U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on January 21 called for a de-escalation in the conflict in Yemen after a Saudi-led coalition air strike hit a detention center run by Huthi rebels, killing at least 70 people and wounding scores of others.
“The escalation in fighting only exacerbates a dire humanitarian crisis and the suffering of the Yemeni people,” Blinken said in a statement. “That is why the United States calls on all parties to the conflict to de-escalate, abide by their obligations under international humanitarian law, and participate fully in an inclusive UN-led peace process.”
The Saudi-led coalition did not confirm the attack, and it remained unclear if the detention facility was the intended target.
Basheer Omar, a spokesman for the International Committee of the Red Cross in Yemen, said rescuers continued to search for survivors in the detention center in the northern city of Saada.
The organization Save the Children said the Saada detention center holds migrants.
The air strike was part of an offensive that hours earlier hit a telecommunication center in Hodeida, knocking out Internet service in Yemen. Air strikes also hit near the capital, Sana’a.
The U.S.-backed Saudi-led coalition acknowledged carrying out “accurate airstrikes to destroy the capabilities of the militia” around Hodeida’s port. It didn’t immediately confirm striking a telecommunications target but instead called Hodeida a hub for smuggling to back the Huthis.
The intense campaign comes after the Iran-backed Huthis claimed an attack in Abu Dhabi that also resulted in several casualties. The drone and missile attack that struck in the capital of the United Arab Emirates on January 17 represented a major escalation in the conflict in Yemen.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres condemned the Huthi attacks on the U.A.E. as a “serious mistake” and “unacceptable.” Reacting to the latest air strikes on January 21, he told a press conference that “any bombardments that target civilians…[are] of course also unacceptable.”
He also condemned the latest attacks and called for a “prompt, effective, and transparent investigations into these incidents to ensure accountability,” according to his spokesman.
“What we need is to stop this vicious circle in which things get escalating one after the other,” Guterres said during the press conference. “What we need is to have, as we have been proposing from long ago, a cease-fire together with the opening of harbor and airports, and then the beginning of a serious dialogue among the parties.”
The UN Security Council on January 21 condemned the Huthi attack on the U.A.E. and sites in Saudi Arabia in a statement after a closed-door meeting requested by the U.A.E., which joined the council this month for a two-year term.
The Saudi-led military coalition has been fighting the Huthi group in Yemen since 2015. The coalition said the report of the deaths on January 21 would be investigated “using an internationally approved, independent process.”
Saudi Arabia and the United States have long accused Iran of supplying military hardware to the Huthis, including parts for drones and missiles. Tehran denies charges it gives financial and military aid to the group.