The top political leader in Yemen’s Houthi-controlled areas was killed last week in a Saudi-led coalition airstrike, Houthi-controlled media outlets said Monday.
He is Saleh al-Sammad, who served as the acting president in Houthi-controlled areas and the head of the group’s Supreme Political Council.
The strike was carried out Thursday in eastern Hodeida province by a “US-Saudi” warplane, the council said.
The announcement was made on Al-Masirah TV and the Yemen News Agency a day after airstrikes struck a wedding party in northwestern Yemen, killing nearly three dozen people and wounding several more.
The council declared three days of mourning for Sammad’s death and selected Mahdi Mohammed Mashat as its head.
The Yemen war began in early 2015, when Houthi rebels drove the US-backed government of President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi out of the Yemeni capital of Sanaa.
Saudi-led coalition airstrikes are behind 61% of all civilian casualties in Yemen’s war, according to the UN human rights office. Indiscriminate shelling and sniper fire by Houthi rebels in heavily populated areas accounted for most of the remaining dead and wounded, a UN statement added.
Earlier this month, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres dubbed Yemen’s war the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with more than 22 million people – three quarters of the population – in desperate need of aid and protection.
Sunday night, at least 33 people were killed and 41 wounded after airstrikes hit a wedding party in northwest Yemen.
Two missiles hit the celebration in the town of Hajja several minutes apart, eyewitnesses and officials told CNN. At least 17 women and children were killed in the strikes, according to official sources.
Yemen’s Houthi officials say the strikes first hit the men’s gathering of the wedding before hitting the women’s section nearby.
“Due to many casualties from the coalition-led wedding attacks, field hospitals were made near the site of the attacks giving injured civilians medical treatment in order to save lives,” said a spokesperson for the Houthi-held Health Ministry, Abdul Hakim Alkhulani.
“Tens have been killed and the final toll for victims is still not clear. The United Nations have proven that it has no influence to force coalition forces to end massacres against civilians,” Alkhulani added.
In retaliation for the strikes, the Houthi rebels fired two missiles at a Saudi oil port, a senior official at the Houthi-controlled defense ministry told CNN.
The missiles were intercepted over Jazan, a coastal city in southern Saudi Arabia, around 4:26 p.m. (9:26 a.m. ET), coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al Maliki told CNN.
The Saudi-led coalition which has been fighting Yemen’s Houthi rebels said it was investigating the strikes on the wedding party.
“We take this report very seriously and it will be fully investigated as all reports of this nature are. Whilst this is ongoing, it would be inappropriate to comment further,” al Maliki said.
The strikes wounded 32 children, according to the head of the Al-Jimhori hospital in Hajja, Mohammed AlSomali.
Graphic news footage of the airstrike’s aftermath showed injured people wheeled into a hospital.
A US senator condemned American involvement in Saudi-led airstrikes on Yemen. In response to a report on the wedding party deaths, Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut said on Twitter: “We sell them the planes and the bombs. We provide intel and help them select the targets. We refuel their planes mid-attack.”
Journalist Hakim Almasmari reported from Sanaa, CNN’s Daniel Nikbakht reported from Atlanta and Sarah El Sirgany reported from Abu Dhabi. CNN’s Tamara Qiblawi wrote from Beirut. CNN’s Joe Sterling reported and wrote from Atlanta.