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Yemeni rebels say Saudi-led airstrike on prison killed 70 people | Tech News

By JON GAMBRELL and MAAD AL-ZIKRY – Associated Press

SANAA, Yemen (AP) — A Saudi-led coalition airstrike hit a prison run by Yemen’s Houthi rebels on Friday, killing at least 70 inmates and wounding dozens, a rebel minister said. The strike was part of an air offensive that hours earlier had cut off the internet in the Arab world’s poorest country.

The intense campaign comes after the Iran-backed Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone and missile attack that hit inside the UAE capital earlier in the week – a major escalation in the conflict in Yemen where the Saudi-led coalition, with the United Arab Emirates as its deputy, has been fighting rebels since 2015.

Taha al-Motawakel, health minister in the Houthi government that controls northern Yemen, told The Associated Press that 70 inmates have been killed in the prison and he expects the number to rise as more many others were seriously injured.

“The world cannot be silent in the face of these crimes,” al-Motawakel said and called on international aid organizations to send medical personnel and aid. He said medical staff in Yemen were exhausted by the influx of wounded from the strikes, having already operated with limited resources during the pandemic.

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Early Saturday, Saudi coalition spokesman Brig. General Turki al-Malki claimed that the Houthis failed to report that the site needed protection from airstrikes to the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross. He claimed the Houthis’ failure to do so represented “the usual deceptive approach” of militias in the conflict.

Al-Malki’s claim could not be immediately verified with international agencies.

Earlier on Friday, a Saudi airstrike in the port city of Hodeidah – later confirmed by satellite photos analyzed by the AP – hit a telecommunications center critical to connecting Yemen to the internet. Airstrikes have also struck near the capital, Sanaa, which has been held by the Houthis since late 2014.

The escalation was the most intense since the 2018 fighting for Hodeidah and comes after a year of efforts by the United States and the UN to bring the two sides to the negotiating table.

Basheer Omar, spokesperson for the ICRC in Yemen, said rescuers continued to search for survivors at the rebel-run prison in the northern town of Saada. The Red Cross moved some of the injured to other facilities, he said.

Doctors Without Borders estimates the number of injured at “around 200”. Ahmed Mahat, MSF’s head of mission in Yemen, said they had reports of “many bodies still at the scene of the airstrike, many people missing”.

The organization Save the Children said Saada prison holds detained migrants. “Migrants seeking a better life for themselves and their families, Yemeni civilians injured by the dozens, this is a picture we never expected to wake up to in Yemen,” said Gillian Moyes, Director of Save the Children in Yemen.

Regarding the airstrike in Hodeidah, NetBlocks said the nationwide internet disruption began around 1 a.m. local and affected TeleYemen, the state monopoly that controls internet access in the country after a strike in a telecommunications building. TeleYemen is now ruled by the Houthis who have held Sanaa since late 2014.

Early Saturday, the internet remained down. The Houthis’ Al-Masirah satellite news channel said the strike on the telecommunications building killed and injured an unknown number of people. He posted chaotic footage of people digging through rubble to find a body as aid workers helped bloodied survivors.

Save the Children said the Hodeidah strike killed at least three children playing on a football pitch. Satellite photos analyzed by the AP matched photos shared on social media of the telecommunications building razed by the airstrike.

The Saudi-led coalition has acknowledged carrying out “accurate airstrikes to destroy militia capabilities” around the port of Hodeidah. He did not immediately confirm hitting a telecommunications target, but instead called Hodeidah a hub for piracy and smuggling Iranian weapons to support the Houthis.

Iran has denied arming the Houthis, though UN experts, independent analysts and Western countries point to evidence showing Tehran’s connection to the weapons.

On Friday, Houthi supporters rallied, calling the airstrikes an “American escalation”. Houthi media broadcast videos of thousands of people on the streets. The Houthis generally equate the Saudi-led coalition with the United States, condemning America in ardent terms.

The FALCON submarine cable carries the Internet to Yemen via the port of Hodeidah along the Red Sea for TeleYemen. The FALCON cable also lands in the port of Ghaydah, in the far east of Yemen, but the majority of the Yemeni population lives in the west, along the Red Sea.

A 2020 FALCON cable outage 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 the 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 in an attempt to restore the country’s internationally recognized government, toppled by the Houthis the year before. The conflict has turned into the world’s worst humanitarian crisis, with international criticism over Saudi airstrikes that killed hundreds of civilians and targeted the country’s infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Houthis have used child soldiers and planted landmines indiscriminately across the country.

Some 130,000 people, including more than 13,000 civilians, were killed, according to the Armed Conflict Location & Event Project.

The war reached the United Arab Emirates, a Saudi ally, on Monday when the Houthis claimed responsibility for a drone and missile attack on Abu Dhabi, killing three people and injuring 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.

In a veiled threat, Houthi military spokesman Yahia Sarie tweeted on Friday evening that foreign companies in the UAE should leave, saying he was not sure if he would be there “as long as the leaders of this state continue to attack our country”.

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called the Houthi attacks on the United Arab Emirates a “grave mistake”, saying they were “unacceptable”. As for Friday’s airstrike, he told a press conference that “any bombardment aimed at civilians… (is) of course also unacceptable.”

“What we need is to stop this vicious circle in which things are getting worse one after another,” said António Guterres. “What we need is to have, as we have been proposing for a long time, a ceasefire with the opening of ports and airports, and then the start of a serious dialogue between the parties.”

The UN Security Council on Friday condemned the “heinous terrorist attacks” in the United Arab Emirates as well as other sites in Saudi Arabia claimed by the Houthis, and stressed the need to hold the perpetrators “accountable and to hold them accountable”. bring to justice”.

According to a US statement, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with Saudi Foreign Minister Prince Faisal bin Farhan and condemned Monday’s Houthi attacks on the kingdom and the United Arab Emirates.

Blinken reiterated the United States’ commitment to helping Gulf Arab partners improve their defense capabilities against threats from Yemen and elsewhere in the region and “stressed the importance of mitigating civilian harm.”

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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