Yemen town mourns family of 15 killed in air strike

Dubai (AFP) –


It took medics and residents of Qatabah in southern Yemen more than 12 hours to retrieve the bodies of the Al-Halimi family from under the rubble of their collapsed home.

Fifteen members of the family, including seven children, were killed Tuesday in air strikes allegedly carried out by the Saudi-led coalition fighting Iran-backed Huthi rebels.

They were buried on Wednesday in their village of Al-Fakhir, on the edge of the town ringed by mountains, as their loved ones voiced shock and anger.

"It's as if the whole village has been killed," Salem al-Halimi, a relative, told AFP.

"No one would have thought they would die this way. They were a peaceful family."

Abbas al-Halimi, 38, his wife and five children -- ranging from 11 years to just three months old -- were among those killed.

His brother and sister-in-law and their two children also lost their lives, along with three other relatives.

The United Nations said Tuesday that 15 civilians, including children, were killed.

Medics told AFP a 16th person was killed outside the house.

A Saudi-led coalition spokesman did not confirm or deny the allegations.

- 'Daily clashes' -

Qatabah, on the edge of Al-Daleh province, has seen fierce fighting between coalition-backed pro-government forces and the Huthis.

According to rights activist Mahmoud al-Sheaiby, based in the province, the town is "witnessing non-stop and daily clashes".

Daleh is partly controlled by the rebels, who, according to a local official, seized Qatabah in May this year after fierce fighting.

Abbas and his brother worked in nearby fields growing coffee plants and the mild narcotic qat, banned in some countries but part of Yemeni culture for thousands of years.

On Tuesday morning, hours before the men headed to work and their children to school, air raids hit their home.

Nothing was left except a pile of wood and debris, a purple shirt visible in the rubble.

"They had nothing to do with the fighting," Salem al-Halimi said.

"They were a happy family, and they always avoided trouble and looked for safety.

"There's anger and shock. We want the truth behind what happened."

Hours before the Al-Halimi family were killed, seven members of another family died in an air strike that hit a mosque in the rebel-held northern province of Amran, according to the UN.

- 'End this terrible war' -

Yemen, long the Arab world's poorest country, plunged into war after rebels seized the capital Sanaa in late 2014.

The Saudi-led coalition launched a blistering offensive months later to prop up the government of Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi.

The fighting has since killed tens of thousands of people and pushed Yemen to the brink of famine.

It has also displaced millions and left more than two-thirds of the population in need of aid.

The United Nations has described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.

"This is the time when everyone should be finding ways to end this terrible war," said Lise Grande, UN's humanitarian coordinator in Yemen.

"Families are being forced to bury their loved ones and tend the wounded. This is heart-breaking and senseless."