Saudi-led coalition strike on prison in Yemen kills at least 100 people – Red Cross

Red Crescent medics stand at the site of Saudi-led air strikes on a Houthi detention centre in Dhamar Reuters / Ahmed al-Ansi Red Crescent medics stand at the site of Saudi-led air strikes on a Houthi detention centre in Dhamar
A Red Cross official has estimated that Saudi airstrikes killed at least 100 people at a Yemeni prison. Medics have been dispatched to the scene of what looks like the deadliest strike in Yemen this year.

Airstrikes pounded the detention center located in a college building in Dhamar City on Sunday.  The facility housed some 170 detainees. 

"We estimate over 100 people were killed," International Red Cross head in Yemen, Franz Rauchenstein, told AFP. Rauchenstein said that rescue teams are combing the rubble for survivors, but their chances of success “are very low.”

Earlier, the Red Cross dispatched medical teams to the strike site, carrying medical supplies to treat 100 people and 200 body bags, amid reports that “dozens” of detainees at the prison were feared dead.

“Today’s event is a tragedy. The human cost of this war is unbearable. We need it to stop," said Martin Griffiths, Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen. "I hope the Coalition will launch an enquiry into this incident. Accountability needs to prevail.”

The Sauid-led coalition, which has waged an air campaign against the Houthis for four years now, claims it targeted a military facility “in accordance with international humanitarian law.” 

The attack looks set to be the deadliest this year by the Saudi-led coalition. The Saudis have faced fierce international criticism for their air campaign, which has often seen non-military targets struck by warplanes. As many as 40 civilians were killed in strikes on the port city of Aden last month, while one year earlier, Saudi aircraft bombed a school bus, killing at least 40 children, all under 15 years old.

Further back, Saudi strikes targeted a Houthi prison before, in the port of Hodeida in 2016. At least 58 people were killed in the airstrike, many of them prisoners awaiting trial. The coalition said at the time that the prison was used by the Houthis as a command center.

Sunday’s strike came as Swedish Foreign Minister Margot Wallstrom was in Jordan on a mission to revive peace talks.  Sweden has played mediator in the conflict since a UN-brokered peace deal was signed in Stockholm last December.