UNITED STATES, WASHINGTON (OBSERVATORY) — Dozens of people have been killed in air strikes by a Saudi-led coalition on a prison in southwestern Yemen, the Yemeni Houthi movement and an ICRC official said on Sunday.
The coalition, which has been fighting the Houthi-allied movement for more than four years, said it destroyed a storage site for drones and missiles in the city of Dhamar.
“I can confidently assume that more than 100 have died,” Franz Raustein, head of the ICRC delegation in Yemen, told Reuters by telephone after visiting the site and hospitals on Sunday.
A spokesman for the Houthi group’s health ministry said earlier that at least 60 bodies had been recovered from the rubble of the prison and the figure could rise. Officials said the Dhamar detention center held about 170 prisoners.
“Three buildings were hit and the building housing the detainees, most or most of them killed,” Rawstein told Reuters by telephone.
He said the Yemen Red Crescent was still trying to retrieve bodies from the rubble and about 50 wounded had been taken to hospitals.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Yemen that among the dead 52 prisoners. At least 68 prisoners are still missing.
“I hope the coalition will investigate this incident,” UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths said in a statement. Accountability is essential.”
“The explosions were strong and shook the city and then the ambulance sirens could be heard until dawn,” one resident said.
The coalition, which has been criticized by international rights groups after its air strikes resulted in civilian deaths, said the targeting in Dhamar “is consistent with international humanitarian law and customary rules and that all preventive measures have been taken to protect civilians”.
The Western-backed coalition intervened in Yemen in March 2015 against the Houthi movement after it toppled the internationally recognized government from the capital Sanaa in late 2014.
The movement, which controls the country’s largest residential area, has stepped up attacks with missiles and drones on Saudi Arabia in recent months. The coalition responded with strikes against its targets.
“This brutal crime expresses hatred,” the group’s leader, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi, was quoted as saying. Humanitarian and irresponsible with all the people of this country, even towards its loyalists. ”
Abdul Qadir al-Murtada, head of the Houthi National Committee for Prisoners Affairs, said many detainees were awaiting their release under a local prisoner exchange agreement.
The United Nations is trying to ease tensions in Yemen to prepare for political negotiations to end the war that has killed tens of thousands and pushed the country to the brink of famine.
The conflict in Yemen is largely seen as a proxy war between Saudi Arabia and Iran. The Houthis say they are not puppets in Tehran’s hands and are fighting a corrupt regime.
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