Report. Saudi Arabia and the Emirates launched a harsh reprisal after drone attacks by the Houthis. But instead of hitting the rebels they killed dozens of civilians, including African migrants and three children.

Saudis bombed a prison and a soccer field in Yemen

At least 70 people are dead and 138 wounded in a series of Saudi-led coalition airstrikes against the Yemeni cities of Sadaa and Hodeidah. The targets were not military facilities of the Houthi rebels – against whom Saudi Arabia and the Arab Emirates launched their military operation back in March 2015 – but a detention center, a soccer field and a headquarters of TeleYemen, the state agency that runs the internet infrastructure.

“The death toll is bound to rise,” Basheer Omar, a spokesman for the Red Cross in Yemen, said on Friday. Images recount the horror: in Houthi-controlled Sadaa, rescuers were pulling lifeless bodies from the rubble of the prison. Most were African migrants. “This is the latest in a long line of unjustifiable air strikes carried out by the Saudi-led Coalition on places like schools, hospitals, markets, wedding parties and prisons,” said Ahmed Mahat, head of mission for Doctors Without Borders in the country. “A horrific act of violence.”

In Hodeidah, one of TeleYemen’s buildings was razed to the ground. Similar images: corpses extracted from the rubble and an internet blackout that left the whole country offline, dealing another hard blow to the already difficult distribution of humanitarian aid. Among the victims were three children who were playing in a nearby soccer field.

Behind the escalation (as it has been a long time since we’ve witnessed such a level of bombings against civilians) lies the intensification of drone attacks in recent days by the Houthi military wing against the Arab Emirates, whose capital was hit on Monday (three victims), and against Saudi cities. Abu Dhabi had promised retaliation: “The Emirates have the legal and moral right to defend their lands,” said presidential advisor Anwar Gargash.

An indirect comment also came from the Saudi-led coalition (which claimed only the attack in Hodeidah): according to the Saudi state news agency, “precision air strikes” were carried out “to destroy the capabilities of the Houthi militia in Hodeidah.”

Meanwhile, the number of casualties of the war keeps rising: since March 2015, there have been at least 377,000 deaths in Yemen, 60% from disease and hunger due to the permanent conflict.

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