Strikes come even as Yemen offers peace initiative to Saudi Arabia, and UN tries to secure Houthi proposed ceasefire
Air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition on a fishing port and fish market in the Yemeni city of Hodeidah killed 26 people, Yemeni medical sources and aid agencies said on Thursday.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said on Twitter it was sending medical equipment to Al Thawra Hospital to treat 50 people in critical condition following the attack.
The hospital said in a tweet that a strike targeted its main gate, leaving dozens of casualties, while Houthi-run Saba news agency said 40 were killed in the strike.
“It is a very painful sight, parts of bodies are everywhere around the hospital gates,” an eyewitness told Reuters.
“The number of people killed in the two attacks has reached 20,” a doctor in the Red Sea city told AFP.
Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Sunni Muslim allies have been fighting in Yemen with Western backing for more than three years against the Iran-aligned Houthis.
The Houthis control much of north Yemen including the capital Sanaa and drove its Saudi-backed government into exile in 2014.
The Saudi-led coalition said on Thursday it did not carry out any operations in Hodeidah, a spokesman told Al Arabiya TV, accusing the Houthi militia of killing civilians in the city.
The strikes come as the United Nations tries to secure a ceasefire agreement between the sides.
Yemen’s Houthi group said on Tuesday it was unilaterally halting attacks in the Red Sea for two weeks to support peace efforts.
This came a few days after Saudi Arabia suspended oil exports through a strategic Red Sea channel amid Houthi attacks on crude tankers on 25 July.
About 70 percent of Yemen’s food imports flow through Hodeidah port; about 8.4 million Yemenis are said by aid workers to be on the verge of starvation.
On 13 June, Saudi Arabia and its allies in a pro-government coalition launched a major offensive to retake Hodeidah. Fighting around the port has raised UN fears of a new humanitarian catastrophe in a country already at the brink of famine and a deadly cholera epidemic.
The Houthis have offered to hand over management of the port to the world body, according to the United Nations, but the coalition says the group must quit the western coast.
Meanwhile, the United Nations said it will invite the parties involved in Yemen’s conflict for talks on 6 September.
UN Special Envoy to Yemen Martin Griffiths told the Security Council that “a political solution” to end the war in Yemen is “available” and urged world powers to support the new push for peace negotiations.
“These consultations will provide the opportunity for the parties, among other things, to discuss the framework for negotiations, relevant confidence-building measures and specific plans for moving the process forward,” said Griffiths.