Coalition hits Yemen factory but businessmen deny alleged war role

September 13, 2016 1:04 PM EDT

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SANAA/DUBAI (Reuters) - An Arab coalition bombed a Yemeni industrial site in the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, damaging what the Saudi-led alliance called a workshop making missile parts but which businessmen said were several plants making pipes and building materials.

Among the buildings struck was a factory used by Yemen's Alsonidar Group to make and sell pumps under a long standing arrangement with Italian water specialist company Caprari, both companies said.

That strike caused a fire that destroyed half the premises and resulted in several million dollars worth of damage, said Caprari managing director Alberto Caprari.

There were no casualties in the attack on the Alsonidar site in al-Rawda district in northern Sanaa, which the Yemeni company said also destroyed a red brick factory and damaged another plant producing metal pipes.

The Saudi-led coalition has been supporting an offensive by President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi's government against Iran-allied Houthis who control most of northern Yemen, including the capital Sanaa.

In Saudi Arabia, a coalition spokesman said warplanes hit the Alsonidar plant because it "is now becoming a military manufacturing unit specialized in producing pipes Houthis use to assemble local-made missiles."

"This strike was necessary to protect Saudi border cities and eliminate the use of such missiles in Houthis attacks against the Yemeni national army and Yemeni citizens," it said.

"The coalition takes its responsibilities under international humanitarian law seriously, and is committed to the protection of civilians in Yemen."

Caprari said the site was purely civilian.

"We are very angry. We have been operating in Yemen with our partner for more than 20 years, helping to produce pumps which are for civilian use," Caprari said by phone from the company headquarters in the northern Italian city of Modena.

"This is a forgotten war. The Gulf nations are taking advantage of the situation and are ruining the industrial fabric of Yemen."

The fighting in Yemen has intensified since U.N.-sponsored peace talks in Kuwait ended last month without an agreement. The coalition has been supporting an offensive by Hadi's supporters aimed at recapturing Sanaa from the Houthi group.

The Houthis have in turn been firing rockets across the border into Saudi Arabia, killing and wounding a number of civilians, including several children.

The Saudi-owned al-Arabiya satellite channel reported that several field commanders of the Houthi group were killed in an air strike on a cave near the border with Saudi Arabia. There was no immediate comment from the Houthi group on the report.

(Reporting by Mohammed Ghobari, additional reporting by Crispian Balmer in Rome, writing by Sami Aboudi and William Maclean; Editing by Hugh Lawson)

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