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(New York) - At least 87 persons, the majority women, children, and the elderly, were killed in aerial bombings in northern Yemen today, a witness to the attack and others reported. Human Rights Watch called on the Yemeni government to promptly and impartially investigate responsibility for any attacks on civilians, and urged all parties to the armed conflict in the region to respect the prohibition under international law against targeting civilians.

The attacks were in ‘Adi, east of the town of Harf Sufyan, in ‘Amran governorate. In mid-August, a sixth round of heavy fighting erupted in northern Yemen between government forces and Huthi rebels, and it has continued since then.

A witness to the attack reached via a Yemeni human rights organization, the Dialogue Foundation, said that Yemeni military planes conducted four raids this morning and, without warning, bombed a group of displaced persons sheltering in an open area near a school.

There were no armed clashes or rebels in the area at the time, the witness said, but the area was close to a road sometimes used by Huthi rebels, and Yemeni online discussion forums reported clashes between Huthi rebels and government forces in the vicinity in the past. Some of the displaced persons carried automatic rifles, as is the custom for tribal men in that area of Yemen, the witness said.

Yemen News, an independent news website, earlier reported that 85 people had been killed in the repeated air raids, and the Associated Press quoted an ambulance driver who counted at least 120 persons driven to a hospital.

The armed conflict between the government and Huthi rebels in northern Yemen's Sa'da and ‘Amran governorates, began in 2004. The previous round of fighting ended with a ceasefire in July 2008.

Human Rights Watch is extremely concerned about the consequences of the current fighting on the humanitarian situation in that region, based on reports coming from the United Nations and other humanitarian agencies in Yemen, as well as media reports. Current reports indicate that upward of 150,000 civilians have been displaced by the new fighting.

"The Yemeni government should be investigating what may have been a horrific attack on civilians," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. "Civilians should never be attacked."

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