yemen school bus video
Video shows bus moments before airstrike
04:02 - Source: CNN
CNN  — 

For a group of boys in northern Yemen, Thursday was supposed to be a celebration – a much-anticipated field trip marking their graduation from summer school.

A video taken by one of the boys shows the classmates jostling and yelling on a packed school bus, clearly excited for the day ahead.

Their delighted chatter drowns out the person taking roll call, red pen poised in hand.

A parent outside the window waves goodbye to their child.

Within hours the boy who took the video, along with most of his classmates, would be dead – killed after a Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit their school bus.

Neighboring Saudi Arabia has been leading a coalition of Gulf states against Houthi rebels in northern Yemen since 2015, after the Iran-backed rebels drove out the pro-Saudi and US-backed government.

The children, reportedly ages 6 to 11, had been on a field trip to a graveyard for rebels, one of the few green spaces left in the northern Saada governate.

“Because of the war, most of the parks and gardens are destroyed,” explained the boys’ 40-year-old teacher, Yahya Hussein. “The nicest areas are the martyr’s shrines and mosques,” he told CNN.

Osama Zeid Al Homran

“They were so excited about the field trip,” Hussein said of the outing, which was to mark the end of the boys’ two-month religious summer school. “It’s all they had been talking about for the last couple of days.”

In the video, filmed by schoolboy Osama Zeid Al Homran, the classmates are shown reciting verses from the Quran. The moment the lesson is over, the children race into the graveyard to play chase.

Zeid can be heard shouting to his friends, “Wait! Let’s take a picture!”

‘These are just children’

Later in the day, after the boys returned to the school bus, tragedy struck.

Hussein had been late to the field trip and was parking his car a short distance from the bus when the blast came.

 A Yemeni child injured in Thursday's airstrike on a schoolbus.

“I heard a loud explosion and there was dust and smoke everywhere,” he said. “The scene can’t be described – there was body parts and blood everywhere.”

“These were the children that were laughing, playing, acting very excited just a couple of days ago about their field trip. And now they were just mutilated corpses,” he said.

“I was frozen,” said the father of three. “I just started screaming, ‘Oh people, oh world – these are just children.’”

Of the 51 people who died in the airstrike, 40 were children, Houthi Health Minister Taha al-Mutawakil said during a news conference Friday. He added that of the 79 people wounded, 56 were children.

A Yemeni man mourns over a casket of one of the boys, during Monday's funeral.