SANAA • A Saudi-led Arab military alliance has said it would investigate an air strike that killed dozens of children in Yemen, an apparent shift of stance on an attack Riyadh has portrayed as a legitimate action against its Houthi foes.
At least 40 children were killed in Thursday's strike on a bus in northern Yemen, the armed Houthi group which controls Yemen's capital said. That raised the number of children killed in the raid from 29.
The strike by the Western-backed alliance of Arab countries outraged human rights groups and was strongly condemned by UN officials.
United Nations chief Antonio Guterres called for an independent investigation of the raid which hit the bus as it drove through a market in Dahyan, a town in the Houthis' home province of Saada.
Mr Hussein Hussein Tayeb lost three sons, who were on the bus with other students to visit a mosque and tombs. "I was one of the first to arrive on the scene, seeking to rescue the wounded; I lifted a body and I found that it was Ahmed. I hugged him, he was my son." Ahmed was 11. His brothers Yusef and Ali were 14 and nine.
The Arab alliance, whose members receive Western political support, has been fighting for three years to drive out the Houthis, Iran-aligned rebel fighters who pushed a Saudi-backed government out of the capital Sanaa in 2014.
The Arab states initially said the air strike on the bus was a "legitimate military action" against missile launchers, carried out in accordance with international humanitarian law.
Announcing the investigation into the incident, the Saudi Press Agency quoted an alliance official as saying: "The coalition is firmly committed to investigating all claims regarding mistakes or violations of international law, to sanction those who caused these incidents and to provide assistance to the victims."
The Houthi-run al-Masirah TV cited the group's health minister, Mr Taha Mutawakil, as saying the estimated number of casualties stood at 51 killed, including 40 children, and at least 79 wounded.
The UN says the war has created the world's most urgent humanitarian disaster, with millions of people dependent on aid and at risk of famine if supply lines are cut.
The Arab states carried out fresh air strikes last Friday, killing a girl and injuring several other people in Marib province, east of Sanaa, al-Masirah TV said.