Thunderous airstrikes hit Yemen's capital, a Red Sea naval port and a border province Wednesday, killing nearly 100 people and injuring more than 270 others, officials and residents said. It was believed to be the largest single-day death toll of the 2-month-old Saudi-led aerial offensive.
Terrified civilians cowered at home or rushed into the streets as massive secondary explosions rocked a residential neighborhood in the capital, Sana, following a hit on a special forces base known as the Central Security camp. Like many of the military installations and weapons caches targeted by weeks of airstrikes, the base lay close to densely populated civilian areas.
The force of the explosions blew out the windows in a nearby hospital, showering some patients with broken glass, residents said. Dozens of homes were damaged. One eyewitness, Saleh Dowed, blamed the size of the blasts on stored ordnance ignited by the airstrikes. "The fire was enormous," he said.
The Health Ministry said at least 40 people died and scores more were hurt in the strikes in Sana, which was overrun months ago by Shiite Muslim Houthi rebels. The Saudi-led campaign has yet to drive the insurgents from the capital or from strongholds in the strategic city of Aden in the south.
Other main targets included the port of Hodeida, home to the country's biggest naval base, which had been in the hands of the rebels and elements of Yemen's armed forces that took up the insurgent cause. More bombs hit the province of Hajjah, which borders Saudi Arabia, and the crossroads province of Taiz, north of Aden. At least 56 people died in those strikes, officials said.
The Saudi-led regional forces launched their offensive March 26 against the Shiite rebels, who at the time were advancing on Aden. Yemeni President Abdu Rabu Mansour Hadi had sought haven in the city, but he and his government fled to Saudi Arabia in the face of the Houthi onslaught.
Saudi Arabia, which is dominated by Sunni Muslims, considers the rebels a proxy for largely Shiite Iran. The Tehran government denies arming the insurgents, but has been strident in its criticism of the Sunni coalition's Yemen campaign.
Fighting and bombardments have killed some 2,000 people and imperiled thousands of others, by international estimates. Yemen, which formerly imported much of what it consumed, is now short of food, fuel, medicines and crucial commodities after two months of a blockade meant to keep out weapons destined for Houthi hands.
Special correspondent Al-Alayaa reported from Sana and Times staff writer King from Alexandria, Egypt.