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Yemen: Saudi-led airstrike on rebel-run prison kills at least 70

Yemen: Saudi-led airstrike on rebel-run prison kills at least 70

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A Saudi-led airstrike on a prison run by Yemen’s Houthi rebels has killed at least 70 detainees and wounded scores more, with the death toll expected to rise, in a dramatic escalation of the country’s long-running conflict.

Houthi rebels released gruesome video footage on Friday showing bodies in the rubble and mangled corpses from the prison attack, which levelled buildings at the jail in their northern heartland of Saada.

Aid workers said hospitals were overwhelmed after the prison attack, with one receiving 200 wounded, according to Doctors Without Borders.

Taha al-Motawakel, health minister in the Houthi government, which controls the country’s north, said that 70 detainees were killed at the prison but that he expects the number to rise since many of the wounded were seriously hurt.

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Farther south in the port town of Hodeida, three children died when airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit a telecommunications facility as they played nearby, Save the Children said.

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“The children were reportedly playing on a nearby football field when missiles struck,” Save the Children said. There was also a country-wide internet blackout.

The attacks come five days after the Houthis took the seven-year war into a new phase by claiming a drone-and-missile attack on Abu Dhabi that killed three people.

The United Arab Emirates, part of the Saudi-led coalition fighting the rebels, threatened reprisals.

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Basheer Omar, a spokesperson for the International Committee for the Red Cross in Yemen, told AFP: “There are more than 100 killed and injured … the numbers are going up.” Other sources said 60 had been killed.

Ahmed Mahat, Doctors Without Borders’ head of mission in Yemen, said: “There are many bodies still at the scene of the airstrike, many missing people. It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence.”

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The United Nations security council is due to meet on Friday in an emergency session on the Houthi attacks against the UAE, at the request of the Gulf state, which has occupied one of the non-permanent seats on the council since 1 January.

The UAE is part of the Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the rebels since 2015, in an intractable conflict that has displaced millions of Yemenis and left them on the brink of famine.

The coalition claimed the attack in Hodeida, a lifeline port for the shattered country, but did not say it had carried out any strikes on Saada.

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Saudi Arabia’s state news agency said the coalition carried out “precision airstrikes … to destroy the capabilities of the Houthi militia in Hodeida”.

Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Houthi descended from their base in Saada to overrun the capital, Sana’a, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.

Tensions have soared in recent weeks after the UAE-backed Giants Brigade drove the rebels out of Shabwa province, undermining their months-long campaign to take the key city of Marib farther north.

Yemen’s civil war has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many close to famine in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

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The UN has estimated the war killed 377,000 people by the end of 2021, both directly and indirectly through hunger and disease.

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