SANA, Yemen — An airstrike by a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia on an open market in western Yemen killed at least 16 people, United Nations and local officials said Saturday.
The attack late Friday hit a market selling khat, a mild stimulant common in Yemen, setting off a fire and leaving the dead and wounded scattered in the wreckage.
The strike came as aid organizations are struggling to draw attention to the plight of Yemen, the Arab world’s poorest country, where years of war have created the “largest humanitarian crisis in the world,” according to Stephen O’Brien, the United Nations’ under secretary general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator.
In an address to the United Nations Security Council on Friday, Mr. O’Brien said that two-thirds of Yemen’s population, 18.8 million people, needed aid and that seven million were hungry and did not know where their next meal would come from. That number has more than doubled since January, Mr. O’Brien said.
He called for increased international diplomacy to find a way to end the war, saying that the warring parties must be held accountable.
Yemen’s current crisis began when rebels known as the Houthis, who are aligned with Iran, joined with parts of the Yemeni Army to take over the capital, Sana, and much of the country’s northwest in 2014, sending the internationally recognized government into exile.
An Arab military coalition led by Saudi Arabia has since intervened to fight the Houthis and to try to restore the government, but its progress has been limited and its air campaign has been blamed for killing civilians and destroying Yemeni infrastructure.
In October, the coalition bombed a funeral reception in Sana, killing more than 100 people in an attack the coalition later said had been based on false information.
More than 10,000 people have been killed and millions displaced from their homes across Yemen, according to the United Nations.
It was unclear why the khat market in the town of Al-Khukha in Hodeida Province was bombed. A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition did not respond to a request for comment. Saudi officials often accuse the Houthis of hiding in civilian areas.
A United Nations official said 16 people had been killed and 10 wounded. Yemeni officials estimated that 18 to 22 people had been killed. Conflicting death tolls are common in the aftermath of attacks in isolated places.