A “horrific” air strike on a Yemeni prison has left many dead or missing, aid workers said on Friday after a night of deadly bombing that underlined a dramatic escalation in violence.
Gruesome scenes came to light in Saada, heartland of the Huthi rebel movement, as rescue workers pulled bodies from destroyed prison buildings and piled up mangled corpses, according to footage released by the insurgents.
Saada’s hospital has received about 200 people wounded in the prison attack and “they are so overwhelmed that they cannot take any more patients”, said Doctors Without Borders, known by its French acronym MSF.
“It is impossible to know how many people have been killed. It seems to have been a horrific act of violence.”
The United Nations Security Council is due to meet at 1500 GMT on Friday in an emergency session on the Huthi attacks against the UAE, at the request of the Gulf state, which has occupied one of the non-permanent seats on the council since January 1.
The coalition claimed the attack in Hodeida, a lifeline port for the shattered country, but did not say it had carried out any strikes on Saada.
Global internet watchdog NetBlocks reported a “nation-scale collapse of internet connectivity”. AFP correspondents in Hodeida and Sanaa confirmed the outage.
Yemen’s civil war began in 2014 when the Huthis descended from their base in Saada to overrun the capital Sanaa, prompting Saudi-led forces to intervene to prop up the government the following year.
On January 3, the Huthis hijacked a United Arab Emirates-flagged ship in the Red Sea, prompting a warning from the coalition that it would target rebel-held ports.
The attack — the first deadly assault acknowledged by the UAE inside its borders and claimed by the Huthi insurgents — opened up a new front in Yemen’s war and sent regional tensions soaring.
Yemen’s civil war has been a catastrophe for millions of its citizens who have fled their homes, with many close to famine in what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.
UAE presidential adviser Anwar Gargash warned the country would exercise its right to defend itself after the Abu Dhabi attack.