Yemen death toll from rebel shelling doubles to nearly 100

The death toll in Yemen from the Shiite rebel shelling of a town near the southern port city of Aden rose today to nearly 100, the head of an international aid group said, describing it as “the worst day” for the city and its surroundings in over three months of fighting.

The rebels, known as Houthis, and their allies started shelled the town of Dar Saad yesterday, after losing control of some of Aden’s neighbourhoods. The violence highlighted the bloody chaos of the civil war gripping the Arab world’s poorest country, which also has been the target of Saudi-led, US-backed airstrikes since late March.

Hassan Boucenine of the Geneva-based Medicins Sans Frontieres, or Doctors Without Borders, said that by today, his organisation reported nearly 100 people dead, twice the casualty toll from the previous day.

The shelling also left about 200 people wounded, said Boucenine, the head of MSF in Yemen. Of the victims, 80 per cent are civilians, including many pregnant women, elderly and children, he added.

“Yesterday was the worst day in Aden since (the Saudi-led coalition campaign) started in March,” Boucenine told The Associated Press, adding that he fears “attacks on civilians will continue.”

Yemen’s conflict pits the Iran-allied Houthis and troops loyal to former President Ali Abdullah Saleh against an array of forces, including southern separatists, local and tribal militias, Sunni Islamic militants as well as loyalists of exiled President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi, who is backed internationally.

Aden, the south’s main hub, has been the scene of some of the war’s fiercest ground battles.

Last week, it saw Saudi-backed troops and fighters seize control from the Houthis of some of Aden neighbourhoods and its international airport. Sunday’s shelling in Dar Saad appeared to be a way to both punish those resisting the Houthis, as well as halt the advance of their opponents.

Meanwhile, the Saudi-backed forces linked up at the state television building in Aden’s Tawahi neighborhood on Sunday night, a Yemeni military official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to talk to the media. He said the anti-Houthi forces fully control the area and said they searched buildings looking for rebels, some of whom had fled to nearby mountains.