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People stand on the rubble of houses destroyed by Saudi-led airstrikes in Sanaa. | AP

A Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen has barred a United Nations aid flight from heading to the country's rebel-held capital with journalists on board, the UN and Yemen's government said Wednesday.

The attack on Tuesday afternoon hit a group of civilians in the Mawza district of the southwestern province of Taez, a statement by the United Nations refugee agency said.

The government stated that among the dead were women and children.

Yemen's internationally recognised government confirmed that around 20 people were killed in the al-Atera village.

The coalition has since March 2015 been targeting Houthi rebels fighting pro-government forces in Yemen in the country's deadly civil war and worldwide rights groups accuse it of bombing civilian gatherings, markets, hospitals and residential areas across the country.

"This latest incident once again demonstrates the extreme dangers facing civilians in Yemen, particularly those attempting to flee violence, as they disproportionately bear the brunt of conflict", the statement said.

The plane was going to bring aid workers and BBC reporters from Djibouti.

Top United Nations officials last week slammed the warring parties in Yemen and their global allies for fueling an unprecedented deadly cholera outbreak, driving millions closer to starvation and hindering humanitarian aid access.

The Saudi-led coalition has often been accused of civilian casualties, with a 2016 report by the Yemen Data Project concluding that one-third of Saudi airstrikes hit hospitals, schools, and other civilian targets.

For several months, government troops have been fighting - with the help of coalition forces - to take control of a major military base.

Yemen has been locked in a power struggle between President Abd Rabu Mansour Hadi and Iran-allied Houthi rebels since 2014.

Earlier Yemen's security officials said that the people were struck while they were fleeing.

The impoverished Arab country has been devastated by the war, which has killed more than 10,000 people and sparked a cholera outbreak among 300,000 people.

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