Saudi-led coalition insists deadly Yemen strike 'legitimate'

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Riyadh (AFP)

The Saudi-led coalition battling rebels in Yemen insisted Monday that an August air strike that killed dozens of civilians including 40 children had a "legitimate" target.

Spokesman Turki al-Maliki told reporters in Riyadh that a coalition investigation into the August 9 raid found that "the target was legitimate but there was an error in the timing" of the strike.

On Saturday, the coalition admitted "mistakes" had been made in the strike, a rare admission of guilt in the three-year conflict, following international criticism over the deadly raid.

The bombing on a crowded market in rebel-held northern Yemen killed a total of 51 people, according to the Red Cross.

Fifty-six children were also among the 79 people wounded in the strike on Saada province, a stronghold of Huthi rebels backed by Saudi Arabia's arch-rival Iran.

The incident sparked a wave of international anger and calls by the United Nations Security Council for a "credible and transparent" investigation.

On Sunday, the United States and Britain welcomed the results of the coalition's investigation. London also called for clarifications on other deadly operations.

Maliki said that in light of the probe, the coalition would revise its rules of engagement to avoid civilian casualties, as well as offering compensation to the families of the victims.

The Saudi-led coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 after the Huthis ousted President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi's government from the capital Sanaa and seized swathes of the country.

The devastating conflict has since left nearly 10,000 people dead and sparked what the United Nations has described as the world's worst humanitarian crisis.