A suspected airstrike has killed at least 13 people at a wedding party in a town in Yemen, witnesses say, even as U.N. peace efforts make headway in coaxing rebels into signing a resolution calling for the end of the conflict.
Medical sources said in addition to those killed, 38 people were wounded in Wednesday's incident in Dhamar province.
There was no immediate comment from the Arab coalition, which has been conducting a bombing campaign against the Iran-allied Shia Houthi fighters and their allies in Yemen since March.
The alleged raid hit a house where dozens of people were celebrating a wedding in Sanban, 62 miles south of the capital Sanaa, residents said.
The incident is the second alleged coalition strike on a wedding party in the country in just over a week.
“Coalition warplanes launched the attack. The house was completely destroyed,” Taha al-Zuba, a witness and local resident, said. “Warplanes were heard in the area ahead of the attack.”
The Houthi-affiliated Al Masirah television said on Twitter that the wedding was hit by “aggression warplanes,” referring to the coalition assembled by Saudi Arabia.
In September a suspected coalition strike killed at least 131 civilians at a wedding near the Red Sea city of al-Mokha, which the UN said may have been the deadliest hit since March. The coalition denied involvement.
News of the latest airstrikes emerged as officials said Yemeni government forces and their allies, including coalition troops, captured the last outpost of the Houthis in the key Marib province. The forces took the town of Sirwah, said Col. Ayed al-Moradi, a Yemeni military official.
The strike in Sanban also comes as the U.N. announced that the Houthis, who control still Sanaa and much of central and northern Yemen, had accepted a Security Council resolution calling for an end to the conflict.
The Houthis' refusal to agree to abide by the resolution passed in April — demanding their withdrawal from all the territory they have seized since they overran Sanaa in September last year — had blocked previous peace efforts.
The fighting has killed more than 4,000 people, leaving the Arab world's poorest country in the grip of a humanitarian crisis and on the brink of famine.
Yemeni President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who fled into exile in neighboring Saudi Arabia in March but whose forces have since recaptured much of the south with the support of coalition ground troops, had refused to join U.N.-brokered peace talks until the Houthis signed up.
But Stephane Dujarric, U.N. spokesman, announced in New York late on Wednesday that both the Houthis and their allies had confirmed they were willing to enter talks based on the U.N. resolution.
“This is an important step,” he said.
The Houthi fighters, whose heartland is in the mountains of the far north, were only able to capture so much of the country because of the support of renegade troops still loyal to Hadi's deposed predecessor, Ali Abullah Saleh.
Saleh's General People's Congress party too announced on Wednesday that it had accepted the U.N. peace plan following secret talks with Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the U.N. envoy for Yemen.
Ould Cheikh Ahmed “believes that the government of Yemen, the Houthis and their allies should accept the invitation to join peace talks on this basis,” Dujarric said on Wednesday.