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Saudi-led coalition says 14 civilian deaths in Yemen strike a 'mistake'

Yemenis search for bodies and survivors in the rubble of a residential building destroyed in an air strike in the southern Faj Attan district of the capital, Sanaa, on August 25, 2017
Mohammed HUWAIS (AFP)
The UN has accused the Arab coalition of killing 42 civilians in the week to Thursday, including many children

The Saudi-led Arab military coalition on Saturday admitted responsibility for an air strike the previous day in the Yemeni capital that killed 14 civilians, describing it as a "technical mistake".

The coalition, in a statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency, said that after a review of the strike investigators found "that a technical mistake was behind the accident".

Witnesses and medics in Sanaa said children were among 14 people killed in Friday's air strike that toppled residential blocks in Sanaa, the latest in a wave of deadly raids blamed on the Saudi-led coalition.

The United Nations has accused the Arab coalition of killing 42 civilians in the week to Thursday, including many children.

The International Committee of the Red Cross condemned the latest deadly raid as "outrageous".

"Eight of the victims were members of the same family, including five children between three and 10 years old," said the deputy head of the ICRC's delegation in Yemen, Carlos Morazzani, after visiting the site.

"Such loss of civilian life is outrageous and runs counter to the basic tenets of the law of armed conflict," he said. "From what we saw on the ground, there was no apparent military target."

Friday's air raid destroyed two buildings in the southern district of Faj Attan, leaving people buried under debris, said an AFP photographer on the scene.

Friday's raid came two days after at least 35 people died in a series of strikes on Sanaa and a nearby hotel that rebels have also blamed on the coalition.

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki told AFP that those killed in Wednesday's air strike were "armed militants", adding that the strike was aimed at "a high-value target".

He said he would "review the information" about Friday's strike.

Human rights groups have repeatedly criticised the coalition, which controls Yemen's airspace, over the civilian death toll from the bombing campaign on northern and southern Yemen.

The coalition has come under massive pressure from international organizations including the United Nations over the raids.

The UN has said the coalition was probably responsible for a July attack on the southwestern Taez province that killed 20 people, including children.

"In the week from August 17 to August 24, 58 civilians have been killed, including 42 by the Saudi-led coalition," UN human rights office spokeswoman Liz Throssell told reporters in Geneva on Friday.

Yemen also faces a deadly cholera outbreak that has claimed nearly 2,000 lives and affected more than half a million people since late April.

A combination of war, disease and a coalition blockade have pushed Yemen, long the poorest country in the Arab world, to the brink of famine.

The United States also regularly conducts deadly drone strikes on Yemen that Washington says target Al-Qaeda.

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