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'26 children killed' in Saudi-led air strikes in Yemen

The Saudi-led coalition waging an air campaign against Houthi rebels in northern Yemen is killing children in what amounts to war crimes, according to an international rights group.

Human Rights Watch released a detailed report documenting the deaths of 26 children in five air strikes since June.

The group said that despite coalition promises to abide by international law, the air strikes have failed to do that and it urged the United Nations to place the coalition on its "list of shame", a blacklist of countries that violate children's rights.

HRW also called for an international investigation into possible war crimes.

"Saudi Arabia pledged to minimise civilian harm, yet coalition air strikes are still wiping out entire families," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the New York-based group.

"Yemeni civilians should not be asked to wait any longer for (United Nations) Human Rights Council members, including Saudi allies the US and UK, to support a credible international inquiry."

In most of its internal investigations, the coalition either admits making mistakes due to technical errors or bad intelligence or denies responsibility.

No international investigation has taken place despite repeated calls from rights groups. The US and Western countries have continued to support the coalition with intelligence, logistics and billion-pound arms deals.

The conflict in Yemen pits Shiite Houthi rebels and allied forces of the ousted Yemeni president against the internationally recognised government and its main backers, the Saudi-led coalition.

Air strikes over the past two years have targeted civilian gatherings at weddings, funerals, hospitals, markets and houses.

More than 10,000 people have been killed and three million displaced as the conflict coupled with a naval and air blockade has pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

The UN's annual report on children and armed conflict showed that 785 were killed and more than 1,000 wounded in Yemen in 2015, with 60% of the casualties caused by coalition air strikes.

Peace talks have failed to bridge the gap between warring parties while alliances on both sides appear to be unravelling, threatening to prolong the conflict.


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