CAIRO — Airstrikes by a Saudi-led military coalition on northern Yemen killed at least 70 people in a prison and shut down internet across the country on Friday in a further escalation of the conflict, a government official said. government, international aid groups and the rebels who control the area.
In the northern city of Saada, near the Saudi border, the Republic Hospital had received around 70 dead and 138 injured and could not take any more, said Ahmed Mahat, head of mission of Doctors Without borders in Yemen. Two other hospitals in the city have been inundated with growing numbers of injured patients even as their medical supplies have dwindled, Doctors Without Borders said.
“There are still many bodies at the scene of the airstrike, many people missing,” Mahat said in a statement, quoting a colleague from Doctors Without Borders in Saada. “It is impossible to know how many people were killed. It appears to have been a horrific act of violence.
The International Committee of the Red Cross said more than 100 people were killed or injured overnight at a temporary detention center in Saada.
Rescuers were still combing through the crumbling building looking for casualties as the day went on, the Red Cross said. Video broadcast on Al Mayadeen, a pro-Iranian news channel, showed rescuers attempting to move rubble at the site to free people trapped in the rubble.
Local media linked to the Houthis, the Iran-backed rebel group that dominates northern Yemen, blamed the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Houthis for years. Although aid groups have been more cautious about assigning responsibility, the Saudi-led coalition has repeatedly bombarded Houthi forces and territory, including civilian targets, throughout the war. war, and has intensified its attacks over the past week.
Hostilities in Yemen escalated over the past week after the Houthis attacked a major airport in the United Arab Emirates – Saudi Arabia’s main coalition partner – with drones and missiles on Monday, killing three people and injuring six, in what they said was retaliation. for UAE support for pro-government militias.
Armed and trained by the United Arab Emirates, these militias had recently reclaimed Shabwa province from Houthi control and were encroaching on Houthi gains in the oil-rich province of Marib.
Another coalition airstrike hit a telecommunications center in the port city of Al Hudaydah early Friday morning, severely damaging key internet infrastructure and plunging Yemen into a blackout, a telecommunications ministry official said. from Hadramout province who asked not to be named because he was not authorized. to talk about the incident.
The country lost internet connectivity from around 1 a.m. on Friday, according to NetBlocks, an internet monitoring group, and service had not resumed Friday evening.
The Saudi-led coalition responded to the Houthi attacks on the United Arab Emirates by striking the Houthi-controlled capital of Sana on Monday evening and killing what the Houthi media said were at least 20 people, including the family of a Houthi military general. On Friday, Mahat said the latest airstrikes had also hit Sana and its airport, and the aid group had received numerous reports of overnight airstrikes elsewhere in northern Yemen.
But none seems to have been as deadly as the attack on Saada prison. No other casualty information was immediately available, but in addition to Yemenis, the Houthis also routinely detain African migrants who try to cross into Yemen to seek work in Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries.
The Saudi-led coalition began bombing Yemen in 2015 in a bid to oust the Houthis, who had invaded the capital, forcing the Saudi-backed government to flee. Now divided between Houthi control in the north and Saudi-backed government control in the south, Yemen has become the site of what aid groups say is the world’s worst humanitarian disaster.
Saeed al-Batati contributed reporting to Al-Mukalla, Yemen, and Hwaida Saad from Beirut, Lebanon.