42 dead in air attack on refugee boat near Yemen

Yemenis walk in the old city of the capital Sanaa

A boat packed with Somali migrants came under attack overnight off Yemen's coast close to a strategic Red Sea strait that killed 31 people, a United Nations agency and a Yemeni medical official said Friday.

Mohammed Abdiker, emergencies director at the International Organization for Migration in Geneva, says various survivors provided "conflicting messages" about whether the attack came from a military vessel or an attack helicopter that had taken off from the vessel.

The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said it was "deeply distressed" by the casualties and called for all parties in the Yemeni civil war to protect civilians in accordance with worldwide law.

The Saudi war on Yemen has killed thousands of civilians, and unleashed a humanitarian crisis in the improvised Middle Eastern country. Saudi Arabia, which is leading a coalition in the war in Yemen, has US -built Apache A-64 Longbow attack helicopters.

"This tragic incident is the latest in which innocent civilians, including Yemenis, refugees, asylum seekers and migrants, continue to suffer and disproportionately bear the brunt of the conflict in Yemen", it said in a statement. "It was a gruesome and heartbreaking scene". The IOM said it believed the boat had been headed for Sudan. "These people were themselves fleeing conflict, in search of safety and a better life".

Hodeida has witnessed severe clashes in the past 24 hours.

Some 85 Emirati soldiers have been killed since the coalition launched its intervention in support of President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi in March 2015. Saudi-led coalition aircraft had taken part in the assault, the same sources said.

Yemen's Houthi rebels reported shooting down a Saudi Apache helicopter in Hodeideh province on Thursday. Seven fishermen were also killed off Hodeida by gunfire from an unidentified source, while a further seven were killed in a auto near Mokha, hospital workers said.

According to the local official, the pro-Houthi forces fired ballistic missiles and struck the mosque inside a military base of the Saudi-backed Yemeni government forces in Marib.