Houthi weapons depot blast 'came from inside building'

Explosion killed four in Hodeidah cache owned by Iran-backed rebels in impoverished neighbourhood

FILE PHOTO: Houthi militants ride on the back of a truck as they withdraw, part of a U.N.-sponsored peace agreement signed in Sweden, from the Red Sea city of Hodeidah, Yemen December 29, 2018. REUTERS/Abduljabbar Zeyad/File Photo

The Arab Coalition in Yemen said a huge explosion at a Houthi weapons cache in a highly populated civilian area of Hodeidah city on Monday came from inside the building.

Four civilians were killed and dozens injured after the blast at the depot in the impoverished Al Zafaran neighbourhood in the east of the city.

Col Wathah Al Dubaish, the spokesperson of the pro-government joint forces on the country's west coast told The National that ensuing explosions continued for two hours, prompting residents to flee to the city's southern outskirts.

Col Al Dubaish denied Houthi claims that Coalition air strikes or shelling were behind the explosions.

“The Coalition jets didn’t launch any air strikes over any target in the city of Hodeidah on Monday and the joint forces never shelled any residential areas," he said.

"Something happened from inside the building. We have never shelled any Houthi targets in  residential areas.

"We have information about strategic Houthi targets and we are able to strike them. But we avoid doing that because we know that they are located in residential neighbourhoods."

He said that Monday’s explosion was not the first one. Similar blasts have taken place at the Iran-backed rebels' weapons depots in Sanaa and other areas.

"They put such hazardous caches in residential neighbourhoods," Col Al Dubaish said.

"The Houthis have been committing such horrible crimes repeatedly, amid unjustified silence from the UN and the human rights organisations."

The weapons depot was in Jazan Street, home to slum-dwellers. Many of these residents were affected by the explosion.

"A tremendous explosion took place in a weapons and ammunition cache affiliated with the Houthi rebels," a resident told The National.

“It was followed by a series of explosions causing a huge fire with thick, heavy smoke.

"The shrapnel from the projectiles killed and injured civilians living in the neighbourhood.

“The place used to be a ballistics factory but the Houthi rebels stormed it as its owner fled the city.

"They turned it into a weapons and ammunition cache."