At least 35 people were killed and 20 others were missing following Saudi-led coalition airstrikes on a military police facility in the Yemeni capital of Sanaa on Wednesday, a senior Houthi defense ministry official has told CNN.
The facility held hundreds of prisoners, according to officials at the rebel-held office of national security. They said they expected the death toll to rise, and added that they believed many of the dead remained under the rubble.
A coalition led by Saudi Arabia has been fighting Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen for more than two years.
The coalition closed the ports last month after the Houthis fired a ballistic missile toward an airport in the Saudi capital of Riyadh. The blockade has stopped shipments of food and medicine, prompting broad international outrage.
“After the first airstrike, prisoners were running for their lives, some climbing over walls to escape when another airstrike killed them as well,” a senior Houthi national security official said.
The Yemeni government had given the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) the site’s location and informed the organization that prisoners were being held there, according to the official.
The Saudi government did not immediately respond to CNN’s calls and messages seeking comment on the incident.
The attack took place in one of Sanaa’s most crowded locations. On Tuesday, a projectile carrying leaflets calling on residents to evacuate the area landed on a family home near the facility.
Last week, US President Donald Trump said his administration would be calling on Saudi Arabia to end its blockade of Yemeni ports to allow critically needed supplies to reach the besieged population of the country. Yemen has been ravaged by civil war and famine.
“I have directed officials in my Administration to call the leadership of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to request that they completely allow food, fuel, water, and medicine to reach the Yemeni people who desperately need it,” Trump said in his brief written statement last Wednesday. “This must be done for humanitarian reasons immediately.”
More recently, Saudi Arabia says it has taken steps to lift the blockade, allowing initial shipments of supplies to reach the country last week.