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Saudi Arabia blamed for Christmas eve market attack in Yemen that kills 17

UN condemns attack on the al-Raqw market in Saada province, the third attack on the same location in just over a month
The Saudi-led coalition at war with Yemen's Houthis has carried out nearly 20,000 air attacks since 2015 (Screengrab)

Saudi Arabia has been accused by Yemen's Houthi rebels of carrying out a deadly attack on a busy market which killed 17 civilians, including 12 Ethiopians.

Houthi spokesperson Mohamed Abdelsalam blamed the kingdom for the "heinous crime," the third such attack to target the same location in northern Yemen in just over a month.

On 22 November, another attack on the same market in Saada province killed 10 civilians, including Ethiopian nationals; a second attack just days later claimed the lives of another 10 civilians. 

Translation: "Adding to its criminal record, the worst in the world, the Saudi regime has committed a heinous crime targeting innocents in al-Raqw market in the border municipality of Manbah. The attack shows that the powers of aggression continue their bloody attacks, overlooking the serious consequences." 

The Houthi-aligned al-Masirah TV channel said Tuesday's attack was the result of artillery shelling from across the Saudi border.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting against the Houthis promised to investigate the incident on Thursday. 

Coalition spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki said in a statement, carried by Saudi state news agency SPA, that an initial review of the operation in Saada indicated possible "incidental losses and collateral damage".

The case has been referred to the coalition's incident assessment team in keeping with its commitment to international humanitarian law, Malki added.

UN condemns the attacks

Lise Grande, the UN's humanitarian coordinator for Yemen, said: "The attacks on al-Raqw market raise deeply troubling questions about the commitment of the parties to the conflict to uphold international humanitarian law. 

"Every attack of this kind is a gross violation," she said in a statement.

Saudi Arabia has recently stepped up informal talks with the Houthis on a ceasefire.

Saudi-Houthi talks raise hopes and sideline Yemen's government
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The conflict in Yemen began with the 2014 takeover of Sanaa by the Houthi rebels, who now control much of the country's north.

Saudi Arabia and its allies intervened in March 2015 to prop up the beleaguered government of President Abd Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was forced out by the Houthis.

According to the Yemen Data Project, the Saudi-led coalition has carried out nearly 20,000 air attacks, with one-third striking non-military sites, such as schools and hospitals. 

The air attacks, combined with a debilitating land, air and maritime blockade, have paralysed people's access to basic goods.

The United Nations has described Yemen as the world's worst humanitarian crisis with more than two-thirds of the population, some 24.1 million people, in need of aid.

The Armed Conflict Location and Event Data project (ACLED), an American NGO, has reported that more than 100,000 people have died as a result of the war.