LONDON: Two international rights groups on Monday condemned an attack on a prison in Yemen’s besieged city of Taiz that left six women and a child dead.
The internationally-recognized government has accused Iranian-backed Houthi militia of carrying out Sunday’s attack.
The Houthis targeted the female section of the prison with mortar shells, according to the government’s Saba news agency.
“This is a criminal and bloodthirsty gang that has long targeted civilian gatherings and residential areas. In addition to the carnage in the prison, they gunned down today two children in eastern Taiz, killing one and leaving the other in critical condition,” Abdul Basit Al-Baher, a Yemeni army spokesman in Taiz, told Arab News, adding that the prison is almost 12km from the nearest battlefield.
“They targeted the prison with a Katyusha rocket followed by five mortal shells which show that they deliberately sought to kill civilians.”
Doctors Without Borders (MSF) said its hospital in Taiz received the casualties.
“MSF-supported Al-Thawra Hospital in Taiz city received the bodies of six women and one child who were killed in an attack on the central prison in Taiz,” it said on Twitter.
The government said 28 other female prisoners were wounded.
“Taiz citizens continue to suffer from the ongoing violence in the sixth year of the protracted conflict in Yemen,” MSF said.
“These attacks on civilians, whether indiscriminate or targeted, are unjustifiable breaches of international humanitarian law.”
The International Committee of the Red Cross said attacks on prisons were banned under international law.
“The ICRC deplores yesterday’s attack on Taiz central prison that left women and children dead and injured,” the ICRC said on Twitter.
“Prisons and their inmates are protected under international humanitarian law and can not be a targeted, it said.
Meanwhile, the UN's envoy to Yemen, Martin Griffiths condemned the attack on Twitter, saying: "I condemn the heinous attack on Taiz's central prison which killed and injured several women and children.Civilians and civilian objects including prisons must be protected as per international humanitarian law."
The attack was also blasted by the International Committee for the Red Cross in Yemen.
Taiz, a city of 600,000 people in southwest Yemen, is under government control but has been under siege by Houthi militia for the past six years.
Tens of thousands of Yemenis have been killed in more than five years of fighting.
Yemen’s health care system has so far recorded no case of the COVID-19 illness, but aid groups have warned that when it does hit, the impact will be catastrophic. The country is already gripped by what the UN calls the world’s worst humanitarian crisis.