SANAA, Yemen (AP) — At least 17 civilians — including 10 women and one girl — were killed and dozens were wounded when rockets hit a busy market in the western city of Taiz on Friday, Yemeni medical officials said.
The rockets were fired by Shiite rebels, known as Houthis, who are besieging the city. They struck at around 3:30 p.m. local time, when Taiz residents were shopping in preparation for the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is due to start next week. At least 30 people were wounded and the death toll was expected to rise, the officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to brief the press.
The market in the old city of Taiz is under the control of local resistance forces loyal to the internationally-recognized government, who are backed by a Saudi-led coalition. The city has been hard hit by fighting since coming under siege by the Houthis.
Abdel-Rahim al-Sameei, a member of Taiz's medical committee, told The Associated Press that the rockets also hit a bus station, and destroyed several houses. He described the scene at the market as "mayhem."
Friday's civilian death toll was one of the highest since the United Nations declared a truce on April 10 to pave the way for peace talks that started a week later in Kuwait.
The fragile truce has been marred with violations and breaches by both sides as clashes and airstrikes led by the coalition continued in different parts across the country.
Yemen's Human Rights Minister Ezz Eddin al-Asbahi said in a press conference in Kuwait that 212 civilians have been killed in Houthi shelling since the beginning of the truce, which he said had been used by Houthis to reinforce their fighters. He described the Taiz killings as "crimes against humanity."
It wasn't immediately possible to reach the Houthis for comment.
The United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has condemned the growing number of children killed in conflict or recruited to fight in wars raging in six countries, including Yemen.
In a report released Thursday, the U.N. listed nine government security forces and 51 armed groups that committed grave violations against children last year.
The Saudi-led coalition and Shiite Houthi rebels in Yemen were new additions to the list, after the U.N. found their forces had attacked schools and hospitals, killing and maiming children. The U.N. said the number of children recruited by Yemeni warring parties following the start of Saudi airstrikes on March 26, 2015 had increased five-fold compared with the previous year.