Yemen: Unjustifiable Saudi-led coalition airstrike kills at least 82 people and injures hundreds

Daily life in Saada city

Yemen 2019 © Agnes Varraine-Leca/MSF

SA'ADA, YEMEN/NEW YORK, January 22, 2022—An airstrike carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on Yemen's Sa'ada City Remand Prison killed at least 82 people early yesterday and injured 266, according to the Ministry of Health, while the death toll is likely to increase as searchers comb the rubble.

Two staff members of Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) who reside in Sa'ada City were in their houses close to the prison at the time of the airstrike. They described hearing fighter jets and then three separate explosions.

"There is no way to deny that this is an airstrike, everyone in Sa'ada City heard it," said one of the MSF staff. "I live one kilometer from the prison and my house was shaking from the explosions."

The coalition described reports that the prison had been hit and detainees hurt as "baseless and unfounded," but an MSF staff member who visited the site of the prison confirmed that it had been destroyed, and a second MSF staff member at the city's al-Gumhourriyeh Hospital described the hospital as overwhelmed with the wounded.

"The hospital is facing a very difficult situation this morning, with casualties lying on the floor," he said. "There are not enough beds for all of the wounded."

MSF organized donations of medical equipment to al-Gumhourriyeh Hospital in the immediate aftermath of the airstrike and sent a truck with more donations from Sana'a the same day. MSF is working with the Ministry of Health to see how to further support the hospital in dealing with this influx of casualties.

The bombing of the prison is the latest in a long series of strikes on civilians in Yemen. The Saudi-led coalition has regularly bombed areas under Ansar Allah control since 2015 and has hit hospitals run or supported by MSF five times, along with many other civilian targets.

"This is the latest in a long line of unjustifiable airstrikes carried out by the Saudi-led coalition on places like schools, hospitals, markets, wedding parties and prisons," said Ahmed Mahat, MSF head of mission in Yemen. "Since the beginning of the war we have frequently witnessed the terrible effects of indiscriminate coalition bombing on Yemen, including when our own hospitals have been attacked."

Elsewhere in the country, the conflict is also intensifying.

"In recent days we have witnessed a worrying escalation in the war in Yemen, with many airstrikes on Sana'a throughout the week, which have continued this morning," Mahat said. "The internet has been cut off for most of the country, again reportedly after a Saudi-led coalition airstrike on a telecommunication building in Hodeida. There has also been heavy fighting recently on front lines throughout the country. All this shows that despite the war having dragged on for seven years the end of suffering for people in Yemen is nowhere in sight."

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