Yemen: Airstrikes leave dozens dead

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A pair of airstrikes targeting a Yemeni prison killed dozens of people, including inmates, off the nation's west coast Saturday, the nation's Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry said.

SANAA, Yemen (CNN) — A pair of airstrikes targeting a Yemeni prison killed dozens of people, including inmates, off the nation’s west coast Saturday, the nation’s Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry said.

The airstrikes, which targeted the port city of Hodieda, killed at least 68 people and injured 38 others, according to the ministry. It said the death toll from the attack would likely rise once bodies are pulled from the rubble.

The strikes come on the heels of last week’s 72-hour “cessation of hostilities” between Houthi rebels and a pro-Yemeni coalition led by Saudi forces.

A spokesman for the Saudi-led coalition, Brig. Gen. Ahmed Asseri, said the airstrikes hit what he called a security building “used by Houthi militias … as a command and control center for their military operations.”

The ‘forgotten war’ rages on

In early 2015, Houthi rebels — a minority Shia group from the north of the country — drove out the US-backed government, led by President Abdu Rabbu Mansour Hadi, and seized the capital, Sanaa.

About 10,000 Yemenis have died, while millions are in need of aid in what has been dubbed the “forgotten war,” given that it has occurred in the shadows of the Syrian conflict.

The Saudi-led coalition has claimed to be fighting to prevent Houthi rebels allied with Iran and other forces loyal to Yemen’s deposed President Ali Abdullah Saleh from taking power.

In August, peace talks failed, prompting an increase in airstrikes over the past two months.

Earlier this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry called for all sides to “move to the negotiating table” after diplomatic talks in London.

Threat of mass starvation

The Houthi-controlled Defense Ministry has blamed the Saudi-led coalition for the airstrikes, calling them the latest in a wave of nearly a dozen that have targeted prisons.

The Houthi rebels say those strikes have killed hundreds of inmates. The Saudi-led coalition hasn’t confirmed if it launched any operations in the area Saturday.

The United Nations has called the Yemeni conflict a “humanitarian catastrophe.” UNICEF and other aid agencies have warned that millions of Yemeni people are on the brink of mass starvation.