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October, 1, 2016

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Saudi-led raids kill 20 civilians in Yemen port

ADEN, Yemen--Saudi-led coalition air strikes have killed 20 civilians in a rebel-held port city in Yemen, a government official said in a rare admission of a possible "error" by the alliance.

The strikes came as Riyadh faces mounting international scrutiny over civilian casualties in its 18-month campaign against rebels in Yemen.

The raids hit the Suq al-Hunod district in the Red Sea port of Hodeida Wednesday night, the official in the government of Yemeni President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi told AFP.

The official said the residential neighborhood was "probably hit in error."

U.S. officials — whose country supplies bombs dropped by the coalition — have regularly urged their Middle East ally to avoid harming non-combatants.

The rebel administration in the capital Sanaa also reported the Hodeida strikes, saying there were civilian casualties.

The Huthi rebels had been celebrating the second anniversary of their seizure of Yemen's capital city.

Khaled Suhail, a doctor at Hodeida's Al-Thawra Hospital, said his facility received 12 dead and 30 wounded from the strikes.

Pictures from Suq al-Hunod showed residents combing the rubble under arc lights in a search for survivors.

The body of one child lay in a morgue, his head bloody above a left eye which remained open in death.

Air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition are suspected of causing around half of all civilian deaths in Yemen, a United Nations report said last month.

It called for an independent international body to investigate an array of serious violations by all sides in Yemen, where nearly 4,000 civilians have died.

"It's difficult to see what strategic advantage the Saudis are gaining from their bombing campaign outside of the front lines," Peter Salisbury, an associate fellow at London's Chatham House think tank, told AFP before the Hodeida incident.

He said Saudi aircraft and weapon suppliers, Britain and the United States, "are under growing pressure" to explain why they cannot influence the Saudis over civilian casualties.

Last month the US military said it had slashed the number of intelligence advisers directly supporting the Saudi-led coalition's air war in Yemen.

The reassignment of personnel, around June, came because "there was not the same sort of requests coming in for assistance," Fifth Fleet spokesman Lieutenant Ian McConnaughey said.

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A general view, taken Thursday, Sept. 22, shows buildings destroyed Wednesday during Saudi-led air strikes in the rebel-held Yemeni port city of Hodeida. (AFP)

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