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Declarations of outrage were followed by demands for an immediate investigation on Thursday after reports that the US -backed Saudi coalition slaughtered dozens of innocent civilians, including many children traveling on a school bus, when it bombed an area near a crowded market in Yemen.

The Saudi-led coalition called the airstrike a "legitimate military operation", and a retaliation to a Houthi ballistic missile that targeted the kingdom's Jizan province on Wednesday night, according to Saudi Arabia's official news agency.

The ICRC said its medical team at the hospital had received the bodies of 29 children, all under 15 years of age.

The ICRC stressed that "under global humanitarian law, civilians must be protected during conflict", while the secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland called it a "grotesque, shameful" attack that showed "blatant disregard for rules of war".

A Yemeni child is transported to a hospital after being wounded in a reported airstrike on the Iran-backed Huthi rebels' stronghold province of Saada, on Thu., Aug. 9, 2018.

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Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and their allies intervened in the conflict the following March, aiming to push back the Houthis and restore the internationally recognised government to power.

The coalition said the projectile, fired toward the southwestern Saudi city of Jizan, was intercepted and destroyed.

The coalition, which is backing Yemen's government in a war with the Houthis, said its actions were "legitimate".

"Targeting Saudis and residents in Saudi is a red line", coalition spokesman Turki al-Malki later told Al Arabiya TV. Houthi backed television stations broadcast footage of young children receiving treatment in local hospitals.

"The Coalition will take all necessary measures against the terrorist, criminal acts of the terrorist Iranian-Houthi militia, such as recruiting child soldiers, throwing them in battlefields and using them as tools and covers to their terrorist acts", coalition spokesperson Col.

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Turki al-Malki said the attack was "a legitimate military action, conducted in conformity with worldwide humanitarian law".

A week ago, at least 55 civilians were killed and 170 others wounded in a series of attacks on the rebel-held Red Sea port city of Hudaydah.

"The air strikes often target civilians in Saada, so we appeal the global community to intervene to stop the Saudis killing them".

"US military support to our partners mitigates non-combatant casualties", said Pentagon spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich, according to the statement.

More than 10,000 people have been killed in three years of war, according to the United Nations. But the coalition denied carrying out any attacks in the city, saying it follows a "strict and transparent approach based on the rules worldwide law".

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The Houthis have fired a number of ballistic missiles at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and other cities.


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