Arab coalition fighter jets have hit a prison facility run by Houthi rebels in western Yemen’s Hodeidah city, killing at least 60 people, including inmates, officials and medics said on Sunday.
“Sixty people in total were killed and dozens were wounded,” a local health official told AFP.
The rebel-controlled Sabanews.net also gave a toll of 60 killed and 38 wounded, adding that “dead bodies are still being retrieved” from under the rubble.
Abdel-Rahman al-Mansab, a security chief of the district of al-Zaydia, said most of the dead were prisoners. They were among a total of 115 inmates serving jail terms for misdemeanor crimes or who were still in pretrial detention.
Al-Mansab also said that the complex has two prisons, one for women and one for men, but there were no female inmates at the time of the attack. “When I went there, I saw a pile up of charred bodies beyond recognition. They were burned to death,” he said.
The Saudi-led alliance that conducted the raid said it struck a “central security building” used as a military command centre by the Houthi rebels it is fighting. Local officials said the prison lies within a security complex but that only prison guards were present during the air strike.
“This building is used by Houthi militia and the forces of the deposed president as a command and control centre for their military operations,” a statement by the coalition said, referring to former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a Houthi ally.
“The coalition forces’ leadership stresses that targeting protocols and procedures were followed fully,” the statement said.
Abdel-Rahman Jarallah, director of Hodeidah health office, told DPA news agency that all the people killed were civilians. He said a search operation was ongoing for more victims trapped in the rubble.
Hodeidah, a port city on the Red Sea, was captured along with vast majority of the country, including the capital Sanaa, by Houthi rebels and their allies in late 2014.
The Arab coalition has been fighting the rebels since March 2015 to try to restore to office internationally recognised President Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi, who was ousted by the group.
International efforts to agree to a ceasefire have so far been unsuccessful, amid a mounting humanitarian crisis.
On Saturday, Hadi rejected a proposal to end the turmoil submitted by Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed, the United Nations special envoy to Yemen, saying the deal would “reward the rebels and penalise the Yemeni people and legitimacy”.
The attacks come two days after the coalition said they had intercepted and destroyed a ballistic missile fired by the Houthis at the Saudi city of Mecca, one of Islam’s holiest places. The Houthis have denied that.
More than 100 people gathered in the capital Sanaa for a funeral were killed earlier this month in a coalition air raid. The Arab-led alliance blamed that bombing on “wrong information” from its Yemeni allies.
Elsewhere on Saturday, strikes on residential buildings killed 17 people and wounded seven in the battleground town of Salo, southeast of Yemen’s third city Taez, said rebel-controlled media.
The conflict has killed nearly 7,000 people, mostly civilians, according to the UN, which has been struggling to convince the warring parties to implement a ceasefire and revive a stalled political process.