Yemen’s government blames rebels for deadly market strike

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — The Saudi-led coalition and Yemen’s internationally-recognized government said Tuesday the Houthi rebels were behind a strike on a market that killed at least 14 civilians, contradicting earlier claims by the rebels who said the coalition was to blame for the attack.

The statement, sent to reporters by Yemen’s Embassy in Washington, alleged the Houthis launched Katyusha rockets at the al-Thabet market and then attempted to deflect blame by accusing the Saudi-led coalition for Monday’s early morning attack.

The statement did not explain why the Houthis would target an area under their control. The rebels control much of northern Yemen, including the capital, Sanaa, which they overran in late 2014.

Coalition spokesman Col. Turki al-Maliki told The Associated Press in a statement that the Houthis, who are supported by Iran, carried out the attack in “an act of vengeance and pure spite,” allegedly because of the Yemeni “people’s loyalty and heroic stances” against the rebels.

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However, other Yemeni officials and the rebels’ health ministry have said a Saudi-led coalition airstrike was behind the attack in Saada province, a stronghold of the Iran-aligned Houthis. Children were among those killed in the attack, which also wounded 27 people. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to brief the media.

The Saudi-led coalition has been at war against the Houthis since 2015 in a war that has killed tens of thousands of people. The coalition faces widespread international criticism for airstrikes that have killed civilians.

The stalemated conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s most devastating humanitarian crisis.

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