The coalition fighting in Yemen has called for the United Nations to place a strategic port under its supervision after a helicopter attack on a boatload of Somali refugees left 42 dead.
The refugees had departed from the western port city of Hodeidah en route to Sudan when the gunship opened fire on Friday, the United Nations refugee agency said.
The Red Sea port near the Bab Al Mandab strait is under the control of Yemen’s armed Ansar Allah, which has been fighting the coalition in a two-year-old conflict.
While the Arab alliance denied responsibility for the attack on Friday, it called for jurisdiction over Hodeidah port to be transferred to the UN
“This would facilitate the flow of humanitarian supplies to the Yemeni people, while at the same time ending the use of the port for weapons smuggling and people trafficking,” it said in a statement. It did not address a call by Somalia to investigate.
It is still unclear who was behind the assault.
“We do not know who carried it out, but survivors said they came under attack from another boat at 9pm, the crew used lights and shouted to signal this is a civilian boat,” Iolanda Jaquemet, a spokeswoman for the International Committee of the Red Cross, has said.
“Nevertheless, it did not have any effect and a helicopter joined in the attack,” she said.
Hodeidah is part of a broad battlefront where forces loyal to Yemeni President Abd Rabhu Mansour Hadi, backed by the coalition, are fighting the Ansar Allah, which controls most of northern and western Yemen.
The coalition was formed in 2015 to fight the Ansar Allah and troops loyal to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, who have fired missiles into Saudi Arabia.