Saudi-led bloc denies Yemen air strike that killed dozens

Published January 23, 2022
People injured by airstrikes on a detention centre lie on hospital beds in Saada, Yemen, January 22. — Reuters
People injured by airstrikes on a detention centre lie on hospital beds in Saada, Yemen, January 22. — Reuters

SAADA: The Saudi-led coalition on Saturday denied carrying out an air strike on a prison in Yemen’s rebel-held north that aid groups said killed at least 70 people, including migrants, women and children.

Claims the military coalition ordered the raid, which reduced buildings to rubble and left rescuers scrabbling for survivors with their bare hands, were “groundless”, the alliance said.

The attack, which coincided with a coalition strike on the Yemeni port of Hodeida that killed three children and knocked out the impoverished country’s internet, was condemned by the United Nations secretary-general.

But “these claims adopted by the militia are baseless and unfounded”, said coalition spokesperson Turki al-Malki, referring to the Iran-backed Houthi insurgents.

Iran says strikes have ‘made the path to achieve a just peace in the country even more difficult’

This week has witnessed a dramatic upswing in the conflict that has already killed tens of thousands of people and displaced millions, creating what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.

The rebels seized the capital Sanaa in 2014, prompting the Saudi-led intervention — supported by the US, France and Britain — in March 2015. It was intended to last just a few weeks.

The latest violence in Yemen’s intractable, seven-year war came after the Iran-backed Houthis on Monday claimed their first deadly attack on Abu Dhabi, capital of coalition partner the United Arab Emirates.

The Houthis took the war into a new phase by claiming the drone and missile attack that killed three people, the first deadly assault the UAE has acknowledged inside its borders and prompting threats of reprisals.

Meeting on Friday, the UN Security Council unanimously condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks” on Abu Dhabi, but the council’s Norwegian presidency also denounced the strikes on Yemen.

In a later statement, the UN chief Antonio Guterres “reminds all parties that attacks directed against civilians and civilian infrastructure are prohibited by international humanitarian law”.

Tehran’s warning

Iran on Saturday condemned recent airstrikes on Houthi-held areas, warning they have “made the path to achieve a just peace in the country even more difficult”, foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said.

Saudi Arabia accuses regional rival Iran of providing military support to the Houthis, especially missiles and rockets, claims that Tehran denies.

Khatibzadeh said there was a lack of “serious determination to advance the political settlement of the Yemeni crisis”, warning it would lead to the “destruction of the country and instability in the region”.

The Houthis have warned foreign companies to leave the “unsafe” UAE, a veiled threat of revenge attacks after Friday’s strikes. “We advise the foreign companies in Emirates to leave because they invest in an unsafe country and the rulers of this country continue in their aggression against Yemen,” warned Houthi military spokesperson Yahya Saree.

Published in Dawn, January 23rd, 2022

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