January 22, 2022
SAADA, Yemen (Reuters) – Yemeni detainee Mohammed Ali Salem was lucky that a missile fired by warplanes of the Saudi-led coalition on the next ward caused a wave strong enough to shatter the door of his own cell.
That was how he was able to escape before a second bomb fell.
“When they struck Ward 8, the door opened and we walked out… the door opened from the pressure and we walked out. God granted us safety, thank God,” he said, recounting the strikes that targeted the detention centre where he was held on Friday at dawn.
Others, wrapped in white body bags, weren’t that lucky. At least 60 people were killed when missiles hit a detention centre in the Yemeni province of Saada, the stronghold of the Houthi group that has been at war with a Saudi-led coalition since 2015.
A Reuters witness said several people, including African migrants, were killed in a raid.
Save the Children said in a statement that three children were also reportedly killed by air strikes on Friday in the western city of Hodeidah.
The strikes, which followed missile and drone strikes on the United Arab Emirates earlier this week, have caused an international uproar and brought back attention to a forgotten and deadly conflict.
The Saudi-led coalition denied on Saturday targeting the detention centre, saying the facility was not on no-targeting lists agreed upon with the United Nations and did not meet the standards stipulated by the Third Geneva Convention for Prisoners of War.
The strikes, the deadliest in more than two years, came amid an unprecedented escalation in the seven-year-old conflict with clashes raging over the control of Yemen’s oil-rich regions Shabwa and Marib, and uptick in corss-border attacks.
The strikes on Abu Dhabi followed dozens of similar attacks on Saudi Arabian cities with armed drones and ballistic missiles.
In Saada, hundreds of people gathered around lined-up body bags on Saturday near concrete rubble of the detention centre, seeking information about their relatives. Some were checking the bodies hoping to identify their loved ones.
“We came from Amran province on a visit to find out that the prison has been hit by warplanes. This is a another crime to be added to their other crimes,” said Salman Badi, one of the relatives.
Sultan al-Qahim, one of the wounded with burns on his face, said he lost consciousness after a third bomb fell.
“I was setting with my mates in our ward and then the warplane came and hit with a first strike. And a while later, two more air strikes hit. After that, nothing,” he said in the Republican hospital in Saada, where most of the wounded have been treated.
(This story was refiled to update headline)
(Reporting Reuters TV, writing by Aziz El Yaakoubi)