At least 13 people were killed and one seriously injured Wednesday when a Saudi airstrike hit a security checkpoint near Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, causing an oil tanker to explode, rebel officials said.
The attack occurred before dawn in the Bani Matar region on the main road linking Sanaa with the port city of Hodeida, a senior Houthi defense ministry official in Sanaa, who is not authorized to speak to the media, told CNN.
“Among the killed were 8 civilians who were passing their vehicles through the checkpoint. Among the killed civilians was the driver of the oil tanker,” he said.
Ali Moshiqi, Deputy Commander in Chief of the Houthi Yemeni Army in Sanaa, told CNN that two of the 13 dead were security personnel, who were stationed at the checkpoint.
“Most of the killed were civilian travelers on their way back from Hodeida to Sanaa,” he said. “Attacking a checkpoint is just an excuse to kill more civilians.”
A senior local security official, Abdullah Sowar, said all the dead were burned alive. The injured were given immediate medical attention and taken to Sanaa Hospital, he said.
“This is the third Saudi strike this week that attacked while people are sleeping. Over 80 have been killed in three separate incidents, the majority of them civilians, including women and children,” said Sowar.
The Saudi-led coalition in Yemen has not responded to CNN’s request for comment.
Saudi Arabia, backed by a coalition of Arab states, launched a military operation in March 2015 against Iranian-backed Houthi rebels who toppled the internationally recognized leadership in Yemen.
The UN Human Rights Office last week warned the warring parties in Yemen to ensure they abide by international law, amid an increase in reported civilian deaths in August. “Attacks targeting civilians or civilian objects are prohibited under international humanitarian law, which also prohibits indiscriminate or disproportionate attacks,” said UN human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell.
The Saudi-led coalition said Saturday, in a statement to the state-run Saudi Press Agency, that a strike the day before on residential buildings in Sanaa was the result of a “technical mistake.”
Sixteen people, including seven children, were killed in that strike, Yemen’s rebel-controlled Health Ministry said Friday.
Two-and-a-half years into its grinding civil war, Yemen is also facing a near famine and one of the worst outbreaks of cholera in decades.
The number of suspected cholera cases in Yemen has surpassed 500,000, making it the largest cholera epidemic in the world, the World Health Organization has said. According to its latest update, 2,033 people have died since the cholera outbreak began to spread at the end of April.