Saudi-led coalition has denied the responsibility, saying that Houthis hadn’t reported the site in Saada province as needing protection from air strikes.

The latest escalation of fighting was the most intense since the 2018 battle for Yemeni port city of Hudaida.
The latest escalation of fighting was the most intense since the 2018 battle for Yemeni port city of Hudaida. (AP)

The death toll from an alleged Saudi-led coalition air strike that hit a prison run by Yemen's Houthi rebels has climbed to at least 82 detainees. 

Ahmed Mahat, head of Doctors Without Borders, a charity mission in Yemen, said on Saturday that more than 265 were wounded in the air strike.

The Houthis’ media office said rescuers were still searching for survivors and bodies in the rubble of the prison site in the province of Saada on the border with Saudi Arabia.

Internet access in the Arab world’s poorest country meanwhile remained largely down as the coalition continued air strikes on the capital of Sanaa and elsewhere.

The air strike in northern Saada province on Friday was part of an intense air and ground offensive that marked an escalation in Yemen’s years-long civil war. 

The conflict pits the internationally recognised government, aided by the Saudi-led coalition, against the Iranian-backed rebels.

The escalation comes after the Houthis claimed a drone and missile attack that struck inside the United Arab Emirates’ capital earlier in the week. 

It also comes as government forces, aided by UAE-backed troops and airstrikes from the coalition, have reclaimed the entire province of Shabwa from the Houthis and pressured them in the central province of Marib.

READ MORE: UN chief denounces deadly Saudi-led coalition air strikes in Yemen

READ MORE: Rescuers: Air strike on prison in Yemen's Saada kills, injures scores

Saudi-led coalition denies attack

Saudi coalition spokesperson Brig Gen Turki Al Malki has said that the Houthis hadn’t reported the site as needing protection from air strikes to the UN or the International Committee of the Red Cross. 

He said the Houthis’ failure to do so represented the militia’s “usual deceptive approach” in the conflict.

The Houthis used the prison complex to hold detained migrants, mostly Africans attempting to cross through the war-torn country into Saudi Arabia, according to the humanitarian organisation Save the Children.

Doctors Without Borders said the migrants there were safe.

Rights groups have previously documented that the Houthis use civilian detainees as human shields by placing them in detention centres next to military barracks under the constant threat of air strikes.

Saudi-led coalition air strikes have hit schools, hospitals, and wedding parties, killing thousands of civilians. 

READ MORE: Houthi general among civilians killed in Saudi-led strikes in Yemen

Source: TRTWorld and agencies