Yemeni rebels say Saudi-led airstrike on prison killed 70

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A Saudi-led airstrike targeting a prison run by Yemen’s Houthi rebels killed at least
70 detainees and wounded dozens on Friday, a rebel minister said. The strike was part of a pounding
aerial offensive that hours earlier saw another airstrike take the Arab world’s poorest country off the
internet.
The intense campaign comes after the Iran-backed Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack that struck
inside the capital of the United Arab Emirates earlier in the week. It marked a major escalation in the
conflict, a brutal civil war in Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition, which is backed by the UAE, has
battled the rebels since 2015.
Taha al-Motawakel, health minister in the Houthi government, which controls the country’s north, told The
Associated Press in the capital, Sanaa, that 70 detainees were killed at the prison but that he expects
the number to rise since many of the wounded were seriously hurt. He said there would be updates on the
death toll in the coming hours.
Earlier Friday, a Saudi-led airstrike in the port city of Hodeida — later confirmed by satellite photos
analyzed by the AP — hit a telecommunication center there that’s key to Yemen’s connection to the
internet. Airstrikes also hit near Sanaa, Yemen’s capital held by the Houthis since late 2014.
Basheer Omar, an International Committee of the Red Cross spokesperson in Yemen, said rescuers continued
to go through the rebel-run prison site in the northern city of Saada.
"The toll is likely to increase, unfortunately," Omar said. The Red Cross had moved some of the
wounded to facilities elsewhere, he said. He had no breakdown for how many were killed and how many were
wounded.
Doctors Without Borders in a separate statement put the number of wounded alone at "around 200"
people.
"From what I hear from my colleague in Saada, there are many bodies still at the scene of the
airstrike, many missing people," said Ahmed Mahat, the organization’s head of mission in Yemen.
"It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of
violence."
The organization Save the Children earlier said over 60 were killed in Saada, describing the prison
holding detained migrants.
"The initial casualties report from Saada is horrifying," said Gillian Moyes, Save the
Children’s country director in Yemen. "Migrants seeking better lives for themselves and their
families, Yemeni civilians injured by the dozens, is a picture we never hoped to wake up to in
Yemen."
As for the airstrike in Hodeida, NetBlocks said the internet disruption began around 1 a.m. local and
affected TeleYemen, the state-owned monopoly that controls internet access in the country. TeleYemen is
now run by the Houthis who have held Yemen’s capital, Sanaa, since late 2014.
Yemen faces "a nation-scale collapse of internet connectivity" after an airstrike on a
telecommunications building, NetBlocks said.
The San Diego-based Center for Applied Internet Data Analysis and San Francisco-based internet firm
CloudFlare also noted a nationwide outage affecting Yemen beginning around the same time.
Over 12 hours later, the internet remained down. The Norwegian Refugee Council decried the strike as
"a blatant attack on civilian infrastructure that will also impact our aid delivery."
The Houthi’s Al-Masirah satellite news channel said the strike on the telecommunications building had
killed and wounded people. It released chaotic footage of people digging through rubble for a body as
gunshots could be heard. Aid workers assisted bloodied survivors.
Save the Children said the airstrike in Hodeida killed at least three children playing on a soccer field.
Satellite photos analyzed by the AP corresponded to photos shared on social media of the
telecommunications building being flattened by the airstrike.
The Saudi-led coalition battling the Houthi rebels acknowledged carrying out "accurate airstrikes to
destroy the capabilities of the militia" around Hodeida’s port. It did not immediately acknowledge
striking a telecommunication target as NetBlocks described, but instead called Hodeida a hub for piracy
and Iranian arms smuggling to back the Houthis.
Iran has denied arming the Houthis, though U.N. experts, independent analysts and Western nations point
to evidence showing Tehran’s link to the weapons.
The undersea FALCON cable carries internet into Yemen through the Hodeida port along the Red Sea for
TeleYemen. The FALCON cable has another landing in Yemen’s far eastern port of Ghaydah as well, but the
majority of Yemen’s population lives in its west along the Red Sea.
A cut to the FALCON cable in 2020 caused by a ship’s anchor also caused widespread internet outages in
Yemen. Land cables to Saudi Arabia have been cut since the start of Yemen’s civil war, while connections
to two other undersea cables have yet to be made amid the conflict, TeleYemen previously said.
The Saudi-led coalition entered Yemen’s civil war in 2015 to try and restore to power the impoverished
country’s internationally recognized government, ousted by the Houthis the year before. The war has
turned into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with international criticism of Saudi airstrikes that
have killed hundreds of civilians and targeted the country’s infrastructure. The Houthis meanwhile have
used child soldiers and indiscriminately laid landmines across the country.
The war has killed some 130,000 people, including over 13,000 civilians slain in targeted attacks,
according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project.
The war reached into the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, on Monday, when the Houthis claimed a drone
and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, killing three people and wounding six. Although the UAE has largely
withdrawn its forces from the conflict, it remains heavily involved in the war and supports local
militias on the ground in Yemen.
On Thursday, the U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres said he was alarmed at the ongoing airstrikes in
Sanaa, Hodeida and other locations in Yemen, as well as separate shelling attacks. The body’s special
envoy to Yemen, Hans Grundberg, ended a visit to Riyadh on Thursday that was meant to discuss the spike
in hostilities with Saudi and exiled Yemeni government officials.
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Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Edith M. Lederer at the
United Nations contributed to this report.
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Follow Jon Gambrell on Twitter at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.

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