Sept. 17 (UPI) -- A Saudi-led airstrike in Yemen killed seven civilians, including two children, a few days after the coalition assured U.S. officials it would take steps to avoid collateral damage.
The strikes were intended to target Houthi rebel fighters backed by Iran but hit a civilian area instead. Other fighting over the weekend killed 32 rebel fighters and injured more than a dozen in Hodeidah.
The Yemeni conflict has created an humanitarian crisis with an estimated 11 million children facing food shortages, disease and a lack of social services. Coalition forces seized a critical supply route last week, which could lead to more shortages.
The United Nations signed a memorandum of understanding with the rebels to allow the air lifting of ill patients out of Yemen.
"The memorandum of understanding is the first step to alleviate the suffering of patients in need of treatment abroad," said Yemeni Foreign Minister Hisham Sharaf Abdullah. "The move does not in any way mean we are delaying our demand to reopen Sanaa International Airport for commercial and civil flights. The air bridge covers only a limited number of cases, but is necessary in light of the continued siege and aggression."
The Yemen civil war has dragged on for more than three years, with Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates forces fighting Houthi rebels for control of the country. The United States provides midair refueling to the coalition. The U.S. assistance is provided on the condition that steps will be taken to avoid targeting civilians. Last week, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Saudis have taken "demonstrable actions" to reduce harm to civilians.
An Aug. 9 airstrike hit a bus carrying mostly children in an attack that killed 50 and injured 77. The Houthi rebels retaliated by firing nearly 200 missiles at Saudi Arabia, killing 112.
The latest missile attack was targeted at civilians but Saudi Arabia defenses intercepted it, officils said.
The United States and Saudi Arabia blame Iran for providing the missiles to Yemen, a claim refuted by Tehran.