‘45 people killed, 65 injured’: Yemen refugee camp hit by airstrike

Members of International Movement for Justice and Peace (IMJP) hold placards demanding peace in Yemen during a demonstration in Islamabad March 30, 2015. (Reuters/Faisal Mahmood)
45 people were killed and another 65 injured in an airstrike by a Saudi-led coalition at a refugee camp in Houthi-controlled northern Yemen on Monday, the International Organization for Migration (IMO) said.

The bombardment took place in the vicinity of the Mazraq refugee camp, Joel Millman, IMO spokesman told Reuters, citing the organization’s staff on the ground.

It was not immediately clear how many of the casualties were civilians and how many were armed personnel, he added.

Earlier, a humanitarian official told the agency that the airstrike had targeted a military installation not far from the camp.

Yemen’s Defense Ministry, which is controlled by the Houthis, said on its website that 40 people, including women and children, were killed and another 250 people received injuries.

“Saudi warplanes targeted one of four refugee camps in the Harad district, which led to the death and injury of several of its residents,” the ministry said. “The airstrike targeted camp 1 in the Mazraq region, which houses around 4,000 refugees, leaving over 40 people dead – including women and children – and over 250 others injured.”

Yemen's exiled foreign minister, Riyadh Yaseen, has blamed the Houthis for the deaths of people at the Mazraq refugee camp.

The blast was not caused by the coalition, but by “artillery strikes,” which the rebels are responsible for, Yaseen told journalists in Saudi capital, Riyadh.

The Mazraq region, near the Saudi border, hosts a cluster of camps, in which thousands of displaced Yemenis and East African migrants reside. Around 750 families have been forced to flee to the camps from the Houthi heartland region of Saada in northern Yemen since the Saudi-led operation began.

The air strikes also have targeted the Houthi forces advancing on the port city of Aden, the last bastion of the Saudi-backed president, Abd-Rabbu Mansour Hadi.

Witnesses told Daily Sabah paper that the coalition bombarded rebel-controlled military sites near Mount Nuqum in eastern part of capital Sanaa, with the Houthis replied with anti-aircraft fire.

Meanwhile, the spokesman for the Saudi-led operation, Ahmed Asiri, said that the coalition naval forces have besieged Yemen’s ports, AP reported.

Naval forces are blocking the movement of ships to prevent weapons and fighters from entering or leaving the country, Asiri explained.

Monday saw the fifth day of Yemen being subjected to airstrikes by the Saudi-led coalition, aiming to weaken the Shia Houthi militia, which took control of the country after the resignation of president Hadi in January.

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The rebels in Yemen are supported by Iran, but the Houthis have denied that they are receiving weapons from Tehran.

Meanwhile, Pakistan is set to join the Saudi-led coalition of several Gulf States, Sudan, Egypt and Morocco in their fight against the Yemen rebels, a senior Pakistani government official said.

“We have already pledged full support to Saudi Arabia in its operation against rebels and will join the coalition,” the official said, as cited by Reuters.

The situation in Yemen was previously very fraught, but the Saudi-led airstrikes have contributed to turning the country into “something of a humanitarian catastrophe,” Joe Stork, deputy director for Human Rights Watch's Middle East and North Africa Division, told RT.

“It’s really hard to see what good can possibly come out of this campaign. I think, frankly, this is a political question, not a human rights question, but it’s really difficult to see how the government of Hadi could possibly be restored under this circumstances,” he said.

Stork believes that there’s “little indication that there’s a Plan B” which has been developed by the coalition, and it still seems unclear what the endgame might be for the Yemen campaign.

In August 2014, Houthi rebels swept down from their stronghold in the mountains, demanding economic and political reforms.

In the following months, they seized key state installations in capital Sanaa and forced both the president and PM to resign.

After announcing their grasp of power in Yemen, the Houthis continued advancing to the south of the country, seizing cities one after the other.