Saudi-led Coalition Airstrike Kills Up to 60 in Yemen Hotel

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People carry the body of a man they recovered from the site of Saudi-led air strikes in Arhab area, around 20 kilometres (13 miles) north of Sanaa, Yemen August 23, 2017
People carry the body of a man they recovered from the site of Saudi-led air strikes in Arhab area, around 20 kilometres (13 miles) north of Sanaa, Yemen August 23, 2017Credit: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah

The Saudi-led coalition carried out several airstrikes in Yemen early on Wednesday, hitting a small hotel near the capital of Sanaa and killing dozens of Shiite Houthi rebels and civilians, Yemeni officials and witnesses said.

According to the officials, an estimated number of 60 were killed in the attack, which took place in the strikes on Wednesday morning in the town of Arhab, about 35 kilometers (22 miles) north of Sanaa.

The two-story hotel in the town's Qaa al-Qaidhi neighborhood sustained extensive damage and bodies were still being retrieved from under the rubble, witnesses said. They also said another airstrike hit a checkpoint manned by the Houthis, a few kilometers (miles) from the hotel.

The officials and the witnesses spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.

Footage of the area aired on al-Masirah TV, a Houthi-run satellite news network, showed bodies hanging out of a simple cinderblock building. Bystanders wrapped mangled corpses into blankets to try to carry them away.

The website of Al-Masirah said 41 people were killed in Arhab, describing the victims as civilians and saying the death toll was expected to rise further. It was not possible to reconcile the different number of fatalities reported by the officials and the TV.

There was no immediate comment from the coalition.

The Saudi-led coalition has been waging an extensive air campaign against the Houthis and forces loyal to ousted Yemeni President Ali Abdullah Saleh since March 2015, seeking to push the rebels from lands they captured, including Sanaa, and restore the internationally recognized government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi to power.

But the airstrikes have also hit civilian targets, such as schools, hospitals, and markets, killing thousands and prompting rights groups to accuse the Saudi-led coalition of committing war crimes. Activists have also called upon Western countries, including the United States and Britain, to cease military support for the coalition.

Yemen's conflict began after the Houthis swept into Sanaa in 2014 and overthrew Hadi's government, forcing it to relocate to the southern port city of Aden and prompting Hadi to seek military support from Arab Gulf countries, led by Saudi Arabia.

The conflict has so far killed over 10,000 civilians, displaced 3 million people and pushed the impoverished nation to the brink of famine.

Wednesday's hotel bombing comes amid stepped-up airstrikes in and around Sanaa, with army compounds and other Houthi locations targeted. Also hit was the Rimah Hamid military camp south of Sanaa, where officers are loyal to Saleh's forces.

The Houthi-Saleh alliance, meanwhile, has seen a long-simmering power struggle burst into the open. Over the past days, the two sides have exchanged accusations and threats ahead of a rally on Thursday to mark the 35th anniversary of the founding of Saleh's party, the General People's Congress.

Sanaa is packed with armed men and armored vehicles, fueling fears of open clashes between Saleh's forces and the Houthis. Saleh has complained that the rebels have sidelined him and his loyalists, leaving them out of military and political decisions, as well as U.N.-sponsored negotiations to end Yemen's civil war.

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