At least 100 people have been killed and dozens more wounded in Yemen after air strikes by the Saudi-led coalition hit a detention centre run by the Houthi rebels, officials and the rebels’ health ministry said.
The head of the Red Cross delegation in Yemen, Franz Rauchenstein, suggested that the death toll could be higher after visiting the site of the attack, saying relatively few detainees survived.
A Red Cross statement said the detention centre held around 170 detainees. It said 40 of those were being treated for injuries and the rest were presumed dead.
“Witnessing this massive damage, seeing the bodies lying among the rubble, was a real shock. Anger and sadness were natural reactions,” Mr Rauchenstein said.
The attack was the deadliest so far this year by the coalition, according to the Yemen Data Project, a database tracking the war.
The coalition has faced international criticism for air strikes that have hit schools, hospitals and wedding parties, killing thousands of Yemeni civilians.
Saudi Arabia intervened on behalf of the internationally recognised Yemini government in March 2015, after the Iran-backed Houthis took the capital.
The conflict has claimed tens of thousands of lives, thrust millions to the brink of famine and spawned the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
The attack comes as the Saudi-led coalition’s partners — chiefly the United Arab Emirates and an array of Yemeni militias — are increasingly at odds over the war’s aims.
The past weeks have seen heavy fighting in Yemen’s south between Saudi-backed and Emirati-backed forces.
Yemeni officials said Sunday’s strikes targeted a college being used as a detention centre in the south-western city of Dhamar.
The coalition denied it had struck a detention centre, saying it had targeted a military site used by the rebels to restore drones and missiles.
“We were sleeping and around midnight, there were maybe three, or four, or six strikes. They were targeting the jail, I really don’t know the strike numbers,” wounded detainee Nazem Saleh said while on a stretcher in a local hospital.
The UN human rights office for Yemen said 52 detainees were among the dead, and at least 68 detainees were still missing.
The Red Cross, which inspects detention centres as part of its global mission, said it had visited detainees at the site in the past.
Former detainees said the Houthis had previously used the site to store and repair weapons.
Youssef al-Hadhri, a spokesman for the Houthi-run Health Ministry, said at least seven air strikes hit three buildings in the complex overnight.