An airstrike blamed on the Saudi-led coalition fighting Shiite rebels in Yemen hit a bus in a busy market on Thursday in the country's north, killing at least 20 people, including children, Yemeni tribal leaders said.
The coalition said the strike targeted the Iran-backed Huthi rebels responsible for a deadly missile attack on the Saudi city of Jizan on Wednesday.
Turki al-Malki said the attack was "a legitimate military action, conducted in conformity with global humanitarian law".
"The [Saudi-led coalition] will take all necessary measures against the terrorist, criminal acts of the terrorist Iranian-Houthi militia, such as recruiting child soldiers, throwing them in battlefields and using them as tools and covers to their terrorist acts", Saudi military spokesman Turki AlMalki said in a statement.
The attack took place in the Dahyan market in Saada province, a Houthi stronghold.
"Our shops were open and shoppers were walking around as usual".
Exact splits between children and people who were shopping at the market is not yet clear.
Yemen's Houthi-run Al Masirah TV said that some 50 civilians had been killed and over 70 wounded in an airstrike that hit a bus, majority were reported to be young children. Just last week at least 55 people died in the city during a particularly bloody exchange of fire in residential areas and outside a hospital.
A Yemeni boy lies on at stretcher after being injured by an airstrike in Saada on Thursday.
White plastic body bags filled the floor of a room in the ICRC-supported hospital. Two or more wounded children are seen sharing a single hospital bed, and one child - soaked in blood - screams as he is being treated at a health centre.
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The group's head of delegation in Yemen, Johannes Bruwer, tweeted "scores killed, even more injured, most under the age of 10".
It was unclear how numerous dead in total were children and how many air strikes were carried out in the area, in northern Yemen, near the border with Saudi Arabia.
There was no immediate comment from the coalition, which intervened in 2015 to try to restore the internationally recognized government to power after it was driven out of the capital Sanaa by the rebels.
Saudi Arabia, the driving force behind a coalition of its Arab neighbors, saw no reason to apologize, however.
"US military support to our partners mitigates noncombatant casualties", said Pentagon spokeswoman Rebecca Rebarich, according to the statement. "Spare the Yemeni people more death and misery", said Sylvia Ghaly of Save the Children. "I am extremely saddened by what happened in Saada ..."
Worldwide aid groups were quick to condemn the air strike.
State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the U.S. was "concerned" by reports of an attack resulting in civilian deaths.
Asked if the White House and the State Department were offering differing views, the spokesperson said: "We have the same position".
UNICEF said in a statement that "many children were reportedly killed and injured" in the attack and that all of the children were reportedly under the age of 15.
The Houthis have fired a number of ballistic missiles at the Saudi capital, Riyadh, and other cities.