Residents and medics said air strikes by helicopters flying from Saudi Arabia killed 30 civilians in a Yemeni village on Sunday, but Saudi authorities dismissed the accounts as “totally false.”
Apache helicopters fired rockets at the village of Bani Zela in Hajjah province, 6 miles from the Saudi border, killing at least 25 civilians, including women and children, the residents and medics said.
The helicopters returned for a second strike as residents and medical teams were trying to evacuate casualties, killing three medics and two more civilians, they said.
“People were fleeing their homes as the helicopters pursued,” a resident who identified himself as Khaled, said by telephone. “They committed a massacre for no reason.”
Yemen's Saba news agency, run by the Houthi rebels who are now in control of much of the country and under attack by a Saudi-led coalition of Arab states, put the death toll at 28 and said 17 others were injured, some seriously.
“Rescue teams and medics are still working on transferring the casualties to safety,” the agency said, quoting an official in the province.
A Saudi official said the coalition had played no role in any attack in the area. “This is totally false news. We deny it,” said the official, who declined to be identified, adding that no coalition helicopters operated so far from the border.
The coalition has been pounding the Iran-allied Houthi group from the air for six months, trying to eject it from the capital Sanaa and restore President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi to power.
The campaign has resulted in several mass killings of civilians, including 36 people at a water bottling plant in August and 25 workers at a milk factory in April.
The target of Sunday's strikes was unclear, but the border area has recently been the scene of clashes between Yemen's Houthis and Saudi forces. Last week, the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya channel reported that 40 Houthis were killed during an attack on al-Hathera village in Saudi Arabia's Jizan province.
Sunday's attack came less than a day after Saudi Arabia announced that a brigadier general died in hospital of wounds suffered in an incident on the border with Yemen.
Ibrahim Omar Ibrahim Hamzi, deputy commander of the 8th brigade in Saudi Arabia's southern Jizan province, was injured “defending the nation and its citizens,” the statement said, without providing details.
His death follows the killing of two border officers along the frontier on Saturday.
About 100 Saudi military personnel, including another general, have been killed along the border with Yemen since the Saudi-led campaign began in March, according to a Reuters count.
More than 4,500 Yemenis have died since March, according to U.N. figures.
In the latest fighting, coalition airstrikes pounded suspected Houthi targets in the capital around 25 times, residents said, and hit several other central provinces.
Hadi arrived in the southern port city of Aden on Tuesday, a week after his government's formal return to Yemen from Saudi Arabia after nearly six months in exile.
But he left the country again on Sunday, local officials said, en route to the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting in New York. It remains unclear whether he will return again to Yemen or go back to Saudi Arabia.