At least 131 people were killed Monday when a Saudi-led alliance against Yemen’s Houthi rebels bombed a wedding party in a village near the Red Sea port of Mocha, medical officials said.
The deadly raid came as UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, speaking at the annual meeting of the General Assembly in New York, called for the Saudi-led alliance to end its bombing campaign.
The airstrikes were responsible for most of the civilian casualties in the Yemen conflict, Ban said.
A local tribal sheikh told dpa that coalition aircraft first struck a pavilion for female guests at the wedding in Wagha village while woman were gathering around the bride.
A second strike then hit the separate pavilion for male guests, Sheikh Abdullah al-Fadhli told dpa after visiting the scene of the attack.
Al-Fadhli, a member of Mocha’s local council, said there were no military positions or Houthi fighters in the vicinity of the wedding party.
Local residents and witnesses told dpa that coalition aircraft had carried out intense raids against Houthi positions in the Mocha area in recent days.
Saudi Arabia’s official news agency carried no comment on the strikes, but a Saudi official told the European Parliament that his country was abiding by international law in its campaign in support of Yemeni President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi.
“Of course there is always going to be some casualties in any military conflict,” Mohammed bin Amin al-Jefri, deputy speaker of Saudi Arabia’s Consultative Assembly, said in Brussels.
Al-Jefri made no specific reference to Monday’s airstrikes but said Saudi Arabia had been “very, very careful, and the government has been declaring that they have been taking all measures to ensure that this is to the bare minimum possibility in this area.”
The raids come a day after coalition airstrikes on a village in north-western Hajja province killed 19 people, according to a local official.
An airstrike on a market last week in northern Saada province, the stronghold of the mainly Shiite rebels, killed 73 people, according to Health Ministry officials.
Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies launched an air campaign in March against the Houthis, after they forced President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi into exile.
Riyadh fears that the mainly Shiite rebels will give its regional rival, Iran, a foothold on the Arabian peninsula.
Local fighters, reportedly backed by coalition troops, have now driven the rebels from most of southern Yemen, and Prime Minister Khaled Bahah last week chaired a government meeting in the southern port of Yemen.
Fierce fighting is continuing in central areas and in Marib province, east of the rebel-held capital Sana’a, where the coalition has been building up troops.
More than 2,000 civilians have been killed in the conflict, according to the United Nations.