted a marketplace in Nihm district, just north of the Yemen capital of Sanaa. Nearly all the victims from the Khalqah Marketplace were civilians.
The attack comes 10 days after secret Houthi and Saudi meetings in an attempt to end the one-year war. During the meetings, a ceasefire on the Saudi border was reached and an exchange of prisoners from both sides was done. The talks are the first direct negotiations between Houthis and Saudi Arabia since the start of the war in Yemen.
“We opened our hands for peace and negotiations and while we do that, Saudi still attacks and kills innocent civilians,” said Ahmed AlBahri, a senior Houthi official in Sanaa. “The market attack is by far one of the deadliest in Yemen since the start of the Saudi attacks,” he added.
Journalist Hakim Almasmari reported and wrote from Sanaa. CNN’s Hamdi Alkhshali reported from Atlanta.