SANAA, Yemen – An airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition on Saturday targeted a funeral hall packed with mourners in Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, killing at least 45 people and turning the site into a “lake of blood,” according to security and medical officials.
They said at least another 100 have been wounded in the strike.
The dead and wounded include senior military and security officials from the ranks of the Shiite Houthi rebels fighting the internationally-recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi as well as their allies, loyalists of former President Ali Abdullah Saleh.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In the aftermath of the strike, hundreds of body parts were found strewn in and outside the hall. Rescuers collected them in sacks.
“The place has been turned into a lake of blood,” said one rescuer, Murad Tawfiq.
Ambulances rushed to the site to ferry the wounded to hospitals. In radio broadcasts, the Health Ministry summoned off-duty doctors and called on residents to donate blood. Rescuers, meanwhile, sifted through the rubble in search of more casualties, but a fire that erupted hindered their work.
Saturday’s funeral was held for Sheikh Ali al-Rawishan, father of Interior Minister Galal al-Rawishan, an ally of both the Houthis and President Saleh.
The Saudi-led coalition backs Hadi’s government which, together with its own allies, is fighting the Houthis and Saleh loyalists in a civil war that broke out in 2014.
Roughly 3,799 civilians have been killed since the Saudi-led air campaign began in March of last year, according to a recent report by the U.N.’s human rights chief, Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein. The U.N. and rights groups estimate the conflict has claimed the lives of at least 9,000 people and displaced nearly 3 million more in the Arab world’s poorest country.
According to the report, coalition airstrikes were responsible for 60 per cent of civilian deaths over a year-long span starting in July last year. Just under one-quarter — 475 — civilian deaths were attributed to rebel forces like those loyal to Saleh, and another 113 to affiliates of al-Qaida and the Islamic State group.