Three killed as Houthis open fire on prisoners in Hodeidah

Inmates rioted after rebels tried to ship them out to fight on northern fronts

Yemeni soldiers loyal to the Iran-backed Shiite Huthi rebels set up a checkpoint as authorities tighten up security measures in the Yemeni coastal city of Hodeidah on June 14, 2018. The UN Security Council on June 14, called for a key port in war-ravaged Yemen to be kept open to deliveries of vital food and humanitarian supplies after the Saudi-led coalition launched an offensive to seize Hodeida. / AFP / ABDO HYDER
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Yemen's Houthi rebels shot dead three prisoners at the central jail in Hodeidah city on Thursday after the inmates rioted over plans to ship them to the frontlines to fight against government forces.

Five other prisoners were seriously injured when the rebels opened fire, said Rafeeq Domah, a spokesman for the pro-government Tihama Resistance forces.

The clashes broke out on Thursday evening when the Houthis brought lorries into the prison yard to take the prisoners to reinforce rebel fronts in northern Yemen, Mr Domah told The National.

The clashes broke out when the prisoners resisted. The Houthis started shooting at prison doors and windows to subdue the inmates protesting in their cells but the situation escalated when one rebel fighter fired directly at the prisoners, killing three of them and severely injuring five, Mr Domah said.

Yehya Sha'wah, a resident of Hodeidah, told The National that more prisoners were injured in a large fire that broke out when the rebels stormed the prison.

"The fire started when a Houthi fighter shot at the gas pipeline supplying the kitchen prison, causing many suffocation cases and burns among the prisoners," he said.

Photos of the fire were posted on Twitter by Yemeni journalist Baseem Aljenani.

The Iran-backed rebels are facing an imminent assault in Hodeidah unless they agree to hand over the city and its vital part to government forces backed by the Arab Coalition, and have suffered a string of collapses on other fronts in Hodeidah province as well as in northern Yemen.

The offensive to retake Hodeidah city was launched on June 13. Coalition and government forces captured Hodeidah's airport after heavy clashes in the first week of the campaign but fighting has subsided since then as the UN special envoy for Yemen attempts to negotiate a deal to avert an all-out assault on the city.


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