The UN on Monday called for an investigation into an airstrike that targeted a refugee boat off the western coast of Yemen, killing 42 people.
“Over 40 lives have been lost in this unwarranted attack on helpless civilians fleeing violence and conflict,” UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi said.
The boat was struck off Yemen’s western Hodeidah province last week while allegedly heading to Sudan with more than 140 migrants on board from Yemen and Somalia.
The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) condemned the attack and urged warring parties in the region to do everything possible to protect civilians.
“Many questions remain unanswered on the circumstances of this horrific event.
“We call on all parties to the conflict to make proper inquiries to ensure accountability and to prevent this from happening again,” Grandi said.
The conflict in Yemen has escalated since March 2015.
This was when Saudi Arabia began an air campaign against the mostly Shiite rebels, as Saudis fear that rebels will give their regional rival, Iran, a foothold on the Arabian Peninsula.
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) denied targeting the boat and welcomed an independent international investigation into the incident.
The Gulf country is a member of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the Houthi rebels, who seized control of the capital Sana’a and other parts of Yemen in 2014.
“The UAE Armed Forces did not target the Somali refugee boat which was travelling from the coast of Yemen to Sudan,” the report said.
Citing preliminary investigations into the incident, the report said the armed forces “clearly recognised the non-military nature of the boat which was carrying a large number of civilians.”
However, the Houthi rebel forces that controlled most of Hodeidah province was blamed.
As the situation in Yemen worsens because of the war, Yemenis and foreigners are increasingly fleeing the country.
Yemen hosts more than 255,000 Somali refugees, according to the UN.
In 2016, more than 117,000 refugees and migrants arrived in Yemen.
Yemen is immersed in a humanitarian crisis and is at risk of famine, according to the UNHCR.
Out of the 3 million Yemenis displaced by the conflict, 1 million have returned to their homes under precarious conditions and 2 million remain displaced.