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Saudi-led coalition slams UN statement on Yemen as 'biased'

The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says a statement from the United Nations official in charge of delivering aid to the war-torn country is "biased" and "undermines the UN's credibility."

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Euan McKirdy
Spencer Feingold (CNN)
(CNN) — The Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen says a statement from the United Nations official in charge of delivering aid to the war-torn country is "biased" and "undermines the UN's credibility."

In a statement released Thursday to mark 1,000 days of conflict, the UN's Humanitarian Coordinator for Yemen, Jamie McGoldrick, said he was "deeply disturbed" by the mounting civilian casualties.

McGoldrick pointed to the deaths of 68 civilians in just 24 hours on December 26 as proof of the "complete disregard for human life that all parties, including the Saudi-led Coalition, continue to show in this absurd war."

He added that Yemenis were "being punished as part of a futile military campaign by both sides."

In a statement published by the state-run Saudi Press Agency (SPA), a Coalition Forces spokesman said McGoldrick's statement "creates a constant state of uncertainty about the information and data on which the United Nations relies and undermines its credibility."

While the spokesman "deplores this biased stance," he also "stresses the need for the United Nations to review the humanitarian mechanism and the efficiency of its staff working in Yemen," the statement said. The spokesman's name wasn't provided.

Thousands of civilians have been killed in the fighting, millions are starving and many survivors are also at risk from cholera, aid agencies say.

Airstrikes kill dozens

The United Nations' statement refers to two incidents which, based on initial reports, involved airstrikes on what appear to be civilian targets.

In the first, 54 civilians -- including 8 children -- were killed in airstrikes at a busy market in Al Hayma sub-district in Attazziah district, Taizz Governorate.

In the second, 14 people from the same family were killed when an airstrike hit a farm in Attohayta District, Al Hudaydah Governorate.

In total, 109 civilians have been killed and 75 injured in Yemen in the last 10 days, the statement said.

The two documented attacks occurred in areas that are under the control of the Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The war-torn country has been the center of a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran since 2015.

Humanitarian crisis

The United Nations estimates that 8.4 million people in Yemen are just "a step away from famine," and it will be the worst the world has seen in many decades.

Both sides are using food as a weapon of war, but the crisis is caused primarily by an air, land and sea blockade imposed by the Saudi Arabia-led coalition.

In principle, the coalition says the purpose of the blockade is to stop Iranian weapons from entering Yemen to supply the Houthi rebels who are in control of much of the north, including the capital Sanaa.

But in practice, it has cut the amount of desperately needed food, medicine and fuel getting into the country by more than half, according to aid groups.

The Saudi-led coalition fighting Yemen's Iranian-backed rebels blockaded Yemeni ports in early November after a missile launched from Yemen was intercepted over the Saudi capital of Riyadh.

In a statement last week, the coalition said it would permit the Hudaydah port in Yemen, the last major Houthi-controlled port, to open for 30 days to allow in humanitarian and relief supplies.

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