An air raid by a Saudi Arabia-UAE coalition battling Houthis rebels in Yemen has killed fishermen off an island in the war-torn country’s Hodeidah province, according to media linked to the rebel movement.
In a statement carried by the Houthi-run Saba news agency on Friday, the ministry of fisheries blamed the Saudi-UAE military for targeting “a gathering of fishermen near the island of Ugban” on Thursday.
The strike “resulted in fishermen being killed and the destruction of three fishing boats, as well as preventing paramedics from approaching the area”, the statement added, without offering a figure for the death toll.
Al Jazeera’s Alan Fisher, reporting from neighbouring Djibouti, said it was difficult to verify the reports of the attack and the casualty numbers because of the location of the alleged incident. Ugban island is located off the coast of Houthi-held Hodeidah, a strategic Red Sea port city that is the target of a Saudi-UAE-backed offensive.
“Three fishing vessels, according to reports, were setting out to do their normal job when they were targeted by the Saudi-led coalition and were sunk,” he said.
“Initial reports suggest that about 70 fishermen are missing. That figure has now been amended by Houthi media to 19.
“No one can get to the location to verify the number and the exact details of the incident.”
The reports of the attack came a day after a US Navy destroyer seized more than 1,000 AK-47 rifles from a “stateless” skiff in international waters off the coast of Yemen believed to be part of an illicit weapons shipment to the war-torn country, according to ABC news.
In an attack on a fish market in Hodeidah earlier this month, 28 people were killed and more than 30 were injured.
A team of UN-mandated investigators said earlier this week they had “reasonable grounds to believe that the parties to the armed conflict in Yemen have committed a substantial number of violations of international humanitarian law”.
The damning report blamed the Houthis and the Saudi-UAE coalition for the violence in Yemen but said air attacks by the military coalition had caused the most direct civilian casualties in the war.
It added that a blockade of Yemeni ports and airspace may have violated international humanitarian law.
A US official called for an investigation into attacks by the Saudi-UAE coalition in Yemen and for perpetrators to be held accountable.