The office of the UN human rights coordinator in Yemen’s statement on Wednesday did not say who was behind Tuesday’s attack. However, a Saudi-led coalition has been waging war against the Houthis since 2015 in an attempt to restore the internationally recognised government.
Thousands of Yemeni civilians have died in the air attacks.
The UN statement said that, along with the 17 killed, which included 12 Ethiopian migrants who had recently reached Yemen – another 12 civilians were wounded in the attack on Al-Raqw market in the northern province of Saada.
It was the third time in a month that the market was targeted, the UN said, adding that the number killed and wounded in the three attacks has reached 89.
Local Houthi authorities heavily restrict access to journalists and rights groups into the region of Saada, which has seen some of the war’s worst fighting.
‘A gross violation’
Saudi Arabia’s state-run news agency quoted spokesman Colonel Turki al-Malki on Thursday as saying his coalition command is investigating an attack that targeted Houthi rebels in Saada’s Monabbih district – where the market is located – on Tuesday.
Al-Malki said the attack might have resulted in “accidental losses” and “collateral damages” and that the results of the investigation would be made public.
The attacks on the market are deeply troubling, Lise Grande, Yemen UN humanitarian coordinator, said. “Every attack of this kind is a gross violation. The parties responsible for this, and other atrocities, must be held accountable.”
Later on Wednesday, Houthi spokesman Yehia Sarea attributed “these crimes” to the Saudi-led coalition, saying on Twitter they “will not go by unnoticed” and pledging that the victims would be avenged.
Sarea put the death toll at at least 20. He also posted images on social media purporting to show the casualties from the attack.
Houthi-controlled Al Masirah TV said Tuesday’s incident was a result of artillery shelling from across the Saudi border.
The attack came during a relative lull in the conflict, which erupted in 2014, when the Houthis overran the capital, Sanaa, and much of the north, pushing out Yemen’s internationally recognised government under Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi and ushering in a civil war that soon escalated as regional powers intervened.
The war has killed tens of thousands of people and left millions suffering from food and medical shortages, pushing the country to the brink of famine.