The deaths of over 40 children in Yemen in a suspected Saudi airstrike is the latest sign it could turn into “Syria plus” if the bloodshed is not stopped, the UN warned yesterday.
British UN envoy Mark Griffith, speaking in the wake of dozens of civilians being killed in a bus blast, warned of “massive humanitarian suffering” if the bloodshed continues.
He said: “A failed state in Yemen has extraordinary consequences for the region, and the wider region, and beyond. And it’s not that inconceivable that could happen. We have to act now.
“We also need to act now because in my judgment the war in Yemen will get more complicated the longer it goes on.
“There will be more international interest and polarisation in terms of the parties, it will fragment further, it will be more difficult to resolve – even than it is now.”
He added: “My worry about Yemen is that if we left it and it wasn’t resolved, we could look at Syria-plus in the years to come.”
The bodies of about 40 children were among scores killed in an airstrike in Saada province, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said.
The UK Government faces calls to cease selling arms and providing military advice to Saudi Arabia, which leads a coalition that carried out the strike.
Iran is supporting Houthi rebels who are being hammered from the air by the Saudi-led coalition in one of the Middle East’s most brutal proxy wars in decades.
According to the UN the youngsters had been at a summer camp when the bus was struck on Thursday, with most of the dead between 10 and 13 years old.
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The majority of patients being treated at an ICRC-supported hospital were under 10 years old.
The Saudi coalition said it had targeted rebels in the market after they fired a missile at the kingdom the previous day, killing one person and wounding 11 others.
The bloodbath has drawn international condemnation and the UN Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, called for an independent investigation into the attack.
The US state department said it was taking the reports “very seriously”.
Meanwhile Labour’s shadow foreign secretary, Emily Thornberry, warned the UK was “arming and advising a Saudi air force that cannot tell or does not see the difference between a legitimate military target and a bus full of children, a family wedding, or a civilian food market”.
The ICRC said on Thursday that it had received the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years old, and there were 48 injured people, among them 30 children, being treated by its medics at a hospital in Saada.
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