“If the numbers are as high as suggested, this may be the single deadliest incident since the start of the conflict”, said Rupert Colville, spokesman for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
In March, Saudi Arabia and its allies announced that it would undertake a series of airstrikes, with the aim of destroying the Houthi rebels, who illegally seized power of the country earlier this year. The coalition is seeking to reinstate President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.
But in a statement to Saudi daily Al Sharq Al Awsat, Brigadier General Ahmad Asiri said that the attack was carried out by the Houthi rebels and not by coalition forces.
In the past months, Yemeni army and pro-government forces backed by the coalition have succeeded in wresting control of a number of areas in Yemen from the Houthi rebels.
The coalition says in a statement released Wednesday that the seizure took place on Saturday a few 241 kilometers (150 miles) southeast of the Omani port of Salalah.
And Islah supporters, a coalition of Islamists led by Yemen’s Muslim Brotherhood, also have been instrumental in the fight against Houthis in their base in Taiz.
But Saudi coalition spokesman Brigadier-General Ahmed al-Asseri said there had been no air operations for three days in the area where the attack occurred so “this is totally false news”.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon condemned Monday’s air raid, saying intentional attacks on civilians were considered a “serious violation of worldwide humanitarian law”.
The president of Yemen has urged Houthi militants to lay down their arms as the civilian death-toll mounts across the war-torn country.
Speaking at the United Nations, Hadi thanked Saudi King Salman for acting with “utter determination” in Yemen.
A senior government official says the strikes were “a mistake”.
The US Navy has played a key role in enforcing a blockade of Yemen’s ports, contributing to a severe shortage of food and medical supplies that is pushing the mass of the country’s population into a humanitarian crisis.
“Almost two-thirds of reported civilian deaths had allegedly been caused by coalition airstrikes, which were also responsible for nearly two-thirds of damaged or destroyed civilian public buildings”, the office of the United Nations human rights chief said.
The air strike campaign has resulted in several mass killings of civilians, including 36 people at a water bottling plant in August and 25 workers at a milk factory in April.